February 11, 2011 3:56 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Cisco introduces Virtual Classroom Instructor Specialist certification
, Cisco leverages WebEx to build virtual training credential
This week Cisco added another considerable arrow to its learning quiver, with the introduction of the Cisco Virtual Classroom Instruction Specialist credential. Leveraging the company’s acquisition of well-known and -recognized virtual meeting technology company WebEx nearly four years ago, Learning@Cisco is plunking down a big bet that the virtual classroom is the place for technology education to be, and for them to have a major role in shaping and defining how online training works in that context.
Cisco VCIS blurb
When I quizzed several members of the Learning@Cisco team about this, they agreed that it’s not unreasonable to put this new Cisco credential on a par with the Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) or the CompTIA CTT+ (Certified Technology Trainer Plus). That a very good thing, because both of these are widely-known and highly-regarded “train the trainer” credentials that are required in many IT training programs and organizations before professionals are allowed to get up in front of a classroom full of paying customers.
That said, the VCIS (if you don’t mind me abbreviating that long Cisco cert title “Virtual Classroom Instruction Specialist”) obviously takes a different slant on training, because it’s oriented entirely at a virtual classroom, rather than a real one. But as with so much else in life, training is indeed becoming increasingly more virtual, so I see this as a shrewd and forward-looking move on Cisco’s part. Its WebEx arm also has the chops to stand behind this credential, with over 40,000 virtual classes already delivered to a broad range of audiences, and a pretty serious team of seasoned virtual instructors and curriculum developers on the Cisco WebEx University staff.
The exam for this credential is already available, but candidates will also have to do a live virtual demo for evaluation as part of the qualification process for this cert. That infrastructure is slated for completion some time in March, after which interested virtual trainers can complete and earn this certification.
February 9, 2011 7:49 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Ed Tittel revises "IT Certification Success" in Web-based form
, IT Cert Success content hits PearsonITCertification.com
Back in 2000, I created a special volume for the Exam Cram series of books designed to augment their exam-focused coverage and content. This book was called IT Certification Success and it went through four editions in the period from 2000 to 2003, during which time the series changed hands from Coriolis (the original publisher) to Pearson (the second and still active publisher).
Masthead from PearsonITCertification.com
Over the past four months, I’ve been busily engaged in revisiting much of the material from that book, and recasting it in the form of a series of articles for PearsonITCertification.com. I’m also going to start blogging for the site once a week, as soon as all the set-up gets done, but for now, I wanted to point out the articles available on the Web site that cover topics sure to be near and dear to the readers of this blog:
General Certification Information: Programs, Benefits, Pros and Cons
Why Vendors Like Certification Programs (Jan 31, 2011): This article explores the impetus behind certification programs and how those programs benefit certification seekers and vendors alike.
Why Organizations and Professional Societies Build Cert Programs (Jan 27, 2011): We examine why professional organizations and associations sponsor or endorse certification programs, how they help to build quality certification programs, and the support they can provide for prospective candidates.
Why Employers Like Cert Programs (Jan 24, 2011): We look at why employers like certification programs and the benefits such credentials provide to them.
General Certification Program Characteristics (Jan 20, 2011): We examine vendor-specific and vendor-neutral cert program characteristics and explain how they benefit IT professionals who pursue them.
Benefits of IT Certification (Jan 17, 2011): This article looks at numerous benefits that certification offers to IT professionals.
What’s Not To Like About IT Cert Programs (Jan 19, 2011): While there are numerous benefits that adhere to earning certifications, IT professionals may not be aware of all the hidden costs and challenges involved. We examine some of the drawbacks to certification programs.
Ranking Certifications (Dec 13, 2010): This article looks at one method for rating and ranking IT certifications.
Certification Rankings (Dec 14, 2010): Find rankings for more than 100 top IT certifications, using the method described in the preceding article.
IT Certification Planning, Preparation, and Training
Overall Certification Preparation Overview (Dec 27, 2010): Explore some common certification exam preparation activities and how they benefit certification candidates.
Certification and Career Self-Assessment: Can and Should You Do It? (Dec 22, 2010): Take a look at how annual self-assessment and planning benefits your professional career, along with things to consider when developing or refining career and certification plans.
Crafting a Personal Certification Plan (Jan 5, 2011): Learn how to construct a personal certification plan to reflect both long- and short-term certification goals.
Understanding IT Certification Ladders (Dec 15, 2010): Take a look at the Pyramid Certification Model, how it works, and what types of skills are required at each of its various levels.
Build Your Own Customized IT Certification Ladder (Dec 20, 2010): Learn how to customize a certification ladder to match your professional goals and aspirations.
Pros and Cons of Classroom and Online Training for Certification Prep (Jan 10, 2011): Learn how to assess cert prep training, and how to choose what’s right for you and your budget.
Using Practice Exams for Study and Preparation (Jan 10, 2011): Take a look at several different ways practice exams can help candidates prepare to take and pass certification exams.
Establishing a Certification Support System (Dec 27, 2010): Learn how to establish and maintain a personal certification support system.
IT Certifications, Employment, and Career Planning and Development
Top Job Posting Web Sites (Dec 8, 2010): Reviews for the “hottest” job posting sites, along with some features and resources they offer to job seekers.
Using Job Posting Web Sites (Nov 22, 2010): How to get the most out of job posting sites in your search for a great IT job!
Working with Professional Associations and Societies (Dec 6, 2010): Learn about some of the many professional organizations available to help you develop your career, and how to go out and look for more for your particular technology niches or areas of interest.
Working with a Personal Network (Nov 29, 2010): Learn how to interact with friends, family, colleagues, co-workers, schoolmates, and others who can (and probably will) help you kick your career up a proverbial notch.
Finding a Job That Fits (Nov 29, 2010): Learn how to ask the right questions (and collect the corresponding answers) to help you decide what kind of job you’d like to have and how to compare what you’ve already got (or may be offered) to what best fits your wants and needs.
Working with Technical Recruiters (Nov 24, 2010): Understand how technical recruiters operate and how you can benefit as they guide your search for an ideal job.
IT Job Roles and Related Certifications of Interest
When Ideal IT Job Candidates Meet Real Job Requirements (Oct 29, 2010): Get a good understanding of key IT job roles and the kinds of skills and knowledge that go with them. This will help ensure the most positive experience for applicants, no matter what kind of IT work they are after.
An Ideal PC Technician (Nov 1, 2010): Take a look at relevant certifications, technical skills and knowledge, and subject matter expertise of greatest interest to employers of PC technicians.
An Ideal Network Administrator (Nov 3, 2010): Take a look at relevant certifications, technical skills and knowledge, higher education, and subject matter expertise of greatest interest to employers seeking to hire network administrators.
An Ideal IT Internetworking Professional (Nov 15, 2010): Take a look at relevant certifications, technical skills and knowledge, higher education, and subject matter expertise of greatest interest to employers hiring IT internetworking professionals.
The Ideal Security Professional (Nov 8, 2010): Take a look at relevant certifications, technical skills and knowledge, higher education, and subject matter expertise of greatest interest to employers of security professionals.
An Ideal Project Manager (Nov 10, 2010): Take a look at relevant certifications, technical skills and knowledge, higher education, and subject matter expertise of greatest interest to employers hiring project managers.
An Ideal Programmer (Nov 24, 2010): A review of the qualifications that make for the best prospective programming job candidates.
As soon as I get my blog set-up and the summary page goes live on the PearsonITCertification.com Website, I’ll follow up with that information here. But in the meantime, here’s nearly two hundred pages of some of my best work, updated to be relevant to today’s certs, technologies, and economic situation.
February 7, 2011 3:26 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
February 2011 employment situation summary paints bleak picture
, January 2011 numbers improve thanks to counting tricks
, more employment growth desperately needed to address unemployed and underemployed Americans' needs
Last Friday, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics once again released its latest Employment Situation Summary for January, 2011. Once again the number tell some interesting stories: though the unemployment rate fell by what appears to be a healthy 0.4 percentage points, the decline is in large part due to the Bureau’s practice of trimming off unemployed persons after they’ve been out of work for more than 99 weeks (5 weeks less than two years). If the long-term unemployed are factored back into their numbers, the situation is basically unchanged.
Header from latest US BLS Employment Situation Summary
What’s really important right now is job creation, because without new jobs, the unemployed can’t get back to work (nor can we absorb our full output of new graduates or other workers entering the ranks of the full-time employed for the first time). Those numbers are not too encouraging just yet, whether you look at the average since last February (2010) of 93,000 per month, or the most recent month at 36,000.
As lots of economists have observed, job growth right now is sufficient only to absorb population growth, or those new workers seeking to enter the workforce for the first time. It is nowhere near enough to absorb the 14 to 18 million unemployed (depending on whether you count those out of work for more than 99 weeks: I do, because those people would return to work if jobs were there for them to fill). Nor is it enough for the 8.4 so-called “involuntary part-time workers” to convert back from part- to full-time employment as they would like to.
We really need to see job growth in excess of 200,000 new jobs per month for an extended period of time (and 300,000 or more would be even better) to whittle away at the huge balance of unemployed or underemployed workers currently looking for some or better employment before things can really start to improve. I’m starting to wonder just how we’re going to pull that off as a country. I sincerely wish the Republicans and Democrats would stop bickering about the declining tax base that we do manage to collect, and start thinking more and harder about ways to restore that tax base to its proper levels. That is I’d like to see them mount a concerted effort to bring unemployment back down to its “normal” range between 4.5-6.0 percent. That would probably do more to fix the deficit and help the budget than fighting over “job-killing Obamacare,” or engaging in the kind of mental gymnastics required to simultaneously balk at raising the federal debt ceiling and cutting entitlements.
February 3, 2011 3:11 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Cisco adds 3 Specialist certs to its security lineup
, Cisco creates building block specialist certs to lead to CCNP Security
, New VPN Firewall and IOS Security Specialist certs added to Cisco Security lineup
Last week, I wrote a blog entitled “Pondering Certification Building Blocks,” wherein I waxed eloquent about certification programs that are wisely and well-built. In particular, I lauded those programs like Microsoft’s where junior level certs roll up, then add up to more senior level ones, and where forethought has been expended to enable people to grow themselves, and organizations to grow their people, so that by occupying more junior job roles and earning more junior certs, over time these things accumulate. Smaller certs eventually lead to bigger ones, and lesser job roles likewise to greater ones, and everybody wins. The company wins by grooming and developing its talent pool, the people win by advancing up a well-defined career ladder, and the sponsoring organization wins by attracting more adherents to its certification program and creating advocates for its tools, techniques, and technologies.
In that same blog, though I used Microsoft as an example, I indicated that what had stimulated my thinking was some company other than Microsoft, but that I was under embargo for talking about it. Well, that embargo is lifted as of yesterday morning (February 2, 2011), so I can talk about it now. The sponsoring organization is the other “big gun” in the IT certification world — namely, Cisco Systems — and the program in question is their security certification program. As of today, they are adding three new credentials to their existing security line-up and these certs do more than just expand their portfolio. Each one contains elements that are also required for the CCNP Security certification, so they also define true “stepping stones” to that credential starting from high-demand, more narrowly focused areas of specialization.
The new security certifications from Cisco all fit under their Specialist branch, and are designated as “Security Specialist Certifications.” These new certs are as follows:
1. Cisco Firewall Security Specialist (FIREWALL): A certification that recognizes security professionals who possess the skills and knowledge necessary to design, implement and maintain Cisco security appliance solutions, using the Cisco ASA adaptive security appliance and zone-based firewall solutions.
2. Cisco IOS Security Specialist (IOS Security): A certification that recognizes professionals who have demonstrated the hands-on knowledge and skills required to secure networks, using features within Cisco IOS Security from the latest Cisco routers and switches, and in widely deployed Cisco security appliances.
3. Cisco VPN Security Specialist (VPN): A certification that recognizes security professionals who possess the knowledge and skills necessary to configure, maintain, troubleshoot and support VPN solutions , along with Cisco IOS software and the Cisco ASA adaptive security appliance.
The following snippet from Cisco’s press briefing slide deck on the new certifications puts these items into context along with three other security-related specialist certs (the one in gray is attached to the Cisco Certified Security Professional, or CCSP credential, which works in tandem with the new Cisco Certified Network Professional , or CCNP, Security certification, to which the specialist certs in yellow below it are attached).
- The red-starred items in yellow represent the new additions
The real point of the building block approach that applies to all the items in yellow in the bottom row is that the exams that apply to those credentials may all be applied when earning the more senior CCNP Security credential. That’s what makes them building blocks, and why they should be quite attractive to aspiring Cisco security professionals. Furthermore, Cisco says their customer research shows that the job roles associated with these specialist areas are in high demand and that while many organizations don’t need large numbers of CCNP Security certified professionals on staff, those resources will be nicely augmented by other, more junior professionals who earn one or more of the specialist certifications shown. Over time, as higher-level professionals themselves grow out of their CCNP Security positions, more junior Security Specialist staff can climb the ladder and grow into those vacant positions. This creates nice opportunities to groom and develop staff, and to offer them a clear, well-defined job and certification ladder to climb.
February 2, 2011 1:00 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Ed Tittel presenting 2 sessions at 2/17/2011 MCCC
, MCCC 2 2/17/2011
For the upcoming Microsoft Certified Career Conference, to be held all day on February 17, 2011, I’m on the docket for two presentations, one with Jeff Johnson, Academic Area Lead, Microsoft Learning, with another solo offering that same day. Here’s the scoop:
- Opportunity Knocks: IT Certification Success (9:15-10:15 AM CST/-06:00 UCT)
Many ingredients go into obtaining a certification credential, but even more go into parlaying a certification into career success. Hear from Certification Guy Ed Tittel on how best to work your IT certifications to turn them into a new job, a better-paying job, or to help you lay the groundwork for future promotion and advancement. Learn about how I’ve reworked my 2003 book of the same name into updated content at PearsonITCertification.com that you can put to work right away, for free!
- Microsoft Certification in Academia, with Jeff Johnson (7:30-8:30 PM CST/-06:00 UCT)
Tune in for an overview on how IT certification melds with academia, both within and alongside typical degree programs in computer science, information technology, business, and more. You’ll get a sense of how Microsoft certifications can add to, and even sometimes stand in for, typical 2- and 4-year degree plan requirements.
Whereas the last MCCC offered curriculum elements and coverage mostly tailored for entry-level job seekers and aspiring IT professionals, this upcoming MCCC aims across the IT professional spectrum. In fact, it will include 2.5 hour training sessions lifted straight from the Microsoft Certified Master training materials, and will also delve into subjects more likely to interest experienced professionals, including certified training elements on Windows Server 2008 Active Directory and Messaging Solutions for Exchange Server 2010, Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) coverage on Azure, and even trends in CRM solutions.
Visit the MCCC Registration page to sign up today! And please note: I am working with MS as a volunteer for this event, so I’m not shilling for the money, I’m shilling because I think it’s a great program, with strong content, and a terrific opportunity for IT professionals at all levels to learn, investigate career opportunities, and build their personal and professional networks.
January 31, 2011 1:52 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
boosting soft skills can also boost an IT career
, develop soft skills to improve IT job prospects
, soft skills for IT professionals
Back in late August to early September, 2008, I wrote series of four blogs on the general subject of soft skills, which I define in the first of those four linked postings as follows:
Soft Skills refer to abilities that make people better employees, and open doors to opportunities, that are not directly related to the subject matter for their jobs. In simpler language, soft skills refer to a person’s ability to relate to others, to get him- or herself (and possibly others organized), to communicate in written, spoken, or other forms, to conduct research or gather information about various topics as assigned, and so forth.
In the wake of a recent story I just submitted to SmartBear.com on the subject of developing written skills, I decided to return to these postings and found 99.9% of that content to be as sharp, relevant, and timley today as it was when these items first appeared here.
Here’s a list of what’s available in these four connected blog posts, with links to each one, so you too can benefit from their content:
- The Importance of Soft-Skills (Part 1 of 4 Parts) 8/29/2008: an overview of soft skills and a brief explanation as to why they’re worth noticing, developing, and improving over the course of an IT careeer.
- Soft Skills (Part 2 of 4): Written Communications 9/2/2008: An examination of the roles and importance that written communication can play in an IT career, with some suggestions on how to learn and develop such skills, and some observations on common foibles to avoid.
- Soft Skills (Part 3 of 4) Spoken Communications and Presentations 9/4/2009: A look at how verbal communication and sometimes formal presentations play important roles in the workplace, with suggestions on how to learn, cultivate, practice, and hone speaking skills.
- Soft Skills (Part 4 of 4): Project Management 9/8/2008: A discussion about the benefits of project management skills for IT professionals — especially those interesting in team lead or outright management positions — along with a look at the Project Management Institute’s (PMI’s) Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.
Taken together, these items provide a powerful blueprint for a major career tune-up or makeover. That’s why IT professionals interested in performing a self-assessment, who might also be interested in improving future opportunities or job prospects, might be well-advised to return to these “classic blog posts” from yours truly. There’s some good stuff in there: please, take a look!
January 28, 2011 3:02 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
check SmartBear article on developing writing skills for software professionals
, improve your writing skills to improve your IT job opportunities and prospects
, writing is a key soft skill for IT pros
Yesterday I wrote an article for the SmartBear.com website. When it appears there — and if it keeps the same title it had when I submitted same — it will be entitled “Soft Skills in Writing Can Boost Any Software Developer’s Career Profile.” Because SmartBear builds developer tools such as TestComplete, CodeCollaborator, QAComplete, DevComplete, and so forth, I aimed this story at developers in particular, so as to suit the company’s target audience. But the story could just as easily have been called “Soft Skills in Writing Can Boost Any IT Career Profile,” without losing any of its juice (though I would probably have to tweak my language and change the examples throughout to make it completely general).
SmartBear Software offers developer learning as well as tools
Nevertheless the key points from that story are worth repeating here, in describing how IT professionals can develop and hone their writing skills:
- Take a course: lots of options here online, on DVD, and in the classroom. Check ‘em out, and especially look into what your friendly neighborhood (and usually quite affordable) local community college has to offer in this vein.
- Read a book: lots of good books are available on technical writing, or writing for engineers and IT pros. Find one; read it; practice what it preaches.
- Do some writing: you can’t learn how, or get better, unless you put yourself on the line and actually do some writing work. Volunteering online is a great way to start.
- Practice makes perfect: If you want to write, you must write as much as you can. The more you write, the more comfortable you will become with this onerous-seeming, but ultimately beneficial and essential type of communication.
- Get some feedback: Practice alone is not enough to become a good writer. You must find somebody better than you to look over your work, and help you figure out how to improve. It’s a lifetime adventure, in fact, because no matter how well you write, you can always do better. Feedback is the key!
When this article goes live, I’ll provide a link to same. It’s full of more details, additional tips and tricks, and good information on this topic. Stay tuned!
January 26, 2011 6:24 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
building block approach to designing certification programs
, sponsors individuals and employers all gain benefits from incremental certification programs
, step-by-step career advancement follows naturally from stepwise certifications
In a lengthy, fascinating, but still embargoed discussion with learning staff from a major vendor’s certification program yesterday, I found myself considering how good certification program design often follows a modular, building-block approach. Because Microsoft is NOT the vendor with whom I spoke, I can (and will) use their program as an example:
- the various Microsoft Certified Technical Specialist (MCTS) credentials all require taking one specific exam (which makes it a partial equivalent to the old MCP, or Microsoft Certified Professional credential)
- earning any of the Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) credentials require multiple exams (and hence also, multiple MCTS certficiations) to qualify
- all five of the various Microsoft Certified Master credentials require multiple MCTS exams (which sometimes add up to MCITP credentials, and sometimes not), and some even hearken back to MCSE
Why do I call this a good design? Because it permits IT professionals to earn credentials sooner, while tracking the path to a more senior credential they may earn later. This lets individuals prepare themselves for more substantial credentials by earning “building block” elements. It lets companies and organizations deliberately foster staff development through total or partial funding and support for credentials. And it gives more junior staff members pursuing a “block at a time” path to more senior certs and responsibilities tangible signs of progress along the way.
I submit that all of these things are good for individuals and those who hire them, and not coincidentally, also good for Microsoft (and other vendors or sponsor organizations who implement similar approaches to certification program design). Sometimes, a the notion of a “certification ladder” (a progression of credentials where individuals advance methodically and deliberately from one to another, as when climbing up the rungs of real ladder) is more metaphorical than actual. But when this kind of cert program design is followed, it’s pretty actual — and easy to follow — as well!
January 24, 2011 2:46 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
more signs of gradual economic recovery still don't add to IT job force
, multiple signs of economic recovery in January 2011 NABE report
, things must get better faster for IT job situation to improve
Listening to NPR this morning I heard a story that quoted a survey from the National Association for Business Economics (NABE) that “…Show[s] Signs of a Strengthening Recovery…” While the story was running, I found myself thinking “Does what economists think matter more than what other professionals think?” In looking over some of the background (especially the information presented at the second link above in the summary of that NABE report), I found myself thinking — much to my own suprise — “Well…maybe it does.”
Here’s why, summarizing from their own summary of the highlights from that survey:
- Industry demand has been increasing for six consecutive quarters now, with 55% of panelists reporting rising demand against 12% reporting falling demand, with all major industry sectors showing demand growth.
- Profit margins continue to expand, and have also done so for the past six quarters (38% of panelists reported rising profits versus 18% falling ones, with the biggest spread between those two numbers since Q4 2005).
- Employment is improving, with 34% of firms reporting increases in headcount versus 13% in January 2010, and the number of firms cutting jobs fell from 13% in the past three quarters (Q1 2010 through Q3 2010) to 6% (Q4 2010 to present). Measures of planned investments in hiring showed the highest values since 1998, and 42% of panelists reported their firms will be increasing employment near term, up from 39% in the previous quarter, and 29% one year ago.
- Expectations of future capital spending improved to 62% of firms reporting heightened planned outlays, as compared to 48% in the previous quarter.
- Slightly more than half of panelists (53%) report expectations of positive results from the 2011 tax package, particularly in goods-producing businesses, which anticipate favorable sales impacts. Interestingly, 60% of panelists said they anticipate no changes in spending or employment plans for 2011 in response to these new policies.
Hmm. Maybe these economists do have some useful data and insights to go with them. But it’s clear that while things are improving, they continue to do so in a gradual way, and that the floodgates of recovery have yet to open. I guess at this point we can shift from hoping that things might start improving, and hope for them to start improving faster instead. I’m still waiting to see more tangible signs of recovery in the IT sector, particularly in the areas of job creation and re-hiring of laid-off personnel, and more conversions of part-time and temporary staff to full-time, permanent positions.