How to find a Silverlight Expert

Despite being available for several years now in different forms, Silverlight is still a technology that few developers are experienced in using.  Not many companies have roles for fulltime Silverlight developers, which limits the opportunities for developers to become proficient in using it.

On the other side, when a company has need of a Silverlight developer they want someone with a lot of experience.

This makes finding a Silverlight developer very difficult.  Contrarily, it makes being a Silverlight expert very rewarding.

An additional complexity is that there are different kinds of Silverlight experts.  Some are Line-of-Business Silverlight developers.  They are primarily concerned with questions such as whether to use REST, WCF SOAP services or RIA Services in order to retrieve data.  They compare the advantages and disadvantages of using MEF versus Prism.  They spend their free-time developing better MVVM frameworks and they spend most of their development time with Visual Studio open.

Integrators are a different breed of Silverlight expert.  They spend most of their time in Expression Blend and are concerned with how a Silverlight application looks.  This is often mistakenly referred to as eye-candy.  It is much more than that.  Integrators are proficient at making a compelling experience.  They devote their energies toward timing animations, making applications usable, and drawing the user into the Silverlight experience.  They are practitioners of subtlety and believe that the best user experience is one the user doesn’t even notice. Getting a Silverlight application to talk to a database is important, but if it looks bad no one is going to use it.  Some Integrators, by the way, also spend their free-time developing better MVVM frameworks.

If you are fortunate, you will find a Silverlight developer who does LOB work as well as Integration.  But you have to know what kind of SL developer you are looking for.

The best place to find a Silverlight expert – besides at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond – is probably Microsoft’s MVP site.  The MVP program is sponsored by Microsoft and recognizes accomplished developers in a variety of specializations.  One of the specializations is Silverlight.  There are currently 52 Silverlight MVPs worldwide.  There are an additional 30 Blend MVPs.

In addition to Blend and Silverlight MVPs, you will find that many Phone, ASP.NET and especially Client App Dev MVPs are also now working in Silverlight fulltime but haven’t shifted their designation.  This is quite a large pool of Silverlight experts to work with and at least a few should be in your region.

And then there are the creme-de-la-creme Silverlight Experts.  Some are independent and some work for companies or consultancies.  They are mostly known by word-of-mouth and no two lists of who are the best Silverlight experts are going to be quite the same.  At the risk of missing a few, here is a non-exhaustive and unordered list of people I consider to be Silverlight gurus:

Shawn Wildermuth, Jeff Prosise, Corey Schuman, Jeff Paries, Rick Barraza, Robby Ingebretson, Erik Mork, Bill Reiss, Justin Angel, Jonas Follesoe, Laurent Bugnion, Adam Kinney, Page Brooks.

I know I’ve forgotten someone important and I apologize in advance.

Among consultancies that specialize in Silverlight work, the three I know the most about are Pixel Lab, Vertigo and Wintellect.

Pixel Lab is simply the all-star team for Silverlight and Windows Phone development with Robby Ingebretson, Kevin Moore and Adam Kinney all working there.

Vertigo is well known for doing high-profile, beautiful Silverlight sites.  They also have a very close relationship with Microsoft.

Wintellect is another boutique consultancy that happens to specialize in Silverlight back-end work.  They are headed up by Jeffrey Richter, Jeff Prosise and John Robbins and tend to hire only the best.

If you are looking for Silverlight training rather than Silverlight development, both Shawn Wildermuth and Erik Mork are excellent trainers who cover the Silverlight field.

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