We spoke to CivicActioner Daniel Mundra, Associate Director of Drupal, about the benefits of Drupal, community contributions, and why working at CivicActions has been so rewarding for him . He is among a team of 60+ Drupal engineers with nearly 20 Acquia certifications and 20+ edX a11y (Accessibility) certifications.
CivicActions is known for our Drupal expertise. To you, why is Drupal such an important tool in the work that we do for our government clients?
Drupal is a complex tool but it is the best tool to help deliver complex concepts for our government clients. Drupal also delivers for our clients while still being free, open source, having a growing community, and also not afraid to change/adapt. I don't believe other similar products could check all those boxes.
I have been working with Drupal for 12+ years, first with Drupal version 6 and now with 10. Since my early days, Drupal has been a veritable Swiss army knife for web development. It helped me deliver a lot of value to users in a quick amount of time. Earlier I would produce many sites with a lot of modules but not consider the maintenance costs, reliability you get with writing tests, giving back to the community, and so on. It left my clients with a functional site but a maintenance burden. Nowadays I focus more on contributing back, writing more tests, reducing maintenance burden and thinking of long term solutions than quicker output of sites. Just like how the Drupal platform and community has evolved, so have I. Drupal has given me the space to do that and I am grateful for that.
What are some community contributions to Drupal from your team that you are especially proud of?
CivicActions contributes quite a bit to Drupal. Last year CivicActions was credited with contributing 90+ contributions and that is only growing. I am particularly proud of the modules we are adding to the community, like Media Link Enhancements (from Cameron Prince), Google Programmable Search JSON API (from Timo Zura and Sam Lerner), and recently Content Model Documentation (from Steve Wirt).
You are very passionate about accessibility — why is accessibility so important to you and how do you work to make projects more accessible at CivicActions?
Accessibility is important to me because to truly be human centered we have to make technology accessible to all. The primary ways I work to make projects more accessible is by first building from the beginning with accessibility in mind. The second way is to add layers of accessibility testing to ensure the site remains accessible. Layers like automated testing, manual testing with keyboards/screen readers, and testing with disabled users (when possible). Accessibility is a long term commitment and I can say that at CivicActions we are all contributing to that and we are making a difference.
What initially drew you to a career in civic tech, particularly at CivicActions?
After spending 10 years working in higher education, in particular as an in- house developer for the University of Oregon, I wanted a change. As the university was going away from in-house development, I wanted to continue growing my skills while still supporting similar mission-driven organizations. I found both at CivicActions.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Being able to give back to the community and also take part in the company outside of the project. I am an associate director now but I wouldn't have been able to reach that role without the support of everyone at CivicActions. They made space for me to take part in company activities like OKRs, guidebook updates, accessibility practice area, and so on. I am successful because of the culture of the team to make space and make most parts of the company accessible to discussion, debate and continuous improvement.
Any advice for someone looking to follow a similar career trajectory?
Ask questions and get involved where you can, either at the company you work for or in your local community. Find that company and community that energizes you and bring your whole self to them.
On a lighter note, what is a fun fact that people may not know about you?
I like statistics so much that for 3 years I was the official statistician for the Oregon Cricket League. Lots of data entry and review but I was able to see how local players and teams evolved.