Tag Archives: Certification

Certification Update: MCTS and MCITP are ending, have you taken those last tests?

As many of you know, the Microsoft Certified IT Professional / MCITP and Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist / MCTS programs are ending.  This has been inferred by many of us, but the reality is that Microsoft has stated this flat out.  However, they never really made a big deal about it.  And this is going to catch many people flat footed.  Remember though that these certifications, once earned are good for life. The program is expiring but the certs are not.

The MCTS / MCITP program has a simple premise: you received a certification specific to exactly what you knew.  This was most evident in the differences between a Microsoft Certified IT Professional / MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Support Technician on Windows 7 and a Microsoft Certified IT Professional / MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Administrator on Windows 7.  They sounded the same but in reality were completely different certifications.

Here was the problem.  There were too many certifications.  They just get out of control.  For example, I am a consultant.  So, I need certifications a variety of topics.  My resume has fifteen MCTS titles on it.  It also has four MCITP.  Isn’t that a bit much?

In the old days (yes, even IT has old days, and older days), there was just the MCSE and MCP.  You could do something (nothing specific was listed) or could do everything (totally a misnomer).  Today Microsoft if trying to find a happy medium; I wish them luck, but I am not sure it is going to work as well as they think.

I have one MCSA and one MCSE from the new program.  I will say that the MCSE was hard.  And the old Microsoft test taking techniques don’t work quite as well as you would think.  It actually impressed me.  My only concern is that they are pulling away some of the advantages they used to have with the MCTS / MCITP programs.  For example: Windows 7 support does not equal deployment.  On the MCSA it does.

I am going to say let’s all give it a try.  However, if you want that last MCITP or are prepping for an MCTS… get it before they are gone.  I have included a limited list of when many of these are expiring; make sure you don’t plan your lives by it though: Microsoft may change it.

 

Some of the expiration schedule:

Expires: Thursday, January 31, 2013

– Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist / MCTS: Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007, Configuration Exam 70-638

– Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist / MCTS: Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, Configuration Exam 70-630

– Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist / MCTS: Microsoft Office Visio 2007, Application Development Exam 70-545

– Microsoft Certified IT Professional / MCITP: Enterprise Project Management with Microsoft Office Project Server 2007

 

Expires: Friday, February 01, 2013

– Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist / MCTS: Enterprise Project Management with Microsoft Office Project Server 2007 Exam 70-633

 

Expires: Saturday, February 02, 2013

– Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist / MCTS: Microsoft Office Project Server 2007, Configuration Exam 70-639

 

Expires: Wednesday, July 31, 2013

– Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist / MCTS: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Database Development Exam 70-433

– Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist / MCTS: Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007, Configuration Exam 70-401

– Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist / MCTS: System Center Data Protection Manager 2007, Configuration Exam 70-658

– Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist / MCTS: Windows Server 2008 R2, Server Virtualization Exam 70-659

– Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist / MCTS: Windows Server 2008 R2, Desktop Virtualization Exam 70-669

– Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist / MCTS: Microsoft .NET Framework 4, Windows Applications Development Exam 70-511

– Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist / MCTS: Windows Vista, Configuration Exam 70-620

– Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist / MCTS: Microsoft Windows Embedded CE 6.0, Development Exam 70-571

– Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist / MCTS: Windows Server 2008 Applications Infrastructure, Configuration Exam 70-643

– Microsoft Certified IT Professional / MCITP: Consumer Support Technician on Windows Vista

– Microsoft Certified IT Professional / MCITP: Enterprise Support Technician on Windows Vista

– Microsoft Certified IT Professional / MCITP: Enterprise Administrator on Windows Server 2008

– Microsoft Certified IT Professional / MCITP: Virtualization Administrator on Windows Server 2008 R2

– Microsoft Certified IT Professional / MCITP: Database Administrator 2008

– Microsoft Certified IT Professional / MCITP: Database Developer 2008

– Microsoft Certified IT Professional / MCITP: Business Intelligence Developer 2008

– Microsoft Certified IT Professional / MCITP: Lync Server Administrator 2010

 

Expires: Friday, January 31, 2014

– Microsoft Certified IT Professional / MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Support Technician on Windows 7

– Microsoft Certified IT Professional / MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Administrator on Windows 7

– Microsoft Certified IT Professional / MCITP: Server Administrator on Windows Server 2008

Certification Spotlight Series: MCSE: Private Cloud … how does it rate? Just buzzwords or real value?

So, you’re looking at the next generation of IT certifications are you?  You want a cert with all the new buzz words.  Right?  Let’s sit down and take a look at the point of the spear for these new Microsoft certifications.  The new MCSE: Private Cloud. Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert.  Yep, one of the new ones.

Part of the allure of this test is that it has the new buzzword phrase: private cloud.  Does it really deserve it?  In all honesty, it does somewhat.  However it is way more than just private cloud though.  This covers private cloud, systems management, disaster recovery, operating system deployments, etc.  So, this cert can grab onto a lot of buzzwords.  And those buzzwords can mean a lot.  They can mean interviews, promotions, sales or even introductions.  They cannot be emphasized enough.

The only thing that is really off on this certification is the MCSE in its tittle.  The MCSE is by far, the most recognized industry certification in the world.  They are attempting to bring it back because the MCITP just didn’t get the reputation the MCSE had.  Additionally they are trying to modernize it.  Remember, in the United States of America, that the MCSE, which stood for Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer was awesome.  “Systems Engineer” and “Senior Systems Engineer” are traditional titles.  In some parts of the world, “Engineer” is a protected term.  As such, Microsoft tried the MCITP… but what was the title to with that?  “IT Professional?”  What does that mean?  Microsoft is fighting back, so now you have the “Solutions Expert.”  Microsoft is showing that they are in tune with the industry.  I guess we can all live with it, right?

Oh, but there is a catch.  The new MCSE requires a recertification cycle.  Something Microsoft has threatened but never before pulled off.  Every three years you have to recertify.  I wonder what the tests will be for it.

So what is the audience profile?  “With Windows Server 2008 and System Center 2012, and soon with Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012 SP1, you can build your Microsoft private cloud solution and gain the automation and flexibility you need for your IT infrastructure, now and in the future. Do you have experience with these technologies? Are you ready to begin the journey to cloud computing with a Microsoft private cloud implementation? Become Private Cloud certified and prove your knowledge and skills in managing and implementing Microsoft private cloud computing technologies.”  Hmmm…. Not much of a profile.  However, you begin to see that this is heavily about buzz.  Really, it is a System Center admin who has engineer experience and virtualization experience who wants to spread their wings.  Honestly, I would expect most people who go for it to have five to ten years of experience.

For my reviews I will be rating certification on a 1-10 scale.  Ten will be the highest, with one the lowest. So, on a ten scale, with MCM, CCIE and JNCIE at the top as a ten, and Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA), A+, CCENT at the low end as a 1.  Well, I hope you weren’t waiting for me to rate those six certs… they just were rated as my baseline.

How would I rate these?  First off remember that this certification takes anywhere from five certification tests to seven certification tests to earn.  That is massive.  As such I would rate the real value here as around a 7.  However, with the current buzz, and the plain visibility of those buzz words, the perceived value is through the roof.  As such the perceived visibility here is going to be at least a 9, yes, a 9. I know this is incredibly high.  However, I can’t think of a certification outside my 10 point certs (CCIE, MCM) that even compare to the salivation that occurs with those buzzwords.  So, I think the perceived value will drop, but for now: grab the value.

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

Certification Spotlight: Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS): Forefront Identity Manager 2010, Configuration; what the heck does that cert mean?

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?

Opinion: Microsoft, why are you further confusing the Windows 7 certifications?

On Friday the seventh of September Microsoft sent out an email that is bound to drive many of the Windows 7 certified IT folk to drink.  And Microsoft should have known better. Hopefully you have read my valuation of the MCITP Windows 7, Enterprise Desktop Administrator… it will help explain what the confusion really is about. But wait, there is more!  Well here is an excerpt from the email they sent out.

“Soon you will receive an email to congratulate you on your Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA): Windows 7 certification you have earned.  You may be wondering what the MCSA: Windows 7 certification is and how did you earn it.”

“In April 2012, Microsoft announced new certifications that have been re-invented for the cloud, covering on-premises skills as well as in the cloud.  As part of our efforts to grandfather our existing customers into the new program, we are awarding those individuals a new certification under the new certification program to jump start them towards an expert level certification in the program.   For individuals that have already earned the Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) Enterprise Desktop Administrator or MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Support Technician, they are being granted the MCSA: Windows 7 certification.”

So, there are two Windows 7 MCITPs that are completely different certifications… wouldn’t you expect Microsoft to know better?  Guess, not, they are adding a third… that is meaningless. So how do you tell which Windows 7 certified staff knows client management and which are highly trained help desk technicians?  Wait, you can’t?  Nope… not with that MCSA. So what do they mean?  Great question!  Microsoft, what do they mean?

You know there is one other weirdness here.  MCSA was used for a decade plus to define the Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator… a server certification (actually you can still get one). So, we have a “free certification” of the new models.

Confused yet?  I am.  Please Microsoft, end the confusion!

Certification Spotlight Series: MCITP Windows 7, Enterprise Desktop Administrator… how does it rate? Valuable?

MCITP

So, when you are looking at hiring or being hired in IT (or maybe more aptly named in the old days, managing information systems staff) you will always hear about certifications.  You went and decided to get one… and supposedly this blog is going to help you find some value in them, right?  Right.  Here goes the second article in the series.  It is starting with one of the least coveted, most often required and completely misunderstood certifications.

So what does the MCITP Windows 7, Enterprise Desktop Administrator certification mean?  It means you can support Windows 7, right?  Wrong.  Would you believe that the actual MCITP test doesn’t even include supporting Windows 7 systems or users in the description of skill measured?  Not even one percent.

Here is the breakdown of what skills are measured with the final test for this.  Planning and Managing a Client Life Cycle Strategy (16%); if this sounds more like planning the management of a bunch of workstations, then you are right.  Designing a Standard Image (17%); hey wait a minute, this is a major task that you do when deploying operating systems isn’t it?  Yes it is.  Designing Client Configurations (17%); this sounds like more deployment skills… maybe even large scale deployment skills.  Designing a Windows 7 Client Deployment (15%); ok, this is straight up deployment… and it actually touches on MDT and SCCM (System Center Configuration Manager).  Designing Application Packages for Deployment (17%); packaging, are you kidding, this is a major task that is often outsourced because people do not know how to do it… but wait there is more.  This section also includes deployment strategies and skills including virtualized, Remote Desktop Services, Group Policy, or software distribution (read SCCM).  Identifying and Resolving Deployment and Client Configuration Issues (19%); this should read: Windows 7 troubleshooting from the domain, forest, network, and Group Policy Object or deployment level.

So if you couldn’t find the support Windows 7 angle, you are looking at the wrong part here.  See the support skills are a building block to get to the MCITP.  They are tested in the MCTS: Windows 7, Configuring certification, which someone with this cert has to have already earned.  So getting to the MCITP includes support elements, but it really is more of a managing workstations certification than a support certification.  This certification validates your ability to deploy operating systems, desktop applications and to manage the Windows 7 client life cycle.

There actually is a Windows 7 support certification at the MCITP level.  MCITP: Windows 7, Enterprise Desktop Support Technician is the certification for support.

So Microsoft says the audience is: “Candidates for this exam should have a minimum of three years of experience installing, configuring, and administering clients in a Windows networked environment and also have experience deploying operating systems and applications. Candidates should be familiar with the client administration capabilities of Windows Server and with management tools such as the System Center suite of products.”  So they are expecting three years of high end, highly skilled work that just happens to be directed to workstations.

Now let’s compare this to the candidate audience for the MCITP: Windows 7, Enterprise Desktop Support Technician that everyone seems to be mixing up with this certification. “Candidates for this exam support end users who run Microsoft Windows 7 in a corporate environment. They should have experience using applications that are included with the operating system, such as productivity applications used in a corporate environment and Microsoft Office applications.”  Did you notice the lack of a time in the role listed?  Yep, it isn’t there.  This is a significantly lower valued certification.

For my reviews I will be rating certification on a 1-10 scale.  Ten will be the highest, with one the lowest. So on a ten scale, with MCM, CCIE and JNCIE at the top as a ten, and Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA), A+, CCENT at the low end as a 1.  Well, I hope you weren’t waiting for me to rate those six certs… they just were rated as my baseline.

How would I rate these?  First off let’s rate the certification everyone mistakenly thinks this cert is.  I would rate MCITP: Windows 7, Enterprise Desktop Support Technician at about a 3 on my scale.  The certification does not have a long time in the role required to master the skills and is mainly aimed at technicians able to resolve operating system issues by telephone, email, connecting to an end user’s system remotely, or by visiting an end user’s desktop.

MCITP Windows 7, Enterprise Desktop Administrator is a weird one.  The perceived value is low, possibly a 3, as everyone mistakes it for the other Windows 7 MCITP.  However, the real value of the skills this represents is significantly higher.  I would rate this certification a 5.  Additionally, if this certification is combined with a MC TS: Windows 7 and Office 2010, Deploying; that is a major boost.  That combination would rate as a six… and nearly any consulting firm that does Windows 7 (or 8) deployments is, or should be, looking for just that combination.

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

Certification Spotlight Series: What the heck does my certification mean?

So, when you are looking at hiring or being hired in IT (or maybe more aptly named in the old days, managing information systems staff) you will always hear about certifications.  Great, let’s get some!  So, you have a cert now.  What does it matter?  What do they really mean?  As the first in a series of articles on certification on this site, I am going to take a look at a variety of certifications and help you understand what they mean and help pin a little bit of valuation on them.  Not in cash, but in skill level.

Today we live in an age where everything we do is cataloged, blogged about, qualified and quantified. But in the end, all people can say is where you worked and what people say you have done.  Think of certifications as putting up headers or tabs in those catalogs of you.  Headers saying: yes, I can do that.  In the end, one caveat: remember when discussing certs, certs do not equal experience; certs validate experience.

So how does your certification stand up to other certifications?  To look at that we look at a variety of things.  One is how much time is expected of the certified person to work in the technology before taking their certification.   An additional view is how specialized is it? Sometimes what makes a certification different is that it is on an obscure technology.  In these cases even a low ranked certification, such as an MCTS could be valuable, for its rarity.  An example of this is the “Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS): Forefront Identity Manager 2010, Configuration”.  Ninety nine out a hundred people have never even heard of the technology, but if you need someone to manage or implement it: it can take years of effort just to find someone.

Here is another piece to remember, when prepping for this certification can you really just study a book and pass the test?  One example is the A+.  Everything I have heard is a yes.  Granted, that is heard, I have never taken it.  On the other hand, “Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS): Forefront Identity Manager 2010, Configuration”?  Good luck.  I don’t think 99 out of 100 people could pull it off.

And lastly, there is another component that that should always be looked at.  That is a simple question of: does this certification enhance or get enhanced by another certification?  This has to be taken into account when doing a valuation of certifications.

For my reviews I will be rating certification on a 1-10 scale.  Ten will be the highest, with one the lowest. So on a ten scale, with MCM, CCIE and JNCIE at the top as a ten, and Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA), A+, CCENT at the low end as a 1.  Well, I hope you weren’t waiting for me to rate those six certs… they just were rated as my baseline.

In this series I will review many certifications.  These certifications will all be IT related in some way or another, and I will try and qualify these so you can think about what your headers will be.  One thing though, always keep that one caveat in mind: 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?

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