Here's our 2nd installment of 'From a Certified Master'. I'm very pleased to introduce you to Bill Baer, Technology Architect, who attended our alpha rotation of the SharePoint master program. Bill, the floor is yours!
November 3rd, 2008, I arrived on campus as usual (I live and work in the Puget Sound area, so I had the benefit of being local). I made my way to the location where the Microsoft Certified Masters training is commonly held. Upon arrival I was greeted with many new and eager faces, some excited, some nervous, but all definitely excited and grateful for the opportunity to be involved in a program of this caliber as both instructors and students. These students and instructors gathered in the lobby were a cornucopia of Directory Services professionals, Exchange Server professionals, and of course, Office SharePoint Server professionals. It was a great mix of technical breadth and depth in such a small area.
We arrived in the classroom at just about 8:00 A.M. to breakfast, introductions, instructions, an agenda overview, etc., the typical expectation of a first day of training. The curriculum started later that morning - and when it did, humble pie served.
Challenging to most students is that they are either recognized as industry leaders in a specific area, or come with just a little bit of the prerequisite arrogance. A few days of instruction, and the swagger turns into a limp. But at the same time, you find yourself enjoying the opportunity, the collaboration with instructors, and as an added bonus, collaboration amongst your peers, each which brings a specific depth of knowledge in a specific category. For example, I was in the initial rotation of the SharePoint 2007 Microsoft Certified Master - while all of the students came with deep knowledge of SharePoint Products and Technologies - each had a unique aspect of experience within the product, I.e. Records Management experts who can recite the requirements of DOD 5051.2 verbatim, BDC experts, ASP.NET experts, Infrastructure experts, and Search experts who find diacritic search problems amusing.
Along with the experience each student brings, are their unique cultural backgrounds, since students come from all areas of the world; which provided an opportunity to learn about various cultures, and sample the local cuisine as some of them were kind enough to both prepare and bring items from their native countries.
The value of this experience cannot be summed in a few short paragraphs. In my experience there was a misconception or expectation that students would be inundated with slide decks and discussion derived thereof, in actuality, the discussions were not limited to what was projected on the screen, but encompassed conversation between students and instructors, white boarding exercises, solving real-world scenarios, group and team exercises, and more. This was truly a well rounded experience and our host James Petrosky managed it flawlessly ensuring the program remained focused and on track and all the while encouraging classroom collaboration.
The question I receive most often is, "Now that you're a Microsoft Certified Master for SharePoint 2007, that means you know everything there is to know about Office SharePoint Server 2007, right?". The answer to that question is an absolute No. I don't think that any training will answer all the world’s questions or enable a person to solve all of the world’s problems, but it enables you to understand unique problems and scenarios, and be prepared to handle those scenarios - so while you may not know the answer immediately or have the exact solution ready in your mind - you have the capability to solve a difficult problem with the tools, experience, and knowledge necessary to enable you to make the right decision at the right time and if all else fails, you have a wonderful community of brilliant peers to collaborate with.
OK, so you may be wondering what it was like from a student’s perspective? Grueling, the exams are challenging, the qualification lab, painful, but that pain turns into entertainment after the 5th or 6th hour. 😉
In brief, this is an opportunity that I would recommend to anyone who is seeking the top-tier technical certification in Office SharePoint Server 2007 and who is willing to make the commitment, both to themselves, and their peers in the program.