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The SharePoint Hillbilly Fewer Big Words... More Pretty Pictures...

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 Smile

Posted on Friday, February 11, 2011 10:41 AM | Back to top


Comments on this post: You are probably NOT a SharePoint Development Expert if…

# re: You are probably NOT a SharePoint Development Expert if…
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Nice post Mark. You should follow up with "You know your a SharePoint Expert when..." <done in my best Jeff Foxworthy voice ;-) >
Left by Steve Walker on Feb 11, 2011 11:06 AM

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Thanks and great idea Steve! I think I'll get to work on that right now... errr... I mean.. after I do some real work.. yeah.. that's the ticket.
Left by Mark on Feb 11, 2011 11:27 AM

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Nice post. I consider myself a decent sharepoint developer (no where near expert...but aspiring). I'm planning on using this list as a guidepost for expanding my knowledge. Thanks!
Left by Leeland on Feb 11, 2011 12:11 PM

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Great post! You've just inspired me to work on my next track "Will the REAL SharePoint Developer Pls Stand Up?"
Left by Dux on Feb 11, 2011 12:30 PM

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The one I run into most often is people not having a clue as to what STSADM is. Seriously. Experts not knowing STSADM. Makes me walk out every time.
Left by N8ivWarrior on Feb 11, 2011 12:32 PM

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Very nice post; mayhaps a follow-up with "You know you're a SharePoint Hack when ..." :P
Left by Kendrick on Feb 11, 2011 12:35 PM

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Mark - As you and I discussed at SPTechCon this week, it's disconcerting to have "experts" show up for job interviews without basic common knowledge of SharePoint. Your content types and site columns examples above are case in point.

Really enjoyed the article. -- Mark
Left by Mark Miller on Feb 11, 2011 12:35 PM

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Great, great post Mark!There are damn few true experts out there whether it's the dev side or admin side of SharePoint.

Now.........who is going to write this for the amdin side of the Sharepoint house?
Left by Jay on Feb 11, 2011 12:38 PM

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Legend. Hit it out of the ballpark. Kudos :-)
Left by Michelle Strah on Feb 11, 2011 12:46 PM

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Right on man. I would never use the "E" word about myself. I have to say it bugs me when others refer to me as an expert as well. There is just too much to know.
Left by Corey Roth on Feb 11, 2011 12:48 PM

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Great article. I think another important one is sandbox solutions, when to use them vs. farm, and how the SharePoint services manage each. I'd be less concerned with the administration of them, but understanding when to use each one and how they impact the farm is critical.

- Another non-Expert
Left by Ryan McIntyre on Feb 11, 2011 12:50 PM

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Darn. I was hoping if they were all experts people who knew all that other stuff were like senior experts or something even more awesome.

All kidding aside: Nice post. We need more 'clear' questions and ways of validating the technical skills of a good SharePoint Developer.

That being said: I always loved this line... "If you are a developer and you look back at your code from half a year ago and DONT shudder and say 'oh god what was I thinking, I can totally make that better.' Then you are probably not a good developer." :)
Left by Richard Harbridge on Feb 11, 2011 12:50 PM

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Thanks so much for kind remarks... AND keep in mind we ARE hiring developers... so, know what you know and send me your resume ;)

Mark
Left by Mark on Feb 11, 2011 12:59 PM

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Fabulous! So I actually know a few of these things on the list - I might make it to that developer level yet. Now I've got a goals list. Thanks Mark!
Left by Kerri on Feb 11, 2011 1:02 PM

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Well said!
Left by Wes MacDonald on Feb 11, 2011 1:02 PM

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Like it and I'm not even a developer, but I would say the same thing about people who call themselves SharePoint infrastructure experts. Similar sort of list would apply.
Left by Ian Morrish on Feb 11, 2011 1:25 PM

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Hey Mark, you forgot the easy one...

SPelling (capitalization intentional) counts!

Great post buddy!!

John
Left by John Ferringer on Feb 11, 2011 1:25 PM

# re: You are probably NOT a SharePoint Development Expert if…
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And how many people that apply for a sharepoint developer position fail many of these?

I would be one of these not being a sharepoint dude yet - java and C++ still have my heart and paycheck
Left by Mark on Feb 11, 2011 2:24 PM

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So I am definitely not a dev, but know about half this stuff.....which makes me a very dangerous marketing guy :-)
Left by Christian on Feb 11, 2011 4:29 PM

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Oh gee, posts like this are so useless.
So you wrote a page about who YOU think is an expert - what does that make you an expert on experts.
Btw, bragging about yourself on your linkedIn resume can be summarized with the word "Expert" without saying it.
Cheer up and don't be so negative.
Left by Eric on Feb 11, 2011 4:34 PM

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Eric, my good man, take it easy. Did you read the post? Have you actually worked in this industry long? I am no dev, I can barely build workflow, but I see people shooting off about their capabilities often, only to see them roll over and display their gaping hole of ignorance for all to see -- only the truth of it is, it isn't ALL who see it, only those who truly know Sharepoint can identify it. These poor companies hiring and paying $$$$ for Sharepoint Devs who talk a good talk, but fall way short of the line are paying the price. And Sharepoint get a bad rap as a result. Mark says over and over he isn't an expert -you may have missed that part. I think this article is a wake up call all companies should read and use as standard! Nothing negative about that..
Left by Kerri on Feb 11, 2011 4:49 PM

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Great post Mark,
SharePoint technical Professionals (admins/devs etc) should possess a "Skillset Baseline" which include knowledge of Content Types, Site Columns, Web Part, Workflow, Timer Jobs, and Event Handlers amongst other responsibilities not listed in your post. I believe that knowledge of SharePoint's native webparts and knowledge of Office 2007/2010 are a Developer's best weapons. Before writing custom code, I like for Developers I work with and/or support to deliver a proof of concept that shows me the limitation in SharePoint before accessing Visual Studio.
Left by Shadeed Eleazer on Feb 11, 2011 7:40 PM

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I AM an Expert! There I said it. I feel better now :)
Left by Chris on Feb 11, 2011 8:12 PM

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Sorry, but I disagree with the post and the above comments. I know, Mark, I often do that ;-).
Would you say that to be a medical expert, you need to know both Western and Chinese medecine?
An expert has deep knowledge in a narrow field (which is why he often calls his colleagues, who are experts in their own fields).
As for the "if you don’t know all of the development options available to SharePoint and when they should be used" - be assured that nobody can do that.
Left by Christophe on Feb 12, 2011 12:48 AM

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well, looks like this post is about NOT an experts. And funny, according to this checklist all my students are NOT NOT an experts :) but it still not defined, who ARE experts? who are going to unveil this, any volunteers? ;)
Left by SharePoint MVP on Feb 12, 2011 1:35 AM

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I think you are missing the point Christophe... (and maybe missed the very last paragraph of the blog) :)

If you are an expert in Chinese medicine but applying for a job that requires Western medicine then you are not equipped for the job. If your resume lists all specialties of Western medicine, then you better know what you put on your resume!

No one can argue with your area of expertise, and I don't know how much experience you have on the .NET side of things, but if you didn't have much would you put it down on your resume saying you are an expert in those fields?

This is NOT an argument about what a SharePoint developer is... Again, I state at the end of the blog that this post is geared towards those on the .NET side of development. There are way too many people touting their skills in SharePoint who are missing the basics. I'm pretty tired of it. People need to learn some basic skills for weeding out those people.

If you want to be a .NET developer in SharePoint you need to have the above skills. You don't have to be able to implement EVERY option, but you should DEFINITELY be able to say "hmm.. there should be a better way, let me do some research and ask some people" instead of just cracking open Visual Studio and start pounding out the code.

I interviewed a guy several months ago and his resume had the following "I have a profound knowledge of Site Definitions". Wow! Profound? How awesome must this guy be if he puts profound in front of Site Definitions!! So... I want to know what cool stuff this guy has done and when I talk to him he says "Well... I open up SharePoint Designer, make my changes, and save it."

REALLY????

The horrible horrible calamity of it all is that these people ARE getting jobs because SharePoint is in such huge demand and people don't know the right questions to ask. On that point, I can help a little.
Left by Mark on Feb 12, 2011 7:59 AM

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I like this post. There should be an admin and designer version as well.
Left by Doug on Feb 12, 2011 2:15 PM

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Mark, I didn't miss the very last paragraph. I was actually under the impression that you almost missed it yourself ;-)

What I didn't see was the reference to the Easy Tabs. Well, now I like that one!

I think I get your point - a rant against people who claim what they are not. This is what your example with site definitions is about.

The problem is that you take it to the other extreme, stretching the term "expert", and putting so much behind it that nobody fits the bill (cf. my previous comment).

Narrow and deep, that's what expertise is. You define an expert by what he does better than others, not by what he doesn't know. He may not be the right person for your job opening, or even for most SharePoint jobs, but that' s another story.

For the daily stuff, the truth is that you don't want experts. You want the guy who can call the experts when needed.
Left by Christophe on Feb 12, 2011 9:07 PM

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Hey again Christophe,

I do think they maybe we are having two different discussions. I'm not saying I want to hire a SharePoint .NET expert, I agree you want the guy who can call the experts and get the work done.

I'm saying that if you say you you are an expert at something, you better know it.

I'm saying 100% beyond a shadow of a doubt that if you put down you are a SharePoint .NET Expert on your resume you BETTER have AT LEAST all the topics up there covered or you are NOT an expert. The only one up there that is "broad" is the one about knowing other SharePoint development options, and I'm not even saying you have to know all of those, just that you know there ARE other options and you need to THINK about what you are doing.

In fact the skills I list in this blog (again aside from the ONE broad one, and maybe the community involvement one) are SOOOO basic that EVERY SharePoint .NET developer should know them. That's how I know you aren't an expert in that area if you DON'T.

Again, I'm not defining an expert. That question cannot be simply answered. I'm giving assistance in identifying when someone is full of crap and say they are an expert in a particular area of SharePoint.

If you can't do anything I listed above, it does NOT diminish from your expertise, but I've never heard you say you are an expert with in comes to .NET development in SharePoint.

The impetus for this rant is ALL the resumes I've had to sift through and ALL the time I've spent having to ask these questions and ALL the people who did not really have a clue, but said they did. And this is a VERY common problem. I'd LOVE to equip people with some tools to help them identify when someone doesn't know what they are talking about.

Again, this is NO WAY a dig on the other areas of SharePoint development.

And just so we're perfectly clear... even if you DO know everything in this blog, that does NOT mean you ARE an expert...

Anyway.. I've rambled enough, thanks for your comments, I appreciate you taking the time to give me your opinion.

Mark
Left by Mark on Feb 12, 2011 11:39 PM

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Thanks Mark. Great post, as always.

I certainly understand what you are talking about as I am struggling with an "Expert Web Developer" that doesn't understand IIS or the basics of how to interface the website with SQL Server. Some people are good at talking (e.g. BS'ing) their way in the door, but hopefully some of your suggestions will help employers looking for SharePoint "experts" to sort the wheat from the chaff.

For those who like to rant on here: you must not know Mark very well. He always has good points, but also approaches everything with a sense of humor and humility. I'm not saying that you can't take him seriously, just don't take him TOO seriously.

Sign me "just another guy who hopes to learn enough SharePoint to be considered an expert in someon'e eyes!"

Don
Left by DonK on Feb 15, 2011 3:36 PM

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I feel like the troubles you have hiring good people go beyond SharePoint--just as you get resumes from SharePoint "experts" who don't know what ghosting is, you'll find javascript "experts" who haven't used jQuery or WPF "experts" who don't know what dependency properties are.

It would be great those people would agree not to waste your time, but as long as there are people looking for jobs, there will be people inflating their resumes on the off chance that it'll land them a job. Nobody's going to admit that 99% of their experience is copy/pasting from blogs or msdn without any real understanding of what they're doing. And with the unemployment rate being what it is, this problem won't be getting better any time soon.
Left by Dea on Mar 10, 2011 7:33 PM

# re: You are probably NOT a SharePoint Development Expert if…
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BUT if you ARE a Sharepoint expert : ) I'm looking for many Architects for world leader in financial industy. Relocation to Chicago provided!

Thanks for any help you can provide in locating these experts!
Left by Niki Atherton on Jun 24, 2011 8:08 PM

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