Pantheon Community

WebOps Wednesday AMA: Steve Persch

Hi I’m Steve Persch, Technical Product Marketing Manager here at Pantheon. I’ve been in that job all of one week! Before that, I spent 4 years in Developer Relations doing a mix of conference presentations, technical training, writing, and more.

In my new role I’ll have more time to focus on how Pantheon views WebOps teams driving results. In doing so, I’ll draw on my previous experience as a freelance and agency developer. I was an engineer and eventually a team lead for about 4 years at, a Drupal-focused agency in Chicago.

Sometimes my work life is also informed by the 15 years I spent doing improv and sketch comedy through high school, college, and my early 20s in Chicago. A few months ago I did a five minute Ignite lightning talk about the Internet of Things at DevOpsDays as Al Gore that was well received. My presentation at DrupalCon this past year also covered how I used Continuous Integration as part of the migration of my old sketch comedy group’s site from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8.

About that or anything else, Ask Me Anything!


Hey, Steve! Your presentations are always enjoyable. Do you have any suggestions for developers wanting to improve their presentations?

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I’d love to hear your Drupal origin story!

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My main advice, which I need to follow more often myself, is to do multiple full run throughs of the presentation. And the earlier the better. You can even go as far as recording yourself so that you or others can watch it and give feedback.

Another bit of feedback I often give when reviewing others’ presentation is the need for a stronger through line that propels the presenter from slide to slide to slide. Early in the development process for a talk I write many drafts of the outline of the content. In doing so I’m often rewriting the same bullet points in different orders. I’m looking for a thread that will make it easier for me to connect the ideas in a way that keeps people listening rather than letting the energy drop between major ideas. If acting is “merely the art of keeping a large group of people from coughing” then conference presenting is the art of keeping a large group of people from checking their email :slight_smile:

One strategy I’ve been using a lot more lately is to make the content of my presentation an actual story. I keynoted DrupalCamp Belarus this year and made nearly the whole presentation a story about a fictional web team as a way of explaining the website hierarchy of needs. I’ve since done a few revised versions of that presentation and every time it holds attention much better than a dry explanation would.

Hi @katie.richards!

One part of my Drupal origin story was my first DrupalCon in 2010 at San Francisco. I had made Drupal my full time job for about 3 years at that point but I wasn’t super involved in the community. I had done some presentations at local events but the community still felt like a bigger thing that I wasn’t really a part of yet.

At that DrupalCon one of the keynotes was done by Dave Cole from the White House which had switched to Drupal 6 as the Obama administration came in. He showed a list of modules used on the site that included Rules module. And Rules was one of the modules that I had contributed a patch to. It filled me with pride to think that I had contributed a piece to that site.

On the last day of the conference I went to the code sprint which ended around 5pm. Some sprinters wanted to keep going later into the night so I followed along to a co-working space. I felt like a fly on the wall as the evening wore on the remaining group was some of the most prolific Drupal contributors. That experience really sunk in the idea for me that Drupal is written by the people who stay in the room.


I hadn’t heard the original but I’m taking the concept to heart! :slight_smile:

Follow-up question: How many hours do you think you spend on a talk?

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I’ve always had “40 hours for a new talk” as my gut sense. But I’ve never tracked it.

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Hi Steve, always have enjoyed your talks and your direct help with our organization. Congrats on your new role!

I’ve got more of a “philosophical” question for you - I’ve noticed that WebOps/DevOps is taking more and more of a center stage alongside actual development. Personally, I feel that I want to just get down to the code but feel that the DevOps side is taking more of my time to learn and figure out. What is your view of the future of the web development - will we see even more DevOps/tool stacks/complex processes, or will browser support/additions to languages eventually help us return to a simpler development pipeline?


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Hi Marc,

I like the philosophical questions! And I try to remember that the “simpler” way is always available. The first sites I made were deployed on shared hosting. I FTP’d changes straight from my laptop to the live sites.

That way certainly felt simpler than what I do now. But it also felt error-prone and dangerous. Yes, most days I had more time to “just get down to the code” but some days were entirely lost to cleaning up a bug I wouldn’t not have introduced had I not been Cowboy Coding.

The complexity of deployment pipelines / DevOps today should be adding value that outweighs the cost in time and mental overhead. If it’s not, then it’s not worth doing.

Earlier this week I was talking with an agency that has been moving to Gatsby from pure WordPress and one of their reasons is the perfect Lighthouse scores. Gatsby could feel more complex and this team isn’t 100% bought in yet, but they said that if they want to switch to something else or back to just WordPress, they’ll still need to clear the bar of perfect Lighthouse scores.

But what you might be highlighting is that just keeping up with, and evaluating, every new idea in the space is exhausting. Yes!

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Thanks for your insights. I agree that a part of it is all the new things coming down the pipe and they show up quickly and it’s like a firehose sometimes! But, I have incorporated things over time that have very much helped my development process and now those tools that caused me headaches in the past are easy for me to work with and I don’t give it a second thought. So, progress!