Looking to start working with SharePoint – Where should you start?

In the recent weeks even months, I have been getting many requests on how to get started with SharePoint. Many are looking to boost their careers forward since SharePoint has become a very popular and demanded platform. But where do you start? This has become a very popular question.

I am not going to make a speech about what is SharePoint and all that sugar-coating speech around it. Let’s go straight to the point. You are looking for new challenges, need to make a change. You’ve heard a lot about SharePoint, seen many getting recruited because they know SharePoint and you’re thinking it could be interesting for you.

SharePoint, as you may have heard, is a platform that helps an organization answer various business needs. Some may use it as an Intranet and others as customer portal, while some may be looking to replace File Servers and take advantage of the “tagging” of documents. So what should you know?

The Tracks

SharePoint Administrator
SharePoint Developer
SharePoint Power User
SharePoint Business Analyst
SharePoint Middle Tier Developer
(just for Marc Anderson)
SharePoint Branding and UX (User Experience) Specialist
SharePoint BI (Business Intelligence) Specialist
I guess you could also add the popular SharePoint Architect

Of course there are 3 core tracks: Administrator, Developer and Power User you should choose from before attempting at anything else.

What is your focus? What are you good at? Do you have more of an Administrator background managing windows servers, IIS, exchange, etc…? Are you a .NET developer or just like to code? Are you neither of those but still want to get into SharePoint?

I guess what I am trying to say is – find your focus, what you are good at and specialize in that. Ambition is great but if you have no experience in coding or development, it’s going to be a lot tougher to launch yourself into that.

Starting with Power User track

No matter what you decide to do, you should start by learning SharePoint as a Power User. There is no sense in learning what a Web Application is before understanding what a Site is or what are Lists and Libraries. Get to know everything on what’s available Out of the Box for Power Users with SharePoint. It’ll help you to make better decisions later on when requirements are placed in front of you. Nothing will ever replace practice or experience but at least you will know the difference between a Publishing Page and a Web Part Page.

Once you’re done with Power User and basic understanding, you can choose a track and focus on it.

Resources for learning

So where should you start? Books? Training?

There are plenty of options available to choose from.

Books

Books are good – can be read at your own pace. However, most do not offer any further explanations or virtual machines. You’ll be spending a lot of time on Google (or Bing).

In-class Training

I was a Trainer for a long time and I value this type of training. You get to talk to a professional with field experience, ask your questions and fast track your learning. However it’s probably the most expensive option. You also depend on the quality of the trainer in front of you. Unfortunately you can find yourself in front of someone that read many books on SharePoint and gave the same memorized training. Check out Learning Centers or Continued Education colleges in your neighborhood. And Google or research on linkedin you future trainer.

Online video Training

Probably my favorite option and what I would recommend. I don’t have any affiliations with them, just to make sure you know this is not a sales pitch, but Pluralsight has been an excellent source of training.

http://www.pluralsight.com/training/Courses

The SharePoint section offers over 49 courses where each course can have many videos. You can have access to all the courses for 29$ a month or even better the courses and exercise files as well as assessments for 49$ a month. There are also yearly plans available and I won’t list them but invite you to check it out.

These short consumable videos and exercises should be able to get you started on learning about SharePoint. I strongly recommend the investment, especially if you have to learn at your own pace.

Community

This is why SharePoint is so great, the amazing community around it. Numerous sites exist with numerous articles to get the help you need on SharePoint.

Twitter: use the hashtag #sphelp when asking your question and someone will get back to you almost instantly

Yammer: http://yammer.com/spyam is a Yammer network with over 600 engaged users and over thousands joined. Great place to have conversations and talk SharePoint

User Groups: Always found it’s hard to find them but there is a list on https://www.nothingbutsharepoint.com/calendar/pages/usergroups.aspx although all user groups are not listed. Best bet is for you to do a search of your city or state for SharePoint User Group to find the site. These are regular meetings in the evening most of the time where experienced volunteers provide training and answer to questions.

SharePoint Saturday: Free 1 day conference on a Saturday http://www.sharepointsaturday.org/. Great 1 day conference, tons of speakers and vendors for you to learn, ask questions and more. Check out to see if there is one near you.

Websites:
nothingbutsharepoint.com
nothingbutbranding.com
http://www.sharepointanalysthq.com/
http://www.sharepointblog.co.uk
http://sp365.co.uk/
http://codeplex.com <- to download solutions

And of course many, many bloggers… find the ones you like and subscribe to their RSS feeds. Use Google reader or your favorite RSS reader to follow what’s going on each day. Follow me on twitter @bniaulin and ask me for my exported RSS feed list if you want to kickstart that as well.

Certifications

If you have almost no experience, even if you know SharePoint it can be tough finding a new job or proving to your current employer that you can be good at it. The answer, Microsoft Certifications. Get certified if you do not have any experience to show, it never hurts. Though a lot of employers will first look at your experience, the lack of SharePoint specialists out there will force them to accept or look for more junior SharePointeers.

Don’t delay

Yes SharePoint is very popular today and there are many opportunities around it today. This will not end tomorrow either. The good thing about SharePoint is that it allows you to be versatile. You can spend couple of years working with just SharePoint Search and switch to Branding an intranet the next. You won’t be bored I promise.

For those of you that reached out to me, “how can I do what you do?” or “I want to work with SharePoint, how or where do I start?”. Well there are no shortcuts, let me tell you that right now. I didn’t learn all of this in just a few weeks, it takes time. However the road is fun and the rewards appear quick enough on the road.

Start understanding the basics as a Power User then move on to what you want to do. You will need to invest a little bit of money depending on how you wish to tackle this but most of all, your time.

Feel free to reach out to me on twitter if you have any questions, I’ll be more than happy to help.

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4 thoughts on “Looking to start working with SharePoint – Where should you start?

  1. resing

    Great job collecting resources and making recommendations, Benjamin. At SharePoint Saturday events and conferences, I hear people looking for this kind of informaion.

    Reply
  2. manoj

    Good to read this, thnx for sharing.

    There is confusion among some experienced Sharepoint people on whether stay on their track of IT pro or switch to development because demand is more for people who can code on Sharepoint as well.

    Reply
  3. Thuan (@nnthuan)

    Great article !

    In my opinion, having no programming skills doesn’t mean it’s tougher to get into SharePoint. SharePoint is a big platform that requires many roles to be involved to get it done depending on business needs. I’m not a SharePoint developer but I have done many SP projects for customers using mostly out-of-the-box features and other Microsoft technologies involved :-). Well, I don’t want to debate on this topic because it will go on evermore J

    Reply

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