Pre-DNN Kid — From Graphic Designer to Webmaster
Before I started working with the web, I was fortunate enough to decide at the perfect time to go into graphic design, advertising and marketing, during the first technology bubble in 1998. In those infamous years, San Francisco was buzzing with new ideas, new techniques, international clients and the promise of a new way of selling online – something called “E-Commerce”.
My first job as a graphic designer was working for an event planning agency in Sausalito, working on a round-table event for Microsoft. They brought together the most influential people in the internet space at the time, to discuss the future of commerce on the web and how that might play out. I knew the internet space was going to explode, but at the time I had only used HTML for my first website design projects a little more. I knew I needed to know more, quickly to keep up and I knew I needed to able to be able to do more, independently, without anyone’s help… but how could I get there?
Flash forward 6 years into my career, after the tech bubble imploded – and after working with the good, the bad, and the truly ugly… I had happily moved on from doing only graphic design work, to working on more and more web design projects. And unknown to me, the moment where I would be introduced to DNN was just around the corner.
It was 2006 and I had just returned from living in France with my wife, who is a French native. We lived there for 4 years, where I cultivated a small group of web design clients, which helped me to develop my budding HTML and CSS skills. When we got back to the states I started working for a Social Services portal website. My boss at the time came into my office and announced that I would be given the sole responsibility of launching the new non-profit agencies’ “DotNetNuke” websites, including skinning and administration of those sites. I was extremely nervous and overwhelmed thinking about how I would tackle such an immense project, learning some complicated new website building tool (so I thought), and onboarding the 15 non-profit clients quickly and efficiently, knowing full well that I would be responsible for everything “DNN” going forward. I had never even heard of DNN, nor did I have any idea of what all those objectives meant for me… or how to get them done.
I knew nothing of Database administration, and barely understood what a “content management system” meant. The first order of business was to learn about skinning a DNN site and how to get the site up and running as fast as possible. My understanding of programming languages was very limited. I had only used ColdFusion at that job to manage our sites and not extensively even. I found CF to be clunky, but functional. Little did I know what opportunities we coming down the line, headed directly for me.
I figured the best way to learn about skinning DNN sites was to go to the book store for help. I found a book by Andrew Hay and Shaun Walker (founder and creator of DNN) for “DotNetNuke Skinning and Design”. I started reading it intently and only made it to about page 60 before I put the book down and I was confidently able to start exploring the Community Edition’s (v4.0) functionality. Shortly thereafter I began skinning and administering the product successfully - right away. I was truly impressed and happily surprised with how easy it was to skin the product, use the tokens functionality and leverage the kind of power that DNN possessed, even then. What a relief it was to find this out!
After having my first positive empowering exposure to the system, and seeing that there was a thriving community of users that all highly respected Shaun Walker, I really knew I had a fighting chance to over-perform and over-come my concerns and fear without much help from anyone. I opened Shaun’s book a few times a week as a reference tool, and it sat unused on my bookshelf for the next 5 years, after the non-profit sites launched. If I needed to learn anything, I knew that between the book or the community, I’d be covered, which was definitely the case.
During those years of getting intimate with DNN, I had inadvertently and unknowingly been seduced by the software’s ease of use (and skinning), by it’s obvious development potential and the techno-freedom that was now firmly in my hands. It was power and control that I was able to empower my clients with, and that I would very much miss once the non-profit projects and my job there ended. I hadn’t realized it at the time, but I had fallen in love with this system and all that it had taught and done for me as a growing web developer. During those first few years of using DNN I had grown up a lot and had learned so much, and fondly remember being the only person in my company that was lucky enough to be using the software. After leaving that post I sadly wasn’t working at any job where DNN was necessary. There was no way for me to know it back then, but DNN would come back to seduce me years later from my past, and once again, enable me to reconnect with the power, and the system I knew, trusted and loved.
Read part 2...