232: Acquia U and career changers - meet Doris Wong

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Doris Wong and Jeffrey A. "jam" McGuire at Acquia Boston HQ

Acquia U and career changers - meet Doris Wong

Doris Wong and I sat down at Acquia's Boston HQ to talk about her interesting journey through HTML and frontend work, to UX, to fitness, and finally to Drupal and Acquia, and how even at Acquia it took time, Acquia U and three jobs (!) to really settle in. Here, we talk about that path and what she got out of Acquia U.

Read this blog post on Doris's website for a wonderful, clear introduction to who Doris is and how she got to Acquia and Drupal development.

"Not all [my] experiences were a success, but the one thing I didn’t stop doing was learning. Learning is one of the greatest tools you can have in your arsenal. I first came to Acquia as a UX intern with the goal of finding my next career. When I came to the realization that my heart was in web development, the Acquia U program came into fruition. When the program was finally announced, I hesitated to apply. I didn’t know enough about Drupal to make an educated decision but then I thought, well, why stop learning now?" - Doris Wong

Interview video - 10 min.

Guest dossier

Interview transcription

Meet Doris

jam: We are sitting here at Acquia’s headquarters. How many days have you been working here so far?

Doris: I would have to break it down three ways. I have been here for a year with three different departments. I started as a UX Intern--User Experience--with the engineering team. That was for the summer ... No actually, I extended summer. Then from there ...

Backtrack: I was a frontend developer. I teach fitness on the side, and I was kind of looking for a change. Thinking I was going to do fitness, and then I worked at a company for frontend development because I wanted to get back into it who is focused on UX.

Then, I got connected to the UX team here. Then I thought, “Alright, what’s next? I want to try something else”. Then, I met Amy Parker. She kind of convinced me to sign up for Acquia U. I got in. I was at Acquia U, then I was kind of like, “Alright. Let’s see what’s next”. Then I kind of found a role within Marketing, which was not really part of the curriculum, but I developed an interest in them. Right now, I am at Acquia as a Digital Marketer.

jam: Wow. I think we can draw two conclusions from this. The first conclusion we can draw is that you have trouble making up your mind.

Doris: Yes!

jam: The second conclusion we can draw is that three departments in a year at Acquia ... Acquia is a gold mine of opportunities for people who want to try stuff out.

Doris: Definitely. You see that a lot here. You see a lot of people who learn. It is not that I didn’t learn much from the UX or with Acquia U. All of that experience has really helped me with my current role in Marketing, which is focusing on conversion for Acquia.com. So having the User Experience and the Drupal skillset to be able to use certain products on Acquia.com has really helped. In the end, actually surprisingly, all tied in together.

jam: Introduce yourself and tell us something non-Drupal-ly about you.

Doris: Alright. My name is Doris Wong. The non-Drupal-ly thing about me is that I currently teach a dance fitness class called BollyX. It is a Bollywood-inspired dance fitness program. So for those of you who have taken other dance fitness programs, this one introduces the mainstream folks to the world of Bollywood in a fitness format. It’s a lot of fun.

jam: Wow, that’s a cool non-Drupal-ly thing. You had this odd path into Acquia U where you had already touched Acquia - but before you came to Acquia, had you heard of Drupal?

Doris: No.

jam: How did you find out about that UX internship that you applied for?

Doris: This is where the power of networking comes in. At my internship ... It was an internship doing frontend development. It was more email marketing, but the company was involved with UX consulting or research. The former director of UX at Acquia, she had previously worked at that company. That company was probably the size of maybe 10 folks, so it is definitely a small company, very personal, intimate. I developed a relationship with the CEO. The CEO and the former director of UX here were good friends. Upon my exit, I expressed interest in developing a career in UX. During that time, the director was looking for an intern and hence the connection there. Definitely network.

Meet Acquia U

jam: What were your expectations going into Acquia U?

Doris: That’s an interesting question. I don’t think I had a lot of expectations. I feel that in my experience, I didn’t have any expectations going into anything new, because it is a new program. I wanted to have a clear head going in, as to not have it affect my experience in the program. I was going in knowing that this was kind of the rebirth of the program since there was kind of a gap between the first program and this. So I knew it was going to be kind of like, so to speak, a pilot. There are probably going to be some hiccups and I knew that I would kind of have to go with it and run with it. Just having an open mind really helped me.

jam: What did you want to get out of it?

Doris: A sense of ... let me think about that. I think just kind of getting a better understanding of where I am in terms of my career and skills. It kind of helped me understand who I was and what I am capable of. Because Drupal was new, I was kind of coming from scratch. Didn’t know anything. It really helped me figure out, “Alright, this is what I can do. This is what I am capable of. What’s next?”

jam: Alright. How was it?

Doris: It was challenging. It was really challenging because it was a little more fast-paced. There were some folks within the program that had Drupal experience, some who have built sites around. I think for me having a frontend development experience really helps. Knowing a little bit – at least a general understanding of PHP, I knew the frontend stuff like CSS, HTML kind of helped, but I think it was more of the site building component and just understanding how it worked together. That was the more challenging aspect of it. But that was just the beginning. As I keep getting engrossed to it, it just got a lot easier.

jam: Run us through a day at Acquia U.

Doris: There is no typical day. But I can say that as you are going through the program, you would come in – usually the first half would be lecture. Going over ... reviews. That is also dependent on where we are. If we feel comfortable passing a subject, if we are familiar, we can move on to the next. Then, the second half of the day could be more of a project that we are working on. If we wanted to do more learning, there was some flexibility in the schedule. That was the great thing about the program, there is a lot of flexibility during the day. We will have a set schedule, but depending on what we wanted to do, the instructor was really great in allowing us to decide, “I think we want to focus on this today versus that”.

jam: What’s the most important thing you got out of going through Acquia U?

Doris: Definitely working with the team and learning more about the Acquia culture. That’s the one thing that is really good about this program is because you are not just sitting in a random office or something that you are just learning something. You are actually engrossed in the culture, so you get an understanding for what it is like working here and working with the people around you.

jam: What’s the one piece of advice that you would give for people looking for a new career?

Doris: One piece of advice is that--this may sound interesting--but you need to be dedicated. It is not easy making the transition. If you are serious about making a career change, then you want to be devoted to it and do everything you can to get better at it because you can just go in and say, “Maybe I will just try this and not do anything about it”. You are not getting much value. You have to have dedication.

jam: Would you recommend Acquia U to others?

Doris: Yes. Not only are you learning a lot from the instructors, you are also learning from your peers because we have folks that are coming from different careers and I feel that anything that you learn, you can always translate that in whatever career you end up choosing afterwards.

jam: Awesome. Thank you!

Doris: Thank you! It’s a pleasure.

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