In the summer of 2016, I decided to move to Canada as a temporary foreign worker. While looking for a Full-stack Drupal Developer position in Montréal, I found Evolving Web. Having worked with them for around 3.5 years, I'm writing this article to share my experience and provide an honest review.

In 2016 I moved to Bogotá, Colombia with hopes of starting a new life away from my hometown. However, I soon realized that if I were to ever have children in Colombia, they’d probably grow up speaking Spanish as opposed to English, which is more globally accepted. Thus, I decided to move to a country with more English speakers. Job-hunt mode: activated!

In this article, I’ll tell you how I got a job at Evolving Web and talk about my experience working with them.

Two minute version

  • I did research about web/Drupal development agencies in Canada.
  • I sent a cover letter and CV to companies that I liked.
  • Evolving Web responded positively and started the hiring process:
    • A screening interview with a basic ~15 minute coding challenge.
    • An advanced 4 hour coding challenge.
  • I agreed to work remotely so the company could learn more about me.
    • I had certain development best practices.
    • I also started learning Drupal 8.
  • It was soon decided that I would be hired as an in-house staff and the immigration paperwork was started ASAP.
  • It took ~8 months to get the necessary paperwork and I flew to Montréal.
    • The owners, Alex and Suzanne, are very kind and helpful.
  • I worked for ~3.5 years at Evolving Web, during which,
    • I worked with a team of talented pros from different countries.
    • I learnt several new technologies.
    • I became an Acquia certified Drupal Grandmaster.
    • I learnt to play Foosball – I’m better at defence.
  • Evolving Web is one of the best employers I’ve had and I’m very thankful to them.

Job hunt

To begin with, I started doing some research on my target country, i.e. Canada. In no specific order, I read about:

  • Top 10 immigrant-friendly cities in Canada.
  • Top 10 Drupal/PHP/web development agencies in Canada.
  • Cost of living in Canada.
  • Average web developer salaries in major Canadian cities.

Whenever I’d stumble upon a nice web development agency, I’d send them my résumé along with a cover letter explaining not only why I was interested in working with them, but also why I wanted to move to Canada. From a total of 6-8 companies that I contacted, I heard back from ~4 companies, Evolving Web being one of them.

They said that they liked my profile and that an interview was going to be scheduled soon. However, I didn’t hear back for 2 weeks so I sent them a follow-up email and found out that they were busy with a Drupal Camp and that they’d get back to me after the event.

Strawberry plant with ripe strawberries
A strawberry plant at the office bore 6 fruits in summer 2019.

An interview was then scheduled at the earliest and I started doing more research about Evolving Web – their services, their portfolio, past employee reviews and more. I had forgotten all my neck ties back in Kolkata, India, but my landlord in Colombia lent me his. Thus, I was ready with my special interview tie and my 5 year old laptop which still had some life left in it.

Interview and selection

Prior to 2016, I hadn't had a chance to learn much about development best practices or to try certain tools and technologies which are essential to web development. This is because I had been busy doing and delivering projects and growing my startup. For this reason, I was a bit worried about the interview.

Having run a business for ~4 years, I knew that even if I didn’t get the job, I’d still be able to survive doing something else.

Also, I hadn’t worked on any Drupal 8 projects, so I started preparing myself for the new job by reading Drupal 8 API documentation. I promised myself that I’d acquire all these skills within the next 4 months.

Screening interview

In the first round, I just had to answer some basic questions about who I was, my employment history and the technologies I had worked with. I was then provided an easy 15 minute coding challenge to evaluate if I could write basic code.

I’ve also been on the interviewer seat for this round many times and you’ll be surprised to know how many candidates have difficulties writing basic code like for loops and conditionals. I was told that I had done sufficiently well to have advanced to the next round.

Jigarius at his desk
That’s me at my desk in the “Beehive” room.

Coding challenge

After the preliminary screening came a 4 hour task of medium difficulty where I had to use a specific Drupal API which I had never heard of before. The problem was to be solved in 2 stages – the first stage was relatively easier and the second stage required polishing the code further to produce the desired output.

I was going in the wrong direction for the first hour, but then I switched gears and produced the output after a total of ~4.5 hours. I was not disqualified because my laptop was very slow and it took around 15-30 minutes just to install Drupal and Drush. I had never used Drush before this point and it was quite difficult to set it up on Windows.

You’re hired

I had passed the coding challenge but I realized that I had several things to learn: Drush, Git and Bash being on the top of the list. I also realized that I had to switch to a Unix-based operating system in order to be more productive, so I decided to buy a new laptop and switched from Windows 8.1 to Ubuntu 16.04 – a big change indeed.

Since the company was going to pay my immigration expenses and I had many things to learn, they wanted to try working with me for a while before giving me a full-time contract. This gave the company time to evaluate me as a person, for example, whether I was respectful, punctual, cooperative, etc.

At this point, I had a remote contract with the company and I was working hard to improve my skills and expand the horizons of my knowledge as a software developer. I even started teaching myself French since Evolving Web is located in the province of Quebec and they happen to have many French-speaking clients.

Moving to Montréal

Since it takes 5-8 months to get all the necessary immigration paperwork, it was decided that I’d start working remotely. After a month of such remote work, Evolving Web confirmed that I would be employed at their Montréal office and that they had started doing immigration paperwork to get me to Canada. Yay!

Here’s a quick look at the documents I needed in order to move to Montréal from Colombia:

  • Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) – took ~5 months.
  • Certificat d'Acceptation du Québec (CAQ) – took ~2 months.
  • Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) for foreign worker – took ~2 months.

It took ~8 months for all the paperwork to be ready and to actually take a flight to Montréal. Alex and Suzanne, co-owners of Evolving Web, are very nice people and they helped me a lot with settling down in the new city.

Jigarius with Alex and Suzanne
A photo of me with Alex & Suzanne.

My experience

At the time of writing this article, I’ve worked over 3 years with Evolving Web and I must admit that it’s been a helluva ride. Here’s a list of cool stuff that I got to do during these years:

  • Work on Drupal projects of various sizes and complexities.
  • Write performant front-end and back-end Drupal code.
  • Write technical articles for the Evolving Web blog.
  • Become an Acquia certified Drupal 8 Grandmaster.
  • Drupal training in English and French.
  • Present sessions at many Drupal conferences, meetups and webinars.
  • Submit patches to various projects on Drupal.org.
    • I even submitted a module named Sidr.
  • Improve my knowledge about web accessibility, SEO and several other things.
  • Help with dev-ops and sysadmin tasks, especially, Docker.
  • Work on non-PHP projects written in Ruby, Node JS and even Bash.
  • Create my own Redmine plugin named Toggl 2 Redmine.
Team EW playing foosball
Most members of our team love to play Foosball.

It’s not “all work and no play” – here are some non-work things that I did at Evolving Web:

  • Improved my Foosball skills – both defence and offence.
  • Took care of the office plants, trees and fishes – I took this up voluntarily.
  • Communicated in different languages with the multinational team.
    • Motivated by Brazilian colleagues, I even started learning Portuguese.
  • Drank beer and ate delicious food at many office parties and cinq à septs.

When I started in 2016, there were only 8 people in the team. However, Evolving Web is growing quite fast and now they have a team of ~20 people.

The company cares about the happiness of its employees and does its best to keep them happy and motivated. The owners, Alex and Suzanne, are very nice, kind and knowledgeable. I enjoyed working at Evolving Web and it surprises me to think that 3 years have passed so fast working with them.

Project highlights

Here are some noteworthy projects on which I got to work as a part of team Evolving Web:

  • Princeton University Press.
  • Western Digital’s MyCloud Home developer docs portal.
  • CISSS de la Montérégie.
  • Drawn and Quarterly.
  • SiteDiff command-line tool.
  • Tourisme Québec.
  • Ordre des Optométristes du Québec.

Apart from all these projects, I also got to work on Evolving Web’s corporate website and several other internal projects and initiatives. I even got to name the rooms at the Evolving Web office!

Unbiased review

Positives

  • Good quality projects that let you learn new things.
  • Follow development best practices! Implement the right solution instead of a quick and dirty solution.
  • Friendly environment and staff, esp. the bosses.
  • You get to speak English, French, Spanish and other languages if you like.
  • No suits and ties with constipated expressions – employees usually wear casuals.
  • Free coffee and snacks with frequent parties and events.
  • Your suggestions are heard and acted upon – you're not talking to the wall.
  • Picnics and outdoor activities during summer.
  • Foosball – they even have tournaments.
  • Occasional remote work on days when you cannot make it to the office.

Negatives

  • The interview process might be a bit difficult for junior devs, but you must’ve heard the expression “no pain, no gain”.
  • Once in a while, the work pressure gets high but if you’re good at what you do, everything should be fine.

Conclusion

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