Q&A with an Acquia Grand Master

Avionos employees pride ourselves on living by our core values, one of which is Taking Informed Actions. Professional development and technical certifications are key in delivering outcomes for our clients regardless of industry or technology. And because Avionos is technology-agnostic, employees are encouraged to pursue deep expertise in the technology platforms that interest them most. One prime example? Avionos’ Acquia Double Grand Master, Kyle Einecker. With fewer than 500 Grand Masters in the world – and even fewer Double Grand Masters – we’re proud of the Drupal expertise Kyle and his team bring to every client project. As a technical manager and Drupal expert, Kyle is both a strategic guide for our clients and a leader for delivery teams. Read on to learn more about Kyle’s path to double certification on Drupal platforms.


What is an Acquia Grand Master? 

Acquia Grand Masters are Drupal experts who have completed a Drupal-specific certification track created and updated by Acquia. As of January 2021, there are fewer than 500 Grand Masters in the world. You can learn more about the Grand Master certification track here.


Why did you get your Grand Master certificate? 

I was first made aware of the Acquia certifications at the beginning of my career by my managers and they encouraged and supported me in getting as many of the certifications as possible. When they first told me about the certs I don’t think they expected me to become a double Grand Master. 


When did you get your Grand Master certifications? 

I got my Drupal 7 Grand Master at Drupalcon New Orleans in 2016 and my Drupal 8 Grand Master at Drupalcon Nashville in 2018. 


How did you prepare for the exams? 

For the Drupal 7 exam I read every drupal.org documentation page I could find on the internal systems familiarizing myself with the lesser known Drupalisms with a focus on the Form API and theming layers. For Drupal 8 I waited to take the exam until I had several site builds under my belt and was comfortable thinking in the new OOP paradigm; there were also several study guides out that I reviewed to make sure I was familiar with all the changes brought in by Drupal 8. If I was studying for the exams today I would use this study guide.  


What is one piece of advice you’d give to people trying to get their Grand Master? 

Make sure you understand why systems in Drupal are built the way they are and not just how to use them. The exams are based on having a deep knowledge of Drupal but some questions ask you to choose the best solution from a list of solutions that would all work. Determining the best solution involves knowing what Drupal’s systems want to do and not just how they do it.  Oh, and don’t take all the exams within a few days of each other; take it from someone who made that mistake not once but twice. 


What’s the most interesting problem you’ve solved as a Grand Master? 

I got the opportunity to architect and implement a first-of-its-kind integration between Drupal and Salesforce B2B Commerce, using Drupal as the frontend and B2B commerce as the decoupled commerce backend. Building the integration took me deep into how Drupal uses ajax, Cloudflare/Varnish/Memcached caching configs, Drupal Commerce, layout builder, Search API, and many other systems. There was very little in the Drupal site that the integration didn’t interact with in one way or another. 


Was there anything unexpected as a result of getting your certificate? 

That my opinion carries a lot more weight with nontechnical team members and clients. I remember on a project I was the Lead Developer and Architect on, it was a week or two before go-live and the client was trying to squeeze every bit of performance out of the site right before launch. In their minds, no change was off the table if it meant site performance would be measurably improved. During a brainstorming session with multiple levels of managers and architects we were exploring if infrastructure changes to the Drupal site would achieve the performance improvements targeted. After everyone’s ideas were on the whiteboard the question was asked, is there anything doable in the time we had that didn’t put the launch at risk. The room went silent waiting for my opinion. I weighed in with the effort and risks for the proposed changes, ultimately concluding that there was nothing worth the risk. No objections to my conclusion were raised and the brainstorming session moved on. 


Are you planning on getting your Drupal 9 Grand Master? 

Yes, once the exams are released. I see value in continuing to validate my knowledge on the latest and greatest versions of Drupal. Acquia has information about the Drupal 9 certification track here.


Does being a Grand Master make contributing to Drupal easier? 

Yes, but indirectly. The skills to contribute to Drupal are not unique to Grand Masters; being open source anybody can go to a Drupal issue queue and start fixing problems. What being a Grand Master did was give me the additional confidence needed to report and contribute on more complex issues. Having validated my knowledge of Drupal’s internals I had the confidence to not only contribute to discussions on issues deep in Drupal core, but also write and contribute patches on behalf of our clients encountering those issues.    If you’re ready to join the #ATeam, we’re hiring! Apply here.

Challin Baro
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Challin Baro

Challin is responsible for Avionos’ marketing and communications strategy, partner marketing, and overall brand awareness. She drives the company’s brand strategy, positioning, marketing campaigns, content and thought leadership efforts. As a member of Avionos’ Senior Leadership Team, she also oversees employee communications and engagement.
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