From Treehugger to Debugger: How I became a Drupal Developer in 3 months

March 05, 2017

At the beginning of last year (January 2016), I was an Environmental Scientist specializing in Storm Water Management (SWM). I was conducting field research on water quality in lakes, forests, and streams. Months prior, I had graduated from George Mason University with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and a concentration in Environmental Health. For the last year, I have been a Drupal developer. I have worked on over 25 Drupal websites for clients ranging from commercial to government and nonprofit. How did I become a Drupal Developer with no background in coding/programming whatsoever? One day, a friend of mine suggested I look into a Drupal Development course claiming to be a career-changer. I had never heard the word “Drupal” before, let alone done any coding or programming. And although I graduated from George Mason University with a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and worked in the field for a year, I felt as if I wasn't challenging myself enough. I researched Drupal and Drupal salaries and decided it was worth a shot. I enrolled in the intensive 3-month Drupal Development course ( and began learning skills that would change my career. After a full day of collecting and analyzing water and soil samples throughout Northern Virginia forests, parks, and streams, I would go and attend the Drupal course where I would learn GIT Version Control, Drush, PHP, HTML, CSS, and how to create subthemes and build Drupal sites. We first began by learning HTML/CSS, the foundational languages of each web page. It was bit challenging at first to learn the two languages and learn to use them together, but it became fun and rewarding once you saw your webpage coming together. After that, we moved on to Git. Git is a version control system that allows you to track changes of code as well as share code with others. While it definitely takes a little getting used to, I quickly understood the importance of using version control on any project. After mastering the basics of HTML, CSS, and Git, I was ready to begin learning the Drupal CMS (Content Management System). Some of the things I did in class were: • Performed local development on a drupalVM based vagrant box • Created and exported content types, features, user roles, modules, contact forms, customized Google Store Locator maps, and more • Created subthemes and styled them using HTML, CSS, PHP hooks, and more • Utilized Adobe Photoshop for pixel-perfect page construction After completing the 3-month course and passing a pre-interview technical assessment, I accepted my first position as a Drupal Developer with Taoti Creative in February of 2016 ( I have been a Drupal Developer ever since and have worked on over 25 Drupal 7/8 websites ranging from commercial to government and nonprofit clients. One of my main reasons for becoming a Drupal Developer was that I wanted to make an impact worldwide. I wanted to help build websites for health organizations, nonprofits, charities, and more. I’ve been able to do just that while having fun along the way. Additionally, I have found the Drupal community to be a passionate and inclusive one. If you are considering a career in Drupal Development, I highly recommend it. Drupal Developers are in high demand and companies seem to be having a hard time filling Drupal positions. While a lot of great Drupal material exists out there, it can be very hard getting over Drupal's learning curve without a mentor to lead you across. Drupal concepts or issues that might take you hours to understand can be quickly explained by an experienced Drupal Developer. I took the Debug Academy Drupal Development course while I was a full time Environmental Scientist. It required time, commitment, and hard-work. That all paid off and I received a significant salary increase as a result of switching careers. Give Drupal a shot, it just might change your life. Ali Hassan is a Drupal Developer at DebugAcademy. You can follow him on twitter at

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