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Office 365: From Hate to Love

My Life before SharePoint & O365

Since I was little, I have always loved technology. 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.

“You can’t be the jack of all trades”

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.

Whac-a-mole

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!

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