I opened my email last Friday morning to find this e-mail from Anne Martinez (the principal behind the fabulous GoCertify.com IT certification Website and nonpareil resource) in response to my recent blog at EdTittel.com entitled “Growing and Returning Interest in IT Certification:”
I just took a peek at your edtittel.com site and read your latest blog post, and I have to say I am right there with you. I think IT certification is ripe for a comeback. In fact I approached several certification program managers about that a few months ago (my 2011 certification vendor initiative), got extremely positive feedback, followed by no movement. I think the politics are stifling things substantially. Plus, people are just overworked like crazy and the big picture is getting lost in that.
You know I have always believed in the value of IT certification, and I still do. Recently I am hot on the trail of some fresh ideas and projects and doing whatever I can to bust IT certification back into common vision again and earn some $ in the process while helping people succeed with IT careers. Of course I am overworked and understaffed like everyone else, but anyway, I just want to share with you that I agree with your sentiment as you expressed in that 8/7 posting.
To me this moment can be a turning point for IT certification – or it can be a missed opportunity. Which do you think it will be?
Martinez makes some good points in her e-mail (reproduced with her permission, in exchange for an answer that you will find posted on her Website in the near future). For one thing, I’m glad to hear my own personal experience that things are picking up in the Certification Game vindicated from somebody else who’s even more plugged into that world than I am. For another, I share her trepidation that this could possibly be a cusp when certification could take a bounce going further, but I also recognize the possibility that things might subside into somnolescence once again, with no genuine bounce in the offing. And alas, in the wake of the recent market shenanigans and the S&P downgrade of US Government credit after a less-than-stellar political process to stave off default, her remarks about politics getting in the way are too true to be good.
I’m inclined to be optimistic and to see things brightening up. I’ve seen evidence from CompTIA, Cisco, Microsoft, and even VMware that new certifications keep popping up, while old familiar programs keep getting spiffed up and polished to keep pace with current tools and technologies. Let’s hope the publishers, practice test vendors, and other elements of the aftermarket will soon feel this swell of activity and confidence, and that IT will once again start to rise. It’s sometime to wish upon a star for, anyway…
If you visit Cisco’s Data Center Specialist Certifications page, you’ll see a pretty formidable list of 10 different Cisco Specialist level certifications there, just like this:
Data Center Unified Computing
- Cisco Data Center Unified Computing Design Specialist
- Cisco Data Center Unified Computing Support Specialist
Data Center Networking Infrastructure
- Cisco Data Center Networking Infrastructure Design Specialist
- Cisco Data Center Networking Infrastructure Support Specialist
- Cisco Data Center Networking Sales Specialist
Data Center Application Services
- Data Center Application Services Design Specialist
- Data Center Application Services Support Specialist
Data Center Storage Networking
- Cisco Data Center Storage Networking Design Specialist
- Cisco Data Center Storage Networking Sales Specialist
- Cisco Data Center Storage Networking Support Specialist
If you burrow down deeper into these credentials (all the preceding links are live, because I cut’n’pasted that copy directly from the aforecited Cisco Web page), you’ll find these credentials to be much more open to third party presence, tools, and technologies than some of the more mainline credentials (CCNA, CCNP, and so forth) might initially appear to the untutored eye. But such an impression is not only incorrect, it does Cisco the injustice of thinking them one-sided, partisan, or blind to other players in the marketplace.
Thus, for example, the Unified Computing credentials put strong emphasis on VMware for virtualization, to the point of requiring candidates to earn the VCP (VMware Certified Professional) 3 or 4 (with 5 surely to be added soon, as the VCP 5 exam goes live on August 29, 2011). Other of these specialists certs may not require third-party credentials to play on their learning field, but they certainly all expect candidates to be aware that there’s plenty more than Cisco gear in most modern data centers, and to be ready, willing, and able to work with everything they find there.
Given the rise of the cloud to a pinnacle of important in the IT world, and need to interact with (or even work in) data centers as part and parcel of everyday IT practice, I’m glad to see more credentials emerging that focus on these buzzing hives of Internet and computing activity. These Cisco specialist certs are a good way to dive into this area, especially for those corporations and organizations with big investments in Cisco infrastructure components and technologies.
I heard a story on NPR this morning that sent chills down my spine, about the spontaneous looting episodes that have occurred recently in British cities such as London, Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, and others. At least part of the story came from an AP piece entitled “For Flash Mobsters, Crowd Size a Tempting Cover,” which reports on what it dubs “flash mob robberies” as a growing phenomenon all over the developed world — including incidents in the US earlier this year in cities as diverse and distributed as Cleveland, LA (Venice and Hollywood), Philadelphia, and Washington, DC.
NPR Headline for AP Story on Flash Mobe Robberies
More disturbingly, the AP story includes this statement: “The National Retail Federation said 10 percent of 106 companies it surveyed reported being targeted in the last year by groups of thieves using flash mob tactics.” In the paragraph you can also read this snippet “…the federation…advises retailers to monitor social media networks and report planned heists to the police.”
Wow! That’s a pretty tall order, and not at all something that most retail operators have hitherto included in their budgeting or risk analyses. My guess is that this will be a case where technology can come to the rescue to some extent, by scanning Facebook, Twitter, and so forth (though what this could do for the Blackberry communications favored in some of the recent UK riots is not completely clear to me) to look for occurrence and higher frequencies of specific store mentions. We may have to get used to spontaneous store closings or restricted access to retail outlets as and when untoward social media activities alert retailers and law enforcement of impending flash mob robberies. I guess this is just another unforeseen and (this time) unpleasant side effect of instant communication and ubiquitous networking!
If you’ve been around the cert world for any length of time you’ve already heard about ISACA. ISACA used to be an acronym for Information Systems Audit and Control Association, but they forwent the underlying expansion and switched their name to the acronym a few years back. ISACA is best known for its Certified Information Systems Audit (CISA) and its Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) credentials, but has somewhat recently come out with a couple more credentials: the Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT (CGEIT: 2007) and the Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC: 2010).
I’ll write about the CRISC (pronounced “see-risk”) some other time; today, my subject is the CGEIT (I don’t see a preferred pronunciation for this credential, but I’m in favor of “see-gite” where gite rhymes with kite). This credential is like the CRISC and the PMP in that it stresses skills that more senior IT professionals are likely to find useful in their jobs, particularly in lead technical or managment positions where an understanding of governance, risk management, and project management are ALL likely to come into play at one time or another.
A closer look at the CGEIT shows it to be squarely aimed at IT governance topics, and is a joint effort between ISACA and the IT Governance Institute (ITGI). There’s a pretty comprehensive list of study materials available online, that show a profound preference for ITGI, ValIT, and COBIT framework literature and materials. Thus, to some extent, the CGEIT can be veiwed as an alternative to similar certifications available from the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL). In both arenas, the emphasis is to understand and use prevailing best practices and modules for IT operations and governance, with particular emphasis on how to align IT with an organization’s business objectives or explicit charter. This includes a determination to rationalize and manage investments in and use of IT to achieve the best return on investment (ROI), to minimize risk and exposure, and to establishing an environment where continuous improvement on processes and policies guides all planning and activity.
For those who plan to work in IT over the long haul, particularly for those inclined to climb either a technical or a mangement job ladder in IT, the CGEIT (or something like it in the ITIL space) is an excellent “soft skills” credential that can augment and extend a person’s knowledge and skills outside inherently technical, or platform- or technology-specific domains. It’s definitely worth looking into, and perhaps even pursuing for those who find its subject matter interesting enough to justify at least three months’ of study and preparation and a $375-475 exam.
Headline for July 2011 Employment Situation Summary
As I was listening to NPR yesterday, one of the news staff indicated that best-guess forecasts for today’s latest Employment Situation Summary from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics was likely to report 85,000 new jobs added and employment to hold steady at 9.2 percent. But when that report went public at 8:00 AM Eastern this morning, the July numbers were higher at 117,000 for jobs added, and lower at 9.1 percent employment overall.
How I wish that the prediction that higher-than-expected numbers would boost stock markets proved to be warranted. As I write this blog, the markets have been open for almost three hours and the Dow is trading down 155 points or so (about -1.37 percent from today’s open). The S&P 500 is down -1.88%, the NASDAQ is down -2.82%, and major overseas and foreign markets are all down, down, down. We’re “testing the bottom of the markets” as the old stock traders’ saying goes — and where she stops, nobody knows, either!
For July, the Information sector (as reported in Table B-1) is down by 1,000 jobs overall. This is only minimal movement, so it’s not unfair to say that things are pretty much unchanged since last month over the whole information sector. The biggest loss is in telecommunications which shed 2,700 jobs, mostly offset by a gain of 1,900 jobs in the “Other information services” grab-bag in this category.
It’s funny that even though things are better than expected, with overall unemployment down just a tad, that markets continue to tank. Could it be that all the pent-up concern that built up while the world held its breath to see if the US would default on its debt, has now been released in the form of a big sell-off? Maybe so. But my old mantra comes back to bug me: “Stay put. Keep calm. Hope for improvement.” It look like that last item is going to take a while to materialize… Let’s just hope the ride doesn’t get too rocky in the meantime!
Although the government standard to which the CCNP Security (and its predecessor, the CCSP) complies was released in March 2004 (CNSS Instruction 4013: National Information Assurance Training Standard for System Administrators) it wasn’t until yesterday that Cisco announced its compliance with said standard in its Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP Security) and Cisco Certified Security Professional (CCSP) credentials.
When I saw an early draft of this material under embargo from Cisco, tht draft only mentioned the CCSP and didn’t include the new CCNP Security credential introduced in October, 2010. This led me to speculate that Cisco had decided to keep the CCSP alive while also introducing a successor certification — namely, the CCNP Security credential. It does take time to get over the hurdles necessary for a credential to achieve the necessary recognition from the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Committee on National Security Systems (CNSS) to assert that courseware meets a training standard. I had guessed that CCSP would stick around long enough for the CCNP Security to be recognized. But with CCNP Security now part of the mix from the get-go, I have to guess that Cisco will retire CCSP sooner rather than later, to help it keep its sizable certification portfolio under control.
Here’s what the press release on this accreditation says on the subject:
This recognition of CCNP Security complements the existing CNSS 4013 designation for CCSP. It also is the progression of CNSS 4011, a feature of the CCNA Security curriculum.
I have to assume that Cisco will keep the CCSP alive long enough for candidates in the pipeline to get certified, and commitments to training providers to certify staff for government agency or contractor jobs in this area to be met. After that, I’d expect to see a migration/upgrade path for CCSPs to switch over to the newer CCNP credential, probably by taking some kind of exam after the refresh interval (two years) for the CCSP elapses.
Given that an important part of my professional life is focused on IT certification, I regularly spend time digging into and researching available programs and credentials, and keeping up with changes in th overall certification landscape. As I work on such things, my go-to information resource has been and remains Anne Martinez’ terrific GoCertify Website.
Banner area from GoCertify.com
For example, this weekend I found myself responding to a request for a list of IT certification training companies and providers for them to target for upcoming advertising. Because the list of cert programs and credentials at GoCertify is so complete and comprehensive, I was able to compile a targeted list of top offerings, and to easily zero in on the best training providers for that collection of credentials.
But that’s just the tip of the huge berg of information available at GoCertify. You can use it locate certifications by topical area, level of expertise involved, and distinguish vendor-neutral from vendor-specific certs. You can also read current cert news and cert-related articles, check out the GoCertify blog, find links to quizzes, practice tests, books, and training providers, and a whole lot more.
I simply don’t know of any better general clearinghouse for IT Cert information, and I think you should know about it, too. If you don’t already visit GoCertify.com regularly, check it out! But be prepared to lose some time as you explore its many treasures and information troves.
As I jumped up to the CompTIA Web site this morning and checked their latest press releases for signs of new programs and activities, I came across an item entitled “CompTIA Introduces Healthcare IT Technician Certificate.” In addition to prompting a “Hmm…that’s interesting” response from me, it also got me to thinking about other programs I’ve seen CompTIA introduce over the past decade and more. Some of these have gone on to anywhere from modest (Linux+, RFID+, Project+) to major success (Security+), while others have come and then gone as well (HTI+ or Home Technology Integrator+, DHTI+ or Digital Home Technology Integrator+, e-Biz+, i-Net+, and Convergence+).
Other than proving an assertion that not all CompTIA certs go on to fame and glory, what else does this tell us about the CompTIA certification selection and creation process, and any given new cert’s chances of success? For one thing, it’s important to remember that CompTIA is the Computing Technology Industry Association, a consortium of computing industry vendors, players, resellers and retailers, and representatives from leading research, academic, government, and public interests. Certifications are driven by requests from the membership, with surveys and measurements to determine levels of interest and support, then launched to meet perceived and stated needs for individuals who possess certain knowledge and specific skills sets that match up to well-researched job role investigations, job task analyses, and so forth and so on.
What the membership wants is to sell computing technology, and then to make sure the human and technical infrastructure is in place to make it succeed in the marketplace. But not all desires to sell translate into actual market uptake, or into genuine, long-term business or consumer needs. The HTI+/DHTI+ is an excellent case in point: there is an amazing amount of really cool technology available for computing-enhanced homes with alarm systems, media centers and home theaters, home networks, and so on. But it’s still the case that only high-end builders offer options for such things during home construction — and then usually only as high-dollar add-ons to basic home plans and build-out options — and that this kind of home remains the exception rather than the rule. And what with a moribund if not occasionally tanking economy of late, it’s proved hard to grow the critical mass necessary to sustain such a certification in the face of home buyers (and remodelers) who, above all, are keeping a very tight grip on their pocketbooks.
What does this mean for the Healthcare IT Technician certificate? I think it means two things: one, it’s a clear sign that CompTIA will never stop looking for areas of technical IT expertise to capture and distill into various certifications; and two, it reflects what I’ll call a “slam dunk” mentality for the kinds of new credentials the organization is most likely to back and foment going forward. Nobody can deny that healthcare is a huge sector of our economy, and one that an aging baby boomer population (of which I am a member) is likely to swell much further over the next 30 years and beyond. There is already a need for more qualified IT staff to work in the healthcare sector, and careful reading of this certificate program shows that it aims as much at clinics and smaller medical practices where technology is still taking root, as at larger clinics, hospitals, and mega-corporations that target the healthcare sector.
Does this mean I think the the Healthcare IT Technician certificate program is likely to succeed? I can’t say for sure, but it certainly seems to target an area where continued growth and activity is likely for the foreseeable future. That’s not to say CompTIA can’t get it wrong, but in areas where its membership has strong interests and expertise (which they do) and where the market rises up to meet them (as it must, for healthcare) I would have to say the odds are certainly in their favor.
Just saw this post on the MS Learning Born to Learn blog: “We need your feedback about recertification.” It’s from Krista Wall who I’ve dealt with over the past few years in connection with all kinds of credentials, and cert-related programs and activities. The post kick-off includes this statement
…to maintain the value of your certifications, we need to ensure that Microsoft Certifications keep pace with changing technologies and remain a meaningful indicator of a candidate’s continued competence
Then she brings up the notion that technologies keep changing even for current products as new service packs, revisions, and product versions get released. No kidding! The seemingly interminable lifespan of Windows XP throws this into stark relief, with a life cycle of 9 years and still counting in many corporate offices and business locations. She also adds the observation that recertification provides a way to update “…an advanced-level certification…” so that holders can validate skills on newer stuff than their original cert included, without having to retake an entire certification’s exams (this only matters for certs that require more than one exam, and matters progressively more as the total number of exams involved goes up).
Born to Learn Seeks Recert Feedback!
MS is conducting a survey aimed at cert holders and hiring managers for recertification on advanced certs, and specifically mentions MCPD and MCITP as examples for this kind of thing. They would like to understand how often recertification makes sense (2 or 3 years is my best guess), what kinds of activities “count” toward such a goal, and if an exam of some kind should be involved. If this sounds interesting to you, you can take the survey yourself. As for myself, I’ll be very interested in mulling over the survey data and analysis as soon as it becomes available!
When MS cert exams are in beta they are number 71-xxx instead of 72-xxx. The Microsoft Forefront Identity Manaer 2010 exam will be in beta until the end of next week, and is thus currently numbered 71-158. The full moniker for this exam is 71-158 TS: Forefront Identity Manager, Configuring and it already has a prep guide available which, interestingly enough, lists the exam number as 70-158.
Header blurb for beta Forefront ID Mgr Exam
For those not already in the know, Forefront Identity Manager 2010 is an enterprise tool designed for environments with 5,000 or more identities to manage throughout their entire lifecycles. Deployments are often greographically dispersed, and cover multiple organizational units. Sometimes, implementors must also take compliance with regulatory frameworks or requirements into account when creating and managing user identities, and multiple applications consuming identities, and multiple disjoint data sources (each requiring separate authentication) may also be involved.
Candidates for this exam must demonstrate mastery over a broad array of tools, technologies, and skill sets including Active Directory (and other directory services, where applicable), PowerShell, security policies and procedures, sufficient familiarity with Microsoft SQL Server to write basic queries, experience with email and messaging platforms, and 2-3 years of experience working with Forefront Identity Manager, including provisioning, deprovisioning, use management, and password management. There’s a pretty hefty diagnosis and troubleshooting component as well, including analyzing root causes via tools and statistics, such as Event Log, Preview, Stack traces, statistics values, the Service Trace Log, portal request logs, MPR explorer, and the Management Pack.
The good news is: If you sign up for, take, and pass the beta exam by August 4, you don’t have to pay and you’ll be awarded the TS certification that goes with production exam 72-158. If you’re interested, you’ll want to sign up right away. With exactly two weeks left to run, seats have to be filling up fast!