90: You can bet your career and company on open source - Meet Tom Wentworth

Acquia's Chief Marketing Officer Tom Wentworth is a great fit for a technology company. He has a computer science background and has been working with web content management since it was a concept. Tom wasn't interested in marketing until a few years ago, "What really got me excited about Marketing was seeing the intersection of marketing and technology, because technology is where my passion is."

This is part one of an interview recorded at Acquia headquarters in Burlington, Massachusetts in March 2013.

Web 1.0

Tom's been around the web a long time. At the University of Illinois, where the Mosaic web browser was invented, he built his first webpage (a fan page for the band Phish) in 1993, using VI on a Sun Sparc station. He later worked at Macromedia when the web started to take off: he saw Dreamweaver 1.0 released and saw the technology acquired that became Flash.

Web Content Management

"Having worked at Macromedia, I saw the challenges of trying to use Dreamweaver to build a large-scale website." Tom's research led him to content management and Interwoven in the late 90s, then on to Ektron ten years later. His combination of technical knowhow and more than a decade of enterprise business experience in the web content management space bring useful perspectives to Drupal now that it is a serious competitor at this level, too. "It's always interesting to see what happens when you put a lot of smart people together in a community and see what they come up with. It was easy to dismiss Drupal [as a competitor] five or ten years ago. It became a lot harder to dismiss Drupal a couple of years ago." When it became time for Tom to move on, he said to himself, "I gotta go talk to these guys!"

From commercial to open source

"I was very good at telling the anti-open-source story: 'It's scary, it's fraught with risk, these are not professional developers. Who is going to be there to support you when something goes wrong?' A typical litany ... But then you start seeing success stories. You start hearing about large companies moving to Drupal. You recognise the improvement in the product," for example, "It became crystal clear to me that Drupal did scale. When the Grammies Drupal website hits massive peaks, they're performing. The [Drupal] community has done such a great job of bringing this thing forward incredibly rapidly."

"What got me disillusioned about the commercial software space was that the roadmap was often misaligned with what customer wanted to actually do." In the commercial and proprietary software world, "Whatever you think is going to help you sell the most big licences is what gets put into the roadmap, which doesn't necessarily align with what companies really want to do with the software. What I truly love about open source and the Drupal community in particular is they scratch their own itch. They build [solutions] to solve problems they find. That's a better way to develop software. It results in something people actually want to use. Open source is a far better way to develop software."

Taking the risk out of open source

"The role for companies like Acquia is taking the risk out of open source and making open source something that companies can adopt, bet their business one, bet their careers on ... If you're a Chief Digital Officer at a big media company, and you make the decision to go Drupal, you're betting your career on Drupal. When you bet your career on a product, you really have to bet your career on the organisation that is going to support you, too. That's the role that Acquia is playing in the Drupal community. We make sure out customers don't fail; we take that risk out of deploying Drupal. When you bet on Drupal and Acquia, you can be wildly successful."