A lot of times I see emails and posts that start like this:
"I have to redesign our entire intranet using SharePoint..."
or better yet:
"We just bought a copy of SharePoint and now I'm being told I have to become the expert"
And the best part (that your manager or the powers that be say to you right after they say the above):
"Now that you're the new SharePoint expert what will our enteprise portal that you're delivering next week look like?"
Guys, this is like someone coming to you and handing your a <insert foreign language here that you don't recognize> manual for programming a <insert device you've never even heard of or knew existed before>. Trust me. You will live in a world of pain and hurt and anguish and die a thousand deaths if you're tossed into this situation. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Okay, now that the melodrama is over, if you really do find yourself in this position here's a few things to keep in mind which might let you keep your sanity:
- Rome wasn't burned in day. Even if you're the most incredible web designer or sysadmin or network guy, don't promise that you'll bone up on this stuff overnight and build Tweedledum his vast empire. SharePoint is a hydra with heads growing out of places you wouldn't believe. Every time you cut one off (or even consider doing it) 3 more grow in it's place. You CAN master it, but this is not a "Teach yourself SharePoint in 24 hours" type thing. It's a long term committment if you want to do it right. And you won't get it right the first time so don't kick yourself when something silly happens.
- Read, read, read, then do some more reading. There are huge tracks of blogs out there (last count over a hundred of us) that have something useful (and not so useful) to say about SharePoint. There are some great starter books. Get out there and buy them. Again, tell your manager or the powers that be that you'll be locked away reading for awhile. That may be difficult for some to swallow, but again SharePoint is big and can be unruly if you dive in without knowing how deep the water is. Just breathe, relax, read a little, and wade in slowly.
- Virtualization. Get yourself a copy of Virtual PC/VMWare/etc and some software. There are eval versions (120 day) of Windows 2003 Server and SharePoint so setup a machine and try them out. Install them using the Administration Guide to walk your through it. It doesn't take long (half a day for someone who's never done it) and you'll get used to how things work and fit together. Get your feet wet. In a virtual environment, it doesn't matter if you blow up the server. Just choose the previously saved undo disk and reboot. This will be a great experience without you killing your network as you try to build a giant infrastructure on your first day.
- Don't be afraid to ask. Really. There are no stupid questions (well, okay depends on what day you ask me) but if you have a concern or something cry out. Jump onto the many resources and just scream, but be descriptive. Yelling at the top of your lungs might get you noticed, but if you can't command the English language and form coherent sentences, it'll be hard for us to know what you want. In any case, the help is out there but there are two caveats to that. First, the answer might not come quickly. While the newsgroups and that thing called the interweb is a cool place to get porn from, we're not all living and breathing there day and night (some are, but ignore them for now). So posting a message on a blog, forum, or newsgroup might not get an answer for a few days even. You need a little patience. Second, your question might not be answerable or you might not like the answer. For example if you say you just HAVE to have things setup a certain way but SharePoint doesn't work with that configuration. Well, there might be no answer except to either reconfig or not use SharePoint. So be prepared to adjust and adapt. SharePoint is certainly no silver bullet and might not do everything your want (or the way you want it). Be prepared to accept the things you cannot change (and scream about the work need to change the ones you can).
Not sure if any of this helps, but I thought I would just spend a few minutes to spread some cheer as we slip into the horribly crowded malls and freezing weather that is Christmas. And what's SharePoint without pain. Easter maybe?