Getting Friendly with Umbraco
Until this time last year, the world of web development was largely unknown to me. During the first few years after leaving university, I'd worked in the film and television industry before changing trajectories to join a CRM agency. A couple of years later - attracted by the prospect of a small, talented team and the challenge of working within an unfamiliar discipline - I became an Account Manager at Bump, the Umbraco agency where I currently work.
Almost immediately, it became clear that my new colleagues are passionate about what they do, as evidenced by a very apparent love for all things Umbraco. However, aside from my pre-employment discussions with Callum (our co-founder and Technical Director), where we'd briefly touched on the prevalence of the platform in Bump's work, I was unfamiliar with the CMS.
My colleagues' enthusiasm continued to manifest in various forms, whether it was via effusive messages in our internal Slack channels or impassioned debate during project estimation sessions. Almost daily a new thread would pop up in our Dev-talk channel discussing the merits of a particular feature or excitedly recounting a recent community event. I soon discovered that Umbraco is known as the 'friendly' CMS. While I had my suspicions about this branding (how many companies use buzzwords like 'friendly' or 'welcoming' when marketing themselves or their product?), it was hard to deny how my co-workers discussed the platform and its community. As time passed, I couldn't help but feel I was missing out. Surely something had to warrant this level of positivity and engagement?
Getting to grips
It wasn't long before I was signed up for some of the introductory training sessions provided by Umbraco. While I realised that there would be no need for me to attain the same breadth of technical knowledge held by our Developers, I wanted to better understand the platform we rely on to serve our clients (and, in turn, figure out what all the fuss was about). Joining the Zoom link for my Fundamentals session, I felt a level of apprehension. I had no prior experience working within any form of CMS and, up until this point, had struggled to comprehend the majority of discussions amongst our Developers.
Thankfully, my anxieties were quickly dispelled. The participants were welcomed onto the call by a friendly (there's that word again) face who explained what the session would entail. We were then guided through a hands-on tutorial that covered the basics of Umbraco's functionality, stopping regularly to ensure comprehension and allow any questions to be answered. Finally, we were required to take a short test on the content we'd just touched upon. With a passing mark achieved, I received a green tick on my Umbraco training profile, signifying completion of the first step towards becoming a recognised 'Master'. While it will likely be some time before I reach that point, my first practical experience of the CMS provided an insight into its accessibility and the welcoming nature of the community that surrounds it.
Since then, I've attended additional training sessions and participated in countless project discussions with colleagues and clients. On several occasions, I've even actioned small change requests within the back office. And while I'll continue to offer a polite smile and a slow nod during project calls as our Developers descend into a complex technical debate around nuances of a suggested approach, I certainly have a better understanding and appreciation for our agency's CMS of choice.
By the time this article is published, I will have attended my first in-person Umbraco events (the circumstances of the last year or so has made these somewhat difficult to organise...) Having become familiar with the platform and its community exclusively via Zoom calls, Slack channels and email threads, the opportunity to meet some of these friendly (ok, I get it now) faces personally will be a welcome change.
Friendly by name, friendly by nature
Since joining Bump a year ago, I've come to learn many things: estimating work is the bane of a Dev's existence; as are improperly named media files and messy codebases...I could go on. Most importantly though, I've realised why my team (and many others) have so much respect and admiration for Umbraco. Not only is the CMS intuitive enough to allow those with little to no web development experience (i.e. me) to quickly find their way around, its power and near-limitless scalability enable us to provide robust but entirely flexible solutions for our clients, no matter their objectives. That the platform is supported by an extensive community of talented, welcoming individuals always ready to offer support and advice only serves to further its appeal. I'm starting to see how that self-appointed 'Friendly CMS' moniker may be justified...