Interview with Omar Alahmed

Omar Alahmed is a Technical Team Lead at Vardot with more than 10 years experience in web development, specializing in PHP and Drupal. Omar has worked with Drupal since 2007 starting with Drupal 5 and has continued along mastering 6, 7, and Drupal 8.

Omar had multiple motivations to earn certifications, which serve to establish his credibility and expertise. He has achieved Zend Certified PHP Engineer in Sep 2013, Oracle Certified Professional (OCP) MySQL 5.6 Developer in May 2014, Acquia Certified Developer - Drupal 7 in Dec 2014, and most recently, Acquia Certified Developer - Drupal 8 in Jan 2018 and Acquia Certified Back End Specialist - Drupal 8 in Feb 2018.

More importantly, is the added benefit of the time spent reviewing and studying all of the relevant topics and materials that these qualifications are built upon. His deep study of computer science concepts allowed him to step beyond surface-level theory and apply his learnings directly in his application of the code.

We interview Omar about what excites him most working with enterprise Drupal implementations at Vardot.


What are the tasks you find most exciting?

I started as a full-stack developer and I always feel that it is the best role for a new web developer. This is because it will introduce you to the broadest view of the web development life-cycle process. Taking this approach will give you exposure and the opportunity to examine what is needed in each phase. However, after getting the needed experience, some tasks may distract you from the deeper technical items. Therefore, I currently prefer to work on more custom tasks, such as using APIs and custom module development.

At Vardot, we follow the Agile methodology in our project development life-cycle. This usually begins with a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), dividing the project deliverables into small chunks, and then assigning them to project’s team members. I prefer to work on the more customized tasks, either on the backend or frontend and to guide and train other team members when needed. For our team, this helps us deliver the tasks in a formalized practice and ensures projects to follow the Drupal best-practices, thus contributing to the Drupal project more often in each project.


How did you prepare for the exams? What background knowledge does one need to get Acquia Drupal 8 Developer & Acquia Back End Specialist Certified?

When I received the Acquia Certified Developer - Drupal 7 certification, I realized that the exam truly validates a Drupal developer experience in mastering a Drupal website in a professional and standardized way. It is not a theoretical exam and cannot be passed simply by reading a study guide. Practical experience in developing web applications, like the work I do at Vardot, is required to succeed.

At Vardot we always strive to follow and endorse the best practices in development and apply it to different types of projects. Given this experience, I didn't find any difficulties during the preparation for the exam. I made sure to review the study guide links that were provided by Acquia and found ways to programmatically apply the topics that I had not worked with before. This allowed me to apply these topics in action instead of only reading about them.

Anyone pursuing this certification would probably agree that programming is an experimental science. In order to obtain the reusable knowledge at hand, you must write code and repeatedly practice. This method will help you expose problems that you may not be been introduced to before. I found that the published Acquia documentation is a good start for module development, as well as the Drupal API documentation.


Don't panic if you don't have an enjoyable experience in the Drupal API or module development resources. The key takeaway is to get an overview of the topics and then apply as much as you can.

Preparing using the above material is very important for both the Developer and Back End Specialist exams. The Developer exam covers advanced topics, but it also encompasses site building skills, such as working with content types, blocks, taxonomies, and views.

The Back End Specialist exam touches everything about Drupal API, performance, security, contributing to the community, and how to apply these techniques in real tasks by giving real scenarios or problems and asking to resolve them in the best way. So make sure to understand Drupal 8 core’s structure, and to do more hands-on practices before taking the exam, especially if you are not familiar with the latest PHP and OOP development techniques such as design patterns.

For further information about the content of the exams, you can check out the study guides for Acquia certification exams and an overview of Acquia Certification Program.


What are some tips you would give other developers working on Drupal 8?

As a Drupal 8 developer, you have probably observed that the Drupal community is the most important factor that places Drupal as the top web development platform. Therefore, I would say to try to interact with the community members; don’t work alone, don’t repeat yourself, and be cooperative as much as possible. If you find a bug or need a new feature, feel free to create a new issue in the project. You can also resolve, test and patch it to enable all Drupalers around the world to benefit along with you.

You’re probably aware that Drupal 8 is built on top of many Symfony2 components, like DependencyInjection, EventDispatcher, and Routing, with some customizations to be suitable for Drupal needs. With that in mind, it's a good idea for you to traverse how the core uses these components in order to facilitate and speed up your Drupal development. It’s important to always use the Drupal core code as an example if you need to write custom code because it will illustrate the best way to proceed and enlighten you what APIs are available for use. This helps you learn by example.



Omar Alahmed gives us a great example of what it takes to demonstrate success as a specialized developer in the Drupal community. Through his exhibited certifications, we can assume Omar's background required many dedicated hours of hard work and study. But we can also see that he was preparing for more than just certifications. Omar shows a passion for web development community at large, offering his advice as a team lead on what it takes to be a successful team player. His method of approaching problems and finding new ways to create solutions using industry best practices and established patterns makes Omar an invaluable member of our development team at Vardot.


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