It’s really happening.

Finally, the Drupal community will meet again for the first in-person DrupalCon since 2019.

A lot has changed. The pandemic accelerated an already-growing appetite for digital experiences that can satisfy the expectations of audiences across every industry. Not only are many organizations in dire need of website improvements, but the agencies with Drupal experience who can help are also shorthanded. A lot of work lies ahead, and everyone feels short on time and resources.

DrupalCon has long been a tool for connecting technologists with the people who need our expertise. But this year it’s shifting focus. Rather than arriving with ambitious agendas and sales goals, many people are simply eager to see their friends again.

Coming together at DrupalCon marks a cautiously exciting return to normal—while still feeling a little weird, to be honest. 

DrupalCon goes back to the basics: personal connection

After three years, the prospect of returning to an in-person event feels monumental. We’re all eager to be together again. Like everyone else, DrupalCon transitioned to a virtual alternative at the height of the pandemic—and it had its challenges.

We made the best of it. But Hopin rooms can’t approximate the feeling of thousands of people meeting in a convention center expo hall. Then there was the complexity of virtual attendees and presenters coordinating across multiple time zones. While caution and personal safety will remain top of mind this year, we’re relieved to be back IRL.

That’s a good thing, both socially and professionally. In years past, a large part of the DrupalCon experience was its sponsors trying to out-booth each other to make a big impression. To boost our brand, Four Kitchens traditionally sponsored the expo hall’s gaming space where people could play ping-pong or air hockey between sessions. This year we’re doing away with all that, and it feels like a welcomed return to basics.

DrupalCon is an opportunity for education and business development, but it’s also a social gathering. For us, it was important to invite team members who haven’t yet met in person because they joined during the pandemic. We’re bringing a wide representation of the company to make sure they get to know the Drupal community beyond their coworkers.

We’re not looking to make a big splash. Instead, we’re just hoping people stop by, say hi, and catch up. And we’re not the only ones focusing on making connections.

Competition at DrupalCon is fierce—for finding the right people

This year’s DrupalCon will fundamentally be a social gathering, but it’s also about the work. In previous years, we’ve been among the many web development agencies aiming to book new clients and build our business. This year, the focus is finding people to do the work.

While no one’s likely to turn away any organization looking to hire an agency, the industry faces a massive talent acquisition problem on all sides. Even before the pandemic, Drupal engineers were in high demand. Organizations recognize the pressing need to upgrade from Drupal 7, but they’re hard-pressed to make the move without additional help. The accelerated push toward digital over the past few years has only magnified the need for skilled developers, and nonprofits and higher ed institutions increasingly don’t have the resources to compete for their services. 

The result is an almost cyclical talent shortage. Organizations can’t hire developers in-house, so they turn to web agencies for support, who are shorthanded in the face of so much demand. With months of lead time required before any new project, website development shops see DrupalCon as an opportunity to grow their teams.

Little wonder engineering salaries have exploded, which has fueled a surge of interest in the technology industry. When agencies like ours post open positions, they generate a deluge of responses that are difficult to sort through. At DrupalCon, attendees have the benefit of pulling from an audience who have been prequalified, to an extent, by their connection with the platform.  

(Needless to say, we have a number of open positions and a hiring process that we hear sets us apart. If you’re headed to DrupalCon and looking to change how you work, we should talk about the team we’re building.)

Technical strategy takes the stage at DrupalCon

As web projects have become increasingly critical to an organization’s success, our thinking has shifted about how they should be managed. We’re excited that two Web Chefs will be presenting an overview of how we believe digital projects should include a technical strategist

A technical strategist will empower you to manage your organization’s digital experience in a more proactive way. We’re excited to share more at DrupalCon about the topic, especially given the co-presenters involved.

Dave Hansen-Lange and Heather Wozniak have an amazing eye for seeing into the future for a project. They are tactical specialists who explore the potential impact of any decision. Between both of their perspectives, we’re confident you’re in for an interesting look at how websites can evolve with your organization.

Industry factors in the spotlight at DrupalCon

The evolving nature of the pandemic has added a measure of uncertainty to the first in-person DrupalCon since 2019. Everyone is keeping their fingers crossed as far as what’s on the horizon with the next variant, but we’re cautiously optimistic—and excited—to get back together.

That desire to reconnect may partly be why technology has practically taken a back seat at this year’s DrupalCon. Since the first DrupalCon in 2005, the event has always been about highlighting how the technology is moving forward. While that’s still a focus, one of the platform’s biggest developments is February’s announcement that Drupal 7’s end-of-life has been extended to November 2023.

The decision is tied to the industry factors shaping this year’s DrupalCon and the need to protect the nonprofit, higher ed, and civic organizations who still depend on the platform. To extend further support, DrupalCon is hosting a Nonprofit Summit to better enable a critical audience to find the support and information they need.

At least this year, the mindset for the event has tilted toward facilitating personal connections over technological ones. For all the uncertainty surrounding DrupalCon, the benefit from facilitating those connections is the one thing we can rely on.

Attending DrupalCon 2022 in Portland? Stop by our booth to chat with us!