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After the SPSUK meeting this week in Manchester, Scott Chorley (@scottchorley) reached out to me for my viewpoint on what he could do to accelerate his journey into the wonderful land of SharePoint.

Being a Star Wars (Star Wars is a registered trademark of The Walt Disney Company) fan, I liked the idea of SharePoint Padawan so I used it in the title, it bears no other relevance… 🙂

The bottom line is best put by Aristotle: “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”

The number one piece of advice I give to folks learning technologies is to do them.

When I say “do it” I really mean “DO IT! “.

For example – sit down and think about a business problem, perhaps even something you have seen in your own company (that you feel could be solved by SharePoint in this context), and then come up with a way to solve it within the realms of SharePoint and then do it. I’m not suggesting you necessarily build and deploy something to your real, live environment – do it in a lab, but do it.

When you’re doing things for yourself, the key is to push yourself to make whatever it is you’re doing “production ready” do it as if it was real. Scope it, design it, build it, test it and deploy it, then document everything as if it was real. This is learning in the way (for instance) doctors learn.

Learn by doing.

For us SharePoint people it’s a loss less dangerous, of course, as we are not learning how to do doctoring on real, live patients – it’s not life threatening, or even that important in the real-world scheme of things, it’s not like we’re trying to cure cancer, right?

But it is important to us individuals.

On your journey of “doing” there are some great resources out there, a cherry pick for you:

– TechNet
– Channel9 (also Microsoft)
– The Code Project
– Various Podcasts (especially .NET Rocks)
– GoogleBing (yes, it’s a resource)

If you have not already, look at options for getting Microsoft software cheaply for learning/development purposes – look for Action Pack, TechNet (while you still can), MSDN Subscriptions (if you have some money to spend!), Cloud Essentials and other programmes at Microsoft. I know people who setup “companies” just to join the partner programme to get the benefits associated, I’m not condoning or endorsing this approach, but it is an option.

There are some great paid-for resources out there. Folks like Pluralsight (there are others) offer great subscription online training options for very reasonable rates. I know of several people who have picked up Pluralsight subscriptions (which start at about $25 per month) for a couple of months and in that time just crushed everything they could into their brains and learnt huge amounts – if that kind of approach works for you, then do it!

Start looking at events and conferences outside of the obvious – for instance there is a SQL Saturday in September in Cambridge (I’ll be there) SQL is a base component of SharePoint so the more you know, the more you know!

Save your pennies and head out to Vegas for SPC14 – it’s an expensive trip for sure, but the rewards can be huge. Great content, great networking – sometimes just meeting the right people can give your career and knowledge a massive boost, I know it has for me.

Finally, look to the blogosphere. There are some seriously smart folks with seriously good blogs out there.

For aspiring developers, look to folks like:
– Corey Roth
– Victor Wilen
– Chris O’Brien
– Liam Cleery
– Tobias Zimmerman
– Fabian Williams

If you’re interested in ITPro content look to folks like:
– Spence Harbar
– Phil Childs
– Jason Himmelstein
– Brian Alderman
– Ed Wilson

If you’re looking for more overview/business/general I’d look at:
– Jasper OosterVeld
– Veronique Palmer
– Benjamin Niaulin
– Symon Garfield

I may update this post with hyperlinks in the above, but for now just GoogleBing and you’ll find these folks.

Of course, don’t forget to check out my stuff also 🙂

Feel free to add further ideas in the comments below!

more to follow…