Diana Montalion

Resistant rearranger of things

Speaking and Training

A fun part of tech life

I enjoy speaking, writing and developing learning experiences. After all, I was an actor and trainer before I learned to code. I especially like making complex issues contextually relatable.

My current focus is strategic thinking and enterprise system architecture, but speaking remains my first love. Here are some past examples:

Image credit: sidebar by Ezra Barnett Gildesgame


Content systems architecture: approaches in a decoupled world

Ten years ago, content “systems” were primarily content management applications and their kin; wikis, commerce sites, closed-box print applications, etc. Architecture was software solutioning and scaling the infrastructure to handle more traffic. DevOps meant “add Jenkins”. Eight months of development work generally required a week or two of architectural deliverables, even when third-party services were involved.

Last year, as content systems architect for The Economist, Diana Montalion and her colleagues invested six months articulating the capabilities of the current system and crafting technology recommendations across the multiple engineering and architectural teams. Then they spent another six months designing the high-level target architecture.

What changed between then and now? The difference between legacy and modern content systems is as conceptual as it is technical. Architecting emergent systems requires an evolution from strategic planning to collaborative strategic thinking – everyone seeing the parts through the lens of the whole. Architecture, and the role of architect, isn’t simply AWS certification. We are also a systems integrator, mirroring the desired qualities of the system and telling it’s story.

Many of my talks were given in the Drupal ecosphere because enterprise Drupal and open-source communities were my focus. Nowadays, I focus on enterprise system architecture, integrating multiple technologies, and strategic thinking. I remain grateful to the community that nourished my ideas as I grew them.

Decoupling The Economist

The Economist is currently served digitally by Drupal 6. Yes, yes, Drupal 6. To meet the content data needs of the many Economist products, a decoupled microservices architecture is being designed and built.

The backend is, for the moment, still Drupal 6 with an API added to deliver JSON. The midTier microservices layer uses GoLang. The decoupled, component-based Front End uses Node.js and ReactJS. A side aim of the project is to build a continuous integration environment that will weave the layers together. And a continuous deployment workflow to allow quick changes. This talk will give a high-level view of the project.

Keynote: Collaboration in Diverse Teams

Diversity is a hot buzz word in tech these days. But when we think diversity, do we think “anyone in the world could be on this team?” When I began in this industry, my primary diversity challenge was being the only female backend dev. Now, having worked with multinational teams, I know that the potential diversity challenges are infinite.

How do we create strong teams, and a strong community, when the members are more different than alike? When solving complex problems, difference is our greatest asset. Different points of view and experiential expertise is essential. Understanding and embracing these differences is so difficult, we often maintain walls where we need bridges. How do we build the most well-engineered bridges possible, while still enjoying the work? Diverse teams call into question some of our deepest values. And as a result, yield the deepest rewards.

Solution Architecture: Designing a strategy for project success

When a project is born, the battle for power and control begins. Power and control, by themselves, are poor strategy. Control is linear thinking laid over the big ball of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey interconnections in reality where the best laid plans often go awry.

Strategy is real power – the power to chose, limit, and prioritize while allowing for collaborative creativity and shared vision. Yes, strategy defines what needs planning. But the goal of the work is to shine a light down the path through complexity while honoring, even savoring, the complexity itself.

Strategy is hard to do well. The rules are easy. When applied to software development, strategy is an engineering process sometimes called solution architecture. We’ll explore the four elements of good strategy.

Drupal as a Data Purveyor

For DataDay Texas, a two-part talk on layering Drupal with emerging technologies to create a performant, scalable data purveyor that meets the needs of “big data”.

PHP for NonProgrammers

This is a friendly programming introduction for people new to coding. We’ll take a “Physics for Poets” approach to basic PHP concepts like variables, if/else statements, and functions. You’ll write some code, speak some geek, and start down the addictive path of programming logic. There’s also a geek quiz – in case you don’t know your Picards from your Kirks.

This has been offered multiple times. A few examples:

Mad Skillz: Become the Best in the World

Are you a themer or developer who wants to work on bigger, more complicated projects? Do you want to send your resume to top Drupal shops and get hired? Do you want to assess and approve your skills? You will leave with you a take-home list of essential traitz and skillz. You’ll also find out what a few top Drupal shops and in-house Drupal team leaders say are the “Most Important Skillz” their best developers possess.

Building a Dynamic Team

In this Do it with Drupal presentation, Diana looks at building a great team. A website is as effective, performant, and reliable as the team who builds it. Whether you need one developer or twenty, finding the right people is essential to a site’s success. What are the traits and skills to look for when hiring a Drupal developer? What can we learn from Drupal shops with years of experience building successful, and sometimes unsuccessful, Drupal development teams?

Once you find the right people, successful projects require a creative, ongoing blending of talent into a focused, productive team who, like a flock of birds, can adapt to course changes with grace. How can you encourage technical team leads to work with project managers, business owners, and stakeholders in ways that encourage and support the team’s dynamic problem-solving process? How do you turn expertise into successful Drupal products?

Drupal for NonGeeks

If you will never write a line of PHP code but need to understand how Drupal works, this session is for you. We’ll focus on a high-level, conceptual understanding of the Drupal framework. The goal of this session is to enable nonGeeks to make decisions about applying Drupal to their real world challenges and talk to developers (in their language).

Big Websites

Drupal powers many small-to-medium websites, from personal blogs to company intranets. Drupal also powers big sites like The Economist and The White House. How are the big sites different from the small ones? What are the main issues to consider when adopting Drupal for the enterprise? What skillset do developers need to build them?

Teaching Drupal

You know how to use Drupal. You know how to write code, build a theme, and SEO a site. But do you know how to teach others to use Drupal? For every site we create there are clients who must use it, many don’t know a node from a block. After this session, you will be able to introduce clients to Drupal without freaking them out.

Intro to Drush

When I was introduced to drush, a command line shell and scripting interface for Drupal, I thought, “meh, I can do those tasks already in about the same time with no learning curve.” Now? “Omg omg, do you use drush? You gotta try drush! It’s awesome!” Find out why drush has transformed me into a groupie. In this session, we’ll walk through installing a Drupal site using drush, enabling modules, and common tasks like running update hooks, cron, and clearing the cache.

The Economist (Tech Talk)

The Economist.com website is powered by Drupal and is currently being developed by three collocated teams – London, New York, and Austin.

In this presentation, the Economist dev team will describe the innovative solutions, daily workflow, performance challenges, necessary customizations, testing scheme, and third-party vendor integration that delivers The Economist Online to millions of users.

CiviCon 2010

Wikimedia Foundation (Tech Talk)

After online contributions to the Wikimedia Foundation have been processed, $7.5 million during the last fundraiser alone, contact and contribution data is passed to CiviCRM. It is the “fundraiser backend” for managing hundreds of thousands of contributor records and includes some interesting customizations. Diana will talk about how it works, the ongoing challenges, and prove that if Wikimedia can do it, so can you.

CiviCRM for Drupal

CiviCRM is an open source, web-based, constituent relationship management application. Predominantly used by advocacy and non-profit groups, Civi can track contact data, enable memberships and donations, organize constituent groups, manage events, and make communication more effective.

Although there is a standalone version, Civi is more commonly integrated into a Drupal (or Joomla) CMS installation. Like Drupal itself, it can be an empowering tool for groups with a mission. It can also be a challenge for developers and designers. We’ll talk about what CiviCRM does, how to approach using it (plan, plan, plan), and some pitfalls along the path to integration.


I have developed sold-out training programs with three different organizations and was Global Chair for DrupalCon training. While I don’t train anymore, I’m happy to discuss developing both curriculum and trainers.

Image credit: Andrew McClintock

Drupal 8 for Drupalistas

The first training offered to teach developers the newest version of Drupal.

Online: PHP Course

In partnership with OSTraining, an entire Introduction to PHP programming course from variables to storing data in the database.

PHP for NonProgrammers

This is a friendly programming introduction for people new to coding. The course takes a “Physics for Poets” approach to basic PHP concepts like variables, if/else statements, Boolean logic, functions, and hooks. Participants write code, read code, and have a clear understanding of how to continue practicing.

Responsive First: Design and Build a Site for All Devices

I was the training program developer and teaching team member, not a subject matter expert. This class was the first offered at a Conference on “how to make a theme work on all devices”.


Currently working on a book. More about that soon.

Architecting Enterprise

Linux Journal Article: Drupal is a Framework

Special Edition pg. 24


  • I found Diana Montalion’s keynote particularly fascinating.
  • The second session, “Drupal for Non-Geeks” was fantastic for me. It helped me link my old undergraduate learning about programming and databases to the current language of Drupal. Now I have a better understanding of how the framework works and can request changes to my Community Weaver 2.0 website from a more informed point of view.
  • Diana is an excellent presenter, and very knowledgeable about the common gaps people have in their understanding of Drupal.
  • Loved your classes last night and this morning at Drupal Camp at Stanford. I found your class on Mad Skillz very helpful. I’m a writer/editor and a hell of an organizer. I didn’t even know IA existed. Now I know its a niche I’d like to explore.
  • She’s a great teacher and very knowledgeable.
  • Diana is an EXCELLENT person & teacher. My lack of practice: the only reason my coding skills != her teaching skills.
  • I sat in this session out of curiosity and want to commend Diana on what I think was a fantastic and totally approachable beginning php session. The examples she gave made ALL the difference.
  • The best session at this DrupalCon so far. Very entertaining, really nice, a fantastic speaker, which knows her stuff. Very sympathetic, too. It made my Wednesday!

Note: There were also a few “you are wrong – here’s why” and a note with <3s in it.

Video Interview

Why I do PHP training and the benefits to people who join in (recorded prior to DrupalCon Portland).

Credit: video by Praxent