Nicolas Loye: Bridging Technology and Community for Sustainable Growth

Interview with Nicolas Loye

Nicolas Loye, CTO at Smile and a prominent figure in the Drupal community for over 15 years, shares insights on community-driven growth, financial stewardship, and fostering collaboration. From porting projects to organizing Drupal events, Nicolas reflects on the essence of community work and its impact on his role as a technology leader. With a diverse range of interests, including cybersecurity, sustainability, and generative AI, he offers advice to aspiring Drupal enthusiasts: 

'Meet other members of the community. Talk to them. A community's strength is knowing that you are allowed to take a break. People will be there for you as long as you are there for them.'

Elma John, sub-editor at The DropTimes, interacts with Nicolas Loye, delving into his insights on technology, community building, and leadership. He embodies the essence of a visionary technologist and community leader whose contributions transcend mere technical expertise, leaving an enduring legacy of collaboration, growth, and innovation within the Drupal ecosystem. 

Please read on.

Nicolas Loye at DrupalCon Lille 2023

TDT [1]: Your Drupal journey spans over 15 years, marked by extensive contributions to the community and various Drupal events. How have these experiences shaped your vision and approach as a Chief Technology Officer at Smile?

Nicolas Loye: Community work allows you to meet and interact with a very wide variety of profiles. Whatever the person's experience, I feel I have something to learn from them. As CTO, this is a spirit that I try to transmit to my teams daily. Patience, mutual assistance, and exchange, particularly under the pressure of a project, are keys that I have learned to consider essential. The group will always bring more to a project than a single individual.

I also learned to view innovation with a more pragmatic and measured vision. Innovation without team support or discussion does not lead to anything very concrete. It is important to convince teams of the benefit of practice and to work within standards recognized by all members of a certain ethic.

As for myself, I’m convinced that our job, as creators of the web experience, is, before anything else, to bring people together with a particular focus on those who struggle more in life. As technicians and conceptors, we are here to make people’s lives easier and help them.

The connection between people, listening, and active inclusion of less represented profiles is undoubtedly what I have learned from the community that helps me the most in my job.

TDT [2]: Could you discuss the most challenging project among those you've contributed to in the Drupal ecosystem? Additionally, could you share strategies or solutions that helped you overcome these hurdles?

Nicolas Loye: I believe that the most challenging project is, without a doubt, the porting of localize, our community translation platform, from Drupal 7 to Drupal 10. The most difficult aspect remains finding contributors, attracting them, and continuing to motivate them despite the ups and downs of everyone's lives. The project had moments of breakthrough but also many quieter times when the team was not moving forward. It is a dynamic of animation and organization of complex work, but things are happening little by little.

The best strategy we deployed on this initiative, I think, is the organization of collective work sessions. It is always more motivating to work with other people on the same issue, to get advice and opinions, and to help with your issues.

TDT[3]: Your involvement in organizing events like DrupalCamps and Global Contribution Weekends demonstrates a commitment to fostering collaboration within the Drupal community. How do you see these community-driven events shaping the future of Drupal?

Nicolas Loye: To me, sharing activities is the gateway to our community. A healthy community must keep its doors open to newcomers, young students, or curious experts. Our progress statuses and concrete demos of Drupal and its modules are all ways of attracting new people, with new ideas coming from their experiences or other technologies and communities. The more we can bring people from other landscapes, the more we will be able to diversify the approaches and write a tool that will speak to more people.

I think Drupal will remain a modern and popular solution if the community continues its education work, particularly in schools and universities where today’s students are tomorrow’s developers.

Nicolas Loye

TDT [4]: You've been credited with numerous fixed issues across different Drupal projects. Can you highlight a particularly challenging issue you've resolved and the process you followed to address it?

Nicolas Loye: We have performance issues on the localized porting initiative due to a large amount of data to be processed for the migration. Though it is still an ongoing process, I learned a lot by listening to our team's suggestions and by testing new tools to help us go forward on those problems.

In this particular case, I listened to Thomas Bailly's (TeeBeeCoder) suggestion to use Blackfire to debug the performance issue properly. I then worked with the amazing people from Blackfire and to get Blackfire licenses for the project team. We also organized detailed training on using it and creating proper tests for our use cases. 

Today, we can quickly identify and fix performance issues in our migration process, and the team can set up a properly scaled workflow for the future.

TDT[5]: In your role as Treasurer of Drupal France, how do you see financial stewardship contributing to the growth and sustainability of the Drupal community?

Nicolas Loye: Community is, first of all, made of people. More than money, people's time and motivation are the real driving force for a community to sustain itself. In our post-COVID world, giving people opportunities to gather is more important than ever, and when we speak about gathering, we speak about logistics.

This is where money enters the game and can be the limit of the growth of a local community. This is why building strong relationships with business partners as agencies and service providers is important to allow mutual benefits. A virtuous circle can be set where agencies can gain knowledge, clients, recruitment opportunities, and exposure, and the community can benefit from their financial support through event sponsorship. But this requires work in ways a technical community may not be accustomed to, such as marketing, social network communication, and branding attractive counterparts for business partners. I think this is the most critical element today in a shrunken market where companies want to see their return on investment quickly and clearly.

TDT[6]: Your technical expertise spans diverse areas like the UI Suite Initiative, module maintenance, and event organization. How do you stay updated with the evolving Drupal functionalities and align your contributions with the community's needs?

Nicolas Loye: My main source of information is discussion, mostly with people from the Drupal community but also from other communities. This happens mostly on Slack's public and private channels but also in person. The French local community slack server is one of the places I get to reach people the most. Then come the social networks, technical events I can attend during the year, and finally, some very interesting articles colleagues or fellow Drupalists share on the different technology watch channels.

TDT [7]: Community involvement has been integral to your journey, from organizing events to contributing to the French Drupal Association. How do you actively foster collaboration within the Drupal community, bridging gaps between various contributors and organizations? Additionally, could you share insights from your experience organizing events like DrupalCon and DrupalCamps, emphasizing their role in fostering growth and evolution within the Drupal ecosystem?

Nicolas Loye: If it weren't for the community, I would probably not be as involved as I am today. Giving back is a rewarding way of working. Bringing people together is a motivating exercise. I have been fortunate to be part of the Drupal community for a long time and to be an active member of the French Drupal Association's board for several years now.

Our local community suffered greatly from the COVID period; people were less active and less inclined to exchange. I was particularly sensible to this, as I mostly knew the community through the main European events I had the chance to attend. Because of that, I knew in-person events were the key to people's motivation through contributions, discussions, and meeting new people or old friends.

We wanted to organize a big event like a DrupalCamp, and we were lucky enough to be able to help organize DrupalCon Lille. This was, for us, an opportunity to wake up the local community and, for me, to see DrupalCon behind the scenes as a local ambassador. 

Unlike in the US, DrupalCon in Europe is organized by a company called Kuoni Tumlare. It was a very interesting experience. I felt very welcomed by everybody. I must say it was, in fact, quite difficult to know who was part of the company and who was a Kuoni team member, with people being so friendly and working so efficiently together. I had many opportunities to give opinions; I could even join the Marketing and Communication Committee, which I'm still in today, with amazing people to promote the event.

Nicolas Loye and Marine Gandy

TDT [8]: What are your insights and aspirations for Drupalcamp Rennes 2024, considering your role as an organizer? How do you envision this event impacting the local and broader Drupal community?

Nicolas Loye: I am only a very humble participant in the organization team among very talented people who have mastered the complexity of implementing such an event much better than I have.

For DrupalCon Lille, we organized the Warm-Up Tour, a series of meetups all around France to gather people and wake the local community up. We had plenty of positive feedback during and after the event itself. People we hadn't seen for years met again. There were a lot of discussions, and people returned home with renewed motivation. 

Drupalcamp is the logical continuation of what we experienced in Lille. We aspire to renew the motivation of the community, to allow it to come together once again and leave more motivated than ever. We hope to introduce Drupal and show the younger developers how to contribute to its community. Our goal is to be as inclusive as possible to show that there are people not far away who can help in everyday life in France and that an issue can be fixed when multiple people are working on it.

We also want to show our partner organizations that the local community is strong and is interested in promoting its activities. We hope that everyone who comes to see us in March is motivated to participate in the community in one way or another.

TDT [9]: With a diverse academic background and certifications, how do you maintain your professional evolution, especially in a swiftly changing tech landscape? Which learning areas take priority to keep you ahead in your role?

Nicolas Loye: I'm curious about everything. I like to code in other languages, even just for a few hours and in completely different contexts. I think that the key to evolution is to keep having fun with what you do and find ways to give back to others, even if it's just for your relatives, close friends, or just one person.

My current points of interest are many. I'm trying to improve my knowledge in the cybersecurity domain. I'm trying to learn best practices around sustainability (green IT) while also being aware of accessibility and other social tech subjects.

My current work pointed me, almost by accident, to generative AI, LLM, and its usage for my teams. It is a topic I'm trying to explore with caution, as I'm fully aware of all its ethical issues (human exploitation, data privacy and property, biases in how models are trained, etc.).

TDT [10]: Considering your extensive experience and contributions, what advice would you give to budding Drupal enthusiasts aiming to create a substantial impact within the community?

Nicolas Loye: Meet other members of the community. Talk to them. Tell them what you want to bring to the community, and ask them how they can help you do it. Also, the important thing is to be aware of your limits and not engage in too many things; otherwise, you'll burn out very quickly. A community's strength is knowing that you are allowed to take a break. People will be there for you as long as you are there for them.

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.

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