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.
January 21, 2011 2:31 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
26 MCP exams to retire on 6/30/2011
, MS slates XP SQL Server 2005 and .NET 2.0 exams for 6/30/2011 retirement
, remove old MCP exams to make way for new ones in the MS exam catalog
In reading over Anne Martinez’ most recent GoCertify Newsletter (1/18/2011), I noticed a small item about upcoming Microsoft exam retirements scheduled for the end of June this year. So I jumped on over to the MS Discontinued Exams page, where this sight blasted me right in the eyes:
Say bye-bye to this huge honking lists of cert exams on 6/20/2011
I’ve tried not to shink things down so much that you can’t see them, but I did have to reduce my screencap to keep it from totally dominating this blog (it’s still pretty big, though, and if my 58-year-old eyes can read the text, hopefully yours can too). There are 26 exams listed here in total, including some minor, off-the-beaten-track stuff (Connected Home Integrator, Consumer Sales Specialist) but also some important but older stuff related to Windows XP, SQL Server 2005, and older .NET versions.
My gut feel is that Microsoft is cleaning out the old to start making way for the new. What with rumors of the upcoming Windows 8 release now pegged to January 2013 (a scant two years away) with a new server version slated for release at the same time, I’m guessing we’re going to see a whole new exam line-up introduced to fill this void in the Microsoft exam catalog over the next 18 months or so (betas usually surface about six months prior to release, which means we will start seeing Windows 8 and next-gen server stuff in mid-2012).
January 19, 2011 3:02 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Ed Tittel to present at February 2011 MCCC
, February 2011 MCCC to feature in-depth MCM coverage
, February MCCC to cover "Podcasting Your Way to a Job"
, hear from top-notch TechEd speakers at February 2011 MCCC
, MCCC February 2011
I found an invite to the next Microsoft Certified Career Conference (MCCC) scheduled for 2/17/2011 in my inbox this morning. Not only did it include more info about what’s on the docket for the second go-round for this online conference, it also included the information that a discounted registration fee of $20 is available to all comers until January 24 (6 days from today). MS charged $55 to US registrants for the last iteration, and only granted 50% off ($22.50) to MCPs and registered students. Thus, this is a better deal for everybody with no special qualifications required for those who take advantage of the disounted fee on or before the 1/24 deadline. If you’re interested, this is one case where it makes sense to register sooner rather than later!
Banner art for the next MCCC
Here’s an overview of the scheduled content (a detailed schedule/timetable for the event could be available as early as next week):
- Microsoft Official Courses: technical sessions excerpted from Microsoft’s most popular certification exam prep classes, taught online by the cream of Microsoft’s instructor corps
- Super Cert Me!: exam prep/tune-up sessions for those preparing to take various MS Cert exams
- Career Essentials: Information on finding, inquiring about, interviewing for, and landing the right job for you, including sessions on interviewing skills, resume writing, and other good stuff
- People and Technology: Profiles in certification from people seeking career enhancements at the entry-level, mid-career, and in more senior positions
- Meet the Masters: Take a deep dive in the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) program, and learn more about its offerings, qualification, preparation, and related career opportunities
- Cloud Computing Talent Explored and Explained: a freewheeling session with Chandra Prasad, a world-class expert on cloud computing, about career opportunities and work in this burgeoning area
- Podcasting Your Way to a Job: Podcasting whiz Michael Surkan podcasts about job search, entrepreneurs, and the economy in the guise of his fuzzy alter ego, The Optimistic Bear
This is just a smattering of all the good stuff that will be featured during the upcoming conference. I myself will be presenting about certification and academia for that conference and holding two or three free-wheeling Q&A sessions with the help of a few of my heavy-duty certification guru friends.
You’ll definitely want to check the upcoming MCCC out if you’re in the mood for a career tune-up, and you’ll want to let friends, family, and colleagues know about MCCC too, especially if they have any college-age or job-seeking offspring looking for information, inspiration, tips and techniques — or perhaps even some job opportunities (employers do make themselves available to candidates during MCCC, and it’s a great venue for serious job prospecting). And don’t forget that if you register before next Tuesday, you get a 64% discount off the usual price!!
January 17, 2011 4:09 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Microsoft IT Academy program gains more adherents
, MS ITA racks up successes in the states of Georgia and New York
Last Friday, I followed up on my December 16 blog entitled “Interesting doings at the Microsoft IT Academy; More lie ahead!” with Microsoft Learning General Manager Lutz Ziob and Jeff Johnson, North American Academic Area Lead, to learn more about the company’s IT Academy program. For those not already in the know, the IT Academy makes Microsoft technology, software, and certification materials available to high schools and post-secondary education outlets (mostly two- and four-year colleges, but also technical schools, job (re) training programs, and so forth, as well) so they can prepare students to be more productivie and capable when they enter the workforce.
My earlier blogs on this program have focused on offerings from the State of North Carolina, where the IT Academy is now at least available to all its high schools, and actually on offer in the vast majority of those institutions. This time around, I got to learn more about some of the other significant adoptions of this program, both inside and outside the US.
Here are some high points from that discussion, about which I plan to follow up in the weeks and months ahead:
- The State of Georgia has adopted the ITA into its entire community college system. Today, its two-year networking degrees can include MCTS credentials on Windows Server 2008, or even (optionally) the MCITP: Server Administrator on Windows Server 2008. The state has also racked up some notable success in placing students in jobs thanks to ITA, particularly at the rural Ogeechee Technical College in Statesboro, where students have landed in big metro areas such as Atlanta, Savannah, and Augusta.
- Microsoft has made inroads with the American Council of Education in its efforts to establish that passing certification exams can stand in for credit hours in programs where outside experience for certifications related to Windows Server, Exchange Server, and SQL Server are appropriate. This not only lets students save time and money when completing their degrees, it also offers a “double-whammy” on earning IT certifications while still in college (good for the degree, good for post graduation employment prospects).
- The State University of New York (SUNY) system has not only adopted the ITA for its various campuses around the state, it’s also created off-campus locations in low-income and high-risk neighborhoods to reach out to disadvantaged or unemployed adolescents and young people. Such programs enable individuals to complete a GED while also earning Microsoft certifications at the same time, greatly enhancing their employability and raising their life expectancies and lifetime earnings prospects.
- While ITA numbers in the US currently stand around 2,000, total global numbers are around 8,000, with strong penetration in India, China, and Nigeria, as various levels of government seeks to bring IT technology and learning benefits to bear on improving their workforces, and opening up first-world employment opportunities to their populations.
In future blogs, I’ll not only provide more information about the specific programs mentioned above, I also plan to dig more deeply into ITA doings and plans outside North America, particularly as regards the three countries specifically mentioned above in the final bullet list item. Stay tuned!