After DrupalCon London, I was sitting on the banks of the Thames river sipping champagne when I remembered the time I told my friend I was joining the co-op program at Concordia. He launched into a story about his own co-op experience. One day, he had to do "pen testing".
"Ooh, you got to do penetration testing?" I asked. I find computer security interesting, so I was kind of excited. But then I remembered that my friend was a business major and that there is no way he would have been doing penetration testing.
"No, I mean... I was testing pens. My supervisor gave me a ziploc bag full of pens and told me to test each one to make sure it had ink." At that, I got a mouthful of coffee up my nose.
In May, I joined Evolving Web for a co-op work term that was to last eight months, and I am happy to say that my duties have not included testing pens, cold-calling charities to sell them snake-oil SEO packages, or doing Excel data entry.
During my time at Evolving Web, I've helped build real Drupal projects. One of them will be used by friends in the future. I had a real impact on these systems, and I've grown as an engineer by getting thrown head-first into them. Sometimes I made mistakes, but I had great mentorship from the entire team. I'm proud of the work I got done.
I was fortunate enough to travel with the company to New York, Boston, London (UK), and Toronto to Drupal Camps and Cons. At these events, I was introduced to an enthusiastic and friendly community of developers, designers, project managers, and entrepreneurs. For someone who has always had trouble "getting into open source", the warm welcome by the Drupal community meant I could gain the confidence to do real open source work. I also had the privilege to give my talk on custom fields and poutine. The chance to share my knowledge with the community was fun and rewarding.
At the code sprints in London and Montreal, I contributed a modest handful of patches to Drupal core and contrib — and I got to do it on company time. Evolving Web takes the community seriously, and I've been constantly encouraged to give back as much as I can. I'm no longer afraid to jump into issue queues and submit patches. For a novice developer, I'd recommend contributing to Drupal as a great way to get used to open source — the people are just too friendly.
As my co-op term draws to an end, and I return to the cold, unforgiving halls of academia, I'll look back on my time at Evolving Web fondly. I hope that other co-op students get a chance to experience what I've experienced, because if you've got to have a co-op job, this is the one to have. I'm happy to say I'll be coming back in the summer.