September 14, 2012 3:04 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Ben Bernanke’s announcement of a third round of bond buying by the Federal Reserve, also known as QE3, came as both no surprise to anybody and as a great relief to global markets, which have shot up this morning overseas by anywhere from 1.5 (Japan) to 3 (Korea) percent. When I heard this morning on NPR that this will entail spending $40B a month to buy mortgage bonds with no end in sight “until the labor market substantially improves” (NASDAQ community/FXStreet.com), I started thinking that if the Fed can inject that much money into the economy, why can’t the Feds (the US Federal Government, that is) inject $2-3B a month into building out our national fiber optics communications/Internet infrastructure?
The US has fallen behind 9 other countries including South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong, but also the Netherlands, Latvia, Switzerland, Ireland, the Czech Republic, and even Romania when it comes to speeds and overall access to the Internet (source: Analysis of the Q4 2011 Akamai report on the “State of the Internet” from The Huffington Post). Other sources from 2011 (TechSpot) and 2009 (Phys.org) rank the US at 26th and 28th in Internet speeds, respectively, for those years. Whatever the actual case may be, it’s clear that the USA — which is where the Internet was invented, and where much of the technology impetus for its continued growth and elaboration still originates — is falling behind in providing its citizens with access to all of the information and opportunity that the Internet can offer.
So here’s my idea: let’s all write our Congresspeople to ask them to unite to provide funding for a nationwide build-out of fiber optic access to homes, schools, businesses, and organizations all over the United States. We can start with major urban areas and work our way out into the periphery and hinterlands over the next decade. This will not only produce an economic stimulus because of all the spending on cable and equipment for infrastructure, and the jobs that come from designing, excavating, installing and maintaining this stuff (I’ve read estimates that for every $1B spend on government contracts, somewhere between 1,000 and 1,200 new jobs get created) but will also open the digital doors for all kinds of Web- and Internet-based innovation that should make it easier for people to find jobs in telecommunications, networking, software development, and on and on and on.
In addition to QE3, let’s push hard for FO1 (Fiber-Optic build-out 1), too! It will not only help boost the economy in the short term with spending on cable, equipment and construction, but will boost the job market in the long run by opening up the Internet to further innovation and development, with all of the new companies and jobs that will create as well. And if we spend $360B on this build-out, that will create 360,000 – 432,000 jobs outright, and I’m guessing as many as 10 times more because of all the new business opportunities and markets this universal access program will enable. I like to think of it as a “Digital New Deal.” Go USA!
September 12, 2012 3:18 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Back again until May 31, 2013 (and possibly later): Second Shot
On no particular schedule that I can discern, Microsoft offers certification candidates an occasional free “Second Shot” at certain of its certification exams. Basically, this requires that you request a “Second Shot” voucher before you schedule and pay for either a single individual technical exam, or one of the currently-available MCSA, MCSE, or MCSD “certification exam packs” — see the Second Shot page for more details. Then, if you fail the exam (or any of the exams in a certification exam pack) you can use the same Second Shot exam voucher number to register with Prometric for a free exam re-take. Each time you register (initially, or for a retake), use this URL: http://www.register.prometric.com.
Obviously, you’ll want to hang onto your Second Shot voucher so you can use it should you need it. The individual exam Second Shot promotion only applies to a single exam at a time (Microsoft puts the restriction this way: “You can only register for one exam at a time, and you cannot register for a second exam until you have taken the previous one.”), so the 15-plus percent discount pricing and the blanket Second Shot coverage on certification exam packs looks pretty attractive. That attractiveness goes up when you consider that the expiration date for single-exam Second Shot is May 31, 2013, but that’s extended to December 31, 2013 for exam packs (though you must still sign up and pay for those packs on or before May 31, 2013 to take advantage of this offer).
Thanks to Emmett Dulaney, sometime contributor to CertiCities.com, for bringing this latest return of the Second Shot offer at Microsoft to my attention!
September 10, 2012 1:20 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Thanks to a little free time this weekend, and a perusal of the Ars Technica “Editor’s Picks,” I stumbled across a terrific article by Kevin Carey from the September/October 2012 issue of Washington Monthly magazine entitled “The Siege of Academe.” The basic thesis of this story is that online technology is enabling non-traditional institutions to compete ever more effectively and to perhaps even supplant the ivy towers of academia. As I read the article, the definition of non-traditional institutions might be stated as “online, virtual, and available to any or many at less, little, or no cost than traditional brick-and-mortar colleges and universities, depending on the kinds of educational options offered, and the presence or absence of degree plans — as well as the value that purveyors seek to associate with degrees they may choose to confer on their graduates” [my definition, not a quote from Carey's article. --Ed--]
The graphic from the Carey story shows MS and Apple leading the charge but the real impetus comes from a bunch of still-obscure start-ups.
In and of itself, this article is well worth the read. Even though it is long and detailed, it reviews some fascinating start-ups and educational technology tools and efforts, and suggests that a radical reshuffling of higher education as we know it today is not only inevitable but even predictable. In fact, as with other disruptive technology adoptions — think smartphones and wireless telephony outside the First World — it is likely to be led from markets that have little or no access to traditional higher education in Africa, Asia, the Pacific Rim, and Latin America but where demand is strong and the liberating and empowering capabilities of such education particularly powerful and potentially transformative.
But what I took away from this article resonates equally strongly for IT training and career development, particularly those online communities and presences where study groups are easy to put together, endow with communication and content, and bring the benefits of widely available insights, content, and material to very large audiences. In particular, I’m talking about organizations like Open Study, Quizlet, Udacity, Udemy, Kno, and Chegg — which Carey lumps together and says about them that they “…will provide all manner of supportive services — study groups, e-books, flash cards, course notes, and many other fabulous as-yet un-invented things.” Surely I’m not the only reader of these words — especially among those who read this blog — that can see manifold ramifications for the IT certification world as well. As surely as these companies and the kinds of information creation and flow they foster can change the face and functions of higher education, they can do likewise for IT certification as well.
This is exciting, empowering, and perhaps even revolutionary stuff. I’m going to be chewing on this hard and thinking about ways to put new training and learning models together atop this kind of framework. Rest assured you haven’t heart the last on this topic from me! In the meantime, be sure to check out Carey’s story : it’s a real page-turner, for all the best reasons imaginable.
September 7, 2012 3:54 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Last month’s numbers are best described as “lackluster”
OK, today’s the day the US Bureau of Labor Statistics unleashes the monthly unemployment/employment numbers for the previous month — in this case, August 2012. Despite a consensus of economic forecasts of new jobs in the 120,000 -150,000 range for August, the Bureau reports a gain of only 96,000 jobs for the month. But overall unemployment has dipped slightly, from 8.3 percent last month to 8.1 percent this month. That said, I heard an economist on NPR say this morning that we need steady job growth of 350K new jobs per month to bring unemployment down to its “normal” level of around 6 percent. Given a number that’s less than one-third of his target, it looks like improvement will remain in “slow growth mode” for the foreseeable furture.
What’s up is that there continues to be some improvement in the overall outlook, though Table A-14 “Unemployed Persons by Industry and class of worker…” show a slight uptick in IT unemployment of 0.4 percent, up from 6.9 percent last August to 7.3 percent this August. What’s down is general unemployment (good) but also the number of new jobs created for the preceding month (24,000 less than the month before that, and well under the numbers needed to make a robust recovery). And overall, what’s sideways is the whole employment and jobs situation, which seems to be moving around and occasionally getting better, but only in a narrow range of very low growth, with no oomph! to the so-called recovery that’s supposedly been underway for the last three years or so.
When is a recovery not really a recovery? When it’s too slow to register on the daily lives of ordinary people, and appears to produce no perceptible changes or improvements in the overall situation. It’s still time to hunker, stay put, and wait for something to put the oomph! back into the economy and the workforce. Here’s hoping it happens sooner, rather than later.
September 5, 2012 2:13 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
The August newsletter from Global Knowledge has come and gone, but I wanted to comment on one of the articles in that issue — namely, Kerry Doyle’s “Top 12 Recession-Proof IT Jobs.” While I don’t really take issue with the substance of the piece — more on that to follow — I have several problems with its title. For one thing, I guess I’m enough of a pessimist that I would be inclined to use the term “recession-resistant” rather than “recession-proof” simply because I’m not sure ANYTHING (or any market sector, as I will shortly explain) is really recession-proof. If things get bad enough, the old saw about ‘a rising tide floats all boats’ needs to be reversed, because a falling tide lowers all boats as well.
My second issue with the title is Mr. Doyle’s use of the phrase “IT Jobs.” If you read his article — and I certainly recommend that you do so — you’ll see that he calls out one dozen different market sectors in which IT jobs remain vigorous. But alas, he doesn’t actually single out specific jobs, though he does bandy a bunch of skillsets, job tasks, and potential job roles about with gusto and abandon. That’s why I think the piece would be more accurately labeled if the headline read something like “A Dozen Recession-Resistant Market Sectors With Great IT Job Opportunities” or perhaps even “A Dozen Market Areas Where IT Jobs Remain Strong.” But those headlines are also nowhere near as punchy (and I’m no stranger to having an editor “tighten” titles for my own stories, either). But hopefully, you get my points…
For the record, the dozen sectors Mr. Doyle singles out are as follows:
|Recession Resistant Market Sectors for IT
||Telecommunications & Unified Communications
||Creative Design/User Experience (UX) Designers
||IT Human Resources
|Online Advertising: IT-based SEO/SEM/Social Media Specialist
Of the sectors that Mr. Doyle mentions in his article, I have to guess that he was reaching for the final element to round out his dozen. Item 7, Software Engineer/Developer, and Item 12, Programmer, are more alike to my way of thinking than they are different. If pressed to add another item to take the place of one or the other, I would suggest the following areas of IT expertise and activity: wireless network design and deployment, cloud computing (and constituent technology areas such as data center networking, virtualization, storage, and so forth), and developing deep expertise in IPv6, over to which the world will be moving slowly but inexorably over the next decade as the Second and Third Worlds join the First World online.
Furthermore, to give Mr. Doyle his well-deserved due, I concur heartily with the selection of elements for his list of market sectors, except 7 and 12, which I believe should be conflated, and item 3, Gaming. I’ve lived in or near Austin, TX, for the past 36 years — it’s long been a mecca for game development, thanks in large part to Richard Garriott (aka Lord British) and his highly successful Ultima franchise, and a concerted effort by the City of Austin to fund and develop a variety of gaming programming centers, camps, and academic programs. During that time, I’ve seen the gaming industry yo-yo from incredible peaks to doleful valleys, and watched friends and colleagues bounce in and out of start-up and heavy-duty gaming jobs. I’m not willing to concede that this sector is exactly “recession-proof” even if Gartner does opine that “70 percent of leading global companies will have at least one ‘gamified’ application by 2014.” Games live or die by their customer uptake, and constant job churn remains the norm for this industry even today.
September 4, 2012 4:38 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
In today’s modern economy lots of people work independently, as contractors, temporary workers, freelance contributors, and so forth and so on. In a very nice story for HP’s Input Output online magazine, prolific freelance journalist and science/technology writer Pam Baker profiles the whys, hows, and wherefores of creating a temporary business entity called an “Ad Hoc Company” for the express purpose of winning a specific contract or business engagement of some kind.
In her story she makes the point that business opportunities will come along from time to time that might be too big for a solo player to handle on his or her own, but that an ad hoc company could be just the right business vehicle for tackling such projects. Essentially, these organizations coalesce solely for the purpose of winning some contract or landing some piece of business — ” a discrete project” is how Ms. Baker puts it — and stay together only long enough to win and service the business involved. This approach enables multiple solo players to collaborate on a single project without necessarily forcing them to establish a permanent legal identity, and go through the time, expense, and effort involved in starting up a limited partnership, limited liability corporation, full-blown corporation, or whatever to get the ball rolling.
Ms. Baker’s best piece of advice in putting something like this together focuses on taxes and accounting: She says ”sit down with a good accountant before proceeding…” with any government or private contracts, and be sure to address “tax concerns” lest they “eat your profits otherwise.” This is good advice because the parties in an ad hoc company must take steps to protect themselves from and avoid liability of any kind, and losing profits also has to mean losing the primary motivation for creating any kind of temporary business entity, either. This makes an attorney another necessary party to any such kind of move, because you’ll need one to provide legal advice about your options, and to set up a joint venture or whatever kind of business vehicle you and your partners decide is worth implementing. See Ms. Baker’s story for excellent advice about setting up a joint venture, and all of the legal options that makes available for ad hoc business operation. And finally, don’t overlook the need for insurance to protect against the various kinds of liability that can accrue to business ventures of any kind, including temporary ones.
Link: How to Build an Ad Hoc Company to Fit and Win a Specific Contract. Check it out!
August 31, 2012 2:02 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
In browsing through the latest posts on Microsoft’s Born to Learn blog, I came across an item from Lorna White entitled “Prepare Your Students for Successful Careers.” In it she notes that the two recently-resuscitated “big name” Microsoft certifications — namely, the MCSD (Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer) and the MCSE (Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert) — will be “now available through Microsoft IT Academies.” Why is this a big deal? Let’s take a detour to visit the IT Academy program to help me clarify my contention…
Understanding the Microsoft IT Academy Program
MS itself defines the program as
“…a college- and career-ready education program available to all accredited academic institutions, designed to provide students with the 21st century technology skills necessary to acquire certification and be competitive in today’s rapidly evolving workplace. The IT Academy Program also provides educators and staff with professional development opportunities. This subscription-based membership offers a world-class technology curriculum with lesson plans, E-learning, student projects, and assessments. To date there are more than 10,000 IT Academy members in more than 160 countries.”
In North America, many high schools and community colleges are IT Academy members, as are an increasing number of vocational training programs and even four-year and graduate school programs as well. The IT Academy Program enables these institutions to integrate MS training and certification components into their conventional curriculum, and to propel students toward certification as well as certificates of completion, diplomas, and degrees.
What’s Up with the MS IT Academy and MS Certifications?
Previous incarnations of the IT Academy have focused on Microsoft’s lower-level certifications, especially its Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) and Microsoft Office Specialist credentials, with some limited forays into the soon-to-be-defunct Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS), Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP), and Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD) credentials also available through this program. This latest announcement may seem trivial, but it essentially includes the mainstay certifications in the Microsoft programs in this mix (and because the MCSA, or Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate, is a pre-requisite for the MCSE, also perforce brings that credential into the Academy line-up as well).
In short, this means that some high-school graduates may very well add an MCSE or MCSD to their diploma when they leave secondary school. It also surely means that many two- and four-year degree earners will also walk away with one (or perhaps more) of these credentials when they matriculate. This is not just good for the individuals involved, but also helps to establish and cement the value of the Microsoft credentials involved, too. Readers with kids in school, or with relatives in high school or college, may want to point those young people at these offerings and encourage them to investigate their opportunities to participate in learning that could help contribute to future earnings, and a better shot at an enduring IT career. Need I say more?
August 29, 2012 4:05 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
According to a press release dated August 28, 2012 entitled “CompTIA Storage+ Powered by SNIA Earns ISO Accreditation,” the organization’s storage credential has met the ISO/IEC 17024 accreditation criteria. This cert is a collaborative effort between CompTIA and the Storage Networking Industry Association (aka SNIA) for dealing with storage and backup subject matters.
A typical storage array (HP StorageWorks)
The five CompTIA credentials that have achieved ISO accreditation include the A+, Network +, Security+, and Advanced Security Practitioner certifications, in addition to the aforementioned Storage+. According to a February 2012 study cited in the CompTIA press release, “data storage and backup ranked as the number one or number two priority for organizations of all sizes — micro, small, medium, and large…” In addition, “… the study also found that 92 percent of organizations felt storage and data back-up skills are important or very important to their IT needs.”
I couldn’t agree more, and it’s nice to see that CompTIA felt strongly enough about the value of the Storage+ credential to put it through the time-consuming and expensive process of ISO accreditation. Not a bad place for IT professionals interested in storage technologies, and backup and restore tools, methods, and technologies, to get started on a learning curve that can carry them to interested places in their careers. For more info, check out the CompTIA Storage+ Powered by SNIA home page.
August 27, 2012 4:26 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
This morning just after 7 AM, we dropped my son Gregory off for his first day of third grade at his local elementary school. And no sooner did we return home than my wife headed out to Austin Community College to try to wangle her way into the first day of some language classes she wanted to take, but was unable to pre-register for. She’s not home yet, so I can only assume she’s in the classroom for the first of her two classes today. All of this has got me thinking about the “back to school” state and what it can mean for IT professionals.
Even for IT professionals who already have a bachelor’s (or perhaps a more advanced degree) an occasional return to school can be a good thing. It can provide access to current technical or professional information in a structured setting, help keep your mind and learning skills sharp, provide another source of potentially valuable networking with fellow students and faculty, and give you a chance to try on new subjects, ideas, and perspectives. These intermittent forays into learning can also occur online as well, and are often available at very reasonable costs on schedules flexible enough to shoehorn themselves into busy, modern, working lives.
For some certification topics — especially those that benefit from (or require) hands-on access to complex systems or devices — classroom or online training may be the only way to make sufficient progress to master the curriculum (or like many Oracle or VMware credentials, meet stated certification requirements that mandate attendance at authorized training of some kind). That’s why even older professionals with multiple degrees should still be willing to contemplate a return to the classroom for continuing education and professional development. Simply put: while it isn’t free, it can’t hurt, and it might actually help your career and to keep your skills and knowledge fresh.
As for myself, at age 60, I’m unlikely to chase any more degrees but I can’t rule out a back to school experience for myself, either. There are plenty of classes I would like to take — yes, even in the classroom, though there are many more high-quality online encounters also available nowadays as well — even now, in the final phase of my working life (I’ve had a part- or full time job continuously for the past 44 years, I now realize to my astonishment and amazement). My own interests lean toward technical and certification topics, but I’m as likely to be in front of the classroom nowadays, as I am to be sitting in a student’s chair (I’m flirting with TrainSignal right now, who’ve asked to talk to me about teaching Windows 8 or Windows Server 2012 classes, for example). But to keep a long and productive career moving, I am still ready to head back to school myself from time to time. You might try it, too!