June 5, 2013 3:59 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
I’m a pretty regular blogger these days. In addition to this three-times-a-week venue, I also blog about IT certification topics for Tom’s IT Pro and for PearsonITCertification.com, at the rate of one or more times a week for each of those sites. Pondering my work over the past 5 years, I realized last week that I’ve now posted over 1,000 blog posts in this general subject area. As I think back on the most common kinds of questions I answer for readers of all ages, and at all levels of skill and experience, in IT, one recurring theme jumps to the head of that list — namely, requests for information or advice on how to dig into something different from what the writer is currently doing, with an eye to moving into or increasing expertise in some new area of technical and professional interest.
Curious or interested in some new technical topic or area? Start reading, then start practicing, then start look for certification opportunities…
What usually comes out of any ensuing conversation — which includes a review of a person’s education, any certs earned, past and present job experience, financial situation, and so forth (See my “Help Me Help You” post for Tom’s IT Pro for a handy-dandy questionnaire to fill out for yourself, or to send to me if you’re so inclined) — is something like this:
1. We identify one or more areas of technical or professional interest that a person wishes to investigate further.
2. I suggest (and provide links to) one or more books, training courses, or IT certifications that might help to scratch that itch.
3. We figure out roughly how much time and money it will take for the person to pursue such things, and formulate a plan to get the ball rolling.
4. The person takes that plan and starts to execute it so he or she can augment his or her current portfolio of skills and knowledge.
This is a fundamentally cyclical process, and should be repeated periodically — I think once every year or two is good for those already working in the field, and more often is good for those in school or trying to break into IT. Give it a try, either on your own or by asking me for input and advice. If you get yourself going, you’ll be able to accomplish great things.
June 3, 2013 3:24 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Over the past couple of weeks, Veronica Sopher from Microsoft Learning has published a pair of very interesting blog posts on Born to Learn. Entitled “Certification Exam Training Tips with MCT Sasa Kranjac” (5/22/13) and “More Certification Exam Training Tips with MCT Sasa Krajnac” (6/1/13), these two pieces convey some useful advice on cert exam preparation approaches and techniques, and also provide pointers to some useful cert prep tools and resources. Kranjac hails from Croatia, and works full-time as an IT trainer, consultant and professional speaker.
Given the part of the world where he’s from, I’m guessing “Sasa” is pronounced “Sasha,” but hey — I could always be wrong.
Here’s a quick rundown of the primary points from these two blog posts, each of which is worth reading through in its entirety:
1. Prepping for certifications isn’t about passing exams, it’s about learning how to secure your future.
2. Self-paced study works best if you use the Skills Measured tool (http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/Exam.aspx?ID=70-xyz, where you plug in the right three-digit code for your current target exam). Be sure to check out TechNet and MSDN along the way, too.
3. Instructor-Led Training (ILT) is all about picking the right instructor.
4. Most Valuable Resource for Krajnac is a TechNet/MSDN subscription (I agree, and have owned either one or the other for twenty years now).
5. The first blog post is worth visiting, if only to peruse Krajnac’s excellent list of IT Pro Resources, Developer Resources, and General Resources – plus Networking, Group Policy, Storage Technologies, Windows Security Collection, Active Directory Collection, and more — for the Microsoft world.
6. Curiously, Krajnac provides pretty much the same test-taking advice to readers that my wife and I provide to our bright and sometimes over-active 9-year-old son, for whom each test seems like a kind of race: Take your time. Read each question twice, all the way to then end. Don’t get stuck for too long on any single question.
7. Schedule your exam early on in the prep process, and pick a definite date that’s not too far-out into the future. This concentrates the mind and your study efforts effectively.
8. Prepare to study, prepare to learn.
9. Prepare your mind: Develop your study plan.
10. Keep your goals away from trolls (don’t let others discourage your efforts, or talk you out of chasing certifications that interest you).
11. You remember 90% of what you read, hear, see, say and do, so put all of these ingredients into your cert prep study mix.
12. Additional resources in this second blog post include TCP/IP fundamentals, the Windows Server 2012 Base Configuration test lab and core network guides, plus PowerShell 3.0 coverage, and Windows 8 resources as well. Once again: these links alone make reading the post entirely worthwhile!
Great job, Veronica, and thanks, Sasa! Anybody prepping for an MS cert exam will find something — and most likely, several somethings — to like about either or both of these postings.
May 27, 2013 3:48 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
One of my favorite cert market watchers — namely, Mirek Burnejko over at ITCertificationMaster.com — has struck gold once again. This time, it occurs in the form of a trove of information nuggets from Joe Cannata, the Senior Manager of Certification over at Brocade Networks, and the person who runs that company’s certification and related training programs for the company. It’s entitled “How to Become a Brocade Certified Engineer — with Joe Cannata” and it’s very much worth reading in its entirety. Nevertheless, I plan to regale you with some high points from that piece right here:
Here’s the banner and lead ‘graph from Burnejko’s excellent interview. I’ve known Joe for at least three years now, and have reported several times on Brocade certs in this very blog.
- There’s a great capsule history of the Brocade cert program included, which hearkens back to its initial offerings in mid-2000, and explains how it’s changed and grown since those early days.
- There’s a very nice explanation of the four tracks in the Brocade cert program, and what kinds of professionals and technical orientations each one targets.
- It explains why Brocade hasn’t yet introduced recertification requirements for its credentials (they’re tied to specific product releases, so the market ultimately decides which ones retain their value).
- It describes the integration of Vyatta (an SDN company recently acquired by Brocade) certs into the company’s program, and other planned changes and additions to the Brocade cert program overall.
- It concludes with a collection of useful pointers to Brocade cert resources, including the Brocade certification page, their certification community, and their Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter presences.
It’s always nice to get a more personal view into an IT certification program, and Burnejko worked very well with Cannata to deliver just that for Brocade. A great piece of work, so I’ll repeat: this Brocade-oriented interview is well worth reading!
May 24, 2013 3:28 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Two months ago, I observed in a blog post entitled “CertCities.com: Lights on, Nobody home?” that there hadn’t been any new activity in those pages since the end of January (2013). Now that I’ve had a change to talk about what’s going on over there — or not going on, as the case turns out to be — with long-time resident blogger and writer, Emmett Dulaney, I’m truly sorry to report that the site has been deactivated. If you visit CertCities.com, you’ll see the site and its content are still there, but according to what Emmett told me, there won’t be any new content coming to those pages until and unless the site’s owner and operator (The Redmond Media Group, which I’ll abbreviate as RMG) decides to resuscitate this online presence. It’s not like RMG has nothing else to do: following is a screen snip of the company’s online properties, most of which are still quite active, and some of which are at least fairly successful:
Of the many, many RMG properties, the Redmond (Microsoft) focused sites/publications and the education topics are still thriving.
In learning how CertCities got wound down, I heard from Mr. Dulaney that the company went through several fits and starts. They indicated to him on at least two occasions that the site would get an additional infusion of money and writing resources but as the stated deadline for their deployment approached, the company backed away from those plans. Mr. Dulaney also indicated that in March, he’d been informed that CertCities.com would become inactive and that no new content would be appearing on its pages for the foreseeable future. As far as I can determine, he’d been the only source of anything new for the site for two years or more before the actual cut-off occurred anyway.
Nevertheless, it’s sad to see this once-vibrant and incredibly active IT certification resource fall by the wayside. I always used to enjoy their salary surveys, IT cert wishlists, and even their lists of best certification authors and training sources (among which my own work, and the Exam Cram series I created, made frequent appearances). So please join me in wishing CertCities.com a fond farewell. It was nice while it lasted!
May 23, 2013 2:32 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Thanks to Anne Martinez at GoCertify.com, I just learned about a YouTube video — don’t get your hopes up: it’s really just a PowerPoint slide deck with voiceover — that addresses the changes and updates to the content of the CCENT/CCNA.1 (100-101 ICND1) and the CCNA.2 (200-101 ICND2) exams (which roll up together into the one-shot “combo” CCNA exam 200-120 CCNA). It’s entitled “The CCNA and CCENT Exam Changes in 2013” and it comes from expert trainer Chris Bryant (of “The Bryant Advantage“).
The opening slide in Bryant’s preso sums up the biggest changes in the revised CCNA/CCENT exams
(old exams retire on September 30, 2013).
Bryant’s basic message is: “Don’t let the new exams derail your current study efforts.” For one thing, three months remain before the older version exams retire so you may still be able to test and pass before time runs out. For another thing, changes to the exams are mostly incremental and don’t require you to abandon everything you’ve learned so far. It simply boils down to tackling and mastering a relatively short list of newly-added topics, as summarized in the preceding screen cap.
May 20, 2013 4:38 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Every now and then, I’ll turn over the reins here at IT Career JumpStart to a friend or colleague for a guest blog post. Here’s one from long-term cert watcher and author Emmett Dulaney, whom I first got to know in the late 1990s through his many good IT cert prep books and articles.
How Many Steps are There to Laser Printing and Why Does it Matter?
by Emmett Dulaney
Here is an interesting question to contemplate: how many steps are there in the laser printing (electrophotographic) process? While this may seem like a trivial question, the answer is anything but.
A web search on the topic will reveal quite a few different answers, but most will report that it is either six steps or seven. In order to obtain the basic entry-level industry-recognized computer certification (the A+ certification from CompTIA), one has to know not only this process, but the number of steps and the order of each step. If you were to seek the certification prior to the latest round of exams that came out within the past year, the answer to questions on the topic would be that there are six steps, and – in order – they are:
If you were to seek the certification today and take the latest exam (referenced by the vendor as exam number 220-801), the number of steps has changed from six to seven and they – in order – are now:
Over 800,000 people worldwide have obtained the A+ certification and have had to answer multiple-choice questions about the number of steps and the order in which they are carried out. CompTIA has a lot of weight as an industry leader and their vendor-neutral certifications are second to none, but I am not so sure that I agree with their assessment even though Wikipedia – that great bastion of knowledge – agrees with them and lists these seven steps on their site today (as do a number of other sites that are based on much of the same content).
Within the actual laser printer market, the industry leaders are: HP, Canon, Samsung, and Xerox (a lot of others exist and compete for smaller portions of the pie). HP still lists six steps when it comes to their printers and those six steps resemble the first list CompTIA required exam candidates to know. Canon similarly lists six steps to their printing process but puts them in a different order:
- Electrical Charge
While I was unable to find anything authoritative from Samsung, these six steps from Canon mirror those created by Chester Carlson when he invented Xerography and are those agreed upon by Xerox as well.
In short, whether there are six or seven steps to the electrophotographic printing process is a topic that can be debated among academics and websites. The manufacturers of laser printers tend to standardize on six while they disagree on the exact wording and order of them. Those authenticating a technician’s knowledge through certifications, however, are now testing on a specific list of seven steps and asking candidates to know them. This is not an ideal situation and it begs the question: is this really something that should be tested on at all?
If the laser printer manufacturers, even when agreeing on the number of steps, cannot agree on the order or wording of them, why should a technician be required to memorize them to authenticate that they know how to work on printers? Picking “Developing” as the answer to the third step of the printing process is correct – by the manufacturer’s guidelines – if the printer in question is a Canon or Xerox machine, but wrong it if is an HP. It is also wrong under both sets of the CompTIA lists, and that brings the whole concept of testing on this particular topic under scrutiny.
Certification exams are a great way to authenticate skills when those skills are agreed upon and accepted by those within the industry. When they are arbitrary and questionable, however, it is best to let the vendors test on them individually and not try to homogenize what cannot be normalized.
Emmett Dulaney is the author the CompTIA Network+ Authorized Exam Cram, 4E (ISBN: 978-0789749055) as well as the CompTIA Green IT Fast Track and Wireless Certification Flash Cards .
Yes, Virginia, it really is “the end” for CertCities.com.
[PostScript: in a follow-up conversation by phone with Emmett, I also learned that indeed the plug has been pulled on CertCities.com, and that while the site remains accessible, neither he -- nor as far as he knows, anyone else -- will be adding any new content to the site for the foreseeable future. Despite repeated avowals from management to re-start the site, it's now been decided to leave it alone going forward. It's a sad thing for me to see another formerly great source of surveys, information, and news on IT certification boarding up its virtual doors. Sigh.]
May 17, 2013 5:55 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
There’s a new MS certification in town: in a post dated May 16, 2013, Born to Learn made it known that MS had launched a credential that targets professional development for educators, and seeks to ensure they make good use of what’s called Information Communication Technology (aka ICT) to help their students acquire and employ what the company calls “21st century skills.” According to that blog post, entitled Introducing Microsoft Certified Educator (MCE) Certification, this program includes self-assessment tools for educators to put to work, along with an online learning curriculum and so-called “summative assessments” that are aligned to “the Technology Literacy Approach of the UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers (UNESCO ICT-CFT).”
The MS Learning pages now include the Microsoft Certified Educator (MCE) cert amidst their offerings.
The focal point for the credential is a single exam (named “Exam 193“), for which pointers to training materials are also provided. Digging into this offering requires completing a self-assessment to determine, so I cheerfully complied, spending about half an hour working through the 40 questions in that instrument. I came away from that assessment in need of three classes based on the UNESCO ICT-CFT framework:
As somebody who understands technology well, but not necessarily the elements of UNESCO pedagogy, that’s also what my courses appear to reflect.
The courses that I was allowed to bypass included the following:
- How do technology and pedagogy mix? (7 hrs)
- Use basic ICT tools to support teaching and learning (10hrs 40 mins)
- Organize and manage the use of ICT in your classroom (6 hrs 30 mins)
Another way to look at this is to observe that out of a total time commitment of 37 hours for all classes, I would need 12 hours and 50 minutes (let’s say 13 hours in rounder numbers) to cover the whole curriculum, or about 35% of the stem-to-stern coverage. I’m guessing this will be fairly typical for most educators with any experience, especially those with a more technical bent. That should make earning the MCE relatively easy and straightforward for most of them.
Microsoft’s link for “How to buy the exam” leads to the general Microsoft in Education|Buy and License page, which left me scratching my head when it comes to who’s offering the exam, how much it costs, and how to sign up for same. So I next searched on the exam number (62-193) and located the exam page at MS Learning, which was somewhat more helpful. That’s where I learned that the exam is administered through Certiport, though Microsoft’s link into their site stymied me on signing up for that exam (the educator stuff is not yet represented in the pull-down lists and exam options available through Certiport’s exam locator). That’s when I reached out to Certiport’s designated PR contact, Allison Yrungaray, who hooked me up with Certiport’s marketing manager for Microsoft stuff, Peggy Hayes, and her product management counterpart, Dave Hansen, who straightened me out on what’s up.
It seems that Certiport has just completed an MCE pilot in Ireland and Russia, and they’re still engaged in putting a global rollout together. People will be able to sign up for the MCE exam through the company’s exam locator page some time in June, at which point the list price for the exam will be a very educator-friendly $69 here in the USA (local prices vary with local currencies elsewhere around the world, as you might imagine). I’ll be checking back in on the program next month, to see how the rest of the rollout goes. But for now, we know that the MCE exists, that it has been piloted in two countries, and that it will be making a complete public debut some time next month (June 2013).
May 15, 2013 3:53 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
In this morning’s paper I saw an item about how the US Department of Defense is going to institute a mandatory furlough for 11 days’ work for 680,000 civilian employees of that agency between July 8 and the end of the fiscal year (October 31, 2013). Trying to assess the overall impact on employment and the economy I immediately grabbed my calculator and started running some numbers. 680,00 x 11 x 8 (number of employees times number of days times number of hours in a workday) = 59,840,000 hours. With 2080 hours in a normal working year (52 weeks times 40 hours per week) that translates into a job loss of roughly 29,000 (28,769.23 to be more precise).
Here’s the blog headline from the Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire post on this topic.
But is the loss of an average of about four days’ work per person for three months for those 680,000 individuals who remain (mostly) employed the same as outright loss of jobs, despite the calculations I just performed? Methinks not, and here’s why:
1. None of these affected individuals will be filing unemployment or other assistance claims as a result of their involuntary furloughs.
2. The overall impact on other forms of assistance (food banks, homeless shelters, and so forth) is likely to be negligible.
3. Because essential personnel will not be furloughed (the article specifically mentions medical personnel and police officers, and civilians working in war zones as exempt), those affected will actually go from working 5-day weeks to 4-day weeks for the period from July 8 through September 27 – 12 weeks, so 12 days total — and will experience a 20% pay cut as a consequence.
No doubt, this will be a hardship for the individuals and their families who must give up part of their normal income as a result of the sequester. I know that if I had to accept a similar pay cut, I wouldn’t be happy about it, but I could find a way to make it work. I can only hope this doesn’t serve as a tipping point into deeper debt or bankruptcy for too many of the public servants who fall under this umbrella. But I don’t think it’s going to have anywhere near the same impact on the national economy as would the outright layoff of nearly 29,000 workers. In fact, I’ll be curious to see if it registers on the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ employment radar at all. Although it’s a bitter pill for those DoD civilians and their families to swallow, I have to believe it’s not as traumatic as cutting jobs outright. Let’s hope that the politicians can get this sorted out before another fiscal year gets too far underway in October 2013 and beyond.
May 13, 2013 7:21 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
A recently-published study from Harris Interactive reveals some interesting concerns from American workers surveyed online between March 19 and 21, 2013 (see this April 4 news item for more details: “Majority of American Workers are Worried About Job and Benefits Security.” I can’t help but see this as a natural consequence of our painfully slow economic recovery since the doldrums of 2008-2009. Even though the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the lowest overall unemployment since President Obama took office — 7.5 percent, the grinding and poky pace of economic improvement isn’t buoying confidence amongst the American workforce, which probably explains equally sluggish growth in consumer confidence and spending.
A follow-up story from Harris that appeared on May 2, 2013 ran with the preceding headline, and indicates that slow improvement isn’t really helping American workers feel better about their current work situations and future prospects. The company’s “Harris Poll Jobs and Benefits Security Index” (HP-JBSI)measures how workers feel about their jobs and benefits, and about their overall employment security. The May 2 story reports that “…this combined measure [the HP-JBSI] shows a strong and increasing concern, particularly among older and higher income workers, while individual concerns show more dramatic month-to-month shifts among all workers.”
Here are some of the findings reported in the latest story:
- More U.S. workers (50% March – 53% April) expect to do more work without getting more money in the next three months;
- More U.S. workers (20% March – 24% April) expect to have their salary or hours reduced in the next three months;
- Less U.S. workers (61% March – 55% April) believe that if they were going to look for a new job, they would be able to find one;
- And, less U.S. workers believe they will get a raise from their employer (35% March – 29% April) or receive better retirement benefits (18% March – 13% April) in the next three months.
Turning to the HP-JBSI measurement, Harris reports these findings as well:
- U.S. workers with an annual household income of $50,000-$74,999 (58% March-62% April) are both the most concerned income group, and the group showing the sharpest month-over-month rise in concern. Those with incomes of $75,000 or more also show notable growth in concerns (56% March-59% April).
- U.S. workers ages 55 and older (60% March-63% April) are, in an echo of the trend above, the age group showing both the greatest overall concern and the most prominent growth in this measure.
Harris Interactive President and CEO Al Angrisani (former Assistant Secretary of Labor for President Reagan) uses these results to opine that “…workers are more pessimistic about the likelihood of finding a job if they need to look for one, as well as the likelihood of seeing a benefits improvement.” He goes on to observe that because of the cost and risk involved in recruiting and hiring “talent and new employees,” such activity is regarded as a “major investment consideration for employers.” Their apparent reluctance to increase headcount is also contributing to a sense of unease among employed workers, particularly those at higher pay grades and levels of responsibility.
Does this mean layoffs are coming back in vogue in organizations? Not according to recent first-time unemployment claims figures for the past 4-6 weeks. But something has the workforce spooked, particularly those who’ve been around it long enough to see (or at least fear) the apparent handwriting on the wall. Given recent stock market upticks and new highs set for all three major stock indices last week, it’s interesting to see this wave of fear and loathing from the workforce. Let’s hope it’s just a case of the jitters, and not a portent of a labor downturn in the offing. As always, only time will tell!