Principles and the Power of Community

In this post, I cover the re-ignition of Bitstream Foundry’s fires and spend some time reflecting upon the principles that guide me in my day-to-day dealings with people.

HandOfCommunityLast week was an extremely tumultuous and event-filled week for me. And to be completely honest, it was tremendously stressful at a couple of points. But I’ll cut to the chase on one very important detail: it ultimately ended on a high note, so I can say that this story has a happy ending.

As many of you know, last October I joined the PAIT Group as their Chief Technology Officer. The decision to join PAIT wasn’t one that came about quickly. My friend of many years Mark Rackley (you might know him as “The SharePoint Hillbilly”) and I had been involved in a couple of different discussions over a period of time … but the actual decision to join PAIT came after a series of discussions at last year’s Microsoft Ignite conference.

The idea of joining PAIT and being able to both work with friends (Mark and Stephanie Donahue) and refocus on SharePoint was the breath of fresh air I needed at the time … and once again I found some excitement and genuine happiness in the work I was doing – and in the people with whom I was interacting on a daily basis.

Things went pretty well for a while, but sometimes even friends who start with the best of intentions find that different styles, approaches, experiences, and value systems don’t always mesh the way they would like. And businesses sometimes have influencers and drivers that remain “behind the scenes” but still wield a heavy hammer in day-to-day operations and long-term strategy.

What Happened?

defeat looser koLast Thursday (April 27th) was my last day with PAIT Group. The end came abruptly and surprisingly to me, but in hindsight I can say that I understand the trajectory and how things got to where they did – whether I agree with the ultimate outcome or not. Like so many business decisions, there are motivations and drivers that are obvious and visible to everyone … and sometimes there are factors (and actors) behind-the-scenes that have tremendous influence and power. In this case, there was some of the former and an awful lot of the latter.

Stephanie, Mark, and I remain friends … and the desire to remain friends was the most important and overriding aspect at the end of the day. I truly wish the two of them the best of luck in everything they do. They’re top-notch SharePoint professionals, and I have a great deal of respect for both of them. And they’re still my friends, and I’ll continue to do anything I can to help them personally in their endeavors. I don’t want our parting to impact the friendships we share.

What Now?

After learning of my separation from PAIT Group, the first feelings to hit me last Thursday were shock and uncertainty. I have a wife and two kids, and I’m the primary “breadwinner” for my family. Suddenly finding myself without gainful employment created a tremendous amount of stress in the immediate sense. Anytime I’d parted with an employer in the past, I had been a part of the decision – or at least a part of the discussion that led to the outcome. This time proved to be a first for me, and I’m not going to lie: I was initially scared.

Once the shock and fear subsided, I set about figuring out what to do next. Since my timetable was short, I decided to go with the “fallback” plan I’d always had the foresight to maintain: to brush the dust off of Bitstream Foundry LLC and rev things back up.

Bitstream Foundry LLC Logo

I’ve always kept my LLC in-order, kept my insurance (Business Liability and Errors & Omissions policies) paid and up-to-date, and tried to keep material related to my company current. Truth be told, I still have some work to do on that last one (I’ve spent a chunk of time this weekend updating social profiles and getting other public-facing items in order), and I still need to both migrate my company’s site and update its content.

More important than any other “get ready” aspect, though, was something else that settled over me in a somewhat unexpected way.

The SharePoint Community

When I made my initial round of social and professional networking profile changes late last week to reflect the move back to Bitstream Foundry, I was immediately deluged on all channels of communication from my friends and business contacts across the SharePoint space. The outpouring was immediate, overwhelming and … extremely humbling. I was dumbstruck.

Within the space of less than 36 hours, I had no fewer than a dozen different collaboration opportunities – including a number of requests for SOWs (statements of work), some partnership and referral offers, and more. I was stunned. Simply stunned.

And that brings me to the topic of community. The SharePoint Community is like no other community I’ve ever been involved with. It’s vibrant, full of wonderful people, and chock full of life and energy. Every time I speak at a conference or present for a SPUG, I leave the event “charged” and wanting to do more.

I’ve been involved in the SharePoint Community since 2004, and I’ve actively been giving back to the community since 2009. Giving back is important to me, because I’ve benefited tremendously from knowledge that many of you have openly shared. Sharing what I know has been the right thing to do, as well, and I’ve worked to make all of my conference materials, presentations, workshops, development projects, and other efforts freely available to all.

I feel fortunate to be a part of this community, and I am so tremendously grateful for the relationships and friendships that I’ve built with many of you over the years. Simply put: you folks are awesome.

Reflecting On My Principles

Anytime life throws me a curveball, I try to take a step back and reflect on what I’ve learned, where I’ve made mistakes, and where things have gone well. Given that I’m in the middle of another tectonic shift in my professional career, it seemed like a good time to conduct another review.

In thinking about the last six months (recent history) and the last eight years (a bit longer), I would say that I’ve tried very hard to operate according to the following principles:

  1. For me, one-to-one personal relationships are more important than anything else within any community or arrangement – far ahead of skills, and definitely ahead of day-to-day business practices and arrangements. Over the years I’ve always found great pleasure and meaning in the relationships I’ve built across the country and across the globe. I recently took the Gallup StrengthsFinder questionnaire, and my relationship focus was confirmed and reinforced by my number one strength according to the assessment: “Relator.” Read the description in the previous link for more insight.
  2. A lot of people use SharePoint, but the global SharePoint community is relatively tight-knit and personal. And Karma is an active participant within the SharePoint community. The way that you treat people sends ripples through the social ecosystem. If you are good to people, others will hear of your deeds and come to regard you in a positive light. If you put things like money and self-interest before relationships, then others will hear of it and treat you accordingly. What you do will come back to you.
  3. To the extent that I’ve been able to, I’ve always attempted to provide assistance and time to those who have asked for them – and in situations where I could see that they were needed. Service to others has been a cornerstone of my life, and that goes all the way back to my college days. My wife and I met through Alpha Phi Omega, our co-ed service fraternity, and we’ve both tried to maintain a “pay it forward” outlook that is consistent with A Phi O’s principles in our adult lives. Paying it forward is a great way to live a meaningful existence, and I know that many of you share the same outlook – especially the incredibly wonderful Jeff Shuey. Jeff got me hooked on “Pay It Forward Fridays” (#PIFF), and I try to follow his example whenever I can.
  4. Companies come and go, and businesses grow and die every day. I choose not to focus on companies and businesses, but rather on individuals and one-on-one relationships. This probably comes as no surprise in light of #1 (above), but it bears saying explicitly. I have yet to go wrong by focusing on my relationships with individuals within a company rather than a company itself, and I plan to continue doing so in the future.
  5. Probably the most important thing I’ve learned in the last 15 years or so is that communication is critical in everything we do. If you cannot communicate openly and effectively, then life is bound to be pretty muddled and confusing. I credit my wife, Dr. Tracy McDonough, for helping me to grow in this area. She’s a licensed clinical psychologist and a wonderful person to boot. And believe me: you won’t survive in a marriage with a psychologist if you don’t learn how to communicate effectively.

Charging Forward

Tomorrow starts Bitstream Foundry’s first week of being “back in business,” and I’m ready to jump into it. I still have a lot of things to get done to get back into “fighting shape,” but I’m looking forward to the challenge.

In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you think that I may be of assistance to you in some endeavor or undertaking you have planned!

References and Resources

  1. People: Mark Rackley
  2. People: Stephanie Donahue
  3. Company: Bitstream Foundry LLC
  4. Resources: SharePoint Interface Presentations and Materials
  5. Site: Gallup StrengthsFinder
  6. Strength: Relator
  7. Organization: Alpha Phi Omega
  8. People: Jeff Shuey
  9. People: Dr. Tracy McDonough

A Heartfelt Thank You

On April 1st, Microsoft presented me with an MVP (most valuable professional) award in the Office Development and the Office Server and Services categories. This post is a thank you to all of you who helped make the last seven years of community engagement such a fantastic and rewarding experience for me.

A heartfelt thank you!Historically speaking, April 1st has always been “April Fools Day” in my house. My children, Brendan and Sabrina, are nine years’ old right now (yes, they’re twins). To a couple of nine year olds, April 1st is the perfect opportunity to play jokes on someone. That “someone,” in the overwhelming majority of cases, is me. This year, I was hit a total of six times before I ever left the house to head into the office. Six. That’s a new record … and unfortunately for me, I doubt it’ll be limited to just six next year …

So, my day started with a wary mindset – fearful of what may lay around the next corner. When this arrived in my inbox, that all changed.

Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Email

I’d been nominated for the Microsoft MVP (most valuable professional) award a handful of times over the years, and I had been nominated again as recently as a couple of months back … but the earlier nominations hadn’t actually turned into an award.

I had to actually read the first paragraph of the email I’d received a few times before it truly registered that yes, I was being presented with an MVP award.

As a rule of thumb, I’m not an overly emotional guy. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that over the course of the day, I went through a wide range of emotions. Disbelief. Joy. Numbness (okay, that’s not an emotion – but it was a mental state for me). Tremendous gratitude. Humility. I got “teary” at least a few times. Even today, it still doesn’t feel “real” – even though I know it is.

Receiving an MVP award from Microsoft for Office Development and Office Servers and Services (two different categories – I’m kind of a switch-hitter) sent me thinking back to the beginning.

Humble Beginnings

John and Sean "Save SharePoint"My “community journey” started seven years ago in 2009 with a presentation at Mark Rackley’s first SharePoint Saturday Ozarks in Harrison, Arkansas. John Ferringer (my good friend and disaster recovery partner-in-crime) and I presented “Saving SharePoint” to a small room full of people. It was a presentation based on elements from our SharePoint 2007 Disaster Recovery Guide book, and I was scared to death. I had no experience with public speaking, but John and I had worked out a system to ensure that we’d present effectively together. And it all worked out okay. And best of all, it was fun. I felt like I was onto something, and I wanted to continue running with it.

Laura Rogers and MeI met some of the SharePoint “legends” at that SPS event (hey, they were – and still are – legends to me): Eric Shupps, Mike Watson, Laura Rogers, Lori Gowin, Corey Roth, Cathy Dew, and plenty of others. Some of them had already established a place for themselves in the community; others were like me and just beginning their journey. The whole SharePoint Saturday thing was still ramping-up, and we were all excited to be a part of it.

SharePoint Saturday Ozarks 2009 Speakers

The Journey

If you look at the Presentations and Materials section of my blog, you can see most of the stops I made between Harrison, Arkansas (in 2009) and today. There are quite a few. And I have a ton of fantastic memories from the various events and get-togethers that have taken place over the last seven years.

The reality, for me, is that the extended SharePoint Community (each of you reading this) is my “social network.” I consider many of you to be my good friends, and many more of you are familiar faces at events, conferences, and get-togethers. I love to spend time with you, hang out, and talk shop wherever I may go and wherever we may all meet up. My SharePoint community “work” has definitely been a labor of love, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

So, from the bottom of my heart: thank you for all the great memories, engagement, and interactions over the years. I wouldn’t have this MVP award were it not for you folks. And, of course, my thanks to Microsoft and the numerous people who helped turn this into a reality for me. It feels great, and I look forward to many more years of great community fun and engagement!

My MVP Award for 2016
 

References and Resources

  1. Blog: Mark Rackley
  2. Blog: My Central Admin (John Ferringer)
  3. Book: SharePoint 2007 Disaster Recovery Guide
  4. Blog: The SharePoint Cowboy (Eric Shupps)
  5. LinkedIn: Mike Watson
  6. Blog: @WonderLaura (Laura Rogers)
  7. Blog: See the Point (Lori Gowin)
  8. Blog: Dot Net Mafia (Corey Roth)
  9. Blog: SharePointlessness (Cathy Dew)
  10. Blog Section: Presentations and Materials

SPTechCon Austin 2016 – The Videos!

In my last post, I promised those who attended my Content Search Web Part session (at SPTechCon Austin 2016) that I’d deliver videos of the demos I normally perform during that session. This post contains links to those demo videos as well as some additional commentary.

video playerAs I discussed in my last post titled “SPTechCon Austin 2016 And Death By Demo,” the demonstrations I intended to deliver at SPTechCon in Austin a week and a half ago didn’t go very well. In fact, they didn’t really go at all due to some extremely odd technical circumstances. To make up for the lack of demo content, I promised attendees that I would put together video walk-throughs for each of the demos I had intended to deliver at SPTechCon.

It took a little longer than initially anticipated, but the half-dozen links below represent the demo material I would normally walk through during a delivery of my “SharePoint’s New Swiss Army Knife: The Content Search Web Part” session. If there’s a silver lining to the fact that I’m doing the demos after the actual presentation, it’s that I was able to take more time than I normally have (within the context of a 75 minute session) to show some extra content and go off the beaten path a bit more.

So, for those of you who have been waiting … here are the goods!

These videos were recorded with Camtasia and rendered directly out to YouTube. I made every attempt to keep the quality high, but if something gets “lost in translation” or you have other issues, please let me know.

I enjoyed putting these videos together, and in the past I’ve tossed around the idea of doing more videos like this. If these CSWP videos were helpful to you and/or you’d like to see more, please let me know. If enough of you find value in these, I’d be willing to put together additional videos for some of the other presentations and workshops I deliver.

Enjoy, and as with everything else, I welcome your feedback!

References and Resources

  1. Blog Post: SPTechCon Austin 2016 And Death By Demo
  2. Resources: SharePoint’s New Swiss Army Knife: The Content Search Web Part (SPTechCon Austin 2016)
  3. Software: TechSmith’s Camtasia Studio
  4. Site: YouTube

SPTechCon Austin 2016 And Death By Demo

I just got back from SPTechCon Austin 2016, and I had some “trouble” (putting it mildly) with demos I gave during one of my sessions. This post is a note – and a promise – to those who attended my Content Search Web Part (CSWP) session during the conference.

This was me after my CSWP session yesterdayI used to write posts to sum-up the various conferences at which I’ve spoken. That was feasible when I was only speaking at a conference or event here or there, but writing about every event is somewhat time-consuming nowadays. And besides, most of the posts would look about the same: “great event,” “lots of fun,” “awesome attendees,” etc.

Well, I got back from SPTechCon Austin 2016 yesterday … and I felt compelled to write something today. Yes, it was a great conference, lots of fun, and filled with awesome attendees. But there was something more to this conference that motivated me – no, compelled me – to write this post.

Compelled By What?

That “thing” that compelled me was this: death by demo.

I delivered two sessions during the event: a new one on performance troubleshooting with SharePoint Online, and one of my “standards” that is an introduction to the Content Search Web Part (CSWP). I delivered the troubleshooting session on Tuesday, and although it went long (I still need to tune it up), it went pretty well – no real issues. I can’t claim the same about the CSWP session yesterday (Wednesday) morning.

Simply put, the demos for my CSWP session were a disaster. I’d gotten everything ready to go on the Tuesday night before the session; despite that, things went off-the-rails almost immediately. I was RDP’ing back to my home desktop system where I had VMware Workstation running, and all of that (i.e., the RDP and VWware Workstation parts) seemed fine. The fashion in which things blew up was not something I’d ever seen before.

Kerplunk? Kerplooey!

What went wrong? Well, it’s hard to describe. The best way to describe it is that left-clicking didn’t work properly in the development VM I was using. Sometimes my clicks would visibly register (e.g., on a window close button) – but nothing would happen. Other times, my left-clicks seemed to register somewhere else on the screen (other than where the mouse pointer was located). And at other times still, a left-click would highlight some weird section in the web browser window.

Because of this aberrant mouse behavior, I couldn’t show the demo material. I certainly tried enough times, and I even hobbled through one demo with the audience members helping me by shouting out keyboard shortcuts when I asked … but it was a total wreck.

Attendees for my CSWP session at SPTechConIf you were in attendance for this session (and there were quite a few folks, as shown in the picture on the right – taken a handful of minutes before I started), I truly apologize. An apology alone, though, isn’t enough (in my opinion).

My Attempt to Make Up

As the demos were slamming into walls and catching on fire, I commented a couple of times that I’d find some way to share the demo materials with the audience at a later time. I was initially thinking I’d try to do a webcast – kind of a do-over – but I thought about it some more on the plane ride home last night and decided on something else.

Here’s what I’m going to do: rather than do the whole session over again, I’m going to work through each of the demos I intended to show and record those as a Camtasia/video that can be viewed whenever someone has the time to do so. Doing this sort of video cuts straight to the chase and is ultimately more flexible than trying to round everyone up for a webcast. It can also be re-watched as desired.

“When is this video going to be ready,” you might ask? I need to do some catching-up after having been out of town for a while, but I’m hoping to find the time this coming weekend to put it together. If I can do that, then the video will be available sometime early next week.

How Will We Know?

Once everything is ready to go, I’ll put together another blog post to announce the availability and provide a link. I’ve also been in contact with David Rubinstein at BZ Media about this, and he said that he’d blast the information out to attendees and newsletter subscribers, as well.

Summary

So, once again: my sincere apologies to those who attended my CSWP session at SPTechCon. It’ll be a few days after the actual session, but hopefully the video will make up for the demos that went nowhere during the session.

A New Look and Feel

Yeah, it was time.

I host this site on WordPress.com, and I’ve been doing so for quite a few years now. The theme I’d had previously was fine four or five years ago, but the web has since moved on.

I recently started up a new gadget blog (The Gadget Café – go check it out if you’re a gadget wonk like I am) using the Ghost platform, and I was really impressed by everything that it offered. I had backed Ghost when they were Kickstarting it (thanks to Marc Anderson for making me aware of it a while back), and the process of starting up that new blog got me thinking about my SharePoint blog and the look-and-feel that it had.

I knew that I hadn’t done any “housecleaning” in years. The site wasn’t responsive. It didn’t look good on mobile devices. It was just kind of  … well … there.

So, I’ve attempted to remedy that.

The good folks at WordPress.com have kept with the times better than I have, and they’ve been adding and updating themes. So, I started tinkering this evening. And what you see is where I’m at.

I’ve got rotating banners at the top (which I actually lifted from my Bitstream Foundry site), I’ve got some go-to areas organized on the right (like the always-important Resources area for my presentations and my upcoming Events), and in general things are just sort of moved around and reorganized.

I hope you like the redesign, and as always, I welcome your feedback.

Oh, and I’ve got some SharePoint goodness coming soon. So stay tuned!

Additional Reading and References

  1. Blog Platform: WordPress.com
  2. New Blog: The Gadget Café
  3. Blogging Platform: Ghost
  4. Blog: Marc D Anderson’s Blog
  5. Company: Bitstream Foundry
  6. Section: Resources
  7. Section: Events

Wrap-Up, Roll-Up, and Move-On!

My time with Idera has come to an end, so I wanted to aggregate some of the resources I assembled with them. I also wanted to share some information about my new company, Bitstream Foundry LLC.

Train Series Sometimes it’s hard to believe just how quickly time flies by. At the tail end of last December, I announced that some big changes were coming for me – namely that I would be transitioning into something new from an employment perspective. Today is the last day of normal business in March 2013, and that means my time with Idera is at an end.

My last three years with Idera have been quite a whirlwind of activity. I feel very fortunate and am extremely thankful to Idera for the opportunities they’ve afforded me – especially over the last year in my role as their Chief SharePoint Evangelist. In that role, I was given the latitude to spend a significant chunk of my time focusing on an area that is very important to me personally: the SharePoint Community.

The Roll-Up

In thinking about my role and some of what I’ve done over the last three years, it occurred to me that it might be nice to summarize and link to some of the materials I assembled while at Idera. I’ve occasionally referenced these items in the past, but I don’t think I’ve ever tried to aggregate them into one post or in one place.

Blog Posts

In the last half a year or so, my regular content generation efforts were being funneled to Idera’s SharePoint “Geek Stuff” blog. Here’s a table (with associated links) to the posts I’ve written:

March 19, 2013 Maskthumb Plan Your SharePoint Farm Right with a SQL Server Alias
February 8, 2013 Strategythumb Do You Have a SharePoint Backup Strategy?
January 17, 2013 Cheating on a Test The Five Minute Cheat-Sheet on SharePoint 2013’s Distributed Cache Service
December 20, 2012 smart girlfriends smiling and looking at the laptop Why Administrators Will Giggle Like Schoolgirls About SharePoint 2013’s New App Model
November 20, 2012 IderaIceThumb1 Sean’s Thoughts on the Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2012
October 19, 2012 Broken electric cable. Getting the Permissions Wired-Up Properly When Attaching a Content Database to a SharePoint Farm
September 21, 2012   Okay, Really – What Can I Do With a SharePoint Farm Configuration Database Backup?
August 24, 2012 roots Do I Really Need to Backup Up the SharePoint Root?
June 20, 2012 Talking with John Ferringer Interview with John Ferringer
June 8, 2012 TechEd '99 Baseball Cap TechEd – Why Should You Care?

SharePoint Smarts

There was a point in the past when Idera was publishing a sort of newsletter called “SharePoint Smarts,” and I wrote a couple of articles for the newsletter before it eventually rode off into the sunset:

Whitepapers

Over the years, I’ve also written or co-authored a handful of whitepapers for Idera. At the time I’m writing this post, it appears that a couple of those whitepapers are still available:

And although it isn’t available just yet, sometime soon Idera will be releasing another whitepaper I wrote that had the working title of “SharePoint Caching Implementation Guide.” If that sounds at all interesting, keep an eye on the Whitepapers section of Idera’s Resources page.

Moving-On

Bitstream Foundry LLC Although I’m going to miss my friends at Idera and wish them the best of luck going forward, I’m very excited about some things I’ve got cooking – particularly with my new company!

A couple of months back, I launched Bitstream Foundry, LLC, with the intention of getting back into more hands-on SharePoint work. My intention is to focus initially on a combination of custom SharePoint development work and SharePoint App Store product development. In the past, I’ve been a “switch hitter” when it comes to SharePoint, and I’ve gone back and forth between development and administration roles fairly regularly. Although I’m not abandoning my admin “comrades in arms,” I have to admit that I tend to get the greatest enjoyment out of development work. Between custom solutions and App Model development, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to keep myself busy.

Microsoft BizSpark Things are falling into place with the new company, as well. I applied for membership in Microsoft’s BizSpark program yesterday, and within hours I was accepted – much to my surprise. Why was I surprised? Well, my company website is (at the moment) being redirected to a “coming soon” page I put together on the new Microsoft Azure Web Sites offering. I’ve been waiting for an Office 365 tenant upgrade so that I can build out a proper site on SharePoint 2013, but the upgrade seems to be taking much longer than originally expected …

I also learned today that my application to get Bitstream Foundry listed in the SharePoint App Store was approved, so the way is paved for me to roll out Apps. Now I just need to write them!

One Thing That Won’t Change

Despite all of the recent changes, one aspect of my professional life that won’t be changing is my commitment to sharing with (and giving back to) the SharePoint community. My confidence in my current situation would probably be substantially lower if it weren’t for all of you – my (SharePoint) friends. Over the last several months, my belief in “professional karma” has been strongly reinforced. I’ve always tried to help those who’ve asked for my time and assistance, and I’ve seen that goodwill return to me as I’ve sought input and worked to figure out “what’s next.” To those of you who have offered advice, provided feedback, written endorsements/recommendations, and more, you have my most heartfelt thanks.

I love interacting with all of you, and I still get tremendous enjoyment out of blogging, speaking, teaching, and sharing with everyone in the SharePoint space. My “official” days as a full-time evangelist may be behind me, but that won’t really change anything for me going forward as far as community involvement goes. I’ll continue to answer emails, blog when I have information worth sharing, assemble tools/widgets, help organize events, and generally do what I can to help all of you as you’ve helped me. I’m also honored to be a part of several upcoming events, and I hope to see some of you when I’m “on tour.” If we haven’t met, please say hi and introduce yourself. Making new friends and connections is one of the most rewarding aspects of being out-and-about :-)

References and Resources

  1. Blog Post: Big Changes and Resolutions for 2013
  2. Company: Idera
  3. Yahoo! Finance: Press Release
  4. Idera: SharePoint Geek Stuff Blog
  5. Idera: Resources Page
  6. Microsoft: BizSpark
  7. Company Site: Bitstream Foundry, LLC
  8. Microsoft: Azure Web Sites
  9. Microsoft: Office 365 Enterprise E3
  10. Microsoft: SharePoint App Store
  11. SharePoint Interface: Events and Activities

Big Changes and Resolutions for 2013

2013 promises to be a year of big changes. In this post, I cover career changes and some official resolutions I’m making for the new year.

Happy 2013 Fortune Cookie

2012 is coming to a close, and 2013 is just around the corner. I’ve been thinking about the year that has gone by, but I’ve been thinking even more about the year to come. 2013 promises to be a year of great personal change – for reasons that will become clear with a little more reading.

But first: I’ve got this friend, and many of you probably know him. His name is Brian Jackett, and nowadays he works for Microsoft as a member of their premier field engineering (PFE) team. For the last couple of years, I’ve watched (with envy, I might add) as Brian has blogged about his year-gone-by and assembled a list of goals for the coming year. He even challenged me (directly) to do the same at one point in the past, but sadly I didn’t rise to the challenge.

I’ve decided that year-end 2012 is going to be different. 2012 was a very busy year for me, and a lot of great things happened throughout the year. Despite these great things, I’m going into 2013 knowing that a lot is going to change (and frankly has to change).

Biggest Things First

The End ... Or Is It?Let me start with the most impactful change-up: my full-time role as Chief SharePoint Evangelist for Idera is coming to a close by the end of March 2013. I’ve been with Idera for over two and a half years now, and I’m sad to be moving on from such a great group of folks.

I’m leaving because Idera is undergoing some changes, and the company is in the process of adjusting its strategy on a few different levels. One of the resultant changes brought about by the shift in strategy involves the company getting back to more of an Internet/direct sales-based approach. Since a large part of my role involves community based activities and activities that don’t necessarily align with the strategy change, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for me to remain – at least in the full-time capacity that I currently operate in.

To be honest, I didn’t expect my role or position to be around forever. As many of you heard me declare publicly, though: I wanted to make the most of it while I had the role and the backing. I got a lot out of working with my friends at Idera, and I greatly appreciate the opportunities they afforded me. I hope it’s been as much fun for them as it has been for me.

What’s Next?

Even after my full-time role comes to a close, I’ve already had a couple of conversations around continuing to do some work with/for Idera. Despite my full-time focus on Idera over the last 2+ years, I have actually been operating as a contractor/consultant – not a full-time employee. This has left me free to take on other SharePoint work when it made sense (and when my schedule permitted). Going forward, my situation will probably just do a flip-flop: Idera will become the “side work” (if it makes sense), and something else will take center stage.

I don’t yet know what will be “showing on the main screen,” though. That’s been on my mind quite a bit recently, and I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to figure out what I really want to do next. Take a full-time role with a local organization? Do contract development work and continue to work from home? Wiggle my way into becoming the first Starbucks SharePoint barista? Something else entirely? If my preliminary assessment of what’s out there is accurate, there are quite a few different options. I’ll certainly be busy evaluating them and comparing them against my ever-evolving “what I want to do” checklist.

Can You Help Me Out?

Linked In Connection to Sean McDonough Many of you know that I do a lot of speaking, blogging, answering of questions/emails, etc. Giving back to the community and sharing what I’ve learned are a part of my DNA, and I’ll continue to do those things to the extent that I can going forward. I normally don’t ask for anything in return; I just like to know that I’m helping others.

As I try to figure out what’s next, I’d like to ask a favor: if you feel that I’ve helped you in some significant or meaningful way (through one of my sessions, in an email I’ve answered, etc.) over the last few years, would you be willing to endorse my skills or recommend me on LinkedIn? I see a wealth of opportunities “out there,” and sometimes an endorsement or recommendation can make the difference when it comes to employment or landing a client.

Resolutions

Employment and the ability to support my family aside, this is the first year (in quite a few) that I’ve made some resolutions for the new year. Although it’s an artificial break-point, I’ve separated my resolutions into “work-related” and “non-work” categories. And although I can think of lots of things I want to change, I’ve picked only three in each category to focus on.

Work-Related

Resolutions for a New Year1. Manage Distractions More Effectively. Working at home can be a dual-edged sword. If I were single, unmarried, and better-disciplined, I’d see working at home as the ability to do whatever I wanted without distraction. That’s not the reality in my world, though. Where I can remove distractions, I intend to.

Some of you chimed-in (positively) when I recently made a comment on Facebook about unsubscribing to a lot of junk email. Over time, I’ve come to realize that all of the extra email I’ve been getting is just a distraction. I can do something about that.

The same goes for email in general. I have multiple email accounts, and mail streams into those accounts throughout the day. Rather than constantly trying to stay on top of my inbox, I’m going to shift to a “let it sit” mentality. If I’m honest with myself, 95% of the email I receive can go unanswered for a while. I’ll attend to those items that require my attention, but some of the quasi real-time email discussions I’m known to have don’t really matter in the greater scheme of getting real work done.

Social networking tools are another great example. I think they can be a very positive and helpful force (especially for someone who’s at home all day, like me), but they can very easily become a full-time distraction. I cut down my Twitter use dramatically a couple of years back. I won’t even set foot “on” Yammer because of the huge, sucking, time-consuming noise it appears to make. Going forward, I’m going to attempt to use other tools (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) during specific windows rather than having them open all-day, everyday – even if I’m not “actively” on them.

For distractions that can’t be removed (e.g., children running around), my only option is to better manage the distractions. My home office has doors; I’ve already begun using them more. I’ll be wearing headphones more often. These are the sorts of things I can do to ensure that I remain better focused.

2. Thoughtfully Choose Work. I had to come clean with myself on this one, and that’s why I chose to word the resolution the way I did. Work is important to me, and it’s in my nature to always be working on something – even if that work is “for fun.” While I’d like to be the type of person who could cut back and work less, I don’t know that I’d be able to do so without incurring substantial anxiety.

Knowing this about myself, I’ve settled on trying to be more thoughtful about doing work. Make it a choice, not the default. Being a workaholic who labors from home, work became my default mode rather quickly and naturally. I remember a time when weekends were filled with fun activities – and leaving work meant “leaving” in both the physical and mental sense. Even if I can’t maintain boundaries that are quite that clear nowadays, I can be more conscientious about my choices and actually making work a conscious choice. That may sound like nothing more than semantics or babble, but I suspect other work-at-home types will get what I’m saying.

For me, this mentality needs to extend to “extracurricular” work-like activities, as well. I just went back through my 2012 calendar, and I counted 19 weekends where I was traveling or engaged in (SharePoint) community activities. That’s over a third of the weekends for the year. Many of those events are things I just sort of “fell” into without thinking too much about it. Perhaps I’d choose to do them all anyway, but again – it needs to be a choice, not the default course of action.

3. Spend Time on Impactful Efforts. Of all my work-related resolutions, this is the one that’s been on my mind the most. As I already mentioned (and many of you know), I spend a lot of time answering questions in email, speaking at and organizing SharePoint events, writing, blogging, etc. Although I originally viewed all of these activities as equally “good things,” in the past year or so I’ve begun to see that some of those activities are more impactful (and thus “more good”) to a wider audience than others.

In 2013, I intend to focus more of my time on efforts that are going to help “the many” rather than “the few.” No, that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop answering email and cease meaningful one-on-one interactions, but I do intend to choose where I spend my time more carefully.

In broader terms, I also intend to focus my capabilities on topics and areas that are generally more meaningful in nature. For example, my wife and her co-worker started a project a while back that has been gaining a lot of traction at a regional level – and the scope of the project is growing. Their effort, The Schizophrenia Oral History Project, profoundly impacts the lives of people living with schizophrenia and those caring for them, providing services to them, and others. I’ve been providing “technical support” (via an introduction to Prezi, registering domain names, etc.) for the project for a while, and I’m currently building a web site for the project using SharePoint and the Office 365 Preview. This sort of work is much more meaningful and fulfilling than some of the other things I’ve spent my time on, and so I want to do more of it.

Non-Work

1. Lose Another Ten Pounds. My weight has gone up and down a few times in the past. At the beginning of 2012, I was pretty heavy … and I felt it. I was out of shape, lethargic, and pretty miserable. Over the course of 2012, I lost close to 30 pounds through a combination of diet (I have Mark Rackley to thank for the plan) and exercise. Now at the end of the year, I’ve been bouncing around at roughly the same weight for a month or two – something I attribute primarily to the holidays and all the good food that’s been around. In 2013, I plan to lose another ten pounds to get down to (what I feel) is an optimal weight.

2. Take Up a Martial Art Once Again. This will undoubtedly help with #1 directly above. I practiced a couple of different martial arts in the past. Before and during college, I practiced Tae Kwon Do. A few years back, I had to reluctantly cease learning Hapkido after only a couple of years in. Martial arts are something I’ve always enjoyed (well, except when I was doing something like separating a shoulder), and I’ve found that life generally feels more balanced when I’m practicing. With the recent enrollment of my five year-old son into a martial arts program, I’m once again feeling the pull. I’ve wanted to learn more about Krav Maga for a while; since there’s a school nearby, I intend to check it out.

3. Prioritize My Home Life. This may be last on my list, but it’s certainly not least. With everything I’ve described so far, it’s probably no surprise to read that I do a pretty poor job of prioritizing home life and family activities. That’s going to change in 2013. Provided I make some headway with my other resolutions, it will become easier to focus on my wife, my kids, and my own interests without feelings of guilt.

Wrap-Up

I’ve written these resolutions down on a Post-It, and that Post-It has been placed on one of my monitors. That’ll ensure that it stays “in my face.”

Do you have any resolutions you’re making? Big changes?

References and Resources

  1. Blog: Brian Jackett
  2. Microsoft: Premier Field Engineering (PFE) Team
  3. Blog Post: Brian Jackett – Goals for 2010
  4. Company: Idera
  5. Company: Starbucks
  6. LinkedIn: Sean McDonough
  7. Facebook: Sean McDonough
  8. LinkedIn: Dr. Tracy McDonough
  9. LinkedIn: Dr. Lynda Crane
  10. Prezi: The Schizophrenia Oral History Project
  11. Prezi: Home Page
  12. Microsoft: Office 365 Preview
  13. Blog: Mark Rackley (The SharePoint Hillbilly)
  14. Wikipedia: Taekwondo
  15. Wikipedia: Hapkido
  16. Wikipedia: Krav Maga