Many business people have asked me how long it takes to become SharePoint savvy, and what the journey is they can expect. This is my journey.
November 2006. Career history to date, Project Administrator for the past 11 years or so. Heard the word SharePoint for the first time ever during an interview. Hired as a Project Administrator and given the SharePoint POC server to play with. Told to run SharePoint for the department. (Sorry what?)
First 3 months
Lock myself out of my own sites just about daily. SharePoint experience, zero! SharePoint courses, zero. On the job learning is all I have. Drive the Enterprise Architect crazy all day every day with questions, his response eventually – Google it!
6 months in
Doing SharePoint and my “day job”. Completely in love with SharePoint. Calls to Microsoft; one. They couldn’t fix the issue either. Looking around for courses, not getting anywhere and company won’t approve me going. Been invited to Information Worker (IW), attending monthly, not saying one word cos I feel like an idiot with all those clever people in the room. Googling like a crazy person and actually getting somewhere. Feeling very proud of myself, wondering what else this product can do. Frustrated that I’m not allowed to attend training or conferences without paying for it myself.
12 months in
SharePoint is my life! I don’t want my day job anymore. Plus it’s exhausting doing both! Company starts to realise they may need a full time SharePoint person, I want it. Takes almost a year for the decision to be made, job performance pays off and I become a fulltime SharePoint Administrator. Another PA takes over my old job. Also made a team lead at IW. Working like a slave! Sleepless nights. Training users, configuring sites, designed an evangelism site. Become the go-to person for all things SharePoint. Completely frustrated with the training out there.
2 years in
Get certified on implementing SharePoint. Working insanely long hours. Running the whole POC server with 3000 users and hundreds of team sites. Get an assistant and train her up. Get a fulltime trainer on board too. Spoke regularly at IW and started a business community following. Mess up the server completely by changing the title field in the Item Content Type, never got fixed. Finally get my head around how SharePoint really fits together. I thought I knew before, but I didn’t really – something I didn’t realise until the lights actually went on … like after the title field issue.
3 years in
Stress induced nervous breakdowns; one. Identified a gap in the market, resigned and started my own company. Start at the bottom of the foodchain again. Started my first blog, total hits for the month – 239. Attend my first overseas SharePoint Conferences, mind blown completely. Meet all my SharePoint heros, completely star struck. Invited to speak overseas for the first time, sheer and utter terror sets in. Neat vodka is consumed before session. Invited to become co-manager on SharePoint Experts on LinkedIn. It becomes all about community and understanding and meeting other business users in the world. Takes a year before I can sleep through the night again due to chronic fatigue syndrome acquired at previous job.
4 years in
Awared SharePoint MVP. Introduced to Twitter and learnt to understand and love it! Started another user group for business people. Arrange first SharePoint Saturday. Still travelling like mad, the conference / speaker circuit is manic! But they’re all just huge reunion parties with a SharePoint theme. Never happier. Try my hand at videos and start my own Youtube channel.
5 years in
Re-awarded SharePoint MVP. Realisation of a 5 year dream to get a SharePoint business conference for South Africa. Published as a co-author on a SharePoint book available on Amazon. Arrange second SharePoint Saturday. Spoken at 11 conferences around the world. Grow company by 2 people, and another 2 part-timers. Expand IW to Durban. Expand SBW to Cape Town. Increase of 264% in earnings in 3 years. Blog hits per month – 10 000.
6 years in
Will be Nov 2012. What will the future hold? Time will tell, but there are constant big plans in the works.
Moral of the story
There is nothing special about my skills or my ability. If a stock standard Project Administrator can change her stars completely by embracing some random piece of software, then you can too. There are “normal” people doing this as we speak. Your journey from your “day job” to any SharePoint specialisation can take any form you want it to. If you want something, you need to go for it – unrelenting over years and years. Don’t give up.
You will be tired, you will be frustrated. You will laugh, you will cry. You’ll make a hundred new friends, and a handful of jealous enemies. You will learn something new every day. You will love SharePoint, and hate it with just as much passion. You will never be alone again. You will always have something to do. It will take time, but that time will fly!
To get started, take your own initiative. Learn, ask, research, get involved in the community, make mistakes, get up and try again; grow your network. You can change your stars.
To all the companies out there not looking after their SharePoint people – be warned. They are building huge networks that will allow them to jump ship at the slightest provocation, and demand is very high for SharePoint jobs of all descriptions globally. Take care of your staff. And please understand, SharePoint is not a part-time job! They will suffer from utter exhaustion and burn out if you try that.