Becoming a Sitecore Technology MVP
Sitecore 2015 Technology MVP award was given to 141 applicants across 25 countries. This title is very prestigious and, as you can see by the numbers above, very competitive. This article describes my journey to becoming a Sitecore Technology MVP 2015. I am honored and excited to be part of this prestigious group. If you are aspiring to become a Sitecore MVP and looking for information for ideas on what could give you an edge – read on!
Vasiliy’s Sitecore Development Story
It was years ago when I was tasked with looking for an enterprise-size Content Management System (CMS). Our requirements were very demanding – the CMS had to easily support hundreds of websites, be scalable, flexible with user-friendly intuitive client interface. Since we were going for a long haul, we also required the company making the CMS to be a thought-leader in innovation and user experience. The company I worked for at that time was primarily a .NET shop, so extra points were given to the platforms using the.NET framework. Guess what platform we were switching away from? – SharePoint (in my opinion it is as it as much of a Web CMS as I am – Santa Clause).
I have to say this though – if you are a company selling a CMS, please do your due diligence and build yourself a good website. We eliminated some options simply because their website looked horrible. Remember the old saying, – “Never trust a skinny cook”.
We had to eliminate all the Java alternatives as we had no Java resources, however, we did consider some open source options like Drupal and Joomla. On the .NET front, we had Sitecore 6, DotNetNuke Pro, and a few other options.
After evaluating the total cost of ownership, all open source and a couple of .NET options had to be dropped. Wait, what? – Aren’t the open source options free? – Yes, on the upfront cost, but if you add in all the development, system administration and maintenance costs, it came to being very costly, especially considering we were almost fully focused on .NET.
It was time for demos. Sitecore blew everyone out of the water here. Back then we got lucky to get a pre-release demo of the OMS (the “OG” of the DMS), which blew our marketing team’s minds. Our management was leaning towards Sitecore without a doubt, however, being a thorough company, we decided to do one more development test. I was tasked with building a website in Sitecore without knowing anything about it, and to give me some motivation, I had to race against another developer who was building the same website, as a stand-alone project using .NET MVC! The website was supposed to have a templated nature, which should have allowed us to easily create hundreds of copies.
Unfortunately, back then Sitecore liked to keep all its official documentation hidden in the SDN, which was also not crawllable by search engines. Of course, without a Sitecore Developer certification, I did not have access to the SDN documentation, so the only information I relied on were blogs and whatever I could get out of the Sitecore Sales Engineering Team. All were very helpful! This was an exciting time – found out about such great bloggers as John West and Alex Shyba, whose blogs I follow to this day.
At first I fell behind on my development progress. An upfront learning curve and a lot of setup and upfront preparations just like with any CMS held me back a lot, and it really seemed like there was no way I was going to catch up. However, thanks to Alex and John, I recognized the benefit of Sitecore’s componentized development philosophy and once I got my components in line – I cruised right on. I ended up losing by about a day; however, my implementation was built on a CMS with full Page Editor support and server-side analytics! In addition, I created a branch template for the website, so after showing our management that with just a couple of clicks I could create another website – they were sold!
Becoming a Better Sitecore Developer
Why did I have to tell this story? Well, before working with Sitecore, I spent years working with SharePoint, DotNetNuke and several other open source CMSs, however, when I saw the Sitecore demo, its client interfaces, the development approach with the most extensive API on the planet – I sort of had a “CMS crush” and ever since then I am yet to find any serious competition. I remember going through the client interfaces and the API, and everything sort of made sense right from the get go; everything was right where I was expecting it to be and the entire CMS felt very solid and properly buit. I remember thinking that this was how a web CMS should work!
Right after my first website, I like many other other developers went to Mill Valley to get certified, and once came back – just like almost every other developer that built their first Sitecore website before getting certified, rebuilt about 80% of what first seemed like a work of art to me. Seeing a lot of potential in the CMS and the strong innovative culture of the Sitecore, the company, I continued my journey down the Sitecore road by continuously reading more technical documentation and blogs, developing websites in Sitecore professionally and for hacking, and eventually training other developers.
Around the time of Sitecore 6.2 I was fortunate to participate in editing of the first chapters of John West’s Sitecore Professional Development book. The year after that– I recognized that Sitecore was investing a lot resources in expanding its OMS and later DMS platform, thus, I went back to Mill Valley for a Sitecore Marketer Certification.
As years went on I built more and more websites in Sitecore, gained more and more kowledge and experience. Continued to update my certificates for newer Sitecore versions and led Sitecore teams tackling some pretty large Sitecore enterprise solutions. After the first couple of years I felt like I had the knowledge, but it ony later I felt like I gained true understanding of the CMS, sort of a feeling for how things are done, developing in Sitecore has become sort of a second nature.
I started releasing a few blog articles here and there, primarily for my company’s website, and helping out on Sitecore forums. After several years, I realized that I was helping some MVPs online and asked myself, “Wait a minute! I think I am at the level where I can consider applying for the MVP!”… after putting together a plan of action, I got slammed with busy projects and ended up missing that year as well (doesn’t that always happen at the worst time possible?!). Finally, over a year ago, I felt like I truly had some knowledge to share and could significantly contribute a lot to the Sitecore community.
Contributing to the Sitecore Community – Important Part of Becoming an MVP
“The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself.” – Oscar Wilde. To be an MVP means to be a leader, and what’s being a leader without sharing your knowledge and helping others? Besides being an outstanding Sitecore developer, contributing to the community is the second most important part of becoming an MVP. Frankly, the second cannot exist without the first, n other words how can you help without knowing it yourself, right?
I immediately turned up the heat on the blogging front. I borrowed a sitecorebestpratices.com domain and threw WordPress on it. I started writing a blog a week, however, quickly got bored! I realized that I was being “Captain Obvious” – I was blogging about the same old things that already had a lot of articles written about. I looked at my blog and asked myself – “Would I read this?” and the answer was, – “Hell no!” for many reasons.
So what could I do to liven up the blog a bit? Well, to start, I stopped writing about things that were already written about, and only wrote about them when I felt like I had something extra worth mentioning. My approach to blogging followed the motto,- “If you don’t have anything new, significant and valuable to say – don’t say anything at all!”.
So the next time I had an idea for a blog post – I would research online to make sure there wasn’t already a popular blog post about it.
At this point I had a solid blogging strategy and the website was slowly getting some traffic. Not long after I was asked by Sitecore to change the domain name, as according to their copyright, no company or individual can have a domain starting with the word “sitecore” (I know I know there are plenty of websites and blogs that do, so “heads up” guys!)
Participating in SDN Forums and StackOverlow Sitecore Discussions
After getting a solid blogging strategy in place, I turned to my local Sitecore rep – Stepahie Murg for any ideas on the secret to becoming an MVP. She sent me this link – http://www.sitecore.net/Events/Public-MVP-site/Become-an-MVP.aspx
I had the first three already covered: my passion and advocacy was “through the roof”, I had a continuous output of what I thought were valuable blog posts, and I was contributing on the SDN. However, I realized that I needed to spend more time on forums, particularly – StackOverflow! Have you noticed that many questions that are asked on the SDN are also copied and pasted on StackOverflow? (…or the other way around…) So I made it a point to contribute to the SDN forum and StackOverflow daily! Yep, right before I launched Visual Studio or checked that Facebook pagein the morning, I checked the forums to see, if I could add more value anywhere.
User Group Participation and Contribution
Tackling the next bullet point was a bit hard for me. I have always been going to the Los Angeles Sitecore User Group (LASUG); however, I thought that I should present as well! One thing though – I did not want to present for the sake of presenting – to put a checkbox in my MVP application. I wanted to present something really cool, groundbreaking and helpful– being boring is just not my thing! So I started researching a hot topic of Azure Sitecore 8 and presented on setting up a tech preview of Sitecore 8 fully hosted on Windows Azure Infrastructure as a Service using Windows VMs, Azure SQL, and Linux VMs for a three-member MongoDB setup. It was a tricky setup, and I still owe a log post about the Sitecore 8 setup of my two part series on Sitecore 8 on Azure IaaS.
Sitecore Marketplace Contributions
Tackling the next point seemed a bit overwhelming at first; however, reading “Rework” by 37signals gave me an epiphany – I was already creating modules on almost every Sitecore project! So the only thing I had to do was to pretty up the code and package it up for the marketplace.sitecore.net! And this is how the ADFS Authenticator Module was born.
Support Ticket Contributions
These came to me easily, as there probably were very few days in a year when I didn’t log into the CMS. Therefore, I simply had a lot of experience and was able to make some valuable suggestions and identify many opportunities which I later reported to the Sitecore Support team, whom I can’t thank enough for all the support throughout the years! Sitecore Support truly goes above and beyond – you guys rock!
Other Personal Sitecore Projects and Online Activity
37signals gave me many ideas about properly using development waste and other resources, which I was able to apply to my blogging and development efforts. I also realized a need for a phone app that I developed for Sitecore and it is soon being released. Also found that I could expand my reach dramatically by being active on Twitter, which in turn allowed me to meet many more great Sitecore enthusiasts!
Looking Back at the Journey to Becoming an MVP
I am not sure if there is a set metric that you have to hit or not when running for an MVP title. I looked everywhere for an exact answer – websites, forums, user groups, and Sitecore employees, and no one could give me a definite answer, thus, you won’t find it here either ))
So what advise can I give to the aspiring Sitecore developers? – be passionate about what you do! If you aren’t – don’t do it. I truly believe that being passionate about Sitecore made me want to contribute valuable content to the Sitecore community. Without sincerity and passion I would have probably still been writing boring repetitive blogs and tweeting “Captain Obvious” tips.
What I found down the road of striving for the MVP title is that after some time, I was no longer doing it for the title – I enjoyed sharing my Sitecore experiences, my failures and successes, my findings, and just general knowledge with the rest of the community. At first, I was blogging because I wanted to give back, then it became a race for the title, but then it turned into much more – it was no longer a burden, I drew genuine enjoyment from sharing my discoveries and saving other developers time just like John and Alex helped me when I started!
Wrapping up this post, I am again hoping this read gave you some ideas on what path to choose to becomeing an MVP and made you think outside the box, or even saved you some time in your research of the MVP program and the overall Sitecore journey. Make it a good one!
As for me – I will keep on #SitecoreHacking 😉
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