My Technology Path

We sure have come a long way with technology and now I’m going to show my age. Throughout my life my family and I have moved cross-country multiple times. Before social media the only thing I could do was call friends (with our brick phones) and write pen-pal letters that we’d ask our parents to snail mail for us. I laughed the other day when I received mail that I had to sign and old school mail back realizing it’s been a long time since I’ve bought stamps. My first thought was “can’t I just sign this, scan it with my phone and email it?”. Nope.

My Technology Path

Since I was little, I have always loved technology. I remember starting out on a TI-99 at 11 years old. I’d copy code out of a BASIC book for hours so my brother and I could play games. At that age do you think I was thinking about what I wanted to be when I grow up? Heck no. Did I know that this start was going to shape the rest of my life later? No way.

I wish I had photos of our stuff from that time but it was during film camera days so I had to rip photos off the internet to show what I started with.

After the TI-99 comes Radio Shack. My grandpa was real big into Radio Shack so he would buy my dad Tandy computers which was the starting point for my father to teach himself how to build computers. I remember him taking it apart and figuring out how to put it back together over and over again.

Then my dad built his first customized computer and that’s what changed the path for both of our lives. At age 13, my dad taught me how to build computers which was back when you could actually make money building and selling computers. This life skill my dad taught later became the thing that gave me the ability to fix and upgrade computers. Still did I know I was going to become a programmer and be in the technology field later in life? Nope.

My Daughter & College

At age 19, I became a young mom. I was scared to death but my daughter ended up being the best thing that ever happened in my life. Since she was born I have been a 100% single parent.

Junior College and my First Programming Class

I started junior college while I was pregnant and continued after my daughter was born. QBasic was the first programming class I took in college. I was going to community college and my father was in school too taking the same class. I remember the teacher we had was terrible and I struggled with every assignment. If it hadn’t been for my dad helping I wouldn’t have passed. That class scared me away from programming. I simply couldn’t get it and so many of the students struggled because of how bad the teacher was. We were beginners but the teacher would get upset because he expected us to know it all with his lack of explanations or at least that’s what I remember. After that class I decided programming wasn’t for me so I had to figure something else out to do. I still loved computers and spent a lot of time on BBSes (Bulletin Board Systems) and played Doom.

These were the days of telnet, fat monitors, wired peripherals, floppy drives and very slow internet speeds. First came the 1200 baud modem, then 2400, 14.4 and my dad and I were super excited when we got a 28.8! Then came out the 56k modem which was smoking fast to use back then. Now I laugh as I work at home on my 1GB fiber line and think about how slow 56k really is.

My life before SharePoint & Office 365

In my career I’ve done everything from graphic design, 3D animation, video editing, web development, programming, database administration, built/fixed computers…and a few other things. I’ve always been one of those people where I never stuck to just one thing. If I felt I learned all I could with something, I moved on to the next thing or if it was something I was passionate about I pursued it. Since I was young, I strived to continue to learn new things therefore I think that’s why the information technology field ended up being a good fit for me since it’s always changing. Challenges and problem solving were things I always loved and still love. I went to school for graphic design and enjoyed that for a while but then I got tired of being creative everyday so then came web design. I enjoyed web design because I was no longer working in 300 dpi and could still be creative but also build things. Then HTML got boring so I moved onto classic ASP. Oh good ole classic ASP. I’m now having flashbacks of working for buy.com and remember dealing with includes within includes within includes <smacking my head>. 

After buy.com I moved onto ColdFusion development temporarily and then got back into classic ASP development at Onyx Acceptance (now Capital One). Then came .NET beta and I was in love. Onyx was when I also started getting into Business Intelligence. My first experience with BI was using Crystal Reports and Business Objects with SQL 6.0 and Oracle. BTW, I was a hack developer in that I was self-taught. I couldn’t explain what a class, module, or function was but I could write code and make things work. There’s a part of me that wishes I had old code I wrote so I can see how bad it was. We all had to start somewhere right? It wasn’t until after I had a career in programming that I went back to school for development.

During my career I had many people tell me “you can’t be the jack of all trades” which I always disagreed with. It’s not that it was ever a goal of mine but I just knew how my brain worked. Like I’ve mentioned before, I’ve always been the type of person who never liked doing the same thing every single day if it wasn’t challenging anymore. As soon as the challenge was over I was ready to move onto something else.

Then Comes SharePoint

Before I started a career in SharePoint let me tell you how I got introduced to it. I remember working for Encore Credit. Encore was a mortgage finance corporation in Irvine, CA. Originally I was hired as a .NET developer to join a team to rewrite a Loan Origination System (LOS) which ended up never happening and instead I took over someone else’s position to handle 3rd party interfaces. This included credit pulling, OFAC, and something else that I can’t remember. Ohhhhhh I just remembered this is when I started working with BizTalk too. I completely forgot about BizTalk!

Now comes the SharePoint part. I remember the day Ivan Sanders came in from DynTek to do a demo for us. That’s when I was first introduced to SharePoint and shortly after I left Encore and went to work for DynTek. I have screenshots of my first SharePoint Portal Server 2001 project on an old hard drive somewhere which I’m hoping to find someday. Then I started working with WSS 2.0 & SharePoint Server 2003 shortly after. Coming from .NET development, I hated SharePoint at first. I felt it was hard to work with and definitely hard to develop for. Then comes Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007 and I started to like it more since it was built off the .NET architecture. Master pages, page layouts, farm solutions (event receivers, user controls)…yeah now we’re talking. I was happy doing SharePoint development but because I had a background in graphic design I also did branding integration for SharePoint. Now this is where my love/hate relationship started to come in. With branding, I got frustrated with the constraints you had to work within but thanks to Heather Solomon’s CSS guides she made life much easier. Then I pushed back on branding and started only focusing on SharePoint development.  I loved writing event receivers. Farm solutions and the server-side object model was my world. After that followed WSS 3.0 & SharePoint 2010 which I liked even more because I felt it was easier to develop for.

BPOS & Office 365

Many who have known me a long time know I was not happy with O365 for quite some time. As a consultant I was an early BPOS user until my tenant got migrated to O365. For my business it was fine since I was only using it for Exchange, Lync, prototyping and for managing my clients in SharePoint but for enterprise customers it was far from ready. Then came my first SharePoint/O365 hybrid project and that was when I swore off O365. The customer at the time wanted to go 30% on-prem and 70% in the cloud. I told them they needed to flip those numbers that it wasn’t ready yet which I proved in a very painful implementation. The customer was very dependent on search and they wanted me to do everything in O365. On the plus side of this project it forced me to become a search expert and that’s when I really appreciated display templates but working on it in SharePoint Online was excruciating. I waited days just for the uncontrollable search crawl to pick up my managed properties. After that pain I built an on-prem VM just so I could mimic what I was trying to do in SharePoint Online for the customer so I could force search crawls. Once I got everything the way they wanted, I duplicated the changes into their SharePoint Online tenant (managed properties, display templates, etc). That was a hit of reality for myself and the customer so they ended up not going hybrid and stayed on-prem. After that project I refused to do any O365 projects for an entire year. I felt O365 was like playing whac-a-mole which was when I came up with this graphic.

Business Intelligence & Power BI

Also during my career I went through moments where I would do a lot of BI work then stop and then get back into it again. Once I started dealing with Scorecard Manager I took a break and then got back into it when Microsoft acquired ProClarity and launched PerformancePoint. At this moment I was still avoiding O365 projects as much as I could and continued to take on mostly on-prem work. Each time I would work on O365 projects I got frustrated. I felt the platform was improving but was still too frustrating and limiting. I started contemplating if it was time I pursued a different career and got to the point where I met with a local culinary school. I was so close to registering as a full-time student to pursue a career in the culinary arts. Then comes Power BI to the rescue! When I first tried Power BI, I was blown away and knew this was something worth pursuing. Power BI is what got me back into O365 and that’s when I discovered O365 had improved drastically. The tides had turned and I started doing more O365 projects and less on-prem projects. Now I prefer O365 projects which my friends never thought they’d hear me say. I’m not going to lie there are things that frustrate me from time to time but that’s the life of the cloud and I know it will continue to get better and better. So with that said kudos to the Microsoft product groups for doing an awesome job with the evolution of O365!

Career Change

I’ve gone through some major changes recently as many of my friends and family know with one of them being the decision to go full-time. After a decade of being an independent consultant, I decided back in December to join Todd Baginski’s (aka T-Bag) team at Canviz consulting. How did this come about? Well for starters the conversation was sparked from a tweet I posted about me “officially being over independent consulting”. Why was I over it? I got tired of the headaches as an independent. My friend Heather Newman posted a great blog post “The Wimpy Syndrome – Why clients don’t pay on-time – Dealing with finances” that hits every pain point I’ve dealt with over the years.

Why else did I struggle? Here are some things I came to terms about myself:

  1. I’m too nice. I gave away way too much free work at times I really should have been billing. Too nice doesn’t pay the bills.
  2. I have a tendency to undervalue my self-worth, knowledge, and skills. This has always been a personal issue of mine. I never think I know enough or am smart enough which actually I don’t ever want to think I’m either as I always want to continue to grow and learn. Then there’s times I get pulled into cleanup/bail out projects and realize how much I really do know.
  3. I trust people too much and I don’t listen to my gut instinct enough. Anytime my gut told me not to take a project I took it anyways and each time my gut was always right which put me in a bad situation every time.
  4. I have a problem with saying “no”. It’s a trait my dad has too and I will say we both have been getting better at it or at least trying.

Now that it’s been almost 6 months since I started at Canviz, I must say I absolutely love my job and love my Canviz team. While I’ve been struggling with the world shutdown due to COVID-19, I’m so grateful to have a good job and a strong support system. With that said I cannot wait until we can start traveling again and be prepared. I was already a hugger before the pandemic and with all this “social distancing” I am going to be giving even more hugs once this “pandemic” is all over!

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