Become a SharePoint Professional – Key Questions to Ask Part 2: Your Attitude

In the Becoming a SharePoint Professional series of blog articles, I’m exploring what it takes to make it as a golfer in Bahamas. I also might mention a hobby of mine, SharePoint.

To make it as a golfer in Bahamas, you need to whack a small ball into a hole, preferably with fewer whacks than anyone else.

Now let’s explore a bit more about that hobby of mine, SharePoint, and what you attitude should be if you plan on exploring a career as a SharePoint Professional.

It’s All About Expectations

You may know that being a SharePoint professional, or even doing any kind of work in the SharePoint business, can be quite lucrative. By lucrative, I mean that it is quite common to see hourly rates at or above $200 per hour, in some cases far higher, and there seems to be a steady stream of work to be done. If you make it, you can have a high salary, work on an exciting platform, and deliver great value to your clients. There really aren’t that many ‘downs’ at all. If you make it.

The thing is, making it takes a lot of work, so it is important that you have the right expectations and don’t come into SharePoint expecting to flip a switch and be a millionaire.

In reality, working in SharePoint is a job, just like any other field. Despite the boom SharePoint has seen in later years, there’s no magic that leads everyone to become rich. Some people will be hugely successful, others will make a living, and some will fail and not get past even the first hurdles of the track.

How can you know what to do to avoid failure? Well, as the heading says, it’s all about expectations.

The first question you need to ask yourself is where you want to go. In other words: What do you want?

Note: Shadows are still cool.

Many will answer this along one of three lines, combining various levels of interest (meaning your willingness to work) and your desired outcome (meaning what you want in return).

  • I want to know a bit more so I can dabble a bit (low interest, low expectations)
  • I want to make SharePoint my job (medium interest, medium expectations)
  • I want a piece of the SharePoint money-cake (high interest, high expectations)

Of these three, the biggest chance of success comes from the second path, in which you have a balance of interest and expectations. As for any field, the more risk you are willing to take (higher interest) the more you may expect to get in return (high expectations), but also, the higher the fall is should you not manage to succeed.

If you come to SharePoint with wide eyes and plans to turn a quick buck (low interest, high expectations), then turn around instead. There are far better (or worse) get-rich-quick schemes out there. You should probably burn your fingers on a few of them before you even attempt to investigate any career. You can make big money in SharePoint just like you can make big money on being a professional football player, but it takes a lot of hard work and only a few actually manage to do it.

Perhaps surprisingly to  some, the geek attitude (high interest, low expectations) won’t work either. SharePoint is more about business than about technology, and consumers (as in your clients) expect you to understand and embrace the business mentality to a much greater extent than is the case for, for example, plain .NET developers or server operators. I’m actually an example of this myself; I truly have no interest in money or being rich, so I work only to the extent required to pay my bills and then I geek around the rest of the time. Had I been more aggressive in my approaches to clients, I would likely have had more financial success and more high-paying clients.

If, however, you come to SharePoint and are willing to put in the hours, days, weeks, months, and years it takes to succeed, then you may very well be on the path towards a great career.

Keep in mind that the community celebrities of SharePoint have years of passionate work behind them, often at the expense of mostly everything else. You won’t become a SharePoint superstar between 8 AM and 4 PM, you’ll need to put in the evenings and sometimes even the nights. Weekends sounds like a nice idea, but you’ll be working instead. If you have no spouse, consider yourself lucky. If you have no kids, you may just be in a position to make it.

Think About Your Family!

Speaking of spouses, and kids, remember that the investment you make may seem like it’s free. After all, you’re just spending a few hours every evening reading up on documentation, writing proposals, or testing out a new backup strategy or tool. After all, you can’t spend all your weekends at the cottage or with the in-laws, can you?

Well, most people that work do their jobs in order not to work. In other words, you work for 8 hours per day to finance the remainder of the day, of which 8 hours is sleep. So, although simplified, every hour you work you get one hour of waking time off. That hour is actually your payment; your salary pays for the expenses you have away from work. If you work as many hours as you have waking time off, then your salary is actually 1:1 in work/time off, give or take a slight profit or loss, depending on whether you are able to save up a few bucks over time.

My point here is that the time off belongs to you and your family and friends. If you put in extra hours of work, then you shift the reward towards the worse. If you work just a couple of hours more per day, and have 6 hours off to spend with your spouse, kids, and friends, then your pay per hour is much lower and the cost of your time with your family and friends is much higher. For every hour of a  working day with them, you now have to work 1 hour and 40 minutes. Those additional 40 minutes comes directly from your life and is almost twice what you have to pay if you just work a regular 8 hour per day job.

Are you sure you are willing to pay that price? Are you sure your family realizes the cost?

This isn’t really isolated to SharePoint, however, but I think you should keep it in mind before you decide or embark on a new path that may dig deeply into the time you have to live your life.

So, your question to ask is this: How much am I and my family willing to put into becoming a SharePoint professional, and to what extent to I need or want returns on that investment.

What’s Next?

From a reader suggestion, I’m going to make the next article be about architects. As I mentioned in the first article of this series, architects are a somewhat ambiguous and not very well understood title (as is the case of many titles). I’ll try to clear up some of the misconceptions, and bring at least my interpretation to the mix 🙂

Don’t forget to keep comments flowing, I’m trying to pick up on suggestions and incorporate those into the series.

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Bjørn Furuknap

I previously did SharePoint. These days, I try new things to see where I can find the passion. If you have great ideas, cool projects, or is in general an awesome person, get in touch and we might find out together.

11 thoughts on “Become a SharePoint Professional – Key Questions to Ask Part 2: Your Attitude”

  1. 8 hours, 6 hours, it’s not just about the reward.

    I think one of the problems with the whole work-life thing is that unless you’re in a production situation, the line is very much a blurred one. I don’t advocate stealing time from family members, but some of your free time is for you, and self-improvement is a task you should be involved in on your own time. When you are trying to become better at the thing you do for a living, it sometimes is hard to know what to call work and what to call leisure. I have a few more thoughts on this subject at http://nofacilities.com/2012/05/27/work-life-balance-or-just-life/ (shameless plug).

    I look forward to see how you define architect – that one has always confused me.
    D

    1. Dan,

      It’s always about the reward, whether the reward is time spent with your family, fortunes gained, a notch in the belt, or the joy of completing a new figurine from your workshop.

      I’ve never worked a day of my life, and I never will. I do stuff I want to, regardless of pay. I did the experiment to prove this to myself in 2006 where I found out I was actually more motivated to do my “job” when I was not paid.

      However, there are plenty of people, and jobs, that work 8 to 6. Consider a convenience store clerk or a gas station attendant. I don’t think they come home and think long and hard about how they beep the goods past the scanner. How about a janitor, or a call center employee? Some of these may have flexible times, but I hardly think they focus on career development in their current careers.

      To those of us that have more free professions, like SharePoint inevitably is, ‘working’ outside the regular hours is perhaps more common, but it shouldn’t be disregarded as just part of what everyone does. When work interferes with our other activities, in other words our tasks performed are to the benefit of others like your boss or organization, then it is a loss to you, even if you think it is interesting work. You could equally well be interested in a TV documentary or a book, but you instead choose to better yourself to deliver value to your work rather than the rest of your life.

      .b

  2. Bjorn, thanks for this set of articles. I am really enjoying them and is actually making me think about my work life balance. I’ve been in the SharePoint realm for a few yars now and have finally found that balance (after having a child). I totally agree, you have to have that balance and figure out what is more important, work or life. Of cprse, I’m reading this, watching American football at the same time (child is asleep now). I have found that as a SharePoint person the learning picks up a lot when a new product is reload, then it slows down a bit a year or so later, then picks back up a year later (when those customers/clients that are slow to the game finally catch up.

    Having that can do attitude and the knowledge of the costs vs. benefits will help you become a succeful SharePoint professional.

    Again, thanks!!!!!

    1. I often say that I’ve never worked a day of my life. Actually, I did, for a few months in 2009, and my life completely sucked as a result, but that’s a different story.

      It is a consideration I make in close consult with my family, with whom I’ve just spent two weeks on vacation, by the way. The result of my way of working is that I’m home much more than I could possibly be with ‘a job’ and I see even more of my family.

      I don’t see the need to take breaks because I love what I do. Why would I take breaks from what I enjoy?

  3. I read the whole series, and find it fascinating, thank you. I have a funny question, as I see a lot of disadvantages in this living in a hotel style, which is very common, at least here in Germany. What do you think are the areas that allow working mainly from home office.

    1. Good question!

      I think the answer is that it depends on your employer or your attitude. It is certainly possible to have a job that happens mostly from home. Many of the projects on which I work, I never even see the client or anyone else on my team. That happens whether I’m architecting or developing.

      Of course, I’m independent; a gun-for-hire, if you wish. I don’t have a ‘job’ per se, I just get called in when there’s a specific need. Outside of those times, I do other work which keeps my skills up-to-date. I have a simple lifestyle with few commitments, so my need for regular income is not there.

      Today, a lot of companies use remote workers only. The remote worker model works for some companies and some positions. It works better for some people than others too. If you’re in a position now where you’re contemplating your next career move, you have a range of options. However, you can’t go much wrong with a career in SharePoint, especially if you take to heart the things from the article series 🙂

      .b

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