Florida Drupal Camp: a return four years in the making

Five years ago I went to my second Drupal Camp and first Drupal Camp that I presented at. It has been four years, but I am finally going back to Florida Drupal Camp. I am pretty excited, as a lot has changed since then.

My first Drupal event was DrupalCamp Atlanta in 2013. Thanks for making it a possibility, Andy Giles! I met some amazing people there and fell in love with the Drupal community. In fact, it's where, after talking to Ryan Szrama for a brief moment I decided to opt in and offer a co-maintainer of Commerce Reports. I met some amazing people from the Southeast community. One of them was Mike Herchel.

I cannot remember how it exactly came about, but he said I should propose a session for Florida DrupalCamp. I had no idea what I could talk about, or why it would even make sense for someone from Wisconsin to propose a session for a conference in Drupal. But I did, and I am so happy I took that chance.

I decided to propose a session on how I was using Panels as my workplace. I worked at a marketing agency who focused on great content that would be well received on any device. I found Panels to be our solution - Rockin` Responsive Content with Panels. In fact, the sample code I wrote is still available on my GitHub.

My session got accepted. Thanks, Mike. I'm sure you played a big part in making that happen. But, I had to figure out how to go there. The idea still seemed ludicrous to me. I was a novice at my trade, going to conferences was a new concept. The fact I had just been to a conference in Atalanta blew my mind. But, then things lined up.

Short interjection: I want to give a huge shout out to my wife who supported me on these adventures and continues to.

I believe you need to think big and strive to achieve above and beyond what is currently available to you. Otherwise, you miss chances. And that is exactly what allowed me to make my first visit to Florida Drupal Camp.

My employer did a lot of work for several local chapters of a national non-profit. There just so happened to be invited to a conference the group was hosting -- in Florida. The conference was before Florida Drupal Camp, but they saw value in attending, especially since they would be down there. If I had not taken the risk, decided "why not, what can I lose?" I doubt the dots would have connected for us to attend Florida Drupal Camp, leaving me at home in the Wisconsin post-winter slush.

Just as Drupal Camp Atlanta was an eye-opening experience, so was Florida Drupal Camp. After my session, I got to learn that Derek "Hawkeye Tenderwolf" DeRaps and Kendall Totten were working on Classy Panel Styles to give more power to the content editor who was working in panels. I got to experience my first true community collaboration.

Back at Atlanta, my mind was merely blown by the community's willing ability to share and help. Now I got to witness first-hand collaboration and idea sharing. I was being exposed to my ability to make an impact with some other effort.

People also liked my session! This blew away the layers of imposter syndrome I had sitting on my shoulders. By this time I had been improving Commerce Reports - but that was still in my bubble. I had gotten the ability to open a new Git branch and make fixes which made our client happy. I still had a lingering feeling that I wasn't successful.

I also wanted to get to Florida so I could tell Mike Anello I started a Drupal user group. Back in Atlanta, at dinner after the conference, he told me I should "plant a flag" for Drupal and just start a Drupal user group. Which, I did and ran for almost a year.

So I'm pretty happy and nostalgic as I am on this flight to Orlando (well, now in a hotel room editing and posting.) Florida Drupal Camp 2014 made a major impact in my career. It opened my eyes to new opportunities and careers choices available. It broke down my imposter syndrome to show we all are awesome at some things and equally horrible at others. But that's okay; this is how people work.

I want to give credit to those who made such an impact that caused a jumpstart to my career and deep dive into the Drupal community

  • Andy Giles
  • Mike Herchel
  • Mike Anello
  • Every single attendee that I have talked to in Atlanta and Florida.

Making an impact in someone's journey is not always done in big statements. It is the little things.