I love talking to young folks still in school about tech. In many ways they are so much smarter than I was, or in some cases smarter than I am currently. The sad part is there is not as many of them as there used to be.
The single one question I get the most, other than how do you become a Sitecore MVP, is "my company does not have Sitecore but I want to learn Sitecore. How can I get a copy to practice on?".
Yeah - not so much an easy task there due to licensing. I think without working for a company with the right licensing or working or a Sitecore implementation partner you are going to have a difficult time getting your hands on a copy of Sitecore.
However, if you really want to work with Sitecore and are dedicated to do so - I would seek out those opportunities. If you are unable to do so, like if you are a student not yet seeking employment, I usually provide the following advice:
- Understand both the Microsoft ASP.NET webforms and MVC technical stacks. Each framework has it’s own unique composition model to understand. Since Sitecore sits on top of the .NET framework, any knowledge learned here will apply.
- Get some working knowledge of content management systems. You want to understand content topologies, dependencies, and general authoring process practices.
- Understand how the web works. This really means how do servers communicate, how does HTTP really work, sessions, cookies, and overall state, and it never hurts to understand TCP/IP and how to break apart packets if necessary.
- With Sitecore - understand the marketer. Take some general marketing classes and understand their terminology. Understand events, campaigns, and how they use information gathered.
- Read blogs and watch videos. The Sitecore community is by far the best tech/product community I have ever had the privilege to be associated with. There are some of the smartest folks I have had the pleasure to associate with at your disposal for questions and help. The great part about all these smart folks - they love to help others to do what they do - completely unselfish. Twitter and Stack Overflow are mentoring playgrounds for you to become involved in.
- Attend one of the many and constantly growing Sitecore user groups. If you don’t have a local one in the area - Hedgehog sponsors the Sitecore Virtual User Group and many groups like the Milwaukee Sitecore Users Group stream their meeting presenters.
- Sites like http://learnsitecore.cmsuniverse.net/ have a wealth of information on how to do things in Sitecore.
Finally if you can afford it, there are some great offerings for training from Sitecore. These can be local or online based training.
In my opinion, it would be great for universities to establish courses around CMS, particularly Sitecore, as part of an advanced development curriculum. If that happens I would love to teach that class for sure.