December 30, 2010 3:34 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
2010 IT employment maintains a bitter status quo
, 2010 wanted to improve but didn't manage much change
, 2011 could be more of the same for IT employment but let's hope for an uptick
I can’t say I’m unduly sorry to see 2010 come to an end. For most of this year, the IT job market (and career development activity) has been going sideways rather than significantly up or down. In fact, we saw only bare increases at any time during the year for either general or IT employment, with no truly savage dips in either area to mark a downturn or an adventure into double-dip recession territory.
For far too long now (about 18 months by my reckoning) we’ve been in what I’ve often called the “hunker down” position, where neither major ups nor downs for this fairly grim situation means we need to hold onto what we’ve got and wait for things to get better. On the other hand, for the under- or unemployed this has remained a horribly grim period in which prospects for meaningful employment are far too few, and hopes for the future slim to nonexistent.
Will things pick up in 2011? Employment experts and economists are as uncertain as the rest of us. Some think things will improve and point to the past four months of consumer spending increases as a good sign that the economy could and very well may get rolling in 2011. Others point to the extremely narrow margins of job growth over the past year (where new jobs topped 200,000 in a given month only once), and say we’re in for a long tough struggle back to health and unemployment in the “healthy” 5-6 percent range. I heard one economist on NPR say that at current rates of growth it will take 25 years to bring unemployment back down into the so-called healthy range, but he didn’t indicate whether that was a consequence of boomers and gen-Xers aging out of the work force, or a genuine improvement in the overall employment situation.
All I can say is “Ouch!” And while I’m hoping for the best along with everybody else, I’m certainly not ready to start throwing my money around, or investing at all speculatively. As long as hiring permanent employees feels “speculative” to companies and organizations of all sizes, I don’t think we’re likely to see our situation change much any time soon — and perhaps not at all in 2011. Cross your fingers (and any other idle appendages you might have at your disposal) and wish for positive changes and developments. Let’s see if 2011 can’t represent some kind of turning point for the better!
Oh! And the happiest of New Year’s to you and your families, with best wishes from me and mine.
December 29, 2010 7:21 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
attracting a crowd means imposing crowd control
, brute force trumps gentility when the going gets tough
, holiday travel mayhem and madness
In computer science the way in which service requesters line up and obtain processing is called a “queuing discipline.” The average wait time to process a service request depends on how long the line of pending requests is (queue length), how that line gets organized and handled (queue delay), and how long it takes to handle an average request for service (service delay). Alas, at Baltimore Washington International (BWI) Thurgood Marshall airport yesterday morning, I saw all of this wonderful mathematical theory and predictability go to hell in a handbasket, when several hundred people trying to board flights abandoned any and all pretences at discipline and simply converged on a scant handful of beleaguered baggage handlers from all directions at once.
Though we arrived at the airport three hours before our scheduled departure time (and 4.5 hours before our eventual take-off) by 9 AM I was sweating our ability to get through the line, turn in our bags, and get through security in time to catch our flight. If my wife hadn’t finally lost patience completely and simply forced her way to the front of the line and obtained a service window with the baggage person, we might still be at the airport waiting for our turn.
Our airline really fell down on the job because they didn’t mark the lines in which people were supposed to stand for service, and because they were apparently too short-handed to keep somebody circulating outside the service desk to maintain order (and queuing discipline) and to answer questions about which line to stand in to obtain service for a specific flight. Dina, Gregory and I actually spent an hour in line getting to the service desk the first time only to be told that we were in the wrong line and they couldn’t help us. The lines weren’t labeled and they didn’t have anybody dispensing the information about which line to stand in, but we still had to go to the back of another line and inch our way back to the counter one more time.
It was when Dina and I noticed that four or more lines were all converging on the same (and only) baggage handler for our flight, that she took off on her mission to get us in front of that person. Anybody who’s ever studied round-robin priority queuing mechanisms knows that without a strict priority regimen and stringent enforcement of queue order and organization jobs (or people, in this case) waiting for service are subject to starvation (which means “no service at all.”).
Glad we made it through that maelstrom, and very glad to have gotten our flights home. Delta almost made up for this mayhem and frustration when after we arrived at Atlanta for our connecting flight with less than 30 minutes to spare, we were not only able to board our flight to Austin, but our luggage also made the same plane and got home with us at the same time. So it goes, when traveling during peak load times: agony, ecstacy, and brute survival, all mixed up together!
December 20, 2010 9:28 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
another MCM program is working to decouple exams from training
, Exchange MCM heading in SQL MCM direction
, lots of work underway to develop and scale MCM certifications
This morning, I had the good fortune to get into a conference with David Bjurman-Birr, the Program Manager for the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM): Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 credential. This is by way of following up on my earlier (11/29/2010) blog entitled “No other signs of sweeping changes to Microsoft Certified Master requirements.” Turns out that title was (and is still) accurate but that had I concluded it with a “…yet” it would have been more accurate altogether. What am I saying?
I’m saying that Bjurman-Birr is working through the substantial preliminary efforts necessary to take the Exchange Server 2010 program and do for it what has already been done for the SQL Server 2008 program — namely, to create solid, defensible written and lab exams for this track, so it, too, can separate out the training and testing components required to earn this credential. And in explaining how this works and what kind of effort is involved Bjurman-Birr really helped me to better understand the MCM program in its current incarnation and where it may be heading.
First, however, let me point out that nobody at MS is quite yet willing to go public with a timeline for when this transform will re-make the current Exchange Server 2010 MCM offering into something more like the already remade counterpart for SQL Server 2008. Likewise, Bjurman-Birr could speak only for his Exchange program, so I still don’t know if other similar efforts are underway for other MCM tracks (Lync Server 2010, SharePoint Server 2010, or Windows Server 2008 R2: Directory). But as more programs head in this direction, it’s surely not unreasonable to speculate that this is certainly creating some momentum to move as many of these programs as makes sense into this general dimension.
Given that the transformation is underway for the MCM Exchange track, it’s interesting to observe that the impetus is to make the MCM scale. Right now, all of the MCM candidates perforce spend time in Redmond and become known to the program managers and training staff in great detail. If the program is to scale, however, this degree of intimacy and interaction between candidates and cert staff at MS must dwindle to some extent. And what’s driving this effort is, as Bjurman-Birr put it, “…there are plenty of people who deserve to earn the MCM for whom it’s inaccessible right now…” primarily because “…tuition is one thing, but three weeks away from the workplace is entirely another…”
That means that MS is looking for more and better ways to deliver MCM training and information aside from its current balls-to-the-wall three week bootcamp training sequence, where candidates are kept busy 12-14 hours per day, every day, so as to be exposed to (and have chances to exercise) what they need to know, learn, and do to qualify as MCMs in their chosen disciplines. All of the wrinkles haven’t been ironed out just yet, but Bjurman-Birr speculated about multiple training modules, books, interactive online labs, and other components necessary to bring those who are almost ready for MCM status up to the level where they can pass the exams needed to earn this credential.
He explained that there’s also a big potential win for Microsoft in expanding the offerings and scope necessary to attract a broader audience than those who can make their way to Redmond for a three week training sequence right now. As you would expect upon even modest reflection on what it takes to field an instructor for this kind of class (teaching to experts is a very different proposition from teaching to those finding their way into a field, or admittedly seeking to develop expertise, rather than to demonstrate it properly), Microsoft has to use the cream of its training and consulting expertise to handle the current MCM curricula. By providing other means of delivery, and possibly even involving training channel partners in that exercise, Microsoft can reach a broader audience as the same time it offers training in smaller, more digestible chunks both directly and by proxy. This should help the MCM program to scale, and to increase the number of certified professionals in its ranks, particularly at the MS partner and large-scale IT consulting organizations where this credential has the biggest draw at present. In the future, it’s even possible that invididuals would become increasingly more willing to “tote this note” on their own, rather than relying on organizational backing to pursue and eventually earn an MCM.
Looks like a looming win-win all the way around, and it should be interesting to watch this whole thing unfold further. Count on me to keep you informed throughout!
December 17, 2010 7:48 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Microsoft Technology Associate
, MTA gaining traction
, the MTA targets academia
In yesterday’s blog on the MS IT Academy I alluded to a conversation with Microsoft that I held on Tuesday, December 14 with various employees of Microsoft Learning. Present on that same call was Don Field, Senior Director of Microsoft certification programs. After I finished up with the other participants in the call, I had a chance to quiz him on all kinds of subjects. The one I’ll write about today (I’m saving some other goodies for future blogs) has to do with the new Microsoft Technology Associate certification, introduced in July of 2010, as a new entry-level credential in the Microsoft certification portfolio.
Let me be brutally honest about the MTA certification: most of the people who read this blog are waaaaaaaaaay beyond this credential. The key to understanding the MTA, and why it’s still probably good to know about, especially for those with kids in school, lies in its level and target audience descriptions on the MTA certification page:
Level: Knowledge and basic understanding of key technology concepts
Audience: Students, technology educators, and entry-level IT staff of accredited academic institutions
It’s just what it sounds like: a starter cert aimed at people who are still in (or work at) a school of some kind, to make sure they understand and can apply technology fundamentals. In talking to Mr. Field, I learned that the MTA is popular at the high school level, and also at 2-year post-secondary institutions of all kinds (technical schools, community colleges, and so forth).
At some level, the MTA is a lot like the entry-level Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) credentials (on Office, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and so forth) right down to the partnership with Certiport for delivery of materials and testing services. For institutions, an MTA Campus License entitles them to deliver up to 1,000 exams per year, which may be made available to students, staff, and faculty.
The program includes both developer and IT professional exams. On the developer side the following fundamentals get covered: software development (exam 98-361), Windows development (exam 98-362), Web development (exam 98-363), and database administration (exam 98-364). On the IT professional side you’ll encounter these fundamentals exams: networking (exam 98-366), security (exam 98-367), and Windows Server administration (exam 98-365).
If you’ve got a kid in school somewhere, it might be worth exploring whether or not that institution supports the MTA program. If they don’t, perhaps some parental encouragement is in order. If they do, perhaps a different kind of parental encouragement will be needed: talking the student in question into looking into, and possibly pursuing, one or more MTA credentials.
December 16, 2010 3:56 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
MS IT Academy program enjoys 24% annual growth
, MS IT Academy program growing worldwide
, MS IT Academy program offers numerous benefits to educators
In a short but free-wheeling conversation with Lutz Ziob, General Manager of Microsoft Learning, and Jeff Johnson, North America Academic Area Lead, Microsoft Learning on Tuesday, December 14, about the Microsoft IT Academy program, I learned lots of interesting stuff as I sought to follow up on my 11/17/2010 blog post “Interesting team-up between NC and MS.” This post discusses an agreement between the State of North Carolina and Microsoft, wherein all of their high schools will offer the IT Academy Essentials materials that focus on Microsoft Office skills and knowledge, and a significant number will also teach the IT Academy Advanced materials that focus on mainline MCT, MCTS and even some MCITP topics, as well as the new MTA (Microsoft Technology Associate) exams.
I had speculated that while North Carolina might be early to this party, other states can’t be too far behind. I was right, and was also pleased to learn that by and large states are more interested in the Advanced Program (MCP/MTA) curriculum and a bit less so in the Essentials (Microsoft Office/MOS) curriculum. Mr. Ziob also informed me that since Microsoft Learning took up the MS IT Academy program more seriously in 2007, membership in the program among academic institutions worldwide has doubled from around 4,000 to 8,000 participants. I also learned that all of the State of Georgia’s community and technical colleges are in the IT Academy program, as is the entire SUNY system in the State of New York. Teaching and training arms for the US Army and US Navy are also large-scale and enthusiastic IT Academy members as well. Outside the US, there’s plenty of activity, too. 3,500 institutions belong to the IT Academy in EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Asia) with another 1,500 in the Pacific Rim, and a growing presence in Latin America. In short, the Microsoft IT Academy is contributing curriculum materials and related technology to classrooms all over the world.
Looking ahead, Mr. Ziob informed me that what he finds most exciting about the IT Academy program — as a former classroom instructor himself — is that more government officials and educators are recognizing information technology as a key ingredient inwhat he called “going from learning to earning.” He’s also very pleased that the “broad technologies that Microsoft has made the act of teaching and learning themselves more effective.” He went on to cite how average English mastery test results in one school system jumped from scores in the sixtieth percentiles into the nineties as a result of adopting the MS IT Academy’s Essentials program. He also promised me that we would talk again, at greater length, about what’s going on with the IT Academy program, and where it’s going, in concert with Mr. Johnson, who provided most of the nuts and bolts details I reported in this blog.
I look forward to it!
December 14, 2010 4:39 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Cisco certs add focus on IPv6
, Cisco Certs gain recognition for IPv6 coverage
, Cisco ups its IPv6 ante
, standadlone IPv6 courses available from Cisco Learning
I held a very interesting phone conversation with Fred Weiller yesterday. Mr. Weiller is Director of Marketing for Cisco Learning, and our appointed topic of conversation was coverage of and focus on IPv6 protocols, tools, and technologies across Cisco’s learning portfolio. This conversation came in the wake of my reading a November press release from the company entitled “Cisco Extends Market Leadership in IPv6 With Industry And Government Certifications,” wherein I learned that in addition to getting its equipment and software vetted for compliance with US Government IPv6 certification requirements (usually abbreviated as USGv6) the company has also updated its certification education materials and exams to include substantial IPv6 coverage as well.
In particular here’s what the aforecited press release has to say about Cisco Learning and IPv6 coverage:
The IPv6 Forum has recognized Learning@Cisco’s professional networking portfolio with Gold Certifications for CCNA, CCNP and CCIE Routing and Switching. Cisco is the first vendor to be certified by the IPv6 Forum to offer IPv6 education and certification to help ensure that the technical community is equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to design, deploy, operate and troubleshoot IPv6 networks and applications.
Given recent reports that IPv4 addresses are nearly exhaused (see, for example, Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols’ ZDNet blog “The Internet is running out of IPv4 gas“) enterprises are joining up with the many governments, research and academic organizations, and service providers (especially outside North America) that are forcibly transitioning their networks to IPv6. As Mr. Weiller put it during our conversation yesterday: “This will involve learning new things, formulating new addressing plans, along with some challenges and effort while making the transition to IPv6.” Despite the hurdles involved, he also spoke of “strong demand from customers who understand that the time for IPv6 is now, and that there can be no more waiting before getting down to work.”
That explains why Cisco now includes broad and deep coverage of IPv6 topics across its learning curriculum — especially for core CCNA, CCNP, and CCIE Routing and Switching topics — and why the company also offers a standalone IPv6 class called the Crush Course: IPv6 that’s designed to help those already certified learn more about IPv6 (or add more IPv6 coverage to existing curriculum materials). Here’s a brief blurb from the course description that lists the topics included:
This course will help network engineers understand, configure, and support Cisco devices running IOS software and covers the IPv6 routing protocols such as RIPng, OSPF and BGP; IPv6 transition mechanisms including tunnels, ISATAP, NAT-PT, and 6to4; and other features.
Other training partners also offer IPv6 Fundamentals courses abbreviated as IPVSF (IPv6 Fundamentals: 2 days, and a pre-requisite for the following class) and IP6FD/IPVSD (IPv6 Fundamentals, Design, and Deployment: 5 days) that more specifically target IOS-based Cisco devices. As Enterprises gear up for the coming IPv6 transition, expect IPv6 coverage to dominate networking topics, both beneath and outside the Cisco umbrella.
December 13, 2010 3:38 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
can MS rise to the challenge that tablets and smartphones pose to its market dominance
, MS faces serious market challenges outside the PC arena
, Windows 7 sales numbers and forecast through 2014
There’s a classic example in b-school circles that’s used to explain mis-guided (or at least, mis-placed) development and investment emphasis. It’s applied to buggy whip manufacturers who, even after the automobile started to stake out a growing stake in the transportation marketplace, kept on building (and improving) their products while serving a vanishing and doomed customer base. A story from Microsoft’s home-town newspaper, The Seattle Times, by Sharon Pian Chan entitled “Big Year for Windows 7, but is Microsoft in a PC rut?” delivers the implicit analogy that Microsoft’s purported emphasis on desktop OSes puts it in the same league as buggy whip manufacturers of yore. But at the same time the story reports that Windows 7 “…is the fastest selling OS Microsoft has ever made” and then goes on to quote IDC analyst Allen Gillen that “…the [desktop OS] market is expected to almost double, from 299 million units to 590 million units…” in the period from 2009 to 2014.
In fact, though the one-year period from late October 2009 through November 2010 witnessed Windows 7 sales of over 240 million copies, most analysts expect 2011 results to eclipse those numbers. Even with a modest 1 percent drop in market share forecast by 2014, Microsoft should easily sell “…hundreds of millions more operating systems than it is selling now.” With a 90 percent market share, that translates into sales of 531 million units in 2014, more than double this year’s 240 million copies. My basic, blockheaded application of the “rule of 72′s” tells me that this represents a substantial and perhaps even enviable annual growth rate of 18%.
So where’s the fly in this otherwise fabulous and highly profitable ointment? According to Chan, the real future action is in tablet PCs and smartphones, a market where Microsoft is a bit player. In particular , smartphone sales numbers dwarf PC sales numbers by an order of magnitude or more, and tablets are expected to consume an ever-growing share of the PC marketplace as well. I think this is a facile but interesting analysis, one that fails to account for several important ways in which Microsoft continues to rule its (possibly shrinking but still very healthy) world:
- heavy-duty notebooks and desktops will remain important for serious, computing- and labor-intensive work for the foreseeable future, even as e-mail, social networking, and Web surfing migrate to other devices
- all those devices and PCs must still turn to servers to get their information, connections, and services, and Microsoft remains a major player in the server OS marketplace
- Microsoft is one of the few companies able to spend on a par with Google when it comes to acquiring and developing key technologies to remain competitive and/or dominant in its chosen marketplaces (if you don’t believe me, think back to the mid-90s when MS “discovered the Internet” and shortly thereafter blew away Novell and overtook Netscape as the leading Web browser in 3 or 4 short years)
I wouldn’t count the wizards of Redmond out of this race, or discount the importance of their OS experience and savvy. That said, the company has made mis-steps before, and must cope with increasing organizational intertia and red tape as it grows larger. MS has indeed sometimes had to pedal like crazy to get back in its races, and has by no means won all of them. The proliferation of digital access devices does pose a problem for this company, and it will be very interesting to see how quickly and effectively they can respond to new markets and opportunities, and if they can maintain major market share in the brave new digital worlds continually being discovered. I wouldn’t put them in the same league as the buggy whip manufacturers just yet, though…
December 13, 2010 2:59 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
does a local Austin uptick presage a broader recovery
, hoping that local IT employment bump is a trend and not an anomaly
, uptick in Austin high tech hiring reported
While listening to my local NPR affiliate this morning (KUT.org) I caught an interesting story during the local news segment that’s presented at six minutes past the hour during the broadcast. A local KUT reporter interviewed Christopher Calnan at the Austin Business Journal who reported in a December 10 story entitled “Many Austin mobile/social networking startups scramble to fill jobs“ that there are currently nearly 1,000 unfilled tech jobs open in the Austin metro area, most of them for software developers, and many of them at the social and mobile networking startups that have been springing up with terrific abandon in the Austin area in the last year or so.
According to the story, Dice.com listed 938 open technology jobs in Central Texas as of Friday, with over 600 of them in software development. By contrast, the DFW metro area with a combined population over 4 times that of Austin’s, has listings for 2,300 tech positions at Dice, indicating a higher number of jobs open per capita in Austin than Dallas. Similar numbers hold for Houston and San Antonio as well.
Does this mean tech employment is finally picking up? Maybe yes, maybe no. But it’s highly encouraging that one of the primary “digital employment towns” (at middling number 15 US city, Austin usually ranks with Silicon Valley, the Seattle area, Washington, DC, the NYC metro area, and the Boston area among the top major metro areas with significant high tech employment opportunities) is starting to experience a shortfall in IT employment, even if it is in a fairly narrow segment of the software development arena.
Hopefully this points to a trend where other jobs in IT will start to pick up, and a real jobs recovery for the sector can get underway in 2011. Let’s make a New Year’s resolution to see such a phenomenon occur next year, shall we, and see if that does any good!
December 10, 2010 6:42 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
MCTs can bump MS Learning Exam Pack discounts by 5%
, save 20-25% on multiple MS cert exams
, see your friendly neighborhood MCT for extra MS cert exam discounts
Banner from Born to Learn blog with discount offer
Here’s the news, straight from Daniel Tarekegn on the Microsoft Born to Learn Blog for 12/6/2010:
As you may know, in August we launched the Microsoft Career Certification Exam Pack special offer. This offer provides significant discounts and value when students buy exams as a pack. Students who buy a 2-pack or 3-pack receive a 15% discount and those who purchase a 4-pack or 5-pack receive a 20% discount. Plus, Second Shots are included on each exam purchased in the pack.Today, we’re happy to announce that as an exclusive benefit to MCTs, you can now provide an additional 5% discount to your students on the 2,3,4 and 5-pack Microsoft Career Certification Exam Packs. This offer, only available through Learning Rewards, increases the discount on the 2 and 3 exam packs to 20% and the discount on the 4 and 5 exam packs to 25%.
Translation: you only get the extra 5% if you know a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) who has access to discount vouchers, or if you attend a training class at a Microsoft Learning Partner location (where instructors must be MCTs to get in front of the classroom). But the savings are pretty substantial, so you should probably check around to see if you know somebody appropriate if you’re planning to take 2 or more exams in the next year.