March 31, 2013 9:32 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
In this case BTL stands for Born to Learn, the many-voiced and very active blog over at Microsoft Learning. Just last week (March 26), regular poster and MS Learning employee Veronica Sopher published a guest post from MCP community member Steven R. McEvoy, whose claim to fame is to have taken 31 Microsoft exams since 2007 (plus another 6 CompTIA and also 3 Apple exams). His post is entitled “6 Reasons Why I Certify” and is worth reading in its entirety, especially if my brief summary here excites further interest or curiosity.
A veritable spectrum of IT certs adds interest and value to your career and its prospects.
Image credit: Shutterstock 105579221
His six reasons are both short and compelling, a rare and beautiful combination in a world of overblown rhetoric and omnipresent hype:
1. I love to learn.
2. To stay current.
3. Because of new responsibilities at work.
4. Because of new technologies I manage.
5. Because if I do not plan on writing the exam I won’t get around to it.
6. For fun.
As I look this list over, I don’t see much missing from his list of “reasons why.” About the only other items I can think of in fact could include only a few items, such as “Curiosity,” “My job requires me to earn this certification,” “My employer pays for IT certifications,” “I need to develop related skills and knowledge,” or “To help research a possible new technology direction.” Simply, put McEvoy’s list does a great and fairly complete job of covering the majority of good reasons why IT professionals might decide to pursue and earn a technical certification of some kind. And if his list isn’t complete enough for you, I hope my additions will indeed round them out fully and fairly.
And of course, there’s always the career development angle to consider as well. Countless salary and job satisfaction surveys for IT professional seek to demonstrate increases in pay and responsibility, improved prospects for promotion or new jobs, and enhanced job satisfaction for those who obtain a nice portfolio of IT certifications, and then do the necessary to keep them up-to-date. I just thought it might be nice to step back from the rat race that so often comes with pursuit of IT certification and learning, and to reflect on the reasons why we jump into the meat grinder, and to consider that the trials and tribulations might eventually end in some rewards.
March 29, 2013 9:00 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
When I first got into the IT certification game back in the mid-1990s, there were a handful of online properties that really ruled that world. In the past decade, however, the old guard has been slowly crumbling into oblivion, and falling out of the game. I was on the masthead of one of those properties — namely Certification Magazine – from 1996 until perhaps 2005 or 2006, so that kept me from getting too involved with another of them — namely CertCities.com. CertMag is still shuffling along gamely, but they’re down to one or two articles a month, with not much traffic or traction anymore, either.
For a long time, CertCities.com was a major IT cert news and info outlet. No more.
For the past two or three years, Emmett Dulaney has provided the only regular signs of life at CertCities, and kept on posting articles monthly long after all other signs of activity ceased. I just paid a visit to CertCities for the first time since January, 2013, and noticed that his end-of-month post there has not been followed up since. It’s been years since they’ve done any IT Pro certification wishlists, top paying certification surveys, or awards for best programs, providers, writers, and so forth. Perhaps it’s an excess of nostalgia, or just some kind of scheduling conflict on his part, but I can’t help but see the final winding down of this once market-leading certification portal in Dulaney’s failure to post either last month or this one.
Given the undeniable notion that “nothing lasts forever” and the well-known principle of “Internet years” (which, if I understand them correctly, are more like dog years than human ones), the patient is at least comatose, if not moribund outright. So long, CertCities: I remember your heyday, and I’m sorry to see you go. Even if Becky Waring and her crew would never let me into the fold, even after I bailed on Cert Magazine (after they tried to cut my compensation rate below what they first paid in 1996 or 1997), I still miss their content and coverage. Of the old guard from those days, only Anne Martinez (at GoCertify.com) and myself are still working the trenches every week, if not every day.
March 26, 2013 5:15 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Starting today, there are no longer two classes of Cisco Certified Network Associates around. Why do I say this? Because until today’s announcement, parties interested in earning some CCNA flavors — such as Security and Wireless, for example — actually first had to earn a plain-vanilla CCNA, and then follow it up with another exam to demonstrate their skills and knowledge in a technology area other than routing and switching. As of this morning, March 26, 2013, that is no longer the case.
Today, this is what the CCNA program looks like:
- The old plain vanilla CCNA is being relabeled as CCNA Routing and Switching.
- The requirements for CCNA Voice, CCNA Security, CCNA Wireless, CCNA SP Operations, and CCDA will be changed to — as Cisco states in its press release — “better align with industry job roles of today and in the future.”
- For CCNA Routing and Switching and the predecessor cert, CCENT (Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician), the training curriculum and exam content for the ICND1, ICND2, and CCNA Composite exams has been altered to put more emphasis on IPv6, updated Cisco IOS software versions, and on troubleshooting topics, tools, and techniques.
The simplest way to explain the change is to observe that all Associate Cisco credentials will henceforth require taking only two exams to meet requirements (no more extra exam for those who’d like to jump straight into specialty areas; this had already been foreshadowed with the CCNA Data Center, which has required two independent exams since its introduction late last year). The CCDA change going forward is to make the CCENT (which requires exam ICND1) a pre-requisite for that credential.
Except for the CCDA (which imposes the CCENT pre-requisite requirement effective October 13, 2013) the changes to the CCNA credentials are available today for those who wish to take the new or revised exams instead of the prior curriculum and exam elements. Three self-study products are already available in the online Cisco Learning Network Store for the revised Cisco CCNA Routing and Switching certification: Cisco Learning Labs for ICND1 v2.0, Cisco Certification Practice Exam for ICND1 (100-101), and Cisco E-Learning for ICND1 v2.0. Also, labs, practice exams and e-learning for ICND2 v2.0 are expected to be released at the Cisco Learning Network Store some time late in May, 2013. Check the CCNA page at Cisco Learning for all the details, which indicates that the old CCNA exams will no longer be available after September 30, 2013, and provides exam IDs for new versions of CCNA composite (200-120), ICND1 (100-101), and ICND2 (200-101).
Here’s what the new exam slate looks like, plucked straight from the slide deck Cisco used to pre-brief me on these changes last week:
New slate for two-exam-only CCNA versions.
This also explains why Cisco found it necessary to re-work the ICND1 and ICND2 exams: some important content from ICND2 had to make its way into ICND1, so that CCNAs in Security, Voice, and Wireless would still get the topical coverage on base technologies relevant to their workaday routine without having to take ICND2 any longer. Injection of IPv6 content and coverage of new IOS versions simply reflect ongoing changes to workplace networking that will likewise affect everyone who toils in this area. Individuals who already hold these certifications don’t have to worry about the new requirements until their three-year renewal cycle comes up. Then, those switching to the new curriculum for the first time will have the option of retaking the ICND1 or their specialty exam to re-up; after that it’s far more likely they’ll be asked to re-take the specialty exam instead (or meet continuing education requirements as another possible alternative).
This is big news, because it lets IT professionals interested in specializing in security, wireless, and Voice obtain their CCNA certifications without first having to earn a plain-vanilla CCNA, and then take one or two additional exams in their specialty area. It puts them on the same footing as those who already sought to specialize in Data Center (and Data Center Operation) and Video, because they’ve always had to take and pass only two exams to earn their credentials. I think this change is very much for the better, and should make it easier for more junior level IT professionals to start moving into their chosen areas of technical specialization more quickly, easily, and cheaply. Employers can’t help but like the shortened training and learning cycle this offers as well — with reduced time to certification and training/exam costs along the way, for those who subsidize employee certification and training.
March 24, 2013 8:42 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
The old saw tells us that the best things in life are free. By that metric, IT certification is generally excluded from consideration, as the vast majority of such credentials require spending money on a certification exam of some kind, as well as study materials. In some cases, certification sponsors even require candidates to pony up for mandatory classroom training just to qualify to take some certification exam or another. While it is very much the exception and not at all the rule, there are some free certifications available. In a recent article for his excellent Website ITCertificationMaster.com, Miroslaw Burnejko hits pay dirt with a story entitled “3 The Best FREE Online Courses with Certificates.” In this story, he points to the following three certifications as not just free but worth pursuing anyway (and don’t forget that your time and effort are worth something, even if you don’t have to expend any hard, cold cash):
Hurricane Electric offers an interesting, detailed, multi-level IPv6 cert ladder.
1. Hurricane Electric’s IPv6 Certification Program:
HE is a leading North American (and Global) ISP, and one of a handful that offers companies a variety of technologies (including a very nice IPv6 Tunnel Broker, that lets you manage a native IPv6 connection to HE through another ISP, even if they themselves support only IPv4) to permit them to establish a native IPv6 presence on the Internet. Though Burnejko points specifically to the pinnacle cert in the HE program — the IPv6 Sage — their offerings come in six levels, where earning each one requires reading and experimentation, and then passing an increasingly complex and challenging series of labs exams to climb to the next rung on their certification ladder. Everyone starts out as a Newbie, then individuals climb to Explorer, Enthusiast, Administrator, Professional, and Guru, before ascending to the Sage level). I blogged about this program back in 2011 (“Hurricane Electric Free IPv6 Certification“) as I was researching the next edition of our college textbook Guide to TCP/IP (4th edition).
Backup Academy teaches how to back up VMs in various hypervisors.
2. Backup Academy‘s Free Online Cert (Sponsor: Veeam)
Backup Academy offers a collection of 16 videos on a broad range of topics, all centered around the general subject of backing up virtual machines, and protecting the data and capabilities of virtualized environments and infrastructures. These efforts include some pretty big names in the field, such as Greg Shields, Brien Posey, Rick Vanover, Eric Siebert, Elias Khasner, and Andrea Mauro, among others. Veeam also offers a helpful glossary of technical terms, plus copies of the slide decks used to create the videos (with podcast versions also available for auditioning on mobile devices). When they’re ready candidates can take a certification exam, and those who score 75% or higher will earn a “Virtual Backup Expert” certificate. Good stuff!
Complete 10 Lessons, Take a Test, Get a Free Certificate!
3. CloudU: Free Cloud Computing Coverage from Rackspace
Back in 2012, RackSpace recruited cloud computing legend Ben Kepes to assemble a free training program to teach interested IT professionals about cloud computing. The 10 video lessons he assembled cover everything from the basics of cloud computing, to their economics, how the cloud computing stack is assembled using the standard building blocks of software-as-a-service (SaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS), and infrastructure-as-a-service, IaaS), and more. He also covers topics related to the migration of data centers into the cloud, cloud security, planning a move to the cloud, running a business in the cloud, and various ways to approach cloud delivery mechanisms, open versus closed clouds, and how to decide which applications (and data) to keep in house and which to migrate into the cloud. After viewing each lesson, candidates must take a quiz on what they’ve seen and heard in the video and on the related whitepaper for the current topic; after completing all 10 lessons and quizzes, candidate must then earn a minimum score of 80% on a 50-question exam drawn from the end-of-lesson quizzes. The final exam may be taken repeatedly to earn a passing score, after which candidates earn a CloudU Certificate.
I’ve got to hand it to Burnejko for pulling such a nice slate of freebies together. I certainly can’t think of any better free IT cert offerings available right now, and I’ve been racking my brains to come up with others. The only possible competition comes when established cert sponsors — such as Microsoft or Cisco — invite those who register with them as subject matter experts to take free beta exams. Those who pass them will get a leg up on related certifications, but it’s kind of an exclusive club, and is certainly not available to the general public. The items covered here, however, are free to one and all, and worth pursuing for those with professional interests in the various topics and technologies they touch.
March 22, 2013 2:49 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
In previous postings here and elsewhere, I’ve waxed eloquent and complimentary about Miroslaw Burnejko’s excellent ITCertificationMaster.com website. There’s lots of good stuff there, especially his List of All IT Certifications, and his long series of interviews with certified IT Professionals (21) and IT Certification Program Managers (26). This morning, I stumbled across another companion site he’s created from the all certs lists called CertRank.com. Basically what this site does is to solicit reviews/evaluations for the 1500-plus credentials that occupy the “List of All IT Certifications” so that those credential can be — you guessed it — ranked and rated. Here’s the graphical banner for this site from the ITCertificationMaster.com home page:
CertRank represents an interesting experiment in crowdsourcing
The basic concepts behind CertRank appear to be as follows:
1. Provide a list of all known IT certifications
2. Get lots of visitors to provide individuals ratings and rankings for as many of those certifications as possible
3. Provide lots of ways to slice and dice the resulting data that emerges
This means that the more people participate in this project, the better the resulting data will become. Right now, it looks like it’s just getting started, because the CCNA currently occupies first place in the ranking of all certifications, but has only 51 total votes. I think you’ll find the information here increasingly useful as the number of participants increases, and the collective wisdom of a large population (that’s where the crowdsourcing angle comes into play) begins to weigh in on this massive collection of IT certification credentials. That’s why I encourage all of my readers to go in and rank the certifications they possess or might be pursuing, and to encourage all of your friends and colleagues in IT to do likewise. Over time, this could turn CertRank.com into a truly valuable resource for the whole IT profession!
March 20, 2013 2:22 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Changes in average tech pay from 2003-2012 (Source: Dice.com)
Chewing through Google+ yesterday, I came across an interesting article on the CNET/CBS Interactive website, smartplanet.com. Entitled “Ten tech skills you must have for a $100k salary” (by Charlie Osborne, 3/12/2013) the story abstracts a recent report (PDF, site registration required) from job posting and career advice site Dice.com. That report is worth a quick visit, BTW, because it puts the last decade of IT salaries and raises into very good perspective. What Ms. Osborne extracted from that report, however, is best represented as a table:
|Ten Positions That Pay 100K+ in 2013
||Estimated avg pay
||Programming for a leading data mining and analysis toolset
||Programming and analysis of extremely large data sets
||Programming and design for cloud databases and big data sets
||The guide to the PMP body of knowledge reflects ever increasing value for project mgmt
||Programming using the increasingly popular learn software development methodology
||Oracle’s Java apps environment and toolset remains in high demand
||Programming for Microsoft’s cloud platform gains momentum
||Related to both software development and IT deployment, change management is vital to making things work (and keeping them that way)
||Programming, design and analysis jobs in this old-school big-data environment remains active
||Developing and managing software as a service is now a pervasive business model
What I find most interesting about this information is that nearly all of the jobs are at least development oriented, if not focused on software development outright. I have to imagine that if Dice handled more architect and expert level jobs, that the pay scales would go up and many of these items would be relegated to the lower end of the top IT pay scales, rather than the pinnacle position they currently occupy. But most of these extremely high profile, responsibility, and pay positions go through headhunting firms, or get filled by word of mouth through small, tight networks of specialized professionals.
Even so, this is interesting information, not only because of the huge importance it places on big data and data analytics in the overall IT job market, but also because all of these thing speak at least indirectly to an improving economic situation. If business weren’t looking up, companies wouldn’t be seeking to hire such costly and specialized talent, all of which seeks to help organizations work more effectively and efficiently, and to make better use of the data resources and customer information they so diligently acquire.
March 17, 2013 7:31 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
As part of my charter in providing IT career and certification information and advice, I follow general economic trends, especially as they relate to IT employment, hiring and job opportunities, and so forth. Perhaps it’s a sign of the times — or just my own belief that good news will almost always (and quickly) be offset by bad news — that the recent spate of good news is making me nervous.
After 10 straight gains I was a little relieved when the DJIA dipped last Friday.
What’s up in the past month or so includes the following:
- The Dow not only hit ten straight days of gains as of Pi Day (3/14/2013), it also did so in the form of ten straight record highs. Can a market correction be too far off, in the wake of such gains? (The market did close down 25 points, to 14514.11 on Friday, March 15.)
- The latest Employment Situation Summary from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, release March 8, almost doubled the expert forecast of 150-170K jobs for February with a number of 236,000, and unemployment dropped from 7.9 percent in January to 7.7 percent in February. (With the sequester starting to take effect, how soon will those gains be erased?)
- IT employment numbers are edging up cautiously, and hiring managers are expressing some optimism about activity for the rest of 2013 and beyond. Overall unemployment in IT is below six percent (5.2 percent, in fact) significantly down from 8.4 percent for the same month in 2012. (Will the sequester hit IT in democratic fashion as it presumably hits other sectors, or is IT even more vulnerable than other sectors?)
The old saying goes “If you look for trouble, you will always find it.” I’m not sure if I’m looking for a black cloud to smother this glimmer of a silver lining, or if we’ve all been burned enough times over the past 13 years or so that I can’t help but look at good news somewhat askance out of fear and bad habit. I find myself in the curious position of wishing to have my instincts disproved and my concerns obliterated by more and more good news in the weeks and months ahead. Bring it on: I’ll do my best to take it, and make something good of it for as long as it lasts. Perhaps we should all strive to do our part, and help find more reasons to celebrate and enjoy what good the moment can hand us. As I often tell my 9-year-old son: “Be positive! You will see more good in your world, and more good things will happen to you, if you stay positive about yourself and life.” For the moment, I will try to follow my own advice…
[Note added 3/18/2013 early morning: The markets are all aflap and aflutter this morning about a bank tax on depositors in Cypriot banks, which the Germans have apparently mandated as the price for an EU zone bailout of that tiny country's banks, on the presumption that they're awash in cash from Russian oligarchs. Pundits and prognosticators fear a run on other troubled EU zone banks in Portugal, Spain, and Ireland, as other depositors will probably seek to withdraw funds in anticipation of such rulings being charged against their deposits, too. Markets are down 1-2% around the globe, and American stock market futures are down in the 0.5 - 1.0% range. Here we go! ;-)]
March 15, 2013 3:30 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Over the past few weeks, I’ve watched Prometric roll out its first-ever IT certification: it’s called Cyber Security Essentials. Granted, information security (or information assurance, cyber security, or whatever you’d like to call it yourself) is both an important topic for IT professionals, and an increasingly vital concern for companies and organizations seeking to limit liability and exposure to financial risk through loss, theft, or damage to their information assets and proprietary or confidential data. But what else might be driving Prometric to start producing its own IT certifications, given that their core business is to provide testing services for a broad range of global certification sponsors, professional societies and organizations, and vendors with products, platforms, and frameworks to promulgate and support?
- Why might Prometric decide to promote its own house-made IT certs?
I’ve been pretty curious about this cert since it first saw the light of day a few weeks ago, and was also quite interested to see that Prometric is running a $50 discount off the normal $200 price tag through April 30, 2013 (use discount promo code PROCYBER to get the knock-off). I’ve contacted a PR contact for Prometric at Ogilvy with a longish list of questions about this credential that have yet to be answered, and I hope to learn (and report) more about Cyber Security Essentials in the near future.
But as I got to thinking about what might prompt Prometric to introduce its own credentials into the IT certification mix, I also pondered the following recommendation bullet from the Cyber Security Essentials landing page. The lead-in text for all bullets there reads “Who Should Take This Exam? Cyber Security Essentials is recommended to:…” The bullet that caught my eye reads “Anyone who may have taken CompTIA exams (A+, Network+) and/or who plans to take or recently failed CompTIA Security + Exam, or similar certification exams.” As I read over press releases and promotional prose about this certification (see StepForward Creative’s page about the credential, which that company helped brand and promote at Prometric’s behest), I found these phrases:
- “It will rival the well established CompTIA certification.” (StepForward Creative)
- “Prometric recommends Cyber Security Essentials as a replacement for CompTIA exams…” (GoCertify.com)
I asked myself “Why would Prometric target CompTIA so explicitly?” After a while, I remembered seeing this press release from Pearson VUE last summer entitled “All CompTIA Certification with Pearson VUE,” which leads off as follows “Effective July 9, 2012, CompTIA exams are exclusively with Pearson VUE.” Who knows what kind of deal Pearson VUE had to cut with CompTIA to get them to cut off relations with Prometric and make an exlusive arrangement with them alone? But one thing is for sure: Prometric couldn’t have been too happy about it, what with hundreds of thousands of CompTIA exams being taken annually, and somewhere around half that business prior to the cutoff date likely to have been an important component of Prometric’s bottom line.
Could simple pique be behind the emergence of Cyber Security Essentials? It’s probably not the only motivator that drove Prometric to launch this certification, and it’s probably more motivated by an effort to recapture lost revenue foregone when CompTIA’s test business moved over to Pearson VUE alone. Right or wrong, I can’t help but wonder if Prometric’s move is something of a shot across CompTIA’s bow, and perhaps also a warning to cert sponsors everywhere that yanking their business might draw the test development and delivery giant into direct competition? If we start seeing other certifications from Prometric that address PC troubleshooting, configuration and repair (A+) and networking tools and technologies (Network+), I guess we’ll know for sure!
March 13, 2013 2:29 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Over the past half year, I’ve corresponded with a young man who sensed the handwriting on the wall in his academic job: a post-doctoral position doing data analytics and statistical modeling at a major mid-western university. His intuition was pretty good, as it turns out, and he thanked me for some career advice I bestowed upon him as he cast about for ways and means of reinventing himself, and finding a new job. Last month, he wrote me to say that his position had indeed fallen victim to a loss of the grant money that supported it, and he found himself cast onto the job market.
His story has a happy ending, because he wound up going to work for a Cary, North Carolina company known as the SAS Institute, maker of a venerable and widely-used set of integrated software tools for statistical modeling and analysis (the original expansion for SAS was “Statistical Analysis System,” but like so many organizations that proudly serve an acronym, the company has since taken legal steps to enshrine SAS as its official name, no expansion needed or wanted). It was his knowledge, training, and interest in the technologies that underlay the SAS environment — including data analytics and mining, business intelligence, and big data operations of all kinds — that led him to SAS, where he is now happily ensconced, working on projects for various SAS tools and utilities.
SAS Certs Cover a Lot of Interesting Ground
Why am I telling you all this? Because his adventures reminded me that SAS operates a pretty peachy certification program that’s comprised of 8 different certifications in the areas of basic SAS programming, advanced analytics, information and data management, and business intelligence. Here’s a quick set of links to the various elements that make up the program, organized by silo:
Each of these credentials requires passing a single $180 exam administered at Pearson VUE (fees outside North America vary in terms of currency and amount). The company does not require certification candidates to take courses to qualify for exams, but they do offer an official curriculum for those interested in attending training classes, offered in 39 countries around the world. Individuals with SAS certification are in reasonably high demand, and generally occupy positions at annual pay rates of $90K or higher. For those IT professionals with mathematical interests, or a background in analytics, data mining, business intelligence, or data management, SAS certification can be a terrific career-enhancing move (particularly for those who know about or already work with SAS software products).