MetroStar is exploring the positive impact our people are having on the world around them. In this series, you will learn about the different roles, projects, and positive changes MetroStar’s team is helping to create.
Mayan hieroglyphs, ancient burial sites, and Drupal software all have one thing in common—MetroStar’s Senior Software Engineer and Drupal Developer, Jason.
From Digs to Drupal
Growing up in North Carolina, Jason was the first person on his street to have a personal computer and internet. In the nineties, Jason’s mom needed a website for her business and turned to her son for help. This sparked his love for web development, but his heart also beat for something a little dustier.
“While growing up, kids were asked what they wanted to be when they were older. Other kids often wanted to be firefighters or doctors. However, I knew I really wanted to be an archeologist, like Indiana Jones,” Jason said.
He followed his childhood dreams and pursued a degree in anthropology with a concentration in Mesoamerican archaeology and hieroglyphics. During his master’s program, he realized that the field’s jobs were limited, which made him rethink his future. As much as he loved going on excavation missions (even finding a burial site with skeleton remains once) he had other passions too. Passions that were already making him money.
During his time studying archeology, he never lost his curiosity for web design and development.
“I kept doing web development on the side for my university, and I also ventured into freelance projects,” Jason said. “I didn’t think of it as a fall back career, but I really enjoyed what I was doing, and it was making me decent money.”
He decided to leave Texas (where he was studying at the time) and fly to Northern Virginia to pursue his new career path. During this career change, he became a SME (subject matter expert) on Drupal software.
A Developer’s Impact
Jason’s field requires understanding a programming language, in this case, PHP which Drupal uses, to create content and modules that help a website perform. Drupal helps developers build those websites.
“Drupal is a content management system whose sole purpose is to create websites and content creation. It is not like WordPress, which is a blogging platform that has been stretched to do other things,” Jason said. “Drupal gained popularity in the federal sector when Obama became president around 10 years ago because his administration used it for their website.”
When Jason first started in Drupal development, the software was just beginning to gain popularity, but the software is now vital to many modernization projects. Because of its rise, hundreds of government websites have had to change into Drupal-friendly sites.
“Drupal has helped push government agencies to produce cohesive and user-friendly sites. When you make a website more accessible and mobile-friendly, then you are really impacting the audience,” Jason said.
There is an underlying technical side to being user-friendly that many American’s may not notice at first, especially if they live in a city. One big challenge to modernizing websites is caused by slow broadband.
Broadband is a data transmission that affects users’ internet speeds, their download time, and their overall ability to access information. Jason understands that the design of a website must consider its users’ broadband speed and not just how the website looks to the naked eye.
Similar to a track race, running .5 seconds faster can either mean winning or coming in last. Website speed, even in decimal differences, is an essential aspect of modernizing government websites.
“When we work on websites that will impact rural Americans, we must take into account the bandwidth of their broadband. We can update a website in a way that delivers useful information to someone with low speeds. This update can mean a user won’t have to load an entire website to get to the specific information they need,” Jason said.
The work of Jason and other Drupal Developers to modernize government websites would not be possible without a UX (user experience) team.
“You can tell if a government website was built without the help of UX Architects and Designers. At MetroStar, we have a streamlined system of architects, designers, and developers working together,” Jason said. “Working together is important because a website won’t function well if the team doesn’t collaborate on the client needs, audience needs, and the overall execution.”
This teamwork and Jason’s drive to create user-friendly websites for all Americans has been an important aspect of his time at MetroStar.
Although Jason’s day job may not be finding ancient artifacts, he has been given the opportunity to help millions of Americans by using his web development skills.
“Web Developers should really study anthropology. It teaches you how to study humans and their activity, which is a large component of our job,” Jason said. “It’s incredible to know that so many people are going to rely on the websites you build. My current job helps people—Americans—get things done.”
Learn more about Jason at Drupal GovCon 2020