So, all you aspiring SharePoint experts out there (especially those of you who put “expert” in your resumes). It’s time for a cold cool splash of reality. More than likely you are NOT an expert (I know I’m not). Yes, you may have some expertise in certain aspects in SharePoint (it’s questionable if I have THAT some days), but make sure you’ve got the basics down before you start throwing that word “expert” around. I know that it becomes frustrating to those looking to hire SharePoint people and having to sift through all the resumes of those who think very highly of themselves and their skills only to find those gaping holes in common best practices. I’m much more willing to hire a decent dev who KNOWS they are not an expert than to hire a decent+ dev who THINKS they are an expert.
So… I’ve compiled a small reality check for you SharePoint Devs. and a “red flag” check for those of you wishing to hire a SharePoint developer. If any of these apply to you, you are probably not a SharePoint Development Expert.
You are not a SharePoint Development Expert if you manually copy your DLLs
Seriously, I don’t care if you write the best code in the world. If you are manually copying files to each web front end you are NOT a SharePoint Development expert. Yes, I realize the admins are generally the ones who do the actual deployments, but if you don’t know how to create solution packages for your admins, you are going to end up doing more damage than good some day. There are TONS of tools out there to help generate deployable solutions for you. You have ZERO excuse.
You are not a SharePoint Development expert if you can’t tell me the main artifacts of a solution package
Directly related to the first one. If you don’t know what the Manifest, DDF, WSP, and Feature files are and how they are used in a solution package, you are NOT a SharePoint development expert. I’m not asking you to be able to write them all from scratch (heck, I can’t even do that), but you MUST know what they are and how to tweak them if necessary.
You are not a SharePoint Development expert if you don’t know what a Content Type or a Site Column is
You would be absolutely amazed at how many “Expert” SharePoint Developers have NEVER EVER created a Content Type or Site Column or even know what they are. I mean, why would you ever want to create those when you can just do everything as a custom list or custom field? right???? (that’s sarcasm). You also need to know how to package a Content Type and a Site Column into a deployable package by the way.
You are not a SharePoint Development expert if you have not created at least one Web Part, Workflow, Timer Job, and Event Handler.
If you haven’t written at least one of each, you don’t fully understand what they do or their limitations. Again, I expect NO ONE to be able to write these things blind. I think the last time I wrote an application from scratch without copying and pasting from another project I had done before was back in 1994? Seriously, coding is like a Sour Dough starter, you get it from someone else and keep adding to it.
You are not a SharePoint Development expert if you don’t know how to properly dispose of objects
Another biggie with zero excuse for getting it wrong. It is so well known that you must dispose of your SPWeb and SPSite objects that if you aren’t doing it then you are not an expert. Heck, if you utilize “using” when handling SPWeb and SPSite objects and don’t realize that it disposes of those objects for you, then you are not a SharePoint Development expert.
You are not a SharePoint Development expert if you do not know how to properly elevate privileges
Just one of those development basics that any decent SharePoint Developer has got to have down and understand how and why it’s used
You are not a SharePoint Development expert if you don’t know all of the development options available to SharePoint and when they should be used
Okay… so all you hard core .NET SharePoint dev geeks take a moment to listen. You may be the most top not SharePoint .NET developer in the world, but if you are opening Visual Studio to solve every problem in SharePoint, then you are NOT a SharePoint development expert. The SharePoint developer’s tool kit is growing every day with tools like Visual Studio, Data View Web Parts, XSL, jQuery, SPServices, etc. etc… If you don’t have the ability to at least recognize that “hey, you can basically do the same thing here but just dropping in Easy Tabs instead of writing some weird web part” then you are NOT a SharePoint Development expert AND you are doing a huge disservice to your clients and customers.
You are probably NOT a SharePoint Development expert if you call yourself an Expert
So, truth telling time. I’m not an expert. There, I said it. I feel so much better. Now, I realize the word “expert” has been used with my name before, but I am quick to point out that I KNOW the experts and know that they will help me if I need it, but I’m not an expert in all things SharePoint. The minute you take on that moniker you are setting yourself up for a fall. It’s too big, there’s too much to know, and there’s WAY too much you can do wrong.
You are not a SharePoint Development expert if you are not involved in the community
I expect to get the most flack for this one, but it’s always a huge red flag for me when someone says they are an expert and has ZERO knowledge of the SharePoint community. The SharePoint community is ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL to be an effective SharePoint developer, admin, architect, power user or whatever the heck you are!! The community keeps you sane, tells you when you are NOT using a best practice, recommends the best practice, and even knows when Microsoft is giving you the wrong information (*gasp* it does happen). If you can’t tell me who you are following on twitter, who's blog you read, what conferences you attend, or name the experts who you monitor to make sure you are not doing something stupid, then you are probably doing something stupid. Again, not asking you to be a speaker, blogger, or the least bit extroverted but you should be at LEAST stalking the experts.
So… what’s the point?
So… yeah… what’s my point in all this. Well, first of all let me point out that this is by far not a finished list and I could come up with a LOT more specific “deep dive” questions, but these should be high enough level that even non experts can recognize and ask them. If you have some common ones you run into let me know and add them in the comments below. Also, keep in mind I’m not saying you as a developer HAVE to know EVERYTHING, but you DO need to know what you don’t know and proudly and honestly state “I don’t know, but I’ll learn and find out”.
Those of us hiring SharePoint developers and know and have a passion for SharePoint are not looking for that elusive “expert” who knows everything. We are looking for someone who “gets it”, has a similar passion, great attitude, an understanding that they DON’T know everything, and a desire to do it right. I would bet money that most SharePoint development disasters happen because of “experts” who think they know everything rather than the developer who is cautious and knows he doesn’t.
Lastly, I know there’s a raging debate over what a “SharePoint Developer” is (I should know, as I keep bringing it up). So, obviously this blog post is more closely tied to the .NET side of SharePoint development and less towards the client side, middle tier, or whatever you want to call it. So, let’s please not get that argument going here as well… Thanks