Microsoft has been offering online “Jump Start” courses for popular certifications for some time now, and they’ve just announced a free two-day class for the 70-417 exam entitled “Upgrading Your Skills to MCSA Windows Server 2012.” As I’ve blogged and written repeatedly over the summer, the 70-417 provides a one-exam upgrade path to MCSA: Windows Server 2012 for those who hold an MCSA on Windows Server 2008, or MCITP on Windows Enterprise Desktop Admin, Virtualization Admin, Enterprise Messaging, SharePoint Admin, or LyncServer Admin (here’s a post from Tom’s IT Pro, and another from PearsonITCertification.com on this subject).
Well, for those who qualify to take 70-417 — and even for those looking for a lightning overview of the 70-410, -411, and -412 exams that make up the slate for the MCSA: Windows Server 2012 if starting from scratch — Microsoft has opened a Jump Start class for this exam on October 23 and 24. The instructors are Rick Claus (Senior Technical Evangelist at Microsoft) and Ed Liberman (instructor from TrainSignal), both represented in a recent Born to Learn blog post as “…two seasoned Windows Server experts with real world experience.”
If past offerings are any indication, registration for this free class will fill up quickly, so you’ll want to register immediately if you’re interested. The class runs from 9 AM to 4 PM (Pacific Time, UCT -08:00) both days, and aims to reach IT professionals who already know their way around Windows Server 2008 and want to extend their skills and knowledge onto the Windows Server 2008 platform.
I’m serious! These courses are worth getting into if you can, so sign up ASAP. There may or may not be another one in a couple of months, so if you don’t get in, don’t despair: keep an eye on the Born to Learn blog for follow-on announcements and offerings.
The Manpower Group has been conducting a quarterly hiring activity survey long enough to proffer a graph that stretches back two decades. Their latest survey for the fourth quarter of 2012 tells some interesting stories:
1. Their “Net Employment Outlook” for Q4 2012 is at eleven percent for overall employment growth, and is the strongest fourth-quarter result posted since the final quarter of 2007, just before the financial collapse of 2008 kicked in. Here’s a snippet from their employment graph:
Scale to the left, data from Q2’07 through Q4’12 to the right (highlighted)
Source: Manpower Group
2. The trend is clearly upward since the very lowest reads in 2009, but is punctuated by plateaus between modest upward rises. This kind of reading is very much in keeping with what I’ve described in other blogs as “slow growth mode” (2, 3, 4). This tells me such a punctuated rhythm is very likely to continue for some time to come.
3. According to the sector details from Manpower Group, both information and professional and business services sectors — where I think most IT professionals may be found in this reporting — is continuing upward, but forecasts for Q3 were stronger than those for Q4 (12 vs 9 percent for information, and 20 vs. 13 percent for professional and business services). Does this indicate diminishing enthusiasm and/or prospects? I think the answer is yes to the former, but not necessarily to the latter. Methinks it’s more indicative of our hitting another plateau, where growth is more or less flat for the moment (shown in the black line on the preceding chart).
Where do we go from here? The trend line says things will be flat for a while, so I’m guessing the answer may come from the business community’s reactions to the recently announced round of quantitative easing (QE3) from the Fed, and from their assessment of recent bail-out and Euro support moves from the ECB. With equity markets up to near record levels, we should hope that companies will take heart and start planning to add more headcount, including more positions in IT. Keep your fingers crossed: it’s by no means a sure thing, or a done deal!
For the past week or so, I’ve been batting around an acronym for the Windows 8 default GUI. TIFKAM stands for “the interface formerly known as Metro,” and is gaining currency in some circles as a way to talk about something that is still groping for a catchy name. Of course, Microsoft controls the nomenclature involved, but even they seem a bit hesitant to hang a new moniker on the tile-based and color-heavy Windows 8 GUI used outside the legacy desktop environment.
But we just got a clue which way the folks in Redmond are leaning with the re-labeling of one of its Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD) credentials. As of late last week the certification previously named MCSD: Metro Style Apps has been recast as MCSD: Windows Store Apps. I think this represents a neat way to sidestep the naming issue of what to call the interface by referring to where the resulting apps live instead of the GUI itself – namely, in the Windows Store online (a part of the Start screen layout for both Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 by default).
Whether or not the ‘Softies will come up with a nifty name for TIFKAM is up to them, I guess. But in the meantime, we have some idea which way they’re leaning!
Thanks to Anne Martinez’ latest GoCertify.com newsletter, I just learned that all three exams for the MCSA: Windows Server 2012 are now live, even though the MCSA page still labels them as in beta form. Nevertheless, as of September 17, these exams are now available for sign-up at Prometric testing centers:
If they were really still in beta, the sign-up numbers would start with 071-xxx. But as this Prometric screen cap clearly shows, the exams are listed with 070-xxx numbers. This not only indicates the beta period is over, but also indicates the exams are available at normal pricing levels (and subject to the Second Shot promotion currently underway — see my recent blog for how to sign up and exercise this potentially cert-saving option).
This credential is your stepping stone to MCSEs for Server Infrastructure, Desktop Infrastructure, and Private Cloud, so it’s a great place to get started on chasing down the latest Windows Server and desktop versions.
Thanks to a tweet notice I saw over on GoCertify.com, I was able to find information in a recent (9/13/2012) entry in CompTIA’s IT Careers Blog entitled “CompTIA to Retire CTP+ Certification Exam.” This is confirmed in the CompTIA Store where the entry for the CompTIA CTP+ Exam Voucher now reads as follows:
The retirement date for CompTIA CTP+, exam code CN0-201, is December 31, 2012. CompTIA will not replace this exam. Vouchers are only available for purchase and use at a Pearson VUE test center in North America. CTP+ vouchers expire on December 31, 2012. All sales of exam vouchers are final, no exceptions.
There is no replacement exam planned for CTP+ (Convergent Technologies Professional), either. This is curious because the discussion of CTP+ ties it not just to the confluence of data and telephony networking (which is where the convergence comes in) but also to the IT area generally known as “Unified Communications” (aka UC) today. This remains a hot and heavy area for growth and investment, on the one hand at organizations seeking to make better use of voice, e-mail, and other forms of electronic communication to drive demand, and on the other hand at IT vendors and development organizations seeking to supply products and services to service that demand.
Because there’s no successor in sight, I’m having to guess that the CTP+ failed to attract enough exam candidates to prove itself worthy of another exam development cycle. Given that the credential was released in 2010, it’s about time for CompTIA to gear up for another costly and time-consuming round of vendor and user interviews, job task analyses, and domain mapping, prior to developing a new collection of exam items, training materials, and so forth. When an exam doesn’t take off as CompTIA wants it to, or thinks it should, they aren’t shy about retiring the credential to which such an exam is tied. This puts CTP+ in the same general category as the Home Technology Integrator (HTI+), Digital HTI (DHTI+), e-Biz+, i-Net+, Convergence+ (the predecessor to the CTP+), and the RFID+ credentials. Given that some of these areas (especially RFID) remain strong and active even today, it seems that CompTIA’s entry into an IT information domain is no guarantee that its credentials in such domains are bound to succeed.
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!
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!
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--]
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.
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.
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|
|Mobile Development||Big Data/Analytics||Telecommunications & Unified Communications|
|Software Engineer/Developer||Creative Design/User Experience (UX) Designers||IT Human Resources|
|Online Advertising: IT-based SEO/SEM/Social Media Specialist||Systems Analyst||Programmer|
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.