So… You want to start out on a career as a SharePoint professional, do you? Well, I have some thoughts for you that you might want to read.
First of all, welcome. If you stick with the program (and really, there isn’t any), you’ll have a great time. You’ll probably become part of one of the warmest, most sharing, and highly skilled technical communities there are. And, if you are or become good at what you do, you’ll also have a very well paid career for a long time.
How? Well, I’ll tell you how…
Before We Begin
I’ll be writing several articles in this series so as not to overburden you with information at once. If you are reading this on my blog (http://blog.furuknap.net/), you should find navigation to the entire series at the bottom of each article.
These articles will focus on those that have some knowledge of SharePoint already, so I’m not going to define what SharePoint does more than to the extent necessary to understand the various roles and disciplines.
However, I am not assuming you have practical experience within any of these disciplines; if you have, that’s fine, but if not, you’ll learn what you need here.
Second, please understand that I am not going to give you any deep technical information here. This is not a “Hello World!” for getting started, this article will tell you what you need to understand in order to determine whether and how you can make a career in SharePoint.
Finally, I should mention that I am affiliated, strongly so, with a provider of SharePoint training, USPJ Academy. In fact, I started it after having written USP Journal and seeing the need for more in-depth training than traditional books. As such, I have a vested interest in you wanting to learn SharePoint, but I also want to make sure you do it based on the right premise.
First Question: Discipline
SharePoint is a massive platform, spanning so many areas and disciplines that even the most seasoned community members rarely know how to give themselves a describing title. As such, the first thing you should decide is what discipline of SharePoint you want to explore.
Broadly speaking, SharePoint professionals fit into one or more of three categories:
- Business Users, focused on non-technical concepts such as user adoption and business value
- Developers, builds solutions through tools or programming
- Administrators, designs, maintains, and operates the infrastructure, physical or logical
Within these broad groups are sub-disciplines as well, simply because saying you do development in SharePoint isn’t accurate enough. For example, within development, there are three ‘tiers’ of development (as defined in Marc Andersons Middle-Tier Manifesto), which broadly says which tools you use to accomplish your goals, and even within each of those development tiers there are major areas in which you can have a full and rewarding career.
The right answer to this question depends on where you are today and what you want to accomplish. If you are already a developer, then it may be natural to explore one of the many development options, and if you are already working with infrastructure, security, or server operations, then you may want to explore the various administrator roles in SharePoint.
However, it is not only about your current skill set. In fact, with the exception of a certain aptitude, you should expect to to a lot of newbie type learning regardless of your existing skills and experience. SharePoint is its very own beast that does things in very specific ways. Even the most seasoned professionals will need to come to SharePoint as beginners. With previous experience in your chosen or desired area, your learning will be quicker, but you should not expect to do things in SharePoint the same way you do things in other frameworks.
A typical example that is close to my heart, is that of a seasoned .NET developer that comes to SharePoint’s third tier of development, expecting to apply their previous methods and patterns, for example by strongly focusing on test-driven development and object model development for most work. They quickly realize, however, that although these aspects certainly exist and are important, they are only a fraction of what a SharePoint third tier developer needs to know. In fact, often these developers tend to overuse their known methods for development and end up creating bulky and complex solutions that are far worse than that of a complete beginner would do, simply because they are used to doing things in a certain way from other platforms and they try to force SharePoint to accept their way of work.
Note: The same can be said about administrators who may be used to operating a server in a certain way, not realizing that doing so may adversely affect the stability of their SharePoint installations, or the user interface designer that believes that how people work with web pages is how they will work in SharePoint. In other words, pre-existing knowledge may be a hindrance rather than a benefit if you make the wrong assumptions.
Regardless of which role you choose, you will likely want to understand bits and pieces of the other roles too. For example, a developer who does not understand how their solutions impact the infrastructure might design solutions that can potentially bring down a SharePoint farm, and if they do not understand how user adoption works, they might build solutions that are too complex for their target audience. This applies to other roles too, so although I’m a proponent for focus and targeting of skills, you should expect to learn about the other disciplines too.
The wrong answer is to try to be everything. Personally, I have focused my career on third-tier development and solution architecture (which is also a development branch). That means that I cannot answer even medium complexity administrative questions, nor that I fully understand how user adoption works. These are areas that by themselves require extensive learning and focus, and it’s simply impossible to try to master all of them to an extent where you can be productive.
Note: SharePoint architects come in many flavors too, and the term on its own isn’t descriptive. However, it is a completely distinct sub-discipline so you don’t evolve from a developer or an administrator to an architect any more than you evolve from a car mechanic or car designer to a chauffeur or a manager of an automobile fleet.
Instead, focus on your chosen discipline and evolve into a better practitioner within that discipline. The absolute and undisputed gurus of the SharePoint world are strongly focused on specific areas; they are the most sought-after, respected, and best paid, and they also understand very well the limits of their knowledge.
The question to ask is: Do I want to focus primarily on development, administration, or business usage?
You’re eager to get started learning, I understand and appreciate that. However, we’re not there quite yet.
In the next article, I will talk to you about a very important part of being a SharePoint professional, that of the global SharePoint community. Knowing and participating in that community will greatly help your learning efforts, so rather than give you a list of links to read, most of which will probably be outdated, I’ll instead introduce you to the people and the community so that you know where to find the resources you need, now or in the future.
See you next time, and don’t forget to add comments if you have them
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Other posts of the series
- Become a SharePoint Professional - Key Questions to Ask Part 1: Discipline (This post) (July 26, 2012)
- Become a SharePoint Professional - Community Involvement (July 31, 2012)
- Become a SharePoint Professional - Key Questions to Ask Part 2: Your Attitude (August 7, 2012)
- Become a SharePoint Professional - Understanding The Architect Role (August 14, 2012)
- Become a SharePoint Professional - Key Questions to Ask Part 3 : How Do I Become A True SharePoint Expert? (December 27, 2012)
- Become a SharePoint Professional - What Is a SharePoint Developer? (January 2, 2013)
- Become a SharePoint Professional: Administrators Are Good People! (February 3, 2013)