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Entries in SharePoint (7)


Passed MCSE SharePoint 2013 exams

This morning I passed the Advanced Solutions of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013 exam. That (finally!) completes the requirements for the MCSE SharePoint 2013 certification. The "E" is supposed to stand for "Expert". The reality is that SharePoint is looking more and more like an iceberg to me: I feel like I'm exploring more deeply into the tip and there's a vast swath of SharePoint-ness that I've not yet seen or have only partially glimpsed. 

My weakest area is in "BI" (Business Intelligence) in the SharePoint arena. I missed over half of those questions. Fortunately I was stronger in other areas. So my first next step is to read up more and experiment more with BI. Microsoft has added a LOT of BI capabilities, accessible within and outside of SharePoint. Much of this is in the Excel space and/or SQL Server (Power View, Power Pivot, Power Query). I need to learn a lot more about all of them! 

I'm also very much looking forward to diving into the learning toward achieving the MCSD SharePoint 2013 certification. That one focuses on the development side; development has always been more enjoyable to me. I've been a hardware guy, and a systems guy, but dev is what I love the most. So that will be fun. I have spent the last 9 months working toward the MCSE, knowing that I'd forget many pieces of that material but it would serve as a solid foundation for the dev pieces. 

And, after 20 years of taking tech certification exams, I have finally today stumbled on the way to be able to take an exam that can last for more than 2 hours and not find myself needing to visit the restroom. Instead of my normal morning coffee, I went light on the fluids. There's a Starbucks very close to the exam center, so I stopped in there and grabbed a double espresso just before the test time. That woke up my brain, gave my bloodstream its dose of happy caffeine, and did not leave me wishing during the last half of the exam for a larger bladder! Too much information?


Live! 360 conference recap - Part 1

So I took a little trip to Orlando last week. From Sunday afternoon through Friday, I was at Live! 360 – a 4-in-one conference. This was a mashup of tech and geek goodness. Live! 360 was comprised of Visual Studio Live!, SQL Server Live!, SharePoint Live!, and Modern Apps Live! …a conference pass to one of the conference was good for entrance to sessions of any of the conferences. To make the choices a bit more difficult, during Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday there were typically 4 sessions being offered in each of the 4 tracks. Right. At any given time, one had to choose from among up to 16 different sessions.

Well, aside from the keynote addresses, I only attended sessions from the SharePoint track. Of all of those sessions, there was only one where I was a little disappointed by the speaker. I have at least one book written by this person, the book is quite good, and the speaker absolutely presented good information in the session. I simply thought the presentation was a little dry. To have a week full of grade 'A' sessions and one 'B' is remarkable. I've been to manyconferences during my 25 years in IT, focused on multiple technologies. There's typically been several sessions that I would grade lower than a 'B'.

The format was clever and I found it to be wonderful. Any who cared to join were invited to meet up Sunday evening. We paraded our massive group over to Margaritaville at Universal's City Walk for drinks and snacks, then each of the 4 tracks went to a different restaurant for dinner and conversation. Anyone could, of course, join any group.

I went with the SharePoint group to Hard Rock. There were maybe 20 of us there. A number of the folks who'd be presenting the sessions I'd attend over the coming days, several folks who'd been part of the community for some time, and then a few n00bs like me. What a brilliant idea to actively help folks make acquaintances before the conference proper began!

The format of the 5 days was a choice of all day sessions on Monday and Friday, an evening keynote on Monday, and then multiple 75 minute tracks throughout the day on Tue/ Wed/ Thu. And of course, plenty of options for meeting with folks in the evening.

Over the coming days I'll blog about some of the individual sessions, keynotes, and gatherings. It was a very well-done conference, I learned a ton, met a number of wonderful people, and had a blast!


Live! 360 conference - Orlando

The conference kicked off (for some of us, anyway) Sunday evening with the "Dine-A-Round". Anyone who cared to take part met up at 6pm and we popped over to Margaritaville in City Walk for drinks and snacks (I can't spell "hors d'oeuvre"). Groups then split up according to technology focus – or which group looked cooler. I went with the SharePoint group, destroying chances for the rest of the group of being the cool kids, but they were still kind to me. We (the SharePoint types) went to Hard Rock for a nice quiet dinner. Well, it was nice, even if a tad loud (yes, I also like to sit out front at home and yell at kids to get off my lawn).

Discussion was quite technical and sophisticated, as evidenced by this pic from the dinner:


The ground rules for the week, having been properly set, some new acquaintences made, and a surprisingly good veggie burger ingested, I retired to my room to rest up for the coming 5-day mass infusion of SharePoint knowledge.


MCSA in Win Server 2012 complete. On to MCSE in SharePoint 2013...

After months of reading, videos, practice, a 9-day "boot camp" course, more study, and feeling like I must have read every Technet article in existence - twice - I've finally passed all three exams to earn the MCSA Windows Server 2012 certification. And I even passed one of the exams on the first attempt (it took two attempts for each of the others :)

OK, so that's done. But my reason for working to get the MCSA was really because it is required in order to earn the MCSE in SharePoint 2013 (along with passing another couple of exams). Whew! On to the next chunk of studying!

To start with, I'm going through the video courses on Pluralsight; they've got 12 hours or so of videos covering the material for the 70-331 exam (Core Solutions of Microsoft SharePoint 2013) and then another series of videos for the 70-332 exam (Advanced Solutions of Microsoft SharePoint 2013). Once I've viewed the 70-331 videos at least once, I'll work my way through the Exam Ref from O'Reilly.

I'm hoping that by the time I've been through the videos, poured over the book, and read any related Technet articles (along with mucking about in SharePoint), that perhaps there will be some practice tests available. I'd purchased a 3-pack from MeasureUp for the MCSA exams; granted, the MeasureUp practice exams are not as challenging as the actual tests, but when I start going through them they are a definite challenge. I like Transcender exams better, since they are hard. But it appears that neither MeasureUp nor Transcender nor Kaplan currently have practice exams for 70-331 / 70-332. I did buy the SecondShot exam vouchers, so if I fail an exam the first time (which is what usually happens to me with Microsoft exams), then I can take the exam a second time at no extra charge. But I'd rather have the added confidence that comes from practice exams (and the initial humiliation when first going through them).

But no need to worry about that for now. I've got a lot of work to do!


Learning SharePoint: my plan...

In this post I'll list the resources I'm using to learn SharePoint, my reasoning for the order in which I'm doing things, and a little of my background (which I'll post first, so you can feel free to skip past that :)

I started working in IT in the mid 80's. It was a DEC PDP installation running the RSTS/E operating system. Don't worry if you've never heard of that. Within a year or so we migrated to a DEC VAX/VMS system. I was sent to a lot of training, and spent many, many hours at night reading through ALL of the manuals that occupied my 4-foot wide, 6-foot high bookcase in my office, dedicated solely to VAX/VMS. One of my college instructors had said that whenever we started a new technology, we should bring a manual home every night until we'd read the whole thing, and keep doing that. After a time, one would become The Expert. It worked. I was promoted to System Manager, and knew these computers quite literally inside and out. I could swap out or add CPUs, hard drives, etc, handle all of the operator duties, code programs for our insurance business, and patch the O/S at the lowest levels. Then we were acquired by a larger organization and switched to completely different architecture. All of that DEC-specific knowledge was meaningless.

And at first I really missed the community of fellow VAX/VMS folks I'd come to know.

There have been other technology shifts along the way. I've spent the past 17 years very heavily involved with Lotus Notes. I've had every developer certification offered since version 4 (current version is v9), and co-authored the certification exams for a number of years. I'd followed the same strategy my college instructor had prescribed, and literally bought my own set of manuals and would re-read them cover to cover each year. And I of course was spending my days entrenched in the technology.

And the community! The community of fellow Notes geeks was and is phenomenal the point that folks who have moved to other technologies take time off and spend personal funds to go to the location of the main annual conference and spend a little time visiting with many who are very real and cherished friends.

So now I'm adding SharePoint to my skills. OK, it's not a skill for me yet, but it will be. And one of the most important things to me is that I'm finding that the SharePoint community is - as I found with the VAX/VMS community and with the Notes community - a welcoming group of wonderful people. That means as much to me as the technical aspects. Maybe more. And is a big part of that.

OK ..on to the task at hand: learning SharePoint.

I want to build a very solid foundation of understanding. I need to really grasp the architecture, the design, behind SharePoint before I can then really learn how to develop proper applications. So I'm first going to learn the technical bits and do the hands on practice needed to pass the Microsoft 70-667 exam (Configuring Microsoft SharePoint 2010). I'm also doing a little with Office 365 and SharePoint 2013 for work (and for fun), but SP2010 is my main focus.

The tools:

  1. MCTS Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-667): Configuring Microsoft® SharePoint® 2010 (link) cost: US$40
  2. Trainsignal SharePoint 2010 Administration (70-667) 3-DVD course (link) cost: US$49/mo or approx US$400 to purchase
  3. LearnDevNow video courses (link) cost: US$100 (often discounts are available)

There are free resources as well. In fact, Microsoft offers a largely free study guide (there's a couple of pieces that are US$50 each), there are many sites that have great tips, etc. But I do well with a plan, laid out exercises, etc. I already failed the exam once after thinking I'd studied enough, and knew the material. I learned that I need a lot more practical exercise to truly know the material. So I'm starting from scratch.

I have a home machine running Windows 7 (a tower PC), with 16GB RAM, 500GB internal HD and 3TB of USB drives. My starting point is the Training Kit from Microsoft (it's a book with a disk). I've created some VMs using the free version of VMWare, and am now going to continue through the rest of the lessons. This time, I'll do all of the exercises. And watch the 15 hours of video from the TrainSignal course. And go through the SharePoint lessons from LearnDevNow. With the 3 resources I list above and the memory I added to the PC, I've got about US$600 invested in this (plus the cost of the exam I failed and the one I'm going to take in 2-3 months). So my total investment will be about US$1000. But I will have a solid foundation of the architecture of SharePoint 2010. And then I'll dive into the dev. And then SharePoint 2013. I've learned a number of technologies before, and I'll do it again.

And I'm very glad that I've found a community with which to share my journey, to whom I can ask questions, and among whom I can hopefully be answering questions before too long.

Cheers :)