In reading my way through the Microsoft Born to Learn blog recently, I came across an item that cited a recent Network World survey to report–with a real ray of sunshine onto what’s been a pretty dark and dismal IT jobs and work landscape recently–that a pool of 700 survey respondents reported a strong and positive correlation between IT certification, pay (and raises), and even promotions or newer, better jobs.
You can read all about this on my Pearson IT Certification blog, posted yesterday, entitled “Network World Survey Finds Certs Bring Jobs and Raises.” You’ll also find pointers there to the original Network World story and the actual survey results too–all of which are very interesting. Enjoy!
Here’s an email that showed up in my inbox last Friday:
Mr Tittel… your books helped me land my first self study MCP test completion, and your blogs have begun steering me in the right direction. Cheers sir. I come to you a stranger searching for advice…
I have am 29 and need a serious career. I sell cable door to door for a living, doing so largely because my company is going to pay for my masters degree. I have an unrelated BA in Communications (Telecom specifically) and have a great deal of help desk work experience. I want to make the big bucks in consulting or security. Can you recommend a path to obtain a relevant masters degree while simultaneously getting Cisco/ms certified? I know you have answered this broadly in the past, but are there any schools specifically? The ACE school list is like picking a number out of a hat…
Many thanks for your time and assistance sir.
GS, north-central Kentucky [name and phone number withheld for privacy]
And here’s what I sent back by way of reply:
Thanks for your email, and your kind words about my blogs and books. It’s letters like yours that help me to believe my work has at least some merit, and provides a bit of assistance to those seeking to better themselves.
It’s terrific that your company is willing to help pay for your graduate studies. Judging from your area code, you must live in north central Kentucky. Given that your employer is paying for your training, I’m guessing you probably aren’t interesting in moving from your current location (but if I’m wrong, please let me know). My advice would be to pursue a master’s in one of the following areas: MBA (with an emphasis on MIS, or management information systems) or computer science.
If you’re in Lexington, that puts you near the home campus of the University of Kentucky, in fact, which offers a variety of excellent degree programs. I wouldn’t let the presence or absence of Cisco and/or MS certification in a degree program affect my choice of graduate institution, if I were you. You can always pick this stuff up at a local community college, for much less cost than at a 4-year or graduate institution anyway (credit hours usually cost no more than 50% of what you’d pay at a school where you’d pursue a Master’s, and sometimes significantly less).
Please help me zero in on your mobility, and your current location. These will help us define a list of possible graduate and other schools for you to consider in your pursuit of a Master’s, plus Cisco and/or MS certifications.
Sure, there are some colleges and universities that offer degree-plus-certification plans around. But most of these offer either Cisco (CCNA and CCNP, typically) or Microsoft (one or more of each MCTS and MCITP, or MCTS and MCPD) credentials in tandem with undergraduate degrees rather than graduate ones. I am aware of some master’s programs that offer a CISSP track along with a business or computing science degree at that level, but the CISSP also requires 5 or more years of directly security-related on the job experience, for which both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree shave at most 2 years off that requirement. So there’s still an experience hurdle to deal with in moving up from “Associate of CISSP” to full-blown CISSP.
This certainly is an interesting situation, and one that I suspect many aspiring IT professionals in their late 20s or early 30s may be pondering (like GS, my correspondent in this case). More education remains a great investment in one’s own future, and that goes double when you have an employer who’s enlightened enough to help fund such activity. My advice to anyone who works for an organization that offers full or partial continuing education support is to use such support to the maximum amount for which you are eligible. It may keep you a little too busy in the short run, but in the long run it can only help advance your professional standing and earnings potential.
[Update via Linked-In 11/16/2011 9:30 AM]
From Warren Wyrostek, long-time IT certification instructor and current doctoral student
“Ed, this is an interesting exchange of which I have written a good bit about also. From the design of the Master of Integrated Networking Credential that was being considered as a Capstone Master’s Level Course at FSU to my current role as Doctoral Student after many many certifications. For this reader, I would add to what you shared by saying to look at Eastern Kentucky University where there are many many offerings in the Vo-Tech arena and also offer more than 30 master’s degree programs from five academic colleges, two specialist degrees, and their newest offering, the Doctorate in Education in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. EKU is just south of Lexington in Richmond, KY.”
All I can add to this comment is “Thanks, Warren: great and valuable information!”
Last week, Microsoft announced a partnership with the Hawaii State Public Library System to make its Digital Literacy and Microsoft IT Academy programs available to any and all of the state’s library patrons. Ultimately, this program is expected to reach almost a million people all over the Hawaiian archipelago.
What makes this really interesting is that access will not be limited to in-library computers only (as I had initially guessed might be the case). Here’s a quote from the press release that explains a little about what’s up:
The launch of the Microsoft IT Academy marks the first time the subscription-based program will be made available to Hawaii’s library users through in-library and remote access via Windows Internet Explorer. In Hawaii, hundreds of thousands of library cardholders will have free, unlimited access to more than 350 Microsoft courses, ranging from basic computer skills to advanced network architecture and design. The Microsoft IT Academy will provide many of the vocational and adult-education resources that have been reduced in Hawaii as a result of budget cuts.
This is very interesting because it indicates that the Hawaiian State Public Library System will also be setting up some kind of remote access, with accompanying accounts and access controls, so that library patrons can use an Internet Explorer-based Web browser session to take classes, access labs, and work their way through an enormous volume of training and certification preparation materials.
Could this be a new (and extremely valuable) mission for our public libraries, in an age when the relevancy of old-fashioned paper books is being questioned or discounted at nearly every turn? You bet! As a devoted library patron myself (and a weekly volunteer at my son’s elementary school library as well) I have to see this as a great move for both Microsoft (which gets to reach a much broader audience with its materials) and the library systems (which extend their reach into skills development, job preparation, and improved community outreach). Talk about a true win-win situation: I’d like to see this kind of deal implemented at the county level all across the United States. Power to the people–at least, those people with library cards!!! Now, please, let the supporting governments at the state and local levels also boost library funding to let them execute this mission properly.
There’s a fascinating story (…well, to me, anyway…) in the Microsoft News Center that popped up this morning. It’s entitled “Microsoft Ensures Integrity of Its Certification Program” and features a Q&A with Don Field, the company’s Senior Director of Certification and Training, whom I’ve interviewed for this very blog on numerous occasions. The item showed up in an email from Microsoft’s PR agency this morning with a subject line of “Microsoft Continues to Win Battle Against Brain Dumps as Part of Certification Integrity Efforts.”
As I perused this teaser, I found myself thinking, “Gosh, I hate brain dumps, too, but I bet this is another piece of dessicated PR prose that says as little as possible at great length.” I’m happy to report that I couldn’t have been more wrong, and I’m glad I took the time — albeit with some trepidation — to click the link and see what was up with this bit of self-professed self-promotion.
For one thing, though the centerpiece of the story is a recent $13.5 million judgement against what Field identifies as the ‘”testinside” domain names’ who practiced the kind of brain dumping that is the bane of many certification programs (namely, direct and unauthorized disclosure of precise exam contents), it is certainly about quite a bit more than that. Among my favorite bits and pieces of this article is the disclosure that the Microsoft certified population now consists of a “…global community of over 6 million other Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCPS)…” and some interesting discussion of the goals and methods that the Microsoft Learning teams uses to guide its activities and protect its assets. This is the first time I’ve seen any numbers out of Microsoft Learning for a while (I still miss their old quarterly detailed numbers reports).
Other interesting gems also emerge from this question-and-answer document:
- Windows Azure and Office 365 certs don’t have associated version numbers (neither does Windows Phone, for that matter). Hmm. These are also the certs that do come with time limits, and need to be recertified after three years. This could be an important “tell” to determine when MS will use recertification requirements for some of its other future credentials.
- Don also repeated his basic riff on recertification topics, as I already reported numerous time this summer most recently in my “Microsoft Shares Results from Its Recent Recertification Survey” on 9/22/2011.
- There’s an interesting discussion of Microsoft Learning’s “4 D” model for designing certifications and exam: design, develop, deliver, and defend. Nice details on all four Ds appear in this story, but the obvious emphasis here in on the “defend” part what with a 13-plus million dollar judgement just awarded from the bad guys.
As PR pieces go, this one is longer on substance and shorter on breathless hype than most of them. If my summary here whets your appetite, you’ll want to check it out for yourself.
Check out this flaming headline from Ryan Naraine on his “Zero Day” blog over at ZDNet (he’s long been one of my favorite Windows security mavens and like my other favorite, Lenny Zeltser, pretty much always tells it like it is):
Further investigation of the latest Microsoft Secuirty Bulletin Summary for November 2011 associates this vulnerability with ID MS11-083 and its associated Knowledge Base article KB2588516. When MS urges treating something with utmost priority that’s as close to “damn the torpedos, full speed ahead with deployment” as they ever come in their instructions and advice. It’s definitely time to put this one on the testing and deployment schedule, and perhaps even to invoke the emergency weekend update clause for your enterprise (or however you rush urgent patches out into the field).
The other November patches for this month (there are 4 in all) deal with Windows Mail and Windows Meeting Space (MS11-085, Important rating, Remote Code Execution vulnerability), Active Directory (MS11-086, Important rating, Elevation of Privilege vulnerability), and Windows Kernel-Mode Drivers (MS11-084, Moderate rating, Denial of Service vulnerability). Oh, and there’s the usual beginning-of-month update to the Malicious Software Removal Tool out in this latest batch of Windows Update materials as well.
But the MS11-083 item is a real humdinger that demands immediate attention. Better scramble the jets and let management know you’ll be working this weekend (or whenever you can push this puppy into production).
In perusing the press releases at the CompTIA Website this morning, I came across an item dated November 8, 2011, and entitled “CompTIA and ITpreneurs Collaborate on New Cloud Computing Credential.” The credential is called the CompTIA Cloud Essentials exam and it’s intended to provide a vendor-neutral take on cloud-based computing technology both from the nuts-and-bolts technology side and from a business perspective as well. Additional emphasis is placed on understanding the processes and changes involved in migrating to a cloud-based architecture, and in monitoring and managing such environments as well.
This exam is slated to go live in December, 2011, and consists of 50 questions administered in a one-hour time slot. The cut score is 72 percent (36 out of 50 questions correct, in other words), and the exam ID is CLO-001. No pricing information is available as yet, but it will probably be between $180 and $250 in keeping with other typical CompTIA exam price points. Stay tuned to the CompTIA Website for more information and “go live” date and cost information.
In reading over Anne Martinez’ latest Certification Watch newsletter (Volume 14 #13) I couldn’t help but catch and wonder about her summaries of some recent IDC MarketScape profiles that analyze markets for various important IT certification subject areas, along with vendors or sponsors that offer credentials for those subject areas. In fact, I saw a few stunning surprises in the very brief summaries she produces, as follows (surprises are in bold):
- Security Management: CompTIA, Microsoft, Symantec
- Networking: HP, IBM, Novell
- Server Management: IBM
The original IDC reports cost $15,000 a pop for 24 pages of graphs, figures, and analysis. The companies that come in for specific mention by name are Cisco, CompTIA, IBM, Microsoft, Novell, and Symantec. Perhaps this helps to explain the “surprises” that I noticed in Anne’s listings of the various market leaders and so forth in her GoCertify summary. But while I’d love to peruse this item, there’s no way I’m going to shell out $15K for that privilege, nor do I suspect that many who don’t have substantial investments in the IT cert biz are likely to pony up, either.
What I can say is that I’m surprised to see Microsoft show up in the security management category, because they have no substantial current security certifications outside the MCTS program, and even there, security is covered primarily in the context of specific platforms or products rather than as a specialty in its own right (unlike the CompTIA Security+ and its emerging advanced security practitioner or CASP credential, by contrast, or the Symantec EndPoint Protection certification). In fact, neither the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) nor the Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) credentials offer a security specialization or track per se, though of course security topics do come up all over the place across the whole spectrum of MS credentials.
It’s also surprising to see Novell showing up on anybody’s IT certification radar, particularly in the area of networking (though the company’s Zenworks and various server platforms certainly do entail a great deal of networking knowledge and experience). In the same vein, I’m wondering what it is about the HP and IBM programs that also bring them into the “top networking” stable. In HP’s case, it might be the routers, switches and infrastructure elements in the ProCurve product family, and the technology transfer that accrued from their acquisition of 3COM awhile back. In IBM’s case, it could be any of a number of technology areas, particularly the network management stuff that hearkens back to the Tivoli days.
Hmmm. Very interesting. Nice, but a little weird, to see these technology colossi registering on somebody’s IT certification radar. And it does reaffirm the notion that looking into certification from vendors whose products are widely recognized in the workplace remains a viable technique for identifying programs and credentials worth pursuing. If you want to try to dredge more meaning out of the IDC materials on their recent Marketplace report, please do so with my blessing. As for myself, I’m equal parts bemused and confused by what I can find by way of hard facts and illustrations from IDC on these subjects.
OK, so the October numbers from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics are out this morning. They show a very modest 80,000 increase in employment for September, along with a negligible decrease in overall “official” unemployment from 9.1 to 9.0 percent. Not much improvement seems to spell not much hope for injecting more vigor into our lackluster economic recovery, nor much by way of expectations as we close out the third year since the events of 2008 triggered a worldwide economic slowdown.
If there’s one modest ray of sunshine in this latest report, it’s probably best represented by Table A-14 “Unemployed persons by industry and class of worker, not seasonally adjusted.” Here’s a data snippet with header and entries that represents what I’m getting at.
|Snippet from 11/4/2011 Employment Situation Summary Table A-14|
|Industry & class of worker||10/10 Unemployment||10/11 Unemployment|
|Professional & business svcs||6.7%||5.8%|
It looks like things have improved substantially for the sectors that matter most for IT (32% for Information, and 13% for Professional and Business Services) in the past year. But this is a case of seemingly good numbers that are not matched by equally good or optimistic feelings. As I have said so many times before in the past few months, the IT employment outlook remains in “hunker down” mode until the general employment logjamb clears, and employers become more bullish on hiring more permanent workers.
Sigh. Makes me wonder what lies ahead for 2012, except more of the same. Could this be the “death of one thousand miniscule monthly employment gains?” Maybe so! Perhaps that’s better than the “death of one thousand miniscule mothly employment cuts” but who’s got the strength or patience to make that call?
I’ve started a monthly phone call with Joe Cannata, Brocade’s Senior Manager for Business Development and Certification at Brocade University in Alpharetta Georgia. This afternoon, I was made privy to numerous bits of interesting and noteworthy information about Brocade’s certification programs and offerings.
First and probably foremost to Brocade, the company handed out its 20,000 certification credential on October 23, 2011, to a very nice-looking gentleman named Ken Smith, an employee at Brocade partner company Walker & Associates. Ken was no doubt surprised to be showered with so much attention, and even a few prizes (some Brocade-branded merchandise and a digital picture frame), upon earning his Brocade Certified Network Professional (BNCP) credential. I’m happy to add my congratulations to all parties involved!
On a more serious note, Brocade has also updated its heavy-duty storage-area networking credentials for 16 Gbps Fibre Channel technologies, including the Brocade Certified Fabric Administrator (BCFA) and Brocade Certified Fabric Professional (BCFP) certifications. And according to Joe Cannata, a brand-new Brocade Certified Service Provider Network Engineer credential, with matching exam, is slated to go live on November 14, 2011. This credential is essentially a specialized version of the company’s BCNE (Brocade Certified Network Engineer) credential, with an emphasis on service provider protocols and technologies that include MPLS, IPv6, BGP, VVRP-E, multi-tasking trunking configurations, MRP, PRP, and QoS coverage. Interested networking professionals will want to keep an eye on the Brocade certification page for related news and information.
Egad! It’s a tough, tough business serving the needs of the enterprise desktop. As I read this recent story (October 20) in ComputerWorld (CW) this morning entitled “Windows 7 is on a (slow) roll,” my jaw kept dropping further and further throughout. By the time I had finished reading, it had nearly reached the floor. Here’s the deal:
- Despite plans that called for Pella Corporation to upgrade half of its 5,000 desktops to Windows 7 by the end of 2010, with the rest to follow by the end of 2011, as of October 2011, the company had upgraded only 1,800 PCs. The remainder are still running Windows XP.
- A September CW poll of its readers revealed that while 88 percent of organizations say a movement to Windows 7 has begun or is in the planning stages, 82% of those same respondents say they’re also still running Windows XP, while 73% admit to running Windows 7 as well. Only 55% expect to transition to Windows 7 by the end of 2012, 34% will move over before MS brings XP support to an end in April 2014, and an astonishing 11% says they’ll keep running XP on production machines even after that date!
- Even Microsoft says that only one in four enterprises runs Windows 7 today, though CW also attributes MS Senior Director Erwin Visser (for the MS Client Commercial Group) as saying “…enterprise adoptions is growing fast.”
Here’s the chart that tells an interesting story, as of September 2011:
The CW story concludes by offering a sluggish economy, or shrinking markets, as the primary reason for the delay. Pella, in particular, is subject to a weak housing industry and has extended its usual PC refresh cycles from 3.5 to 5 years. Other enterprises have their own specific tales of woe, but all are subject to the foibles of a weak economy.