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TECHNOLOGY Reflecting on 10 years of the New England Sitecore User Group

On October 16, we celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the New England Sitecore User Group meetup. The group, or #NESUG as it’s come to be known, was created by Connective DX Co-Founder Jeff Cram and Verndale Technical Architect Rick Cabral, and held its inaugural meeting on October 14, 2009 at the Cambridge Innovation Center.

Obviously, this very special occasion deserved an equally special panel, made up of those who have been there for the entire ride. Weighing in with Jeff and Rick on their perspectives, highlights, and memories from the past 10 years were Dan Solovay, Sitecore Practice Lead at Velir, Jill Grozalsky, Director of Digital Strategy at Brainjocks, and Mark Stiles, Principal Developer at Velir.

Solving a problem

Jeff Cram and Rick Cabral

Before the panel began, Jeff and Rick, the founders, gave the origin story of the group. In 2009, Jeff had just moved to Boston from Portland to start the Boston office of Connective DX, then known as ISITE Design. Rick was the Senior Solutions Architect at ISITE. As Rick relays it, there was a problem within the Sitecore community: Boston was the center of the Sitecore universe—so many agencies wanted to get in on the new technology—but it was difficult to determine if people really “knew” Sitecore.

How were people using the platform? What were the best practices? Rick wanted to meet with other Sitecore practitioners in the area to discuss and share information, but he wanted to do it in a way that was “free of the corporate bonds” of the company. His idea was to create a “super secret” society of Sitecore users, complete with independent tests of candidates’ Sitecore prowess, along the lines of the Freemasons.

At which point, Jeff told Rick he was being a bit too intense, and that he needed to tone it down a notch.

However, Rick’s idea was valid—Boston needed a consistent forum for the exchange of Sitecore tips and ideas, and Jeff had just the answer: a meetup group. For the past five years in Portland, Jeff had hosted ColdFusion meetups that had filled rooms to capacity, and he believed that a similar approach would work for the burgeoning Sitecore community in Boston. It would serve as a place where Sitecore developers and users could talk honestly without anyone from Sitecore in the room, about what worked, what didn’t work, and what could be improved upon—all with pizza and beer provided.

Not only did these meetups allow for countless Sitecore users to learn valuable information from their peers to take back to their organizations, they also demonstrated one of the best hidden features about using Sitecore: it has a passionate community.

Weighing in

After learning about the origins of the Sitecore User Group, Jeff welcomed a panel of four participants, including Rick, Dan, Jill, and Mark, to talk about their experiences over the past ten years. What follows is a brief highlight of some of their answers to the questions asked:

When and how did you get started with Sitecore?

  • Mark: He was using Ektron at the time, and took on a project that needed the capabilities that Sitecore could offer.
  • Rick: He was working with an agency, pitching a client, and managed to land the account. He then began shopping for a CMS, and though initially sold on Ektron, was persuaded by a salesman to take a look at Sitecore. He discovered that it was flexible enough to meet the many language requirements of his client (even boasting that you would be able to write in Klingon!).
  • Jill: In 2013, she working for a PR agency in Washington, DC, and decided it was time to look for a new job. Verndale reached out for a strategy position, and during the interview, she had to Google what Sitecore was on the spot. However, she did a bit more research for the second round of interviews, and landed the job. She initially trained on Sitecore 6.5, teaching herself more and more about the platform, and has since become a 4x Sitecore Strategy MVP.

Who is a member of the community that has inspired or helped you out?

  • Dan: When he was trying to figure out clones, Rick ended up helping him. Dan then casually mentioned that they should do a talk on clones for the next SUG meetup. Rick thought Dan was volunteering to give it, and had him on the schedule 2 weeks later. This, however, led to Dan presenting more at meetups, and giving webinars, which eventually helped him to become a Sitecore MVP.
  • Mark: He was interviewing for a job at a company where Rick worked, and had been told that he would be meeting with him for his next interview—so he got himself on the schedule for the next meetup, in the hopes that Rick would see him talk. Rick did, and Mark got hired.

NE SUG panel

What’s your favorite Sitecore feature?

  • Jill: Analyzers.
  • Mark: Sitecore API, since in 10 years the code hasn’t changed at all.
  • Rick: xEditor, since he feels that it is actually a usable tool in Sitecore 9, and encourages information architecture to be much more in harmony with modern front-end practices.
  • Dan: The consistency of the pipeline structure.

Describe the Sitecore community in one word...

  • Mark: Family.
  • Jill: Inspirational.
  • Dan: Spunky.
  • Rick: Close-knit.

The New England Sitecore User Group Meetup, by the Numbers:

  • 1: our first meetup was the 1st Sitecore meetup ever (until proven otherwise)
  • 74: number of total meetups we have had
  • 71: most attendees we’ve had at a single meetup
  • 9: fewest number of attendees we’ve had at a single meetup
  • 6+: number of supporting partners (Connective DX, Velir, Verndale, Genuine, Rightpoint, and Slalom, to name a few)
  • 686: number of total meetup members
  • ~2312: total number of adult beverages consumed

Thank you to everyone who came out to help us celebrate 10 years! The New England Sitecore User Group would not have grown into what is has become without the consistent participation of its members.

Here’s to 10 more years of learning, sharing, and community! We look forward to seeing you all at Sitecore Symposium in Orlando on November 4!

New England Sitecore User Group

 

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