Moving on from a technology, or: life after Drupal

I used to use Drupal in my everyday work. I got very familiar with it, how it worked, and how to avoid its (many) pitfalls. I was able to build sites that met client needs quickly, and they were able to make use of them.

Then I decided to change jobs, and I consciously turned away from being a “Drupal guy”.

The thing is, when you are really experienced at using a particular piece of technology, the prospect of moving on from it can be intimidating.

Let’s give this fear a name

Sometimes you’re not sure why it’s so scary – it’s basic loss aversion.

You’ve spent months or years getting familiar with how a particular system works. You can fine tune it. You can side step common mistakes. You may even have starter kit projects that get you moving quickly. You have strong opinions on how something should be done.

The idea of turning your back on all of that can be a lot to let go – especially if the technology in question is in demand (as was the case with Drupal).

Why move on?

In my case, I was worried that I was getting too familiar with front end development only as it pertained to Drupal sites. The world of Front End Development is vast and wide. I hadn’t touched a JavaScript framework, our even really worked with a server language other than PHP.

To give it a word: reinvention.

I decided to focus more on front end skills that could translate to more technology stacks.

What are some signs that it’s time to move on?

  • Be honest with yourself: are you bored?
  • You find yourself solving the same problems over and over the same way.
  • You aren’t learning anything new with any regularity
  • You approach any given situation with a mindset of how you would solve something in your given technology. You have the proverbial hammer, and everything looks like a nail.
  • You find yourself avoiding other technologies. It’s okay to specialize, but if you consciously distance yourself from anything else, it’s a sign that you may be too trapped.

Practical realities

My personal story is more about that I felt it was time to move on from a particular job, and the new jobs I was interested in didn’t involve Drupal. It was at this point that I consciously decided to leave Drupal behind.

This meant that during job interviews, I had to be clear that while I was most experienced with Drupal, I was open to learning new technologies.

If you do want to change jobs, and you have been primarily experienced in one technology, it is critical that you have an attitude of open mindedness and willingness to learn.

Smart employers are looking for candidates with the right attitude, rather than familiarity with a particular tech stack. The details of a new technology can be picked up: you can’t train attitude.

End note on Drupal

To be clear – this is not meant to put down Drupal. It is a great content management framework, and a wonderful open source project. The passion of the community is unbelievable. I still think it does great things, and puts things within reach for people that otherwise couldn’t happen. I have a big soft spot for Drupal, and am happy to see the progress Drupal 8 is making. I may even return to Drupal work someday.