Meet James Stout, the newest hire at Brightfind. He comes with nearly 11 years’ experience with Ektron/Episerver, four as an Ektron customer and six and a half years as a Senior Manager of Technology and Developer Evangelism. Safe to say, James is the leading expert in Ektron to Episerver conversions.
James is a new hire for Brightfind, but he's been partnering with our team for a long time. Now that he's our Executive Director of Technology and Research, you'll be seeing a lot more of him.
Probably like you, I had a few questions for James. Without further ado, here's the scoop on Brightfind's newest in-house expert:
Q: You've worked with hundreds of partners across the US. Why did you choose Brightfind? What are you looking forward to here?
A: The people. Hands down. I mean, the work is interesting and Brightfind delivers great results - but realistically they're not the only ones doing that (sorry!). Over the years I've had several people reach out to me who were ready to make a move - seeking my advice for where they should look. Brightfinder Daved Artemik is a good example. When asked, I would consider the partners I knew and I'd make recommendations based on where I thought I would work if I was ready for a change. Who would I want to work with? What's the culture of the company? How active and involved are they? How much do they value a real partnership with Episerver? Having been in a position to help make those recommendations made it a lot easier for me when it came time to look around.
Brightfind has some great people, as I said, and what I want to do here can't be boiled down to any one thing. I want to improve the processes that are in place so our customers receive fantastic results with greater consistency. I want to bring the front-end and back-end teams a little closer together, especially since what they do can effect each other so dramatically. Brightfind has the right numbers in each team - the right ratio - and I want to help foster trust and cooperation between those groups. I'm looking forward to helping unify distributed efforts and help Brightfind come up with its own offerings that help it stand out as a design and implementation agency. Some really good work has already been done and there's potential for so much more.
Q: How many Ektron implementations have you been part of? And what has your role been in Ektron to Episerver migrations?
A: Wow. Ektron implementations? Dozen at least. Maybe more than 50. There’s no way I could have kept count. I think with the number of projects I've done and contributions I've made, both internal and external, that there are very few Ektron websites that don't run some of my code. Come to think of it, if you're running Ektron 8.7 or higher and using PageBuilder, there's some of my code in there since I'm the one who put together the initial prototype that was found in the 8,7 release.
I've done lots of migrations in general, so while with Episerver, I advised customers and partners alike in the strategies that would take their customers opportunities for iterative improvements. I performed proofs of concept and wrote the 35 or so pages of documentation that outline the considerations necessary for making the move - all of which are linked through my post on Episerver's blog.
Q: It's unusual for a technologist to also be involved in sales and marketing. How did that happen for you?
A: I've managed to stand out as the developer with a head for business. But I think that's something I've really built over the last decade of my career. Learning a bit about tact and dealing with difficult people in my experience at a university (running their LMS), then picking up a lot of traditional marketing exposure when I was the web manager for a regional hospital. I may have managed 12 websites for them, but I was part of a very advanced marketing team, not in IT. Everything since then feels sort of accidental. For example, the reputation I managed to earn in Ektron’s forums was never a goal, and I still don't put any energy into keeping it. It's just something I'm aware of. I used to try to maintain it, but then I realized that was a great way to fail. I earned my chops by helping people without any real thought as to how it would benefit me. When I focus on that, I don't worry about any status or reputation.
Since I showed a great deal of pragmatism and understanding for client businesses as part of the services group at Ektron/Episerver, I started getting pulled into damn near everything. The evangelist role at Ektron/Episerver was a blessing as it put me into a position to make greater impact. At this point, though, I feel like I can do more good while working with the team at Brightfind.
Q: Do you have hobbies outside of work?
A: Does parenting count? I try to be a very involved Dad. No travel on the first day of school, things like that. And it's a huge part of my so-called free time.
I'm an avid reader, though these days I do more audiobooks than physical so I can "read" while washing dishes, mowing the yard - wherever I can find the time while doing something that doesn't require quite as much of my attention. I also enjoy building things on my own time. This spring (and into summer) I built my son a playhouse based on a design I found on the internet and then modified (a canvas roof? no thanks...). Took a while - that's a lot of cutting and drilling for one person.
I'm also working on a Raspberry Pi-based project. I've made a custom enclosure using my 3D printer, I've designed a basic circuit, I've gotten into developing in Python, Node.js, and Bash shell, integrated with Twilio and set up a Node.js-based bridge for HomeKit (Apple's IoT framework). Now I can turn my entertainment system (TV, Apple TV, Surround) on and off and control the volume using Siri. I still have a bit of coding to do on it, but it's pretty fantastic when I walk through the house and see it's been left on to just whip my phone out of my pocket and tell Siri to turn it off. When I'm done, the code will be posted online, as well as the circuit diagram for anyone interested. The unit itself will go to my Dad who uses Siri extensively. We'll see if my wife is willing to put up with me obsessing over a second generation of the design.
Q: Why Kentucky?
A: I'm usually the first to answer "why not Kentucky". It can be a great state in a lot of ways - the Lexington area is particularly nice with the Irish stone fences and horse farms - but the real reason I'm here is for my wife's family, who depend on us for support. That being said, it’s also pretty nice to live so close to bourbon country.