I met 15-year-old serial entrepreneur--CEO of goCreative--and budding Drupalist Brandon Relph at the inaugural ThinkNation event in Canterbury, in December 2015. In this podcast, we talk about how he got to know Drupal 8 and what he thought of it. And I was surprised to learn that there is a world of professional Minecraft out there, in which Brandon runs two professional ventures and employs a couple dozen people around the world.
Brandon met Drupal when he began building the ThinkNation website in Drupal 8 as part of a work-experience week with the UK Agency Miggle. From an interview with Brandon on the ThinkNation website, Putting young people at the heart of ThinkNation: “Working on the ThinkNation site seemed a daunting process at first. I had just arrived to the Miggle office for my work experience and was given the task of converting the pre-made designs of ThinkNation into HTML/CSS that afternoon!” Miggle founder, Alick Mighall talks about Brandon and ThinkNation in this post: Young Thinking.
Interview video - 10 min.
- Name: Brandon Relph
- Work affiliation:
- Twitter: @brandonrelph
- 1st version of Drupal: Drupal 8!
jam: Right. We – this guy and I have just spent the whole day at this thing called ThinkNation and ThinkNation – what did you think of the day?
Brandon Relph: It was very well put together. It was very interesting and engaging.
jam: If you had to describe it to someone else who wasn’t here, how would you describe this event?
Brandon Relph: Something to almost answer those big questions that you may have.
jam: Right. So the format was roughly five big questions involving human life at the deepest level. Should we invest in technology to extend it, should we invest in space flights, questions about mortality, really kind of serious stuff. And it was put together ... So there were a series of experts, speakers and artists and a poet and some dancers and everybody addressing these questions in different ways. I found it incredibly rich and I was pretty excited and the plan is to have more of these. Would you come back?
Brandon Relph: For sure.
jam: So please introduce yourself.
Brandon Relph: My name is Brandon Relph. I’m from Bishop Bell School in Eastbourne. I did my work experience with the company Miggle, which helped design the website for this event.
jam: That’s our secret Drupal connection of the day. So what did you do on your work experience?
Brandon Relph: I was the first person to start the ThinkNation site.
jam: Which was built in...?
Brandon Relph: Drupal 8.
jam: Oh, lovely!
Brandon Relph: This was back in June time. So it was when - before it had even been released. Yes, I built lots of the front end and I also got to use Drupal 8, which I’ve never used before.
jam: So what’s your development, IT, web sort of background?
Brandon Relph: In school, I study computer science. Outside the school, I do lots of computer-related activities. I also own my own company, which ... we do stuff on the computer and everyday internet.
jam: So you’re an entrepreneur.
Brandon Relph: Yes, you could call me that.
jam: In geek terms, Alick Mighall said, “Go make a Drupal 8 site,” and just set you loose, right? How was it to open up Drupal for the first time and...?
Brandon Relph: It was a challenge. I have to say it’s very easy to install it and when we were doing – on the first day, I basically got told, “Oh yes, we use Drupal.” I got talked through what it was. I got left a bit to decide and get to know it and they were like, “Oh, here’s the site. We want you to start.” So I started. I think pretty much in the first afternoon.
jam: Conceptually, was it an easy thing to get into, given your background?
Brandon Relph: It was very different because I’m used to coding raw PHP and it actually probably was a lot easier than what I do. So I suppose in a way, I was doing lots of the front end to begin with but we explored the back end of Drupal afterwards and getting to know how it will work opened my eyes up to how I kind of over-complicate stuff.
jam: Wow! That’s really interesting. So in Drupal, we talked a lot about how we empower people to use this very complex technology stack by making a great user interface and a great experience. Did it feel that way? Can you identify with that?
Brandon Relph: Yes, it felt like the process was a lot quicker than it would necessarily been if I would have had to hard code it.
jam: Now, most people that I interview – I’ll ask them something like, “What’s your first Drupal memory?” but your first Drupal memory is only June and it sounds like it was entirely positive.
Brandon Relph: Yes.
jam: Is Drupal something that you are going to try out for your own projects and get back to at some point?
Brandon Relph: I probably will. It’s busy time at the moment with school and everything to running your own company but it’s definitely something that I want to look into in the future as it seems like a really good alternative to hard coding stuff.
jam: So now, I’m just going to stand in front of you so that we can get the height comparison. How old are you?
Brandon Relph: I’m 15.
jam: You are 15. Thank you very much. So entrepreneurialism is a big theme at this event today. A guy called Ben Towers just had a bit of a speech. He’s 17 and he’s a serial entrepreneur as well and quite well known here in Britain. Do you think he’s sort of a role model?
Brandon Relph: Yes, I suppose he’s one of those where maybe I could be even – he could be my target for the next two years because as I progress and I move on, I’d hope that one day I will be standing up at events like this. I think around now is kind of the starting point of that with a television interview coming up in the next couple of weeks and it’s going to be taking it from there.
jam: So how did you discover programming was for you and how did you become an entrepreneur?
Brandon Relph: I discovered programming was for me when I sat down and I realized that I had a problem and that I needed to find the solution and programming was that type of thing. So I learned my first programming language when I was 12 or 11 – 12 and that was pretty much basic HTML/CSS and then I got into more of the backend and I did some Java and a bit of C. I suppose I became an entrepreneur when I found something that I enjoyed and I have a friend of mine in Germany who is my business partner, so to speak and we now – over the past two years, have kind of built up the company and we now have – there’s 25 of us and we all live all around the world.
jam: Wow! So getting into tech was a scratch-your-own-itch story. You had a problem that you needed to solve and you went and figured it out.
Brandon Relph: Yes. Then, I noticed that other people also have problems and why can't I capitalize on that?
jam: Hey! Presto! You have a business.
Brandon Relph: Yes.
jam: So what are the 25 of you doing now?
Brandon Relph: Some of you may know the game Minecraft. If not, you can Google it. We use it as like an ...
jam: For that one person who hasn’t heard of Minecraft.
Brandon Relph: Yes. We use it like a tool, a marketing tool that companies – and they employ us to make software and also stuff in the actual game in order to sell their product or sell their movie or like that. We also use Minecraft in education and we have recently taken on a chemistry project with a school where we make Minecraft – we made atoms in Minecraft and then we show children how they work and how they interact with each other. So I suppose it’s kind of that that drives me forward with everything.
jam: Minecraft seems to me to be another sort of perfect system where they’ve made something so abstract and yet so easy to use that you can sort of turn it into anything.
Brandon Relph: Yes, it’s one of those. People describe it as Lego and especially when you’re building. It’s so much like Lego but in the computer. So it’s like Lego on steroids type of thing and it can be used for pretty much anything and the beauty of the game is once you play it, it’s so simple to understand and it’s engaged with so many children and not just children but generations. Yes, it’s just great.
jam: You do have a passion for it. I mean otherwise, you wouldn’t be in business at this point either.
Brandon Relph: There’s still a market for it even five years after its development. There’s still a big market for it and it’s still on the rise.
jam: Are you working on the next big idea?
Brandon Relph: Oh, maybe.
jam: Oh, cagey! Cagey! Very good. So let’s sum up. ThinkNation, yes – no?
Brandon Relph: Yes.
jam: You’re going to be back?
Brandon Relph: Definitely!
jam: Are you going to submit a talk maybe?
Brandon Relph: Oh, I might be submitting – maybe.
jam: Okay. Alright! Drupal, yes-no?
Brandon Relph: Yes, in the future.
jam: Are you going to come back to it?
Brandon Relph: After my studies, yes.
jam: Alright! Cool! Anytime you want, you call any of us. There are several hundred thousand of us who can help you out with that. We’d love to. Start with Alick and then – you know. Awesome! And Minecraft, yes or no?
Brandon Relph: Yes, but not forever. It’s going to die one day but for now, it’s a great tool and I plan on using it for the future.
jam: So Brandon, give us your shameless pitch.
Brandon Relph: So if you’re looking to further your brand, you can contact us. We’re called goCreative. We’re an international company of 25 and that’s in 13 different countries and seven different time zones. You can find us online at go-creative.co and you can also find us on Twitter @goCreativeMC.
jam: It’s so nice to meet you.
Brandon Relph: Nice to meet you too.
jam: Thanks for taking the time to talk.
Brandon Relph: Thanks for having me.