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If you work in an organization using Drupal, or you work with nonprofits using Drupal, this is the group for you. If you work in a nonprofit using Drupal, or you work with nonprofits using Drupal, this is the group for you! Stuck on something? Have a question? Drupal experts are on hand to answer questions! You don't need to be a member of NTEN to participate in the monthly calls — feel free to invite colleagues and spread the word.

Career Advice...

  • 1.  Career Advice...

    Posted Nov 25, 2018 10:56
    Edited by Kim Teich Nov 26, 2018 04:00

    Hello, first an introduction... I am new to NTEN, and I currently work in the private sector in Denver as a C# .NET developer. I am looking to get into a career in a non-profit but I am finding my skills are not as transferable as I had hoped. I see Drupal is a big non-profit CMS tool, I don't know much about it... I know there is lots of Drupal love on this board, but as far as PHP goes, I consider it somewhat of a dying language and I not convinced that is what I should focus on. 

    I am thinking of getting into Python/Django... I am aware Django is more of a web framework than a CMS... a bit apples to oranges. But Django can have those CMS capabilities and given that Python is used in data analysis/science, I thought I'd might as well get my feet wet with that as well.

    I am just curious what else is out there? Is there any indication that things are trending away from Drupal to something else... A Drupal/PHP boot camp wouldn't hurt, but any advice as to what I should focus on learning to get me started outside of that?

    How much software development and support do non-profits typically do in-house? Am I better off looking for a career in companies that write software that support non-profits?

    Any advice is welcome! I have so many questions and I have learned so much from this community already in the last couple days since joining. Excited to be a part of it as I transition my career.

    Thank you! Kim

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  • 2.  RE: Career Advice...

    Posted Nov 26, 2018 08:51

    Hi Kim,

    My background is also tech (comp eng) and I've ended up working for a tech company that does consulting/solutions for the NFP sector. That was mostly by accident. :)


    Do NFPs need software development? Yes and no. Like FP businesses, many are smaller and can't afford (and don't need) anything custom, they just need commodity off the shelf products, and to learn how to use them effectively – office 365 or google, a basic CMS, quickbooks, etc. In other cases their tech needs are more complicated, and can involve software development. Just because an organization is NFP doesn't mean that they aren't large or don't have money. Sometimes this can be web-facing public-facing systems, sometimes internal admin/business tools, sometimes mobile app development (although I feel the world is moving away a bit from native mobile apps), sometimes integration between different systems, etc.


    My company uses both django and drupal, as well as other tools. Both can be effective tools, depending on your needs. My suggestion would be to NOT use django as a website platform (I mean as a CMS, or in other words, for a system which is mainly for managing content and end-user functionality). The problem is, you end up spending all your time reinventing the wheel. Most pieces of common functionality you would need to code, compared to the drupal ecosystem where 99% of the time a common need has already been solved using a module. For us, the purpose of using django is not as a CMS but rather if a client needs a custom software application, we'd use django as opposed to writing something in .net for example.


    I hear your concern about php but to be honest the current landscape makes it unlikely to go away, I believe. People have complained about php for a long time but it has improved over time and at the end of the day it gets the job done. But more importantly, so many major CMSs are built on it: wordpress (most-used CMS in the world), drupal, joomla, etc. So, unless most of the websites in the world suddenly disappear, php is likely still here for a while.


    TLDR – I wouldn't avoid learning php and 1-2 php-based CMSs. But that doesn't mean you can't/shouldn't also learn another platform like django, depending on what you're looking to do and what organizations you want to work with.


    I don't know if this helps, but if I can share anything else just let me know.





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  • 3.  RE: Career Advice...

    Posted Nov 26, 2018 20:04
    That's a great question, Kim! I think it depends on how committed you are to a career as a developer. In my experience, you are probably more likely to find a job as a developer at a company that serves nonprofits vs. at a nonprofit itself. (Of course, running a digital agency that serves nonprofits could definitely skew my observations, but it seems like only a small minority of nonprofits can actually afford to bring development in-house, which usually requires building a digital team, processes, management layers, etc.)

    However, if you are willing to pivot your career to more digital communications work, you will probably find your technical expertise is a compelling skill for finding a job at a nonprofit, especially if you can communicate with non-technical folks. But again, that's not a small career shift.

    While PHP may be trending downward, it is still by far the most popular language on the web at 78.9% market share. Nothing else even comes close. It also powered over half of nonprofit website in a survey of ~800 organizations a few years ago. It's also worth mentioning that while chasing language trends is a real competitive advantage for developers in the private sector, nonprofits tend to be late adopters in the tech cycle and probably wouldn't find your experience in an upward-trending language as popular as the latest startup would.

    If I were you, I'd suggest digging into PHP/Wordpress as that tends to be the most popular combo for nonprofits. Drupal is also a great CMS, but the learning curve is significantly steeper. Because Drupal has such a flexible content model and 10 different ways to do everything, it can take years of hands-on experience to really develop your sixth sense for how your architecture decisions play out months or years down the line. But there's nothing wrong with checking it out and giving it a go if you like it!

    Hope that helps. :)

    Spencer Brooks
    Founder & Principal, Brooks Digital
    Data-driven websites for nonprofits

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