Last week, I had the opportunity to meet some real world SharePoint experts – partners and Microsoft consultants and engineers attending the Masters rotation currently being held in Redmond. I had an opportunity to meet many of the attendees including Spence Harbar from the partner community and Ali Mazaheri, Nakul Joshi & Denis Heliszkowski from the Microsoft community. I’ve known Spence for 7+ years and have been working with Ali & Nakul at Microsoft for the last few years. All of these folks are super experienced with real world SharePoint deployments.

The goal of the Masters Program “is to provide a means for training, recognizing, and developing the top SharePoint technical experts in the world.” It is a program that we introduced at the end of 2008 and we’re currently in our beta rotation where we have a number of partners and Microsoft consultants. Just to qualify for this program requires meeting a super high bar. This program is not for everyone; it really requires an exceptional depth and breadth of SharePoint real world hands-on experience & knowledge working with real customers. It also requires an investment of time (3 weeks in Redmond) and money.

It’s hard. The instructors are experts in their own specific areas; some of these instructors are Masters themselves; others are just really strong in their specific domain. You get the best instructors in Redmond and in the community teaching you. And any notion that this might be easy is dispelled in the first few days when you meet some of the best SharePoint experts in the world. You have an opportunity to learn from each other and make your own special community. Just to give you a little bit of insight into how deep some of this content & discussion is, I sat in the back for a lecture that Steve Peschka was teaching on Virtualization. Steve Peschka, who has authored many technical documents on MSDN, TechNet and the team blog, spent a handful of hours walking through the considerations and intricacies of deploying SharePoint in a virtual environment. Mitch Prince & Kimmo Forss, both Masters in the Microsoft community, also delivered sessions on a number of topics.

So if you meet a SharePoint Master, you know you’ve met someone with deep SharePoint expertise. :-) You can feel confident that it took a lot of real world experience, a rigorous training program and having to pass difficult exams!