Mediocre VBA guy looking for the next step - looking for advice

henrynlouisvillehenrynlouisville Registered Users Posts: 2 ■□□□□□□□□□

I work for a company that is a Microsoft shop...meaning they have tons of MS servers, Office Communication Server, Exchange, all Win7 desktops, full migration to Office 2010, SharePoint, current huge migration to TFS, etc. etc. It is a very large company.

Then there is me. I was hired in to a 2nd tier help desk position and do some batch scripting on the side. I have about five years experience (self taught at another job) working with WinBatch, Monarch modeling (txt extraction), and a heck of a lot of Access VBA development. I automated 100's of report runs and built custom adhoc solutions/workflow programs using Access frontend/backend setups. At my new job I actually have SQL server access and can use it as the Backend...making Access truly a frontend only. Really pretty cool.

I have finally realized that I am 42 year old man, sitting in a chair all day, playing around with ancient tools...compared to what my company currently has and is implementing. I really need to study over the summer so I'm not left behind.

So, my question is...What should I do?

Sure, I know basic HTML, VBA, WinBatch, and simple batch scripting...but that's not much.
Worse...I don't have a clue about the tools and how to learn them.

All I know is that I LOVE dreaming up and building custom windows applications to support internal management.
I love automating reports, ideas, processes, workflows, building ticket tracking systems, and help desk tracking systems.
But, I have always just opened an Access form and started coding in it's module window. I don't really know how to do anything else.
I'm clueless. I have to do something.
Most people in my company are doing C#, so I know I want to do that. The problem is...I don't know my best course as it pertains to what I really like to do.

Meaning, is SharePoint the FEnd now...or is it the BEnd for an Access FEnd...or can I ditch Access all together and embed everything into a page build on this .NET stuff.

I really just need someone to school me...give me advice from the ground floor.

I'm kind of assuming that MS Certs 361, 362, and 372 are a good place to start...then on to 511, 513, and 516...and finally on to 518 for desktop applications. I don't know. Maybe SharePoint would be better...or just continuing with Access. Geez.

Sure, I got a MCSE in NT4 and 2000 many, many years ago...but I really don't want to do MS Server or SQL Server administration.
I like to build apps, that's all I know...and I am constrained with zero knowledge on the correct path out of my hard fought/self taught world.

Thank you for reading and any advice would be much appreciated!


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    NotHackingYouNotHackingYou Member Posts: 1,460 ■■■■■■■■□□
    My understanding of SharePoint is rudimentary at best, downright dangerous at worst. Most of the Sharepoint I have seen has been javascript and CAML. I am unsure how/if you can use C# in SharePoint.

    My personal preference is typically an ASP.NET hooked up to SQL Server. I have worked in Access before and do not prefer it. To answer your question directly, yes, almost anything you are doing with Excel/Access can be done just as well or better with ASP.NET/SQL Server.

    The best place to start for you would be Head First C#. Given your background in VBS/VBA, much of the knowledge will transfer and some of it may seem redundant and it will be. However, it's a good place to start with C# and help you not only get familiar with the language and the .NET framework but also to identify and fix any bad habits you may have picked up along the way.

    After that I recommend Beginning ASP.NET. This book builds on the C# you learned in the last book and shows you how to incorporate that knowledge into ASP.NET. It includes code samples in C# and VB.NET - something I think might be quite helpful for you as you go further into C#. When you finish this book, you will have a fully-functional ASP.NET web site.

    If you work through these two books, you'll be well on your way to kicking out full-fledged ASP.NET applications and leave Access/Excel in the dust. Lastly, if you need to improve your SQL, I recommend Head First SQL for great coverage of the basics and the 70-461 Training Kit to really hone your SQL in.

    Edited to add: I did the 361 and 363 exams as well as the matching SQL exam. I used the official material. The material was good but I would still start with those Head First books. IMO I would not spend $150/each to take these exams. Rather, I would study for them then use the cost take the MCSD exams. http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en-us/certification-overview.aspx
    When you go the extra mile, there's no traffic.
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    RobertKaucherRobertKaucher Member Posts: 4,299 ■■■■■■■■■■
    SharePoint is a beast. To earn the MCSD on SharePoint you have to pass 4 exams. The first two are not SharePoint specific but cover HTML5/JavaScript and ASP.NET MVC. The second two exams cover SharePoint development specifically.

    MS is trying to get SharePoint development to go in the direction of not using C# to customize SharePoint directly. Instead they want developers to use JavaScript and the SharePoint web services for front end customization. Visual Studio based workflows in SP 2013 do not run in the SharePoint process and are written using Windows WF. Of course you can still do the traditional model of SharePoint development but don't expect that to be supported forever.

    SharePoint Server Enterprise has a special model for developing with Access called Access Services. if you are not familiar with that you should look into it. If you already have a job, I would skip the MTA exams completely. Study the material for sure but then move on to a professional level cert.

    Now I will be brutally honest regarding the professional level certs. If you cannot get hands on experience, the MTA exams might be the way to go. I don't care how much you are able to study, you will not pass the more advanced certs without 6 months of hands-on. I know this because I've failed them and I have seen others fail them. They are not like the MCSE certs where lab work can get you 2/3 of the way or more to passing.

    If you can get someone in your current job to let you participate in some real development to augment your study, you should be golden. Make sure you check out PluralSight as well. They have a ton of developer training. I posted an answer in this forum not that long ago about becoming a Web Developer. Many of the suggestions I gave in that thread would hold true for other developers as well.

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    henrynlouisvillehenrynlouisville Registered Users Posts: 2 ■□□□□□□□□□
    LearnVisualStudio.NET is only $140 for a lifetime membership. Sounds like a great deal. I wonder if he will have a black Friday deal in a couple days...we'll see.

    I have decided to start with Head First C# book...and then read Beginning ASP.NET 4.5: in C# and VB book.
    Then I'm going to subscribe to LearnVisualStudio.NET and try it out...then maybe on to Pluralsight (It's probably worth the $)

    I am going to concentrate on WPF development and get away from Access.
    This will take at least a year I would assume. Given that my company is just now finishing an XP to Win7 (Office 03 to 10) upgrade...MPF seems like the best road for me (concentrating on c#)

    After that, I believe I will continue expanding my resume' by exploring ASP .NET MVC...and the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript that goes along with that.

    Do you agree with this direction?
    Feels like it will be quite some time before I sit for any exams.
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