So Your Tech Event Needs Money?

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Our developer community is pretty awesome – both in person and online. Together, developers can participate, collaborate, foster a network and learn from each other. Perhaps you are inspired to give back to the community and organize a tech event for developers.

In-person tech events for developers come in many different forms such as monthly user group meetings or meetups, annual conferences or a one-off hackathon, to name a few possibilities. The scale of the tech event varies widely based on lots of factors – number of attendees, venue, speakers and the logistics to pull it all together. In most cases, other than perhaps really small endeavors, guess what you need to run a successful tech event? Yep, cold hard cash.

To raise the necessary money for your event, you’ll likely have to go get some sponsorships. Seeking successful sponsorships can be an exercise of patience, especially without the correct strategies – are you talking to the right people about the right things? This article aims to demystify some of myths about chasing down sponsorships for tech events – the who, the why and the how.

Full article HERE.

 

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New Day .. New Role @ Telerik!

April 2013. After years of being a consultant and having seen some of the best/worst that enterprise software development entails, it was time to see how’s life in a product company. And having already used/advocated Telerik products for years, I didn’t have to look around much either. Thus started work as a Senior Technical Trainer for the Telerik Services team. Now, trainer is an interesting word. If you already develop cool software, like to play with & talk about new technologies, and have a big involvement in the developer community, you’ll be surprised how easy training comes to you. It’s no more than dev to dev straight talk! Now, don’t get me wrong – training is plenty challenging. If you’re teaching a group of 30 enterprise developers for a week, you better know your stuff inside out, for the utter fear of humiliation. Prep, practice & repeat, no shortcuts! The past year has been a lot of fun – I travelled & stayed at home; did offsite, onsite & remote training on a whole slew of Telerik products suites. It’s always great to see what clients are actually building with your dev tools; and you grow with every new experience. But all good things come to an end .. I’m starting in a new role inside Telerik today!

Now, I can’t move on without mentioning what’s been the biggest influence on me for the past year. Steve & Michelle Smith, and the whole Telerik Services gang (ex-NimblePros) at the Hudson office. I’ve worked with many dev teams before, but no where else have I seen so many software craftsmen under one roof. Folks like Steve, Brendan, Jimmy, Kevin, Todd, Jeff, Chris, Craig, Weston, Caitlin, JoLene, Molly and others – are just crazy smart; and I’ve learnt a lot from each. Not only are they some of the best developers/designers I’ve seen around, but the whole team is like a family that values each other. Cheers to everyone at the Hudson office; it has truely been a pleasure!

Now, on to what’s next. When you find a position that’s a perfect fit, but challenges you with new work – you dive in. Starting today, I’m a Developer Advocate for Telerik in the Developer Relations team, lead by the awesome Rey Bango. My partners in crime? Glad you asked – how about a team with Michael Crump, Jeff Fritz, Burke Holland, John Bristowe, TJ Vantoll, Brian Rinaldi, Jim CowartDhananjay Kumar, Lohith Nagaraj & other super smart folks. Humbling for sure with the kind of reputation each have in our community, but exciting because we’ll get to do awesome stuff together!

Is .NET/Microsoft and Telerik DevTools your bread & butter? Do Windows apps excite you or the ubiquitousness of the web? Have you embraced JavaScript as the assembly language of the web? And off course, you are into all things mobile & the cloud/backend services. And cross-platform development isn’t for the cool kids any more; you cannot afford to not reach every potential user across any technology stack. Just like you my polyglot friend, I love it all! Let’s bridge the gap between the enterprise & hipster world. Using or considering Telerik products? Hit me up & let’s talk.

Cheers!

Road to Microsoft MVP, Craftsmanship & beyond …

2013 has been a busy year. We all have had our ups & downs and worked on products/technologies that we are passionate about. And it is particularly rewarding when others recognize your passion, efforts to grow our craft, technical prowess & community involvement. I am really honored and humbled to be named a Microsoft MVP in Client Development for 2014.

Now, it is customary to share some feelings/experiences along the road & what it all means. This is, at times tricky, since the subject does bring out our sentiments. This in no way, is a check-off list towards your goals; quite simply, my ramblings on the recent past & some common sense.

The pursuit of craftsmanship & not labels ..

  • The meaning — First, what does it mean to be a Microsoft MVP? It is a recognition of one’s passion around a Microsoft product/platform, technical knowledge & willingness to share/stir community excitement around MSFT technologies. MVP is an award system, with no definitive way to the goal .. and that is the point. We all have our passions & there needs to be flexibility to chart one’s own course. For more information, please visit the the MVP support site or the official blog.
  • The meaning, again — So, let’s rephrase. Since we cannot know everything about everything, the MVP award acknowledges one’s technical knowledge in a specific platform/product/domain. Now, this does not mean that all MVPs are technical rockstars; they definitely know their stuff .. but more importantly, are willing to actively share their knowledge. MVP is a a community award, recognizing significant community contributions around a MSFT platform & helping others. There are no shortcut & one has to be in it for the long haul.
  • The Showmanship — Someone recently said “We’re beyond writing software, we just talk about it” .. this a little funny & sometimes true. In our constant zeal to leave a footprint for other developers & make ourselves known in the community, we could sometimes get in the mode of blogging/speaking about every cool piece of code we write. While this is an extreme example, you should see the value of putting yourself out there. Every developer needs to have a blog .. yes, writing can be painstaking; but there has to be something interesting you worked on recently, something you would like to share. It does not hurt to put out your thoughts and content to contribute on a topic, and it slowly establishes you as a knowledge resource.
  • The Volunteer Army — MVPs often are the public face of Microsoft on a certain technology/product/platform. So, you can see why MSFT would be careful about which volunteers represent them. And that is partly the reason behind choosing folks who are vocal about their passion in the developer ecosystem.
  • The Guilt — This is purely my stance; MVP awards come a little guilt. I personally know way too many awesome developers around, many of whom are much smarter than I am. These developers silently do their awesome work in cubicles & are well respected in their respective teams; but may not be well-known in the community because they are not vocal about what they are up to. This is where comes my next urge ..
  • The step-out — If you are a developer, I honestly urge you to come out of the shell & start interacting with the developer community. I can vouch you will find the experience very enriching. For one, it opens our avenues to learn from like-minded people; developers just like you, who are trying improve their craft every day. Second, it helps you market yourself as a professional & establish your expertise, in ways your resume could never do. So, start by going to your nearest User Group or developer community meeting. Write & speak about what you’re passionate about. Take up writing a book or author a Pluralsight course or be active on a developer forum. I can promise that the tiny guilt of being a showman will vanish in the face of how much you are learning from other developers.
  • Are you social? — Well, this is an ironic question for developers, when we IM our buddy across the cube wall, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter what form of social media you use, as long as you interact with the right folks & getting your information from the right sources. This is pivotal in staying up to date as a developer. Twitter has quickly become one of the best ways to keep up on what’s latest in any technology & engage in conversations with your fellow developers. Bottomline, be social in any way you want, but make sure you are engaged & learning from other developers.
  • Learn, Learn, Learn — This goes without saying, right? The nature of our industry demands us to be in an always-learning mode & there are plenty of free materials to go by. So, voraciously consume anything you can get your hands on – MSDN, StackOverflow, Twitter, eBooks, developer blogs etc. If you think you are the smartest person in a room or in your team, it is time to jump out of the windows & run, so we can keep on learning 🙂
  • Community Investments — Give plenty & you shall receive. Investing in developer community helps us grow as professionals .. network with as many folks as you can & help in whatever you can. Keep the good faith that your efforts are being noticed.
  • The Help — Microsoft has a DPE (Developer Platform Evangelism) program which puts ‘field agents’ closer to developer communities across the world, as well as wonderful MVP Program leads. These are some of the smartest folks you’ll work with .. make sure to get in touch with them in your developer community. I promise – they’ll help.
  • The DON’Ts — Some of this is common sense, but common sense is not that common & we all make mistakes. Let us try to stay away from being rude, vulgar & disrespectful to others – this is plain uncalled for & leaves bad taste amidst a community of sharp brains. Off course, we will have strong opinions about technology; but we can agree to disagree in a respectful manner.
  • The Respect — We can sometimes forget in the Microsoft realm that the world does not spin around us; there are plenty of brilliant developers working on non-Microsoft or Open-Source technologies or projects. And the least we can do is be respectful to all the good work outside our domain of expertise. This shows maturity & professionalism; and gets you respect from the other folks.
  • Believe — Lastly, be confident in your abilities as a developer & genuine in your efforts. MVP or other recognitions may be the goal; but it is the journey that is more important, since it puts your career on a great track. Decide if a label is more important than respect from your peers .. and make peace with it. Be truly passionate about the technology, there is no way to fake this. Believe patiently in folks around you & your good deeds will not go in vain. Best wishes for your journey ..

Truly believe that software craftsmanship is a lifelong journey .. rewards will come along the way.

Cheers for a wonderful 2014!

Thoughts on BUILD 2013 & Windows 8.1

I was amongst the thousands who spent much of last week at MSFT’s BUILD conference, this time in sunny San Francisco. Here’s what stood out for me:

  • A developer conference of the size of BUILD takes a lot of logistics planning. Microsoft, along with the 3rd party event management company that you see at all MSFT events now, pulled it off successfully. The event, organization, meals, attendee party, buses, registration etc. all seemed to go without any major glitches. Kudos.
  • BUILD keynotes did not disappoint. Executives including Ballmer, Nadella, Guthrie and other keynote speakers seemed to exude in instilling developer enthusiasm in the MSFT ecosystem. Windows 8.1 & several major announcements were made during the keynotes. Some were disappointed with lack of Windows Phone or XBoxOne news; but there are a whole lot of factors & product life cycle stages that contribute towards what’s being shared. I felt MSFT shared what they could and enticed developers with the opportunities that the ecosystem offers now.
  • As for the giveaways, surely the MSFT Surface Pro with Type cover and the new 8″ Acer Iconia W3 should have impressed attendees. Other goodies included 100 GB of SkyDrive storage (although it expires in a year) and an Office 365 license, along with gift cards towards the Windows Phone store. The Surface Pro is a great machine with near perfect balance of portability & productivity. I can also see the lure of the newer breed of 8″ or smaller tablets running Windows 8. The form factor lends itself wonderfully to reading books or consuming media content, but it would be another device to carry around. Sticking happily to my Surface RT for now ..
  • One of my biggest takeaways from any such big conference is the networking with peers; off course BUILD did not disappoint. Last minute hotel reservation meant that I was stuck in a shady San Francisco neighborhood; but that did not matter much given most of the time was spent with some very smart folks. From hanging out with my homies at the Telerik booth to friends like Brian Lagunas, Micheal Collier, Brent Schooley, Iris Classon, Matt Hidinger, Jeff Blankenburg, James Bender, Phil Japikse, Steve Bohlen & others., it was good times indeed. The Xamarin & DeepFriedBytes parties were awesome – thank you!

Sessions & APIs:

Between spending time at the super busy Telerik booth and offline conversations, I tried attending as many BUILD sessions as I could. There were some great ones, and ones were speakers struggled with technicalities; but that is normal at any conference and specially when showing off Preview software. If you were not at BUILD or missed sessions, almost all of them are now online @ http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2013.

Not surprisingly, lot of sessions focused on new APIs in Windows 8.1 for Store Apps and Azure Mobile Services integration. Amongst the new APIs or features, ones that really piqued my interest were the new native HTTP Client with caching/filtering/OAuth support, Pre-fetch data support for Windows 8.1 apps, POS support with Barcode/magnetic strip credit card reader, people/contacts integration, 3D printing support, Mobile Service integration wizards etc. Here are some of my top sessions picks; highly recommend watching, if you need to catch up:

One of best parts of BUILD is the opportunity to hang out with engineers who actually build the APIs we developers use. I was in several closed door sessions with Windows 8 engineers talking through what’s working and what’s not. And getting to pick the brains of the likes of Tim Heuer, Damian Edwards, Shawn Oster etc. – priceless.

Windows 8.1:

Off course BUILD kicked off the Windows 8.1 Preview and the update was made available for immediate download. The actual polished update would come later in the year through the Windows Store and it looks rather promising. You can get the preview now @ http://preview.windows.com.

Now, Windows 8.1 Preview is plenty solid and you do not risk your PC crashing all over the place. However, it is still very much a Preview and lacks polish, along with being jittery on several fronts. So, evaluate the risks before putting this on your dev machine. As far as I understand, if running Windows RT like on a Surface RT device, you cannot go back to Windows 8, but eventually can move forward once 8.1 becomes ready for GA. If running Windows 8 Pro, you are more likely to have to begin with a clean slate once Windows 8.1 gets ready to ship. So again, weigh your options as to where you want to install Windows 8.1; you pay a little price, but it’s worth it to have a taste of the new features and definitely as a developer if you need to consume the new APIs.

As for me, I put on Windows 8.1 Preview on my Surface RT the very first evening and not repenting it. But please make sure to create a recovery USB stick if you feel you might need to go back to how your Surface was with Windows 8 RT. Here’s the good & bad:

  • It’s the little things, but I love having the Desktop wallpaper as a background on my Start screen. Yes, the Start button is back on the desktop and it overlays the tiles on top of your desktop background, leading to a slightly less jarring difference between the desktop & touch world.
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  • If you had not noticed this yet, Windows 8.1 Preview ships with a preview version of Outlook 2013. Granted the Windows Mail app is being heavily redesigned, Outlook will serve your needs of having enterprise & other emails in one application in the desktop world; makes the Surface RT more friendly for work stuff.
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  • Now, you must have heard about the windowing support for the new Windows 8.1 apps. The fact that you can be on the Mail app and have several IE windows open up side by side as you tap on links is pretty cool, specially on high DPI/resolution monitors. The magic number is 500px for window width; the Windows engineers told me that they had labored a lot to come to this number.  So, this means that the old Windows 8 apps being in Full, Filled & Snapped modes is gone; instead apps can go from 500 px till as wide as needed and the developer gets to control the experience if desired. On lower resolution screens like that of the Surface RT, you will most likely see two/three windows side by side; but it is handy.
  • One after-effect of the window re-sizing is prioritization. Envision this: you have two apps running side by side in Windows 8 in a 80-20 split. The app having the wider screen real estate kinda has priority; so as you swipe from left and bring in another app, it slides into the 80% area. Now, with the new windowing support, there is no clear priority between windows and as a result, new apps trying to get to focus kind of hover on top of existing apps, waiting for the user to snap it in place. Kind of hit or miss in my opinion, but what else could they have done?
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  • One of the best noted Windows 8.1 features is the All-Apps list. Swipe up from the Start screen and voila, you have the list of All Apps. Newly installed apps do no longer clutter your start screen; instead they silently show up in this list. There is a handy sorting mechanism in All Apps list; set it to show the newly installed apps first and you will always know where to find apps in the order in which you installed.
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  • Other cool features of Windows 8.1 include the deferred Reading List available through the Share charm, Bing integration, hands-free mode inside apps, IE 11 with tabs at the bottom and baby/super large tile sizes. The last really contributes towards better organization of your Start screen as per your priorities.
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  • Now for the somewhat ugly after-effects. Windows 8.1 Preview has shipped with a really bad virtualization bug that affects XAML apps which use ListView/GridView etc; scrolling is really choppy and the whole screen stutters. You can see this in any Windows 8 XAML app that has not been upgraded yet, for example the Twitter app. I was told that the engineers have already fixed this and it should become available in the next iteration.
  • Here’s the other little awkward thing. Windows 8 apps used to support Snapped mode with 320px width; now suddenly the preferred width is 500px. So what happens in between? Yep, letter boxing. Until a Windows 8 app has been upgraded to 8.1, the gap between 320 & 500 px will simply be filled with black space. This almost looks as bad as iPhone apps running inside an iPad and I wish they would simply restrict Windows 8 snapped apps from stretching to 500 px. But it is what it is and hopefully major apps will all be upgraded to 8.1 before it hits GA.
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Overall, a great BUILD experience. Awesome times & good food with friends. Lots to learn & re-energize our brains for the next few months. Really looking forward to Windows 8.1 & starting to build Store apps right away. Cheers!

Joining Telerik …

It was the day before Christmas 2007. My then girlfriend & I packed up all belongings of my single life in a U-Haul and headed out for the long drive down from Minneapolis. Destination? – Columbus OH! After making the airlines plenty rich by flying between the cities, it was time for me to relocate to Ohio.

And so began a new chapter in the very happening Columbus. I joined Sogeti USA as a Consultant in January 2008 and embarked on a 5+ year journey. I must have been a complete tech newbie at the time; so I soaked it all in, delivering work on Microsoft technology stack to various clients around town. We got married & settled down, and my career grew inside Sogeti. The expectation of consultants to always be on top of the technology curve is a major enticement to stay cutting edge; learn like there is no tomorrow. And the experience one earns by architecting software solutions for clients across variety of industries and with varying levels of IT maturity – is priceless, in the life of a software craftsman.

My biggest gain in Columbus however, was the developer community involvement. Starting out with User Group participations, I soon found a group of like-minded developers to fall back on for networking & continuous learning. Along came the passion for speaking and the travelling to regional software developer conferences; the depth and breadth of knowledge to be gained from fellow developers from varied backgrounds is extraordinary. Even now, as we run User Groups or organize big conferences with relative ease, the committment of the developer community in Columbus amazes me. This is the reason why, even after moving out to PA last year for wife’s job, I am still involved with the developer community in OH and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future.

The two last years in Sogeti have been super interesting. We created a national group focused on MSFT Mobility, in particular app development for Windows Phone & Windows 8 platforms. I had the pleasure of leading the group, and in the process, got to work with some of the sharpest developers/designers I have known; together we churned out many internal/LOB/B2C apps with a whole lot more in the works this year. And while I am reminiscing, let me be open to mention my present client – Safelite Autoglass. This is possibly the best MSFT-tech based shop I have worked at, with a superb understanding manager and a genuinely awesome team of developers. I have learnt much and had a whole lot fun. Relaxed environment with cutting-edge work – isn’t that what we all seek?

But as they say, change is what is continuous. My alternate weeks of travel from PA is taking a toll and I lose precious time on the road every week. And as fun as it is to be in consulting, the desire for solutions work often means piling on more on our already-full work plates. I have often desired to work for a pure software products company to have a taste of what it is like on the other side, and some developments recently may have clicked to provide that opportunity. Sadly, that means it is the end of the road for me in Sogeti after 5+ years. There is no love lost and I step out with cautiousness. I wish my talented colleagues at Sogeti all the very best, specially in the mobility front. If our hectic transitioning is any indication, excellent leadership will ensure our continued success.

Now, that brings us to the next chapter in my life. I am very very excited to join the Telerik team next week. My long term adoration of Telerik as a company, its excellent control suites and unwavering support for the developer community provided the zeal when an opportunity opened up in the Hudson OH based Services division. Several interviews and a day spent with the energetic Telerik team made me firmly believe that this was a great fit. Thankfully, folks at the helm agreed – the simply excellent Steve Smith & Michelle Smith. My immediate partner in crime – the distinguished Chris Woodruff. Actually I owe a huge thank you to Woody for making the connections, starting way back in Codemash this year. Networking and putting in your dues in our software community truly pays dividends.

My immediate goals – focus on enterprise/developer training & evangelism for the Devtools division; but in time, I am sure we will end up touching just about everything in the Telerik stack. My passion for the XAML stack should come handy with Telerik’s generous offerings in the DevCraft space; but I am eager to dip my feet into other technology areas like cross-platform mobile, CMS, productivity & testing. My developer community involvement gets added boost; just might be more easy to spot in bright green Telerik shirts at conferences. In short, I am super excited to start working in a position that demands passion for latest technology and join the impressive Telerik team studded with rockstars. Using or considering Telerik products and have questions? – let’s bring it on.

Cheers everyone!

Tips for Passing Microsoft Certification Exam 70-484: Essentials of Developing Windows Store Apps

So, you develop Windows 8 Store Apps? Awesome – you are already a step ahead of other developers on Microsoft stack and dabbling into the latest in development paradigms. If you’re on the XAML/C# stack, you’re already dealing with latest language advancements in C# 5.0, framework features in .NET 4.5, asynchronous programming, security, application life-cycle & data management. May be you are even using or considering leveraging cloud infrastructure for your App’s backend. To top it all, you have mastery over the Modern UI design principles to make your App feel at home in Windows 8.

All the above skills needed to be a successful Windows 8 App developer necessitate a broad knowledge base, along with grasp of architectural patterns to keep your codebase clean. Now, if you are already doing all of that, kudos to you! Apart from having your Apps shine in the Windows 8 Store or impressive LOB Apps for Enterprises, there is another way to “let them know that you know” – yup, Certifications. Additionally certification tests validate your knowledge & give you confidence in your abilities on a development platform.

For Windows Store App developers, an MCSD certification takes two routes – HTML/CSS/Jscript or C#/XAML. For those of us inclined towards C#, the MCSD path includes the C# Fundamentals test in 70-483 and then two tests focused on developing Windows Store Apps. Exam 70-484 [Essentials of Developing Windows Store Apps Using C#] is the one of them and is the first obstacle towards establishing your certification klout for Windows 8 App development. I recently cleared this test & can share a few tips for my fellow developers. So, here goes my top 21 list:

Read the whole article on the SilverlightShow site HERE.

Thanks for reading & Best of luck!
Adios