Drupal Subject Matter Experts, Acquia Certifications, and Site Migrations

Let’s say you’re looking for an IT professional for a Drupal 9 upgrade. How do you know if the person you’re hiring knows Drupal and isn’t just a hacker?

Past performance is one place to start. What projects has a developer or development shop worked on recently? What does that Drupal site look like? Does the site run smoothly?

These are all useful questions. But what’s going on in the backend of the site is even more telling. There are a number of ways to do things in Drupal. A developer might be putting functionality in the template file of a Drupal site. And that site might work and look fine.

But functionality in a template file will cause headaches down the road. Every time another developer changes that template file, the functionality (or content or whatever you put in that template file) will be lost and need to be rebuilt. Which means more money and time for future changes.

There are a lot of ways to do things in Drupal, but there are only a few ways that will make your future self happy and keep your site running smoothly. It takes specialized knowledge.

In short, you probably want a developer to be an expert in Drupal.

Enter Acquia certifications.

Why do Acquia Certifications Exist?

It’s important to remember Drupal’s history. The CMS started as a project out of Dries Buytaert’s dorm room in 2001. Initially, Drupal served as a message board for some other people going to college with Buytaert. Over time, Drupal became one of the preeminent open source CMSs.

It grew quickly and there were growing pains along the way. After Whitehouse.gov switched to Drupal in 2009, other large organization in the government and private sector wanted Drupal developers. But there weren’t enough developers and some people were just hacking it. They were cutting corners and accumulating technical debt.

Drupal’s founder, Dries Buytaert, signaled support for some sort of certification for developers in a blog post from 2009. He said that, while it isn’t a “zero-sum game,” some sort of certification was useful for the Drupal community. Acquia, a for-profit Drupal shop founded by Buytaert, rolled out a certification program in the mid 2010s.

What are Acquia Certifications?

The certifications are based on passing a test administered by Acquia. Certifications are divided into different categories by Drupal version. In Drupal 7, 8, and 9 there are these categories:

  • Site Builder
  • Developer
  • Frontend Specialist
  • Backend Specialist.

If a developer receives all of these certifications for a version of Drupal – they’re called a Grand Master. So, for example, if someone passes the Site Builder, Developer, Frontend and Backend certification tests in Drupal 8, then they are a Drupal 8 Grand Master.

The program is meant to teach best practices.

“There’s a couple different ways to do anything in Drupal,” says Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 Grand Master Gordon Makely.

Makely explains the tests are difficult, with many answers that accomplish a goal, but only one right answer, “you might’ve chosen an answer that isn’t the accepted answer, but it would still get the job done.”

These tests standardize the way people work on Drupal sites so that future developers know what’s going on when they take a site over.

Best practices also ensure that developers are not putting high loads on a server through the way they build sites. So, again, if everything goes in the template file on your Drupal site, it’s going to be processor intensive to load your Drupal site. Which can cause a myriad of cascading problems in the future. Acquia certifications are meant to ensure developers build sites the right way.

Agileana’s Acquia Certified Grand Masters

Grand Masters are rare. There are only around 500 in the whole world. Agileana is really proud to hold three Grand Master certifications. Two are held by one developer – Gordon Makely, who has been working in Drupal for over a decade. He is a Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 Grand Master.

We also have four developers how are one certification away from becoming Grand Masters: Benji Damron, Carlos Fernandez, Christian Le Fournis, and Felipe Ceballos.

Of course, a certification isn’t the only way to know someone is a capable developer. But, it is one of the easiest ways to ensure a developer knows their stuff. And, if that developer is a Grand Master, than they really know they’re stuff and are a Drupal subject matter expert.

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