Whether it is learning a programming language increasing in popularity or considering a job opportunity they’re missing a few soft skills for, there is never a bad time for developers and programmers to differentiate themselves from their peers.
Nobody knows how to do that better than Blend Interactive Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer Deane Barker who earned a top spot as the first North American Episerver Most Valuable Professional (EMVP) in 2008, wrote the book on content management and turned early evangelism of Episerver in North America into a thriving 10-year (and counting) partnership.
As part of our EMVP Spotlight Series, Joey Moore (head of evangelism for the EMEA region here at Episerver) and I (part of the brand comms team here at Episerver) caught up with Barker to learn more about his path to EMVP status and learn from him as to how developers can become more marketable in a crowded yet rewarding market.
(Deane Barker and Joey Moore stop for a picture at Epi Partner Close-Up 2019 in Stockholm.)
Like many of us, Barker’s professional role has evolved over the years – moving from full-time programming, to splitting his time between programming and the commercial side of the business, to eventually limiting programming to delivering proofs of concepts in the pre-sales environment. Knowing how to compete in business sales can be a challenging move for young developers, but Barker believes it’s a necessary one.
“Here’s what we don’t need: people who are purely technical or people who are purely sales,” said Barker. “We don’t need more of the same. What I've maintained for years is the best sales person is going to be the best teacher.
“When you look at someone looking at a large complicated platform, nobody wants to make mistakes. Overcoming fear is through education, having a technical understanding of the product and knowing why people buy.”
Professionals with development backgrounds who want to move into business sales have an incredible opportunity to do so. While a technical person can limit or expand on the technical aspects of a project or platform depending on whom they are speaking with, a non-technical person does not have that same flexibility.
“You move in relation to what the customer wants until they are satisfied,” said Barker. "Sales typically either provides no technical information or they provide way too much, you have to learn to do that dance in the middle and that takes experience and education.”
With the role of IT and marketing changing in the software buying process, the ability to adapt to an audience is even more critical. From a personal development standpoint, Barker believes developers need to get involved in the sales process. One way he suggests developers do this – whether at a vendor or a system integrator firm – is to have developers rotate through the sales engineer role (a person who specifically works in the sales processes). Since buyers want to see how the program works, showcasing it in a 10-minute demo is a different scenario that most developers are used to.
Another way developers can improve their skillset is by joining like-minded individuals in communities like Episerver World where leaders like Barker are on hand to post content and answer questions. There is a level of fraternity between the EMVPs who share knowledge and write blog posts, while welcoming new members to the elite club.
Communities are, of course, nothing without involvement but new members are sometimes hesitant to participate, in favor of just observing as they might be intimidated by those with double or triple the experience they have.
"In any case, downstream there are 10 times as many people who are desperate for the knowledge you have,” said Barker. “One word of advice is don’t compare yourself to people more experienced than you. When Blend won North American Partner of the Year in 2010, I was blown away that I had to accept this award in front of my peers. All I could find to say was how humbled we were, and it was the truth. Looking back, I was hopefully star struck.”
Whether you relate more to Barker’s EMVP story of today, of yesteryear or somewhere in between, we invite you to join him and others at Episerver World to find everything you need to develop solutions based on Episerver.
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