My 3 years as an agency Drupal developer

How I got started and my role developed

Since leaving university, in April 2016, I was struggling to find solid work in my area. I’m from Derby (UK), which is not known as a tech hub and even less so for their web development companies. I eventually found Adaptive, a mid-size Drupal specialist company, at this point I had no idea what Drupal even was, I was just happy to be in a building with PHP developers!

I started very basically with CSS fixes, adding content to websites, manual maintenance and updates of Drupal sites. The kind of stuff you expect to do in your first proper web development job. Over the first year I’d slowly moved from this stuff to more project based work, developing specific solutions for specific problems in the form of Drupal 7 & Drupal 8 custom modules.

In April 2018, due to a few more senior developers moving on and a void needing to be filled, I was asked to make a more committed role to the company, in the process becoming a senior developer for them. This is almost identically to my previous role, with a bit more expected in terms of a few key areas:

  • Training other developers
  • In house tools and solutions to be developed
  • A more motivated attitude to the daily office environment


It takes a lot of the stresses of other CMSs away, while introducing its own set of challenges.

I’d had a background of more MVC based frameworks, mostly CodeIgniter. These frameworks I used to use always tended to be more code based with much less emphasis on admin dashboard experience. Coming into Drupal I was sceptical, but the more I’d embraced the ‘Drupal’ way, the more I enjoyed it as my daily environment.

Drupal 7

Drupal 7 always had a love hate relationship with me, I loved that customising was so easy and often would boil down to call a hook in the right place and hack away with krumo until you get the result you’re after. But I became a more disciplined object oriented programmer, the faults of Drupal 7 became more and more obvious.

Some of the cool things I’d built with Drupal 7:

  • Api integration with the entire Drupal 7 backend for user registration/signup etc..
  • Nested feeds importers for complex feeds that relay of each other’s data
  • Modular page drag and drop content implementation with field collections

Drupal 8

Drupal 8 is where I really fell in love with Drupal, it had what can only be described as a rocky start, but by Drupal 8.5 it was clearly coming together as what the developers had in mind. Drupal 8 has a long way to go of course, with the team aiming for a Drupal 8 reboot as Drupal 9, they clearly know this, but the groundwork laid down by Drupal 8 helps Drupal stay involved as a major CMS and shows its willing to change paradigms to keep with the times.

Some of the cool things I’d built with Drupal 8:

  • Headless drupal 8 with a react.js front end
  • Custom modules that extend core module functionality
  • A custom config export that works similarly to features, without the headaches

I have Drupal 8 to thank for the progress I’ve made over the past few years, it helped me become a more grounded developer, focused less on hack in a script and run off, and more on becoming a object oriented developer with proper documentation and appreciating the value in taking the slow and accurate approach.

The agency, The people

The highlight of my work with Drupal was by far the people I worked with, Adaptive was the most friendly open armed company I’d ever worked in. I felt valued as an employee and any concerns from anyone at any level in the company were always heard, understood and improved upon. It wasn’t always the quickest for change, but they’d always get there in the end.

The company culture can be summarised as progressive, encouraging and you get as much as you give. Countless employee events, plenty of budget for organising events and an openness to hear any and all suggestions is just invaluable.

I was given ample of opportunity over the 3 years to prove myself, take on challenges and really find a place where I fit in the company.

To avoid getting to sappy, I won’t name any of the people directly, but everyone at Adaptive were considerate of me, made me feel welcome and I’ve truly made some life long friends from the people in that office.

What I’d achieved

Over my time at Adaptive I achieved more than I could of hoped, thanks to them I was able to:

  • Develop an in house deployment solution, originally based of Ansible with the help of the infrastructure team, then to a fabric and puppet fork of the fine work at CodeEnigma.
  • Built with 3 other developers an integration with Drupal acting as a headless CMS with react.js for front end rendering of the dynamic pages.
  • Multiple backend api integrations with systems such as ThankQ, Raiser’s Edge, Adestra and many more.
  • Develop and push git into the office, starting with basic git backups ending with a full modern git workflow designed specifically to meet the needs of the company.

The End

Recently an opportunity came around very quick and fast. It wasn’t long between the moment I thought about what’s next for me, getting referred to a role, then getting swept up in the application process. It must’ve been two weeks between me even having an inkling to leave and accepting the new role. I’m sure I’ll write a post on it once I get settled.

My only regret is leaving Adaptive so quick, I really do appreciate everyone there and only wish I could give them more, I wish everyone there the best and hope to keep in touch with all of you.