Someone recently got in contact with me asking how they can learn Episerver. This person used to work with Episerver several years ago and wanted me to tell him how he should get into it again, which is no easy question Before I dole out any advice, I thought it might be better to tell my story of how I got where I am today.
I think my story is probably very similar to a lot of the contractors I know. When I was about to graduate, I heard of a job at a local company that made 'websites'. I had just graduated with a degree in software management; I sure as hell didn't know anything about enterprise-level CMS systems, I didn't know .NET (which was a prerequisite ) and I didn't really know what I wanted to do, so I applied for the job, got asked to an interview and basically blagged my way in.
I didn't have a clue about what I needed to do, but I had enough confidence in myself that I knew I could learn whatever was thrown at me quickly and do a good job. Amazingly, they offered me the job instantly and the next thing I knew I was supporting websites for companies like the BBC, Virgin, NTL and a whole host of other household brands. From that point on I read as much as I could about the subject.
I read .NET books, I read all the old support tickets and within a few months I started closing more support tickets than the other two members of the team combined. I love competition so the number of cases I closed per day became the thing I focused on. I got better bit by bit but in all honesty, I still didn't have much of a clue when it came to programming in .NET.
One day I was eventually moved into the professional services team and I was expected to start coding on day one... At this stage I knew the product inside out and how to troubleshoot it, but, I still did not a lot about coding well crafted C# applications. Again, I blagged it.
At the time, I was given a few projects that no one else in the company really knew how to solve, so I had to learn by poking, experimenting, trying things out, asking people, reading, Googling, annoying.. basically anything in order to get the job done. Anything to avoid my admitting that I didn't know it all, imagine the shame!! I worked in this department for a year or so and after a while I built up some confidence, probably a bit too much, and left, being promised fame and riches at a digital agency that specialised in the CMS software I knew.
By this time, I knew the software well and I had been paid by companies to travel all around the country to advise people on best practices and solve their issues, so in my head I was an expert. Working at an agency for the first time was a shock. I was a cog in a big wheel, I wasn't trusted like I used to be. I mean, why did I need overseeing when I had a proven track record of managing the technical stuff on my own?
Looking back, this change in culture was a shock; I thought I knew it all and I didn't understand that working on large projects is a team effort, not a solo mission. From my experience, it is usually a lot easier to get your own idea shipped compared to working with others. People have their own agendas, you have to work with people of different talents and people who may know very little about the process.
On the flip side of the coin, working at an agency gives you excellent exposure to CMS systems. The company had a lot of clients all using different CMS platforms. The technical exposure I had there was such a massive help later in my career. The majority of the better contractors I know now have all spent a lot of their careers working in agencies. To play devils advocate, there is less art and creativity there for a developer, it's more like a factory, a production line, but the skills you gain on this production line you won't be able to find anywhere else. You work on so many different projects constantly, you have no choice but to end up with a greater depth of knowledge than you ever could just working on one big project, client side.
Fast forward a few jobs later and I hadn't used Episerver for a few years. I was offered a contracting position for a few months to make a well renowned UK airport's website. I had no idea about the latest version of Episerver, but I blagged the interview, offered my insights about how we could move the project forward and next thing you know I landed the gig After that, getting Episerver work has got easier and easier.
The longest I've been out of work in the last 3 years is 5 days and I feel very grateful for that fact. I've worked with some amazing people whom I have learnt a lot from (and some less amazing people) but I've loved the ride and 100 percent encourage anyone to follow up on it themselves.
Where do I start?
Well, the most obvious one from my life story, is to try and get a job at either Episerver itself (even if it is working the support desk for a year) or, an agency specialising in Episerver. and agency certified. If you're reading this and you are experiencing thoughts like.. no one will hire me without experience, then just persist, find agencies in your area, send your CV regardless of whether they are looking for people or not. What's the worst that can happen?
Just sending out your CV is a positive step but on its own it is not enough. Who know you may get lucky and land a job. If you do well done. If not, don't, don't give up as there are always other routes. Read blogs, create a blog and start writing about Episerver, go on people per hour and sell yourself as an Episerver guru, fix bugs, win small projects, get feedback, volunteer to help someone out on a project, follow on-line tutorials. If you want something enough, then with hard-work and persistence you will get there.
The emphasis is on hard work. No one can magically get a job that they are not skilled at. Everyone has the capability to become skilled I can't give that person who emailed a guaranteed map to follow. I can't say if you do this you will get to the destination, it's not possible. If you really want to get there, even if you spend an hour a day trying to learn to broaden yourself, to create, answer forum posts or at least research how to solve the problem and keep on doing that day in, day out, one day you will get where you want to be.
As long as you put the effort in, have the confidence to talk your skills up and are fully committed to learning all you need to, you will eventually get that job. You won't get a job just by having in-depth knowledge, build a portfolio, download Umbraco and make own personal website, prove to the world you know your craft and you can't help but not get that job in the end