Beyond Code: A Decadal Odyssey with Drupal

Suits Corporations, Not Small Guys: Jorge Lopez- Lago on Drupal's Enterprise Turn

Today, we feature Jorge López-Lago, a seasoned Solutions Architect at FFW and a prominent figure in the Drupal community. With a journey spanning from DrupalCon Barcelona in 2007 to the upcoming DrupalCon Portland in 2024, Jorge reflects on his evolution, sharing insights that have shaped his approach to Drupal development and community engagement.

In an email correspondence with Elma John, sub-editor at The DropTimes, Jorge López-Lago discusses the diverse aspects of his Drupal journey. With a background as an Aeronautical Engineer, Jorge sheds light on the impact of his varied experiences on his current role, emphasizing how his engineering background influences his problem-solving approach.

As a trailblazer fostering local Drupal communities, he shares the story behind DrupalMAD and its lasting impact. The interview provides a comprehensive view of Jorge's experiences, offering valuable perspectives on Drupal's evolution, community leadership, and the exciting trends ahead, making it a must-read for Drupal enthusiasts and professionals. In his own words,

"Drupal’s impact on web development has been incredible."

Please read on.

TDT[1]: Can you reflect on your journey attending DrupalCon Europe from Barcelona in 2007 to Lille in 2023? How has your experience evolved over the years, and what standout moments or insights from these events have significantly influenced your approach to Drupal development and community engagement?

Jorge Lopez-Lago: My journey attending DrupalCons has been parallel to my professional journey with Drupal, from a hands-on developer focused on getting to an experienced communicator focused on giving.

The Paris 2009 Con sparked the flame to create the Spanish Drupal Association, which was good. I also lived the transformation of the Drupal world from being driven by passionate aficionados to being led by incredible companies.

Another critical moment was the realisation that Drupal wasn’t leading the crowd anymore, and we started copying other platforms. I personally prefer the former Drupal world as I have a developer at my core, but I am currently enjoying the new world and providing all that I can offer at this moment.

TDT[2]: Your DrupalCon Lille 2023 session, "People's Wisdom: Crafting Success One Tip at a Time," focuses on collaborative tip-sharing. What inspired you to organize a Birds of a Feather (BoF) session with this unique emphasis?

Jorge Lopez-Lago: I am at a point in my career where I have a lot to offer in terms of life and work experience, and I like to share it. My idea revolves around providing people the opportunity to share a unique aspect of themselves (as everyone has something valuable to share) and, in return, gather a collection of insights from the rest of the room. BoF sessions are a great opportunity to bring people in rather than listen to what someone says behind the microphone, so this seemed like a good format to put together everyone’s experience. I got a couple of tips from other participants that I already applied to work and life. I intend to incorporate these sessions in each DrupalCon I attend from now on.

TDT[3]: Given your involvement in organizing technical sessions and contributing to the initiation of Drupal Spanish Association, how do you perceive community leadership contributing to the success and vibrancy of DrupalCons, and what role has it played in your overall experience of these conferences?

Jorge Lopez-Lago: Unfortunately, not much. I have the impression that community leadership has a pretty difficult task as its members belong to two very different groups: agencies and companies on one side and small organizations and aficionados on the other. As things go on, I think the representativeness of the DA leans heavily to the former group. This is great to bring Drupal into the big league but pretty bad for all the small guys out there. And Drupal grew on the back of the small guys, so it is quite a conundrum. Perhaps it is a sign that we have grown up, and we always lose something when becoming something different.

The Drupal Association is vital to organizing the events; that is exactly why we created a national one in Spain, but I don’t feel aligned with it at the moment. Many years ago, they were a definite enabler, but now the DA lacks a community spirit, being no more than a public organization to advance the Drupal initiatives. This is an interesting development of a community-led organization since the results of those initiatives will benefit corporations first and foremost, considering the enterprise aim of Drupal nowadays.

TDT[4]: Jorge, your career journey has encompassed roles ranging from Aeronautical Engineer to Solutions Architect. How has your diverse experience across engineering, project management, Drupal development, and leadership roles contributed to your current role as a Solutions Architect at FFW? Additionally, how do you leverage insights from your earlier roles, such as your time as a Test Engines Management Engineer at Rolls-Royce, in your current responsibilities as a Solutions Architect?

Jorge Lopez-Lago: With a diverse background spanning various industries and roles, I possess a unique insight that enables me to tackle challenges at multiple levels and effectively communicate solutions to diverse stakeholders. This experience has also granted me a comprehensive understanding of different industries, including their perspectives, values, and challenges. This knowledge proves invaluable in my current role as a Solutions Architect at FFW, a renowned leader in the Drupal community.

At FFW, where we integrate data insights, strategy, design, and development to create compelling digital experiences, my multifaceted experience plays a pivotal role in approaching new projects. My ability to comprehend the intricacies of industries aids in tailoring solutions to address the specific needs and issues faced by the organizations I collaborate with. Reflecting on my past role as a Test Engines Management Engineer, I thrived in high-pressure environments with tight deadlines and non-negotiable requirements. This experience taught me to be very pragmatic and creative, finding alternative solutions fast when something fails without breaking requirements. Although the pressure as a Solutions Architect may not be directly comparable, there are instances where rapid iteration of project architecture is necessary without losing sight of the project's requirements. My past experiences have equipped me with the skills to navigate such situations effectively.

Jorge Lopez- Lago at DrupalCon Lille

TDT[5]: Your Drupal.org profile mentions that you are the creator and organizer of the monthly technical sessions, DrupalMAD, in Madrid between 2009 and 2011, what motivated you to initiate these sessions? How did these sessions contribute to the local Drupal community, and what impact did they have on fostering knowledge sharing and collaboration among Drupal enthusiasts?

Jorge Lopez-Lago: My interest lies in sharing. At the time, there was a considerable lack of Drupal knowledge and Drupal developers, making it feel like the right thing to do. I think the sessions positively impacted the Madrid community, fostering long-term friendships and serving as the starting point for some of today's prominent Drupal developers. Even though no one was to continue the sessions after I departed from Madrid, the seeds planted flourished beyond all expectations.

TDT[6]: Your long-standing presence in the Drupal community is evident from your contributions and participation in various events. How has your involvement in Drupal influenced your approach to problem-solving and the tips you find most impactful?

Jorge Lopez-Lago: To be fair, the largest influence on problem-solving comes from my engineering training and experience. That gave me an edge in the profession. However, Drupal has also contributed significantly, mainly due to my naivety. Since Drupal was such a capable platform and since it was so difficult to find competent developers for it, I ended up doing a lot by myself and developed the skill of being able to build anything with Drupal (I referred to it as the Everything Management System). A kind of Drupal version of Maslow’s hammer. Simplistic as it may seem, it happened to be efficient and quite successful. Currently, I am broadening my views and exploring many other competing technologies, but the ride with Drupal has been fantastic.

TDT [7]: You attended DrupalCon Barcelona in 2007, and now, in 2024, DrupalCon is returning to Barcelona. Reflecting on the advancements in Drupal and the broader tech landscape since your first attendance, how do you see the evolution of Drupal and its impact on web development? Are there specific changes or trends you're particularly excited about as the Drupal community gathers once again in Barcelona for DrupalCon 2024?

Jorge Lopez-Lago: The evolution of Drupal has been intriguing as it successfully maintained a unified structure, avoiding significant divergence into various projects. While I am not particularly impressed with the methods employed, I acknowledge that the overall outcome has been positive for most users, though not universally.

Drupal’s impact on web development has been incredible, introducing features, functionalities, and concepts now widely adopted by many comparing technologies. Today, it stands as a formidable tool capable of competing with major players in the industry.

In my current role as a Solutions Architect at FFW, a respected leader in the Drupal community, we focus on working with large corporations and undertaking substantial projects. The changes in Drupal, particularly those related to the End of Life (EOL) for Drupal 7, are of significant interest to me due to their implications for devoted developers and large projects. This will certainly spark interesting discussions at the Barcelona 2024 event.

Jorge Lopez- Lago's session announcement prior to DrupalCon Lille

TDT [8]: Jorge, with your specialties in information architecture, knowledge management, and user interaction design, how do you approach crafting user-centric experiences in your projects? Can you share a specific example from your career where your emphasis on user interaction design played a crucial role in achieving project success or enhancing the overall user experience?

Jorge Lopez-Lago: I am a jack of all trades and know a bit of everything, enough to move forward and enough not to paralyze. I play a crucial role in supporting the design teams by reviewing requirements, proposals, and designs and testing concepts and implementations. I am also quite a difficult user, actively applying this perspective to enhance user experience designs in every project. 

I remember a project in Spain where my early contributions to the design process prevented many iterations and, ultimately, saved a considerable amount of money. Additionally, during a project in London, I developed a method to test UX functionality in Drupal in an agnostic way, independently of the theme used. This approach enabled us to conduct more robust tests while maintaining confidence in the results.

TDT [9]: Looking ahead, what trends or developments in the Drupal ecosystem do you find particularly exciting, and how might they impact the tips and tricks shared in your session at DrupalCon Lille 2023?

Jorge Lopez-Lago: As mentioned earlier, the trends and challenges that I find particularly interesting for the near future are the ones related to the abandonment of the non-professional developer community due to the End of Life (EOL) of Drupal 7. Like everyone else, I also closely monitor advancements in Artificial Intelligence within the Drupal sphere.

My session on tips and tricks goes beyond Drupal; in this edition, all the shared tips were unrelated to Drupal. We discussed life and professional hacks. However, I always start with a tip rooted in my Drupal development experience, serving as both an example and an icebreaker.

Disclaimer: The information provided about the interviewee has been gathered from publicly available resources. The responsibility for the responses shared in the interview solely rests with the featured individual.

Note: The vision of this web portal is to help promote news and stories around the Drupal community and promote and celebrate the people and organizations in the community. We strive to create and distribute our content based on these content policy. If you see any omission/variation on this please let us know in the comments below and we will try to address the issue as best we can.

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