So, when you are looking at hiring or being hired in you will always hear about certifications, but you want a good one.  Great, let’s talk about some!

Which next? Well, let’s hit one of the odd-ball specialty certifications by Microsoft.  The test is 070-0158. Sounds really engaging doesn’t it? Microsoft test 070-0158 or even 70-158 as some people will write it.  OK, no, the test number just sounds lame… but what does it get you? How about adding “Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS): Forefront Identity Manager 2010, Configuration” to you resume?  Um, er, what does that mean?  I mean seriously, does anyone care or understand?  And is it a title or what?

So first let’s talk about what an MCTS is.  Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) certifications are designed to validate candidates’ skills at using, planning, deploying and troubleshooting a specific Microsoft technology. They are also sometimes also used as stepping blocks for the Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) or Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD) certification.  With an MCITP or MCTS, it is generally considered to add the MCTS to the end of your name when emailing or signing things electronically.  Such as Joe Black, MCTS.  Often you can list specifics in email signatures afterwards… but in general I don’t.

Now let’s get back to the certification at hand: “Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS): Forefront Identity Manager 2010, Configuration”. What is this one?  This is a certification for the product listed, Forefront Identity Manager 2010.  And as such this is an exotic one for people who deal with making Active Directory talk to other LDAP based services utilizing FIM. So the next question is: who is this for?  What does Microsoft say?

“Typical candidates for this exam are Identity Specialists who deploy and manage Forefront Identity Manager (FIM) 2010 in an enterprise environment consisting of more than 5,000 identities with a dynamic lifecycle. These organizations may be geographically and/or organizationally dispersed and may require compliance with extensive regulations. The environment may include multiple applications that consume identities and/or multiple disconnected data sources.”

Don’t you love how Microsoft even has to put in parentheses what the acronyms’ are?  However, more to the point… it really does say what this cert says you can do.  What it doesn’t say is how good you have to be to pass the cert and if the cert is worth anything.  In general with an MCTS the level of proficiency is based in more than a year of actual use of the product with heavy troubleshooting skills. So what this means is that you really know how to implement, troubleshoot… and even explain a product.  Oddly this last one is almost as important as implementation skills on this one.  FIM is just not a heavily used product.  It is however an extremely valuable product because it makes other applications and even environments communicate by translating in a metaverse (yep, real term).

So how does this stand up to other certifications?  An MCTS has a low time in use requirement; however it also is very specialized.  What makes this one different is that it is on an obscure technology that is normally used by people with over ten years in the industry.  So while a low level certification, this actually signifies something that normally sits with and above even an Enterprise Administrator’s MCITP. So on a ten scale, with MCM, MCSM, CCIE and JNCIE at the top as a ten, and Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA), Configuration and CCENT at the low end as a 1, how would I rate it?  Alone I would rate it a 5.  It connected to MCITP: Enterprise Administrator, I rate it a 7.  It is a major name and brings out a lot of conversation.  It is also shows significant skills and determination, as well as longevity in the field.

One caveat as always: remember when discussing certs.  Certs do not equal experience.  Certs validate experience.

What do you think?  And what certification would you like me to take a look at and grade next week?