I struggle with being a SharePoint “developer”…

This is one of those posts that I have to write, as it’s how I deal with things I’m feeling. In this particular case, it’s how I feel about being labeled a SharePoint “developer”. It sort of bubbled up inside me as I was reading various reactions to yesterday’s announcements during the Future Of SharePoint event.

When I hear someone use the word “programmer” or “developer”, I think (as do probably most people) of someone slinging code and spending all day in a IDE like Visual Studio. These are the people who integrate one thing with another using all sorts of code frameworks and protocols. And to be certain, they are worth their weight in gold (provided you can actually talk with them as a normal human being).

But there’s another world of “development” that is where I live. It’s the skillset of taking existing parts of the system (I like using the term “out of the box”) and wiring them together to create solutions for a customer and organization. Yes, a power user could do this, but the vast majority of people who use SharePoint don’t want (or don’t have the skills or mindset) to do that. They want to have someone who understands the software and their issues wire all that up for them. They want a quick solution that’s easy to use, and they don’t give a rat’s a** what is happening behind the scenes. They just want results.

And that’s what I deliver… quick solutions that meet a business need and add value to the organization.

So what’s wrong with that? Well, I’ve technically been a programmer my entire 35+ years in IT. I’ve done time in the COBOL world. I’ve created RPG III programs. I coded rather cool LotusScript agents in Notes. But realistically, I’ve always been the type of developer you could put in front of the business, and that was focused on a solution that could be implemented quickly. But compared to the people I naturally compare myself to (the hardcore developers), I’m pretty much worthless. Or at least that’s what I beat myself up with…

In yesterday’s Future Of SharePoint webcast, I saw a LOT of things that will make a huge difference to how my customers will be able to work. I saw a LOT of things that will be fun to play with, and to hook up to create new solutions. Based on the reactions from others, they saw the same things I did. But there was a number of people who pretty much didn’t care for anything that was announced. In their opinion, it was either not enough or was focused in the wrong area. They didn’t show real code. They were “consumerizing” SharePoint and destroying the abilities of ISVs to add value.

It seemed like most of those people were what I’d consider “real developers.” And so I wonder… am I just not good enough to understand why I shouldn’t be excited? Am I wrong for not being up in arms about the direction of things? Am I following a path that is a dead-end?

Once I pull myself out of that mental spiral, here’s what I come up with…

I’m not an IT Pro, in that I’m not the person who knows all the networking/configuration/etc that comes as being an admin. I’m probably not a “programmer”, in that I don’t sling real code much. I *am* a developer, in that I develop solutions for my organization that make a major difference and add value. I also serve as a SharePoint Help Desk, a technical consultant to the business, a training and adoption driver, and I wear whatever hat is necessary to keep SharePoint (and soon to be Office 365) running and my customers happy.

None of this is an excuse to not learn new skills. That’s a whole different list of things that I beat myself up over on a regular basis. I am a charter member of Imposter Syndrome Anonymous, and I don’t think that will ever go away until I retire or die. I often wonder if I’d be able to find a new job if I had to leave this one for some reason.

But having said all that… I deliver value. I build things. I’m open to being labeled whatever reflects that, whether developer, programmer, engineer, or internal consultant. I’m pragmatic, in that I’m sure there are a number of “flaws” in SharePoint and Office 365 that should be addressed. But I’m excited about where things are at, I’m excited about the direction that Microsoft is going, and I’m excited that I get to play in that sandbox.

And with that, I’ll head back to my happy world of making others happy. It’s how I roll…

10 responses to “I struggle with being a SharePoint “developer”…

  1. It’s an interesting experience reading this from the IBM Notes ISV perspective. While I know nothing of the specifics but what you describe, it sounds like Microsoft has reached an inflection point much the way IBM did with Notes. While there may be different perspectives on this, mine is that IBM took the other fork, doing more to support developers and focusing less on “consumerizing”. I don’t mean to simplify, there are myriad other differences, but even as an ISV, Microsoft’s approach has a lot to recommend it. Through a number of stages, Notes development became harder and harder for front-of-the-office developers. (Think composite data apps followed by Eclipse and XPages.) It sounds like SharePoint is focused more on, if not the power users, at least the low end developers. (Not a height joke, I promise.)

    So, enjoy the features, enjoy the ability to bring more value to your customers, and don’t worry about the grumbling from the code dungeons. We grumble as a way of life.

  2. Laura Hansen

    I stumbled on your post while trying to figure out why I can change the column width on one view and it won’t “take” with the same change on the other view.
    I can’t tell you how much I related to this post. I’m an up through the ranks IT person who started in engineering. I’ve been given multiple responsibilities over the years but never really able to specialize to a depth were I could call myself a coder. I make stuff work. I solve problems. I interface with the business, consultants and the silver backed techies, but I don’t belong in any of those groups. It’s a pretty lonely place and while I feel appreciated and valuable I worry how would ever be able to market myself on paper if the need would arise. My boss even calls me his swiss army knife. Flattering but not necessarily a comfort.

  3. Just stumbled across this article while googling about SharePoint alerts. Wow it was spooky – like reading my own thoughts. Thanks so much for this article.

  4. Love this article!! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  5. edsonascimento

    I am a helpdesk guy and had to learn a little about SharePoint in other to help our users. It’s a good experience with some limitations and frustrations along to way…I like your post.

  6. I’ll join your club anytime!

  7. Its nice to know that there is someone around with similar thoughts
    Thanks TOM ,your post is very encouraging and comforting!!

  8. I am in a similar position, however since I came up in IT through the Service Desk and then the Apps Support team, I never learned to code (beyond some HTML/CSS). I would usually only apply for roles titles ‘SharePoint Administrator’, but I somehow got myself into a SharePoint Developer role. My title is ‘Software Developer’, and I was employed to do SharePoint admin/dev, but I can’t code. Yet I’ve found there’s been no need to code in the role I am in.

    It’s an interesting position to be in, configuring an app as a full time role. Usually the configuration is done once, then re-assessed months or years down the track.

    I also find the development mindset of detailed planning and change requests doesn’t really make sense in SharePoint, on-the-fly changes and experimentation works better in most cases.

  9. Kerstin Palö

    Really like this post!

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