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How EPAM’s Rafael Nogueira Developed a Passion for Drupal

Rafael Nogueira, a Solution Architect at EPAM, works with business analysts and project managers to ensure product development goes smoothly. His daily activities involve defining technical solutions together with customers, translating business requirements into technical tasks and breaking them down into small chunks for development.

When he isn’t working to articulate technical tasks with development teams, you can find him building applications for Alexa, which has Open Source software. This isn’t a surprise given that at the age of 13, Rafael developed a passion for working with Open Source, specifically PHP. We sat down with Rafael to talk about his career journey and experience with Open Source which turned into a passion for working with Drupal. Here’s what he had to say:

What was your first introduction to Open Source and Drupal?
I first came across Open Source back in 2003 – it was PHP. I was 13 years old at that time in a bookstore with my parents and saw a book on PHP programming. I knew a little bit of web and was trying to learn more by myself. I asked my parents to buy it, started learning the language and have been using it ever since. It was quite challenging to pick up by myself with much fewer resources than there are today. I only had a desktop computer – and a very old one at that. It was very different – at that time, even setting up the local environment with PHP would take ages.

I started working with Drupal back in 2009 – so eleven years ago. I joined a company while living in Brazil, and started working on a project for a global pharmaceutical company. The project was based on Drupal 6, which was kind of new and fresh back then, so I started to learn it.

Can you provide some insight about the benefits of Open Source?
Open Source is so important for technology and business – even the concept of the internet itself is Open Source. Proprietary software is about selling the idea first, but you can’t see how things will work unless you pay for it. Open Source is available for everyone. You can read about it, create something and test solutions yourself to see if it's for you or not. It gives you the visibility of what can be done and what’s possible.

When it comes to Drupal specifically, I think it’s more than a technology, it’s a community whose goal is to make systems work better. People from all around the world are collaborating to build a better product. Say you want to integrate Drupal with another technology – there's probably a module for that already, created by Drupal contributors. The community is the true heartbeat of the Drupal ecosystem.

You first tried Drupal many years ago and you’ve been using it since. How has Drupal evolved over the years? What have been some challenges throughout your career working in Open Source?
Drupal has changed a lot – and not only as a product. The user experience has improved and Drupal is reshaping to keep up with new technologies. The key difference of Drupal between then and now is the community – it’s grown and become more mature, so there are more contributors.

One of the largest challenges I’ve faced is making sure that the whole infrastructure is set to support what Drupal can provide. Drupal itself can be slower, as there are always many database queries and things happening behind the scenes. No matter the challenge, it’s crucial to make sure that whatever you build, you’re going to be able to deliver it with high performance and that it’s set up for both end-users and content managers.

Tell us about the last Drupal project you worked on.
For the last project that I was working on, we developed a custom layout builder solution where you can place different components inside the pages and create dynamic and flexible pages with the help of these components.

In my opinion, this solution was more flexible than what Drupal provides in their out-of-the-box layout builder solution. We created a fully custom builder for this customer, and I think it was quite a success and believe that this custom solution we developed at EPAM covers what isn’t offered by Drupal’s builder. It will bring value to the clients we work with.

At DrupalCon this past July, an event that brings together people who use, develop, design and support the Drupal platform, I presented a demo of this solution to this audience and they expressed great interest.