Happy Camper: New Orion Team Member Amber Douglas reflects on a Drupal Newcomer’s SANDcamp Experience
So the sun has set on the fourth annual SANDcamp conference. After four days in beautiful San Diego, this Drupal-centric meeting of top agencies, companies and freelancers from Southern California and beyond was a great success.
We were glad to have the opportunity to sponsor this year’s SANDcamp, and we enjoyed working with the organizers to contribute to publicizing the event. In particular we were blown away by the incredible work done by the volunteer organizers, led by Susan Rust and Diana Farias of Drupal Anywhere, who braved sleep deprivation, logistical challenges, and more to bring the event to life.
I was stationed at our sponsor table for much of the event, but did have the opportunity to see a few sessions and talk with a variety of people in the Drupal ecosystem.
So what was it like for me, a newcomer?
First of all, SANDcamp was not what most of the people in my circles would have expected. As a marketing professional, I found that my counterparts responding to my status updates and tweets about SANDcamp with comments like “Camping on the beach?! That’s awesome!” or “You don’t like sand... why are planning to camp in it?” Sigh...
Admittedly, I am definitely not a programmer. My expertise lies in social media, creative marketing campaigns, and glitter glue, not building websites. For a non-developer, I was apprehensive at the thought of attending workshops and sessions with so little knowledge of the development side of the equation. However, upon arriving at Thursday’s business summit put on by Achieve Internet, I was met with sessions and case studies, essentially giving me a thorough introduction to the platform. The business summit audience was a mix of seasoned developers, new Drupal converts, and non-techie types who are looking to bring the platform to their businesses. So the information was about how Drupal works, why it works for their industry, and the pros and cons of adopting the technology from a business standpoint.
During this day, there were break-out mini-sessions, some of which focused on marketing and best practices within the platform, which were quite relevant to the work I do. We discussed the use of Drupal to increase stickiness and generate traffic, and special Drupal tools to measure effectiveness. As a newcomer to Drupal, I was unsure on what to expect from SANDcamp, but the Business Summit sessions were a informative and introductory – just what I needed to give me insight into the capabilities of the platform as it related to my work.
Beyond the sessions, attendees had plenty of opportunities to converse with their fellow Drupal fans, discussing personal experiences on the platform, successful projects, and issues faced. It was truly amazing to witness the interaction of these business owners and developers, who likely face off against each other when bidding for new projects, working together and collaborating. It was the most surprising and pleasant thing about coming to SANDcamp; there was a conversation about best practices, not a sense of competition. Everyone is ultimately working together to propel this platform to the next level, whatever that may turn out to be.
On Friday, I watched from our sponsor table as the audience was captivated by Angie Byron (AKA “webchick”), Director of Community Development at Acquia and a “core co-maintainer” for Drupal itself, making her one of the most important figures in the community. Her keynote speech was engaging and even inspiring. It made becoming a developer sound inviting – a sense that I had never felt up until that moment.
The passion that the SANDcamp attendees have for Drupal was very visible, as was their confidence in its ability to effectively help companies and organizations succeed online. I’ve witnessed that same excitement within Orion and it was great to see that our enthusiasm for this platform is part of a much larger movement.
To experience the conference from my unique vantage point, as a newcomer to the Drupal world, was truly enlightening. Perhaps my developer comrades will now allow me to write some code. Or not... ;-)