August 10, 2012 3:57 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
The BLS is the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, a wing of the Labor Department. EmpSitSum is how I’ve come to think of the monthly Employment Situation Summary that this agency publishes, nearly always on the first Friday of each month. Last week I commented on the latest such report in a blog entitled Another First Friday Echoes “Slow Growth Mode”. This morning, an interesting and unexpectedly welcome press release from IT compensation and employment guru David Foote showed up in my inbox, and it’s both radical and inspiring enough to provoke a blog from me.
The title of his piece, labeled “IT News Analysis,” is “Technology employment trends in the July 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics United States Employment Report: Largest monthly expansion of IT labor force in more than three years as 18,200 workers are added to payrolls in July” (PDF Format). Yes, I know it’s a real mouthful, but the final sub-title really grabbed my attention, as I’m sure it will also grab yours. In his report, he identifies four job segments that he states are “commonly associated with IT professionals.” These are:
- Telecommunications and Data Processing
- Hosting and Related Services
- Management and Technical Consulting Services
- Computer Systems Design/Related Services
Foote reports 4,900 new jobs added in the first two segments above and says this is “notable because this is the first monthly net job gain in these categories since November 2010″ (he quite rightly excludes the data for September 2011, when a large cadre of 45,000 striking Verizon workers returned to their jobs after an August work stoppage). He also reports that an additional 13,300 jobs were added in the other two segments as well, for a total of 18,200 new IT jobs for July. He also indicates that these two segments have continued to grow steadily over the past two years, and have added 242,000 jobs in that time frame.
In my previous blog post, I had wondered whether the latest EmpSitSum was a dark cloud looking for a silver lining, or a silver lining looking for a dark cloud. It appears I overlooked some good news for our own home sector, and I wanted to share the news with my readers as soon as I saw his article. And I have to thank him for helping me find the “Industries at a Glance” section on the US BLS Website, where much more detailed breakdowns by sector and segment are available. Thanks, David!
August 8, 2012 4:32 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
OK, so GA is coming in a little under three months, on October 26, 2012. According to The Verge, this is what the packaging for Windows 8 will look like when boxed versions of the new OS appear on store shelves that day.
Images of the Windows 8 (left, white) and Windows 8 Pro (right, dark) boxes
Source: The Verge (8/7/2012)
From what blogger Salvador Rodriguez reports about this leak, the colored graphic at the left-center on each box represents its new “Windows 8-style UI logo,” which also appears in monochrome form on the spine of each box. I’m guessing that the colors inside the window panes are just fancy dress-up for the box art, and that the simple monochrome logo will continue on unchanged. No real word yet about what’s actually inside the box, and if it will include more than one DVD to accommodate the Windows 8 bits (as I look at the ISOs for the Release Preview, if MS wants to provide both 32- and 64-bit versions, it will probably need a separate DVD for each one).
No more crazy plastic shells for OS media, though. Having fought (and occasionally lost) against the prior enclosures for Vista and Windows 7, if I have to open one of these boxes, I’m reasonably confident I’ll be able to find my way to their contents without risking injury or frustration! This finally gives us something completely positive and complimentary to say about Windows 8 that everyone can agree on.
August 8, 2012 3:40 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Just yesterday (August 7, 2012), MS announced a brand-new Microsoft Certified Solution Developer credential — namely, the MCSD: Web Applications. This new cert is based around Visual Studio 2012, with a focus on developing what the company calls “modern, interactive web applications that seamlessly integrate with data-driven services.” Specific technologies mentioned in conjunction with this new cert include MVC (the well-known model-view-controller design pattern, now practiced within most interactive design environments, including VS 2012), Azure (Microsoft’s Cloud platform, which supports all kinds of interesting developer access and APIs), HTML5 (the latest incarnation of HTML, which offers powerful and interesting animation, interaction, and multimedia support), and CSS3 (the latest version of Cascading Style Sheets, which includes support for extended media controls, 3-D button effects, and numerous dynamic event-driven behaviors).
Born to Learn blog header for MSCD: Web Applications
Three exams are required to earn this MCSD credential:
Right now, there’s a free beta period running through the end of this week (until and including Sunday, August 12) with some free seats still possibly available, so act FAST if you’re interested. Use promo code WWW486 for exam 70-486 and WWW487 for exam 70-487; but because they’re in beta these exams have a 71- prefix instead of the 70- prefix they’ll sport later on when the final release of the commercial version is accomplished. The beta period for 70-480 is already closed, sorry.
Individuals who already hold the MCPD: Web Developer 4 certification are eligible for a 2-exam upgrade path to the MCSD: Web Application credential. The two exams required are 70-480 (already mentioned earlier in this blog post) and exam 70-492 Upgrade your MCPD: Web Developer 4 to MCSD: Web Applications (not yet available, but coming soon).
Each of these exams maps to a 5-day course that covers all exam objectives, and provides students with the chance to learn and drill on necessary skills and knowledge. The course for 70-480 is scheduled for an October, 2012, release, with the other exams to follow early in 2013. Exam prep books should also be available at around the same time as well. See the Microsoft MCSD: Web Applications home page for more information.
August 6, 2012 8:44 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Keith Mayer’s blog — Prepping for MCSE: Private Cloud
Keith Mayer has written a step-by-step guide for those interested in pursuing the MSCE: Private Cloud certification, including the 70-246 exam “Monitoring and Operating a Private Cloud with System Center 2012.” You do have to visit his blog post entitled “Get Certified on MCSE Private Cloud with this FREE Step-by-Step Study Guide” and click the “Pay with a Tweet or Facebook” button (and then Tweet about the offering, or share it on Facebook), but that’s not very much at all to ask for a well-constructed guide into Microsoft’s free study materials for this certification.
Pay the piper with a Tweet or a Facebook share
What you get from Mr. Mayer is a PDF document that walks you through the 70-246 exam, including objective domains, and pointers to videos and study materials on Systems Center 2012 (the foundation for the exam). He also explains how to set up a private cloud lab, using a private cloud evaluation installation that MS makes available. It also provides links to the Unified Installer that makes lab set-up possible, and a user’s guide to run you through installation and set-up. Much of the material provided consists of links to TechNet documents and materials, to help candidates prepare for specific exam topics and related objectives. And as you might expect, a lot of this stuff ties directly to the TechNet Library’s coverage of System Center 2012 tasks and activities, including implementing workflows, working with runbook automation, implementing service offerings, creating and managing workflows, and so forth and so on.
In fact, Mr. Mayer walks readers through the complete exam objectives, with detailed references for each element of each objective. This amounts to a nicely-curated set of links into the TechNet materials on System Center 2012, along with links to the video recordings of MS’s Jump Start training for the MSCE: Private Cloud, plus various guided labs and additional course materials available from Microsoft (Course 10750A, a 5-day ILT course that covers “Monitoring and Operating a Private Cloud with System Center 2012″).
If you’re interested in the new MCSE and in Microsoft’s take on private clouds and System Center 2012, these materials are worth a visit. Check them out!
August 3, 2012 3:50 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
This morning, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics issued the Employment Situation Summary for July 2012. It’s either a dark cloud with a silver lining, or a silver lining with a dark cloud, depending on how you’re inclined to look a it. That said, the silver lining is indisputable if still too modest to presage any kind of rapid turnaround in overall unemployment.
July 2012 Employment Situation Summary report header
The silver lining is that some economists expected that dismal monthly job growth rates under 100,000 would continue this month, continuing the running average for April, May, and June of about 75,000 new jobs added in each of those months. The actual number reported was 163,000, more than double the last quarter’s run rate, and trending more toward the 200,000 – 300,000 per month needed to make any kind of dent in overall unemployment, and to help put the long-term unemployed and discouraged workers back on somebody’s payroll.
The dark cloud is that the unemployment rate actually edged up by one-tenth of one percent, from 8.2 to 8.3 percent for July (in the three months with those dismal jobs-added counts, it had managed to stay stuck at 8.2 percent the whole time). This is sure to provide ammunition for both Republican and Democratic candidates in the various national, state, and local campaigns now underway, none as fierce or vocal as the ongoing face-off between Misters Obama and Romney. Neither side can use it entirely against the other, so both sides will look for aspects that make their guy look good, and the other guy look bad. The fallout should come fast and furious, and be interesting to watch.
The Information sector, as covered in Table A-14 of this report continues to show signs of improvement, too. The number of unemployed information workers in July 2011 was 237,000 which translated into 7.6 percent unemployment for the section. By July 2012, the number had dropped to 190,000 which corresponds to a 6.7 percent rate of unemployment in information instead. Likewise, Table A-13 which provides data by occupation, shows that Professional and related applications have improved from 4.6 percent unemployed in July 2011 versus 3.8 percent unemployed in July 2012. For office and administrative support occupations, rates dipped from 9.4 percent to 8.3 percent (I’m guessing that IT professionals are probably represented in both of these categories, and possibly others besides).
But one thing remains quite certain: slow growth mode appears to dominate forecasts for the foreseeable future.
August 1, 2012 3:28 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
In the latest issue of its Global e-News newsletter (Issue 99), training and certification prep firm Global Knowledge touts “Eleven Skills Every IT Pro Needs to Succeed.” The story’s author, Randy Mueller, holds Microsoft and Certified Ethical Hacker credentials, and also works as an instructor on the Global Knowledge faculty. I agree with most of the eleven specific items he recommends in his list, including (please note: items 4 and 6 in the following list are omitted on purpose, so I can disagree with their inclusion in a following paragraph):
1. Virtualization and VDI: there’s no denying that virtualization and virtual desktop infrastructures are taking over IT operations, even in small and medium sized companies.
2. Cloud: I read this morning about a CompTIA study that indicates that “IT departments are … on the edge of major transformation…” where “…the option for cloud solutions … is opening the doors for IT professionals to perform new tasks, or at least perform old tasks in new ways.” The cloud really does change everything, apparently, including IT!
3. Interoperability (networking): making dissimilar heterogeneous platforms, components, and tools “play nice” on modern networks is the cornerstone of what IT professionals must do best today.
5. Wireless: Indeed, most networks already include wireless domains already, and those that do not will surely add some, as newer and faster wireless technologies like 802.11ac and 802.11ad make their way into the marketplace.
7. Security: IT pros have to be security-savvy themselves, and promote as much security awareness in their user populations as they possibly can.
8. Imaging: IT pros must be able to build, manage, deploy, and troubleshoot a library of desktop and server operating system images as part and parcel of what they do, often in conjunction with item 1 (virtualization and VDI).
9. Helpdesk or people skills: I’m not necessarily sure that IT staff must put in a stint at the helpdesk, but it’s essential for them to know how to communicate and interact with users, even when they’re unhappy or hostile, and have the skills needed to help them when help is needed, or requested.
10. Troubleshooting: This ability is truly what separates the pros from the dilettantes, and requires careful observation, documentation, and problem or fault analysis, followed by equally careful and deliberate application of discrete and understood fixes, repairs, or work-arounds. A key component of the IT skillset, no matter what specialized or general subject matter it may also involve.
11. Automation: Mueller’s original heading reads “PowerShell (and other scripting)” and talks about “automating many common administrative tasks.” I agree that a working knowledge of automation is a good thing for all IT professionals, but for those outside the Microsoft world, PowerShell won’t do them much good. I think he also errs in not mentioning the many excellent GUI automation tools (such as OpalisRobot, for example) that can help to automate point-and-click based interfaces as well as command-line stuff, too.
I may quibble with some of the nuances in 9 of these 11 items, but I don’t really want to argue about any of them. I do, however, think that what Randy includes as items 4: Database Administration and Business Intelligence and 6: Disaster Recovery may be a bit over the top. DBA and BI stuff is rightly the focus for a subset of IT professionals who have the right backgrounds and platform knowledge to work those niches. I don’t think that every IT pro necessarily needs to dig into these areas, nor are some of them even likely to get the chance. And while disaster recovery and business continuity are indeed important aspects of the IT services portfolio, I think Randy goes too far when he says that “IT Pros must be able [to] plan, test, and implement a disaster recovery (DR) plan.” Indeed, many or most of them will get involved with implementing, should that ever be required, but many of them will neither work on planning or testing such elaborate and expensive scenarios and staged incidents.
If you ask me, I would rather see Randy include an item on “soft skills” instead of database and BI stuff. By soft skills, I mean verbal and written communication skills, plus people and project management skills. Likewise, I think it would have been more appropriate to subsitute “basic Web and Internet skills,” including basic understanding of HTML, HTTP, Web servers, and online content and information delivery for the disaster recovery elements expressed in item number 6. I would argue that Internet and Web savvy are much more universally-applicable and necessary skills for ALL IT professionals to learn, than the important but more specialized items that they would replace.
July 30, 2012 2:23 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
On July 5, I wrote a blog post here entitled “Repeat After Me: ‘Slow Growth Mode,’” wherein I laid out John Challenger’s analysis for that condition in the US economy based on employment growth. Last Week, the US Commerce Department confirmed this apprehension with a report that the US economy grew at an annual rate of only 1.5 percent for the 2nd quarter of 2012 (April through June), mostly as a reflection of ongoing pullbacks in consumer spending. An AP report on this information also states that “growth at or below 2 percent isn’t enough to lower the unemployment rate,” which confirms what Challenger observed in his earlier employment observations this month. Given that many economists expect little or no change to these low/slow growth figures for the rest of 2012, and possibly into 2013, there’s not much relief in sight, either.
For the past three years or so I’ve been advocating a “hunker down, stay put” approach to IT employment. This means “if you’ve got a job, don’t leave it unless you have a firm and better offer in hand.” Alas, it also means that if you don’t have a job in IT right now, it’s not going to be getting easier to find one any time real soon. This makes things tough for the annual crop of college graduates, to be sure, but even harder for IT professionals at later stages in their careers who find themselves out of work owing to layoffs, staff reductions, or for various other reasons. In fact, the more money you need to make, the harder that makes it to find another job if and when you might be forced onto the job market.
Conventional wisdom is that is takes up to 1 month to find a job for each $10,000 of annual salary you wish to earn. I’m guessing that in the current economy that time interval may have doubled — or more — particularly for those at the higher end of IT pay scales. The notion of a “living wage” or “just wage” for a family of 4 dictates that at least $60,000 of income is needed just to make ends meet for most American families. The math says that somebody making that wage would take 6 months to find a job in a normal economy, and a year or longer to find a wage in a weak economy like our present one. Add to that interval as out-of-work IT pros seek to replace typically higher incomes and you’ve got a hardship that can weigh heavily on affected families. It’s hard enough for families to shoulder the burden of maintaining a cash cushion of 3 to 6 months, as most financial professionals recommend. I’m guessing that even though more savings than that may be needed to bridge any unemployment gaps that should occur, many families can’t afford big enough cushions to get them through such gaps without financial damage. This really hurts, and spells yet another threat to retirement savings for mid- to late-career IT professionals who find themselves out of work in this economy. Ouch! That hurts!!!
July 25, 2012 2:58 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
In June and July of 2012, I blogged several times about the new, reinvented MCSE (it’s Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert this time around, rather than Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer). In “Microsoft Private Cloud Exams Now Live,” I prefigured the program thanks to the first batch of Server 2012 exams that are now known as MCSE: Private Cloud. A week later, I blogged for PearsonITCertification that “MS Announces New MCSE Credentials for Windows Server 2012.” Then, at the beginning of July, I added some musings on the shape of the new overall Microsoft MCSE/MCSA/MCSD program for Tom’s IT Pro in “Reflections on Changes to Microsoft’s Certification Programs.” Clearly, I’ve been noodling about where these new MS certs are concerned, and watching things unfold carefully.
A recent article from Michael Simmons for GoCertify.com entitled “Reboot Successful: Microsoft’s New MCSE certifications” got me thinking on the new offerings once again, and also reminded me of some interesting aspects that I’d either underplayed or overlooked myself:
- First, the new MCSE come with an expiration date. MCSEs need to recertify every three years like clockwork. Changes to exams that occur in the meantime will force them to re-initialize their knowledge and skills. Given a recent major version release cycle of about 3 years for Windows 7 and 8, this probably also means regular platform changes will be automatically included.
- Second, the word on the street is that MCSE exams are becoming more difficult by deliberate design: you can find an interesting video on exam difficulty from Liberty Munson, Microsoft’s lead psychometrician and the person in charge of exam development and quality control. MS is working hard to keep their exams more challenging and more relevant to day-to-day problem diagnosis and solution.
- Third, topics for the MCSE are more clearly delineated and differentiated. Instead of a general Server orientation and possible Security specialization, MCSE now clearly differentiates among server, desktop, private cloud, database platform, and business intelligence subject areas. This should help candidates pursue areas of greater interest to them, and employers to find IT professionals with better-defined skillsets to meet their needs.
All in all, I still very much like what I see with these new credentials, and the way they’re designed and organized. The general IT public apparently feels likewise, because new MCSEs are being minted at a pretty rapid rate. It will be interesting to see, in fact, if the uptake of these new credentials causes Microsoft to resume regular release of their “certification count,” a practice that ended in the mid -2000s as the MCTS and MCITP began to take over for the prior generation of MCSE, MCSA, and so forth.
July 23, 2012 7:51 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
It must be something in the air recently, but I’ve gotten half-a-dozen emails from readers asking me to explore the old familiar “school vs. certification” conundrum. For most people, career advancement or development is subject to limited time, money, and energy. Naturally, they want to invest in what will produce “the best return.” And often, they come to me with the attitude that because certification often offers a quicker and more tangible immediate pay-off, certification must also be better than college education when it comes to career preparation, development and advancement.
Not so, says I. For one thing, it’s not really an either-or proposition. In fact, for most employers, it’s a “both-and” proposition — that is, employers want people who are both certified and have at least an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, if not something more advanced. For another thing, college and certification often teach different kinds of things in very different ways. Granted, what you learn in earning a Microsoft, Cisco, or VMware certification is likely to be more relevant to what you do on the job when you work with Microsoft, Cisco, or VMware platforms and tools. But college is as much about learning how to learn as it is about learning something or anything in particular, and learning is something that IT pros must keep doing throughout their careers if they want to stay in the field. If they want to excel in the field they must also excel at learning, in organizing and formulating what they’ve learned, and in many cases passing some or all of that knowledge onto others as well.
As you plan out your career path, then, try to strike a balance between school and certification studies. Yes, you will need more and better certifications constantly to keep up with the pace of technology change and innovation. But you will also need the opportunity to learn and try things out in a non-critical, open, and more exploratory environment — namely school — to really get the most out of your learning experience. When it’s OK to make mistakes or even simply to noodle around for a bit, you will actually learn more and better than you will when your job or your business is on the line all the time. That’s why you may want to plan to take 2 to 4 years to finish up a bachelor’s degree, or an equal amount of time to chase down a master’s degree once you’ve earned your bachelor’s. You really do want a chance to explore and size up various subject matters to see how you like them (and how well your mix of skills, knowledge and experience maps into their domains) to help you figure out what’s new, what’s next, and what’s most interesting to you.
Sure, it will take time and cost money to follow this kind of dual track. But in the long run, you will be better off for the learning and experience you’ll acquire along the way. And don’t forget to enjoy the ride, while you’re at it!