Should we be scared of platform change?

My previous post talked about the interesting technical changes that Sitecore is achieving through acquisitions. While talking about that with assorted developers, one worry I’ve heard a few times is “how does all that technical change affect my career?”. There seems to be a common thread of worry about how this change might devalue people’s experience.

So does it?

Hey reader!
After many years, I’ve finally decided to start moving off WordPress and onto a blog I host myself. This post is now available at “https://blog.jermdavis.dev/posts/2021/should-we-be-scared-of-platform-change“. Eventually this version will be retired so please update links on any sites you control, to avoid 404s in the future.

TL;DR;

Nope. It does not.

Why’s that then? Well I can think of a few reasons:

XP isn’t going away any time soon

The first thing to remember is that Sitecore are not just chucking XP in the bin and moving on. As I called out last time, their current roadmap shows XP and the CaaS product streams side-by-side. They see these as fitting in with differing sets of client requirements, so if your clients are focused on XP they’re going to keep needing your skills for some time to come.

And lets not beat around the bush here: Even if XP were to get depreciated tomorrow, there would remain a market for developers who know how to maintain code build with the old tech for some time. Released products get official support for years after they’re released. And even the end of official support isn’t necessarily the end of the line: I’m occasionally dealing with code running on v7 still, because some clients have a fairly extreme “it works, so why change it?” attitude. So I can’t imagine there being “no XP work” for a long time.

So you get a choice here: You can stick with the tech you know, or you can look to move into the newer technologies. Maybe that’s something to discuss with your employer to work out a plan for how they and you might pick up CaaS projects in the future?

Employers value “problem solvers” over people who can only do one thing

And the second thing to remember is that your technical skills are transferrable! You’ve learned more than just “how to code for XP” when you were gathering that knowledge.

You’ve increased your knowledge of coding patterns, of CMS patterns, of debugging processes, of technical communication, of estimating and more… And most importantly, you’ve been learning to learn stuff.

Good employers value that ability to pick up new skills too – and my career is a classic example of that. When I was interviewed for my first job as a professional programmer I was given some Visual Basic questions to answer. I had never done any VB programming… It sounds like a stereotypical “having a stress-dream about how badly an interview could go wrong” thing. But my experience with Delphi, C and other languages gave me the grounding to be able to give logical answers using those languages. And based on that, my prospective employers offered me the job despite my lack of immediate VB skill…

So don’t write off that XP experience – it demonstrates an ability to deliver that trancends a particular tech stack.

Learning new stacks help you grow as a developer

And relatedly: lots of “famous” programmers and software development advocates say that getting experience of more stacks (and their different approaches to similar problems) can give you really useful insight into better problem solving.

So the chance to learn more about Javascript, JAMStack approaches and the more modular implementation style of CaaS is another of these learning opportunities. Trying these other stacks (like Boxever, Four51 or Moosend) is another way to enhance your skills.

Which means they’re also another way to demonstrate your ability to learn and deliver.

Remember: The only constant in technology is change…

When you’re new to a career in IT the idea of a big platform change can seem intimidating. That thing you’ve put so much effort into is changing, and suddenly you can feel like you don’t have all the answers.

But if you do development work for long enough, you’ll come to realise that change is normal. Even inevitable. Software fashions change, and products / companies come and go. It’s not surprising really, given the pace of technical advancement in our industry.

So hang around long enough and you’ll be forced to try a variety of products. Since I started doing CMS work I’ve worked on a slew of things: “built in-house” sort-of-CMS’, Microsoft Site Server, Vignette, NCompass Resolution (which became Microsoft Content Management Server), SharePoint, Commerce Server and SDL Tridion. Some you’ll like more than others – but all of them are valuable to your learning.

(And these fads and fashions tend to be kind-of circular too. Look at the whole “thick client vs thin client” thing – that’s been going back and forth for decades now, and I’m sure it’ll carry on)

So change is going to happen anyway – so try to embrace how it can make you better at your job…

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