January 12, 2011 3:39 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
a visit to the CompTIA site turns up some changes
, CompTIA certs info for 2011
In researching an article I’m writing for PearsonITCertification.com right now, I’ve been spending some time on the CompTIA Website lately. As of the first of this year, everybody should know that CompTIA certs are no longer “for life,” but rather, must be renewed every three years, either by re-examination or by meeting continuing education requirements. This is a consequence of CompTIA signing onto ANSI/ISO/IEC 17024 compliance, which requires internationally recognized certifications to include mechanisms to ensure that certification holders maintain currency in their fields of certification. If you get a CompTIA cert going forward, you will have to renew it every three years, and you will also have to pay an annual maintenance fee to maintain its currency (at present A+, Network+, and Security+ all fall under this regime, and it’s not unlikely that other CompTIA certs will fall under this umbrella sooner or later).
There’s lots of other interesting stuff going on at CompTIA, too. The roster of available certs has been slimmed down. Compared to a year ago, the current roster (depicted in the following screenshot) no longer includes the DHTI+ (Digital Home Technology Integrator, a credential aimed at installers of home systems for media, alarms, remote controls, and so forth), and Convergence+ has been renamed to CTP+. There’s also news that the company will be working on a Storage+ certification, aimed at IT professionals who work with NAS (network-attached storage) and SAN (storage area network) technologies. The long-time “Big 3″ at CompTIA remains unchanged, however: A+, Network+, and Security+ (in that order) still occupy the top 3 slots by certified population count.
The CompTIA Cert Roster, 1/12/2011
Be sure to give the site a visit if you’re interested in any of the many subject areas covered by a CompTIA cert. Though these credentials are seldom, if ever, the stopping point on a certification progression, they are quite often the starting point for those seeking to boost their professional knowledge, skills, and credibility.
January 10, 2011 1:49 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
January 2011 employment situation ekes out modest gains
, little improvement in sight for US 2011 IT job situation
, US job growth barely matches population growth
In my final post for 2010 “Say Goodbye to 2010, Hello to 2011” I observed that not much had changed in the employment situation for the whole year, despite a few modest ups and downs as it wound through its course. I also said the future remained uncertain and that dramatic changes in the near term were unlikely. Alas, the January 2011 Employment Situation Summary released on Friday, January 7, 2011, only bears this out. Overall employment increased by 103,000 for the month but that’s just barely enough to accommodate population growth in our country (with new workers entering the job force), and does nothing to start the huge backlog of unemployed on their way back into the full-time workforce.
Before the report came out, I heard predictions from various economists that the number of new jobs created in December would range between 140,000 and 180,000, but nothing as low as the final number that emerged in its contents. Sigh. I think this reflects the overwhelming desire for some good employment news, as much as it reflects the impetus for economists to see silver linings in every faint glimmer of hope that twinkles on the employment horizon.
For the time being, though unemployment dipped from 9.8 to 9.4 percent in December, things look like they’re going to keep muddling along at a slow and frustrating pace. In fact, the numbers are really more a reflection of the way the BLS maintains unemployment counts, and drops individuals who are no longer looking for work from the tally of unemployed persons, rather than a true reflection of the number of people out of work who would like to be employed.
In the grand tradition of seeking such glimmers myself, a couple did surface in the latest BLS report, where IT is concerned. Information unemployment as per Table A-14, is down from 8.5 percent in 2009 to 8.1 percent in 2010. And, as per table B-6, Information employment held steady in December 2010 to match November 2010 levels of 2,181,000 workers altogether.
Nevertheless, “hunker down” and “wait for things to improve” remain the watchwords on the employment scene, and look to stay that way for some time yet. Happy New Year!
January 7, 2011 4:15 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
(ISC)² provides lesson in damage control
, CISSP errors acknowledged and rectified
In her most recent (12/2/2010) blog posting at GoCertify.com entitled “CISSP Exam Scoring Error Revealed,” Anne Martinez describes the right — indeed, some might argue the only — way to handle a scoring error on that important and much-coveted information security certification.
First, the facts of the matter: owing to some scoring errors on CISSP exams handled in the period from October 15-21, 2010, some CISSP candidates who failed the exam received notices that they’d passed (bad enough) while others who’s actually passed the exam got notices that they’d failed (worse still). According to Executive Director Hord Tipton’s 11/18/2010 blog on this subject, this error occured during the period when (ISC)2 “…implemented a new scoring interface as part of our transition to a new exam delivery and scoring provider.”
If you ask me, the way (ISC)2 handled this situation provides a textbook example of how to handle any serious breach of performance in a certification operation (and indeed, for any kind of public organization that must rely on trust and confidence to maintain its reputation). First, they acknowledged their error and explained how it happened. Second, they apologized for the mistake and explained how they were able to verify that they had checked for and identified every instance where the error had an impact on exam candidates. Third, they explained what steps they took to prevent such an occurrence from repeating.
What they did fourth, however, shows the kind of good faith in dealing with the public that I wish every business would demonstrate. For those candidates who received erroneous pass notifications, (ISC)2 is offering a refund of their exam fee, the opportunity to retake the exam at no charge, and a free online CISSP CBK seminar (CBK stands for “Common Body of Knowledge,” the 10 information domains that constitute the topics and concepts about which candidates are tested). Those candidates who passed but received erroneous failure notices will be exempted from paying annual maintenance fees for their cert for the next year (through the end of 2011, that is), and may request (ISC)2 to expedite processing of endorsements and experience verifications so that they will earn their CISSP credentials as quickly as the (ISC)2 can manage to grant them.
Here’s Hord Tipton’s apology for the situation, which also shows appropriate humility and understanding for the situation of affected exam candidates:
Before I provide the details on how this happened and what we are doing to rectify the situation, I wish to publicly offer our heartfelt apologies to the candidates who received the incorrect exam results. We understand the high-level of difficulty the CISSP exam presents to professionals and how hard candidates work to obtain their certifications to reap its many benefits, including better job opportunities and salaries. During this tough economic climate, we realize that the certification has become even more desired by information security professionals and critical to obtain. As a credential-holder myself, I know how heart-wrenching the exam process can be. We deeply regret any personal distress that may have been caused by these erroneous notifications. I speak not just for myself, but for all (ISC)² employees and board members.
Heads up, cert program operators! If you want to take a lesson on how to handle a screw-up, you could do a lot worse than to construct a playbook around the way that the (ISC)² handled this situation. Too bad it happened in the first place, but you can hardly fault them for their subsequent follow-up. Bravo!
January 5, 2011 4:23 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Ed Tittel to volunteer career & cert Q&A sessions at MCCC 2/17/2011
, Microsoft Certified Career Conference 2 to be held 2/17/2010
, second MCCC scheduled for 2/17/2011
When last I heard from Microsoft Learning before the holidays about the second and upcoming Microsoft Certified Career Conference (aka MCCC) the date had not been set, and for some reason February 20 stuck in my mind. Wrong! I just visited the current registration page and it’s happening on Thursday, February 17. Mark your calendars, and think about registering if you’re at all interested in MS IT Certifications (discounts are available to students and MCPs or better, and overall costs are pretty low: it was $55 last time with 50% off for the aforementioned constituencies). Likewise, if you have friends or family who are interested in working in IT you may want to share this info with them as well.
I’m volunteering to run another couple or three 1-hour Q&A sessions at the upcoming conference, just like I did last time around. We were very busy chatting during all of these sessions, and this time I’m trying to recruit some other IT Certification heavies to help out with the traffic.
Of all the online conferences I’ve ever attended (which must be dozens by now), the MCCC is among the best built and easiest to use of any of them. I recommend this event highly, and since they’re not paying me to participate, I’m also happy to say I’ll be putting my time where my mouth was, since there’s no money in it for me!
January 3, 2011 9:18 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
career planning for 2011
, key career questions to ask and answer
Hey! It’s 2011. Time to roll up your sleeves, put on your thinking cap, and ponder some career points. Answer these questions about your job, your situation, and your overall career:
- Where are you now?
- Where do you want to be?
- What can you do to pick up your career prospects?
- What would you like to learn this year?
- What new skills and knowledge would you like to acquire, both for your current job, or for your next one?
Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be addressing these and related points directly in a series of focused blogs on those and other questions. In the meantime, if you have questions or concerns you’d like to see me address as part of this series post them as comments to this blog, or email them to me at[mailto:email@example.com].
Happy New Year! The party’s over, so let’s get to work.
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.