Agile Conversations: Sergio Sanchez on his Trivia App, Company Culture, and Life in the US

Something you probably don’t know about Agileana’s staff is that many of us are also skilled musicians. There are drummers, keyboardists, guitarists, and talented singers on our team. This should surprise no one. Building websites requires a lot of creative thinking and problem solving – the sorts of things that musicians and other artists tend to excel at.

Agileana Drupal architect Sergio Sanchez is one such musical talent. As a teenager, he fell in love with American hip hop and he began writing lyrics and rapping around his hometown of Bogota, Colombia. He built a home studio and even has his own YouTube channel, featuring several of his compositions.

“I’ve never had the goal of becoming famous; it’s just a way to write something about my feelings,” says Sergio of his musical sideline.

“For me, music is an escape from numbers and logic and, depending on your environment, an escape from screens. Art is something everyone needs in their lives.”

Fame may not be on Sergio’s bucket list, but within the Drupal community he has already achieved some renown. He is perhaps the most highly certified South American in Drupal – he is an Acquia Grandmaster in Drupal 8, 9, and 10, with some certifications in Drupal 7. He also made a big splash at DrupalCon this year where he introduced his homemade Drupal trivia quiz app, which he created in his evenings and weekends – all while emigrating to the United States.

The Game

Sergio introduced his trivia game to the Drupal community in the form of a headless mobile app connected to a real-time database. The came, entitled CoE (Center of Excellence) Trivia, featured 260 questions spanning eight different categories: HTML5, Agile, Drupal, DrupalCon, Javascript, PHP, security and performance, and site building.

Sergio created the app through a combination of Firebase – a popular Google-owned app development platform that powers interactive apps like Twitch – and a Drupal content management system.

“I thought it was a nice way to give back to the Drupal community. It’s a fun interactive game that helps bring people together.”

Sergio Sanchez

He explains that Firebase is the perfect platform for building chats, streaming products, and video games because of its powerful real-time database, while the Drupal component allows non-developers to upload content to the database without having to mess around with Firebase, a tool geared for developers. 

“The goal was to create a trivia game where you spin a roulette and hit a topic, and the game dynamically generates multiple-choice questions, tells you if you’re right or wrong, and tracks your score,” he says.

“I might have been able to do it with an SQL (structured query language) database, but I wanted to add more features, like real-time data on demand for multiple players. That’s why I used Firebase. You won’t get that kind of up-to-the-moment information with an SQL database. It’s like when you see election poll results; you want to get that immediately. Firebase is a very good product, but it’s designed for developers, not site administrators or content editors, because it doesn’t have a CMS. That’s where Drupal comes in. It has everything ready out of the box.”

The game remains available on the Apple and Google Play stores. So far it’s had 234 users – the vast majority of whom were DrupalCon attendees.

“I thought it was a nice way to give back to the Drupal community,” says Sergio of his creation.

“It’s a fun interactive game that helps bring people together.”

The Work

Sergio has been working as a developer for 12 years, including two with Agileana. In that time he has worked for a number of different companies in varying capacities – as a freelancer, as a contractor, and as an employee. Prior to joining Agileana, he worked for five years at a large agency with more than 1,000 employees around the world.

He says he finds working in a small company a refreshing change from his previous experience.

“There are advantages to working in a big company for sure, but I found that there was a lot of nepotism in that environment,” he says.

“The opportunities that exist in a company like that are reserved for people at the top, and it’s all about who you know. It’s hard to get a promotion at that kind of company. I think when you join a small company with a great culture, it’s easier to use your skills so that you give something to the company and they give you something in return. Agileana has given me the opportunity to be a key piece in the growth of the company.”

A believer in lifelong learning, Sergio continues to challenge himself. In addition to pursuing Grandmaster certification in Drupal 8, 9, and 10, he is also a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), certification which he recently spent a year and a half pursuing. At Agileana he is omnipresent, one of the few employees who has worked with every internal team, and he continues to play an important role in many key projects.

“You can put me on any team and I’ll do my best,” he adds.

“I worked with the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) team on migration issues. While I was working on Charlie team, we were able to do everything on time for NARA (National Archives and Records Administration). I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to be a leader here at Agileana. It’s more responsibility and more work, but it’s worth it because they recognize I feel my efforts and achievements are recognized in every project. In a bigger company, the CEO might never notice.”

A New Chapter

Sergio currently lives in the town of Culpeper, Virginia (roughly 70 miles southwest of Washington DC), having moved to the United States only three months ago. His first real taste of the country came through a holiday in Florida, an experience that rekindled a longstanding dream.

“All my life I’ve dreamt of moving to the US,” he explains.

“I kind of lost sight of that dream after getting a house in Colombia and settling down, but having kids changed everything. This is a place where you can find better opportunities and where I can give my kids a better education. I have three kids: two daughters and one baby son. I wanted it for them.”

The only real downside to his move is that he’s had to put his musical pursuits on temporary hold.

“I had a home music studio back in Bogota. I had to pack it all up when we moved. But hopefully I’ll get around to building a new one here.”

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