CANCELLED: The Fourth Way - Living Your Best Drupal Life

Presenter: BenFinklea

I have two jobs. You may know me as the CEO of Volacci. While that role is very important to me, it's a distant second to my primary job.

My first and most important job is that of stay-at-home Dad. Since my oldest was born in 2004, that has been my first calling and duty.

This works because I’ve spent the last 15 or so years building the exact life and lifestyle that fit me best. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and had a lot of epiphanies that shaped my journey and I’d love to share a little of what I’ve learned. This session is about building your place in Drupal, making it work for you, and finding happiness, peace, and daily joy.

I have learned some practical lessons that have helped me get to where I am today. I’m having a blast and I would like to share how I do it. Here are some high points:

  • I rarely work more than 30 hours in a week. 
  • I put my two kids on the bus in the morning and I’m here for them when they get home from school. 
  • I have time for things like exercise, making dinner for the family, and helping with homework and housework.
  • I take days off when I need them and my business doesn’t miss a beat. 
  • I volunteer at my church and a local special needs school. 
  • I make a great income and live in a nice house in Austin, Texas. 
  • I wish that I drove a Tesla but I do have a pretty nice minivan.

So why do I call this the Fourth Way? I’ve been in Drupal for 13 years now and I’ve observed that there are four main ways to build a career in Drupal:

FOR HIRE: The first way is to get a job: agency, government, non-profit, etc. Stable. Good benefits. 9-5 (or 8-6). 2-3 weeks vacay. Maybe you’re a dev or designer or maybe training, recruiting, sales, marketing, or even the CEO. Most people start (and end) their careers here. It’s a great fit for most people, but it’s not for me.

FREELANCE: The second way is to become a freelance dev or consultant. It carries more financial risk but it’s highly flexible so it fits many different lifestyles. You are in control. Work on projects that you like (or the ones you need to pay the bills). Many people find themselves freelancing at some point and many do it for years. But, again, it wasn’t a good fit for me.

FOUNDER: The third way is to be an entrepreneur. Maybe you started out freelance and hired a few people and before you know it, you’re an agency. Maybe you raise money to create a hosting or outsourcing company. You work a ton and spend way more time managing people and growth than you ever thought you would. I’ve heard it said that it’s lonely at the top but the food is better, and sadly, it’s sort of true. (Not the part about the food, I love the food.) There is constant demand for growth from both advisors, friends, and employees. For me, it took something fun that I was passionate about and turned it into something that distressed me.

Then, there is The Fourth Way. You work 20-30 very intense hours/week. You manage less than 5 employees but they mostly manage themselves. You have a handful or two of very happy customers that have been with you for years. You don’t chase new business all the time. You vacation when you want to (which for me is honestly not that often because I’m a homebody). Your business is a means to an end, not the definition of who you are. You’ll probably never sell out for millions, but it doesn’t matter because you’re steadily building a nest egg.

I started building this life right around the time I joined Drupal. I was 31 and had experienced the first way, the second way, and the third way. I built my life by design and I believe that anyone who wants it enough, can build something similar. Drupal is especially fertile soil for creative life choices. What would Drupal be like if everyone in this community was doing the work that they are perfectly suited for in a relaxed and dis-stress-free way? This would be a very robust community indeed!

I’ve shared some of my ideas, stories, and mistakes before but I’ve never laid out a complete overview for how I did it. That’s what I hope to do in this session. Hopefully, I can help point you in the right direction and answer some questions, too. I’ll cover how to:

  • Identify a single point of focus and bend every choice to it.
  • Find your passion/personal niche in Drupal.
  • Work less by working really, really hard and smart.
  • Create a micro-community of people who love and support each other.
  • Obsessively automate things.
  • Deal with the emotional baggage that holds you back.
  • Handle nay-sayers with grace and understanding.
  • Give back and pay it forward.

My life brings me great joy and I believe that everyone in Drupal, in open source, and even in the world has a perfect place where they can thrive and be their absolute best. I hope you’ll join me with an open mind and be willing to share your experiences, too.

Govcon 2019 will be the first time I’ve given this presentation.

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