From 6:15 AM yesterday until almost 8:00 PM last night (CST, -06:00 UCT/GMT) I was up and running inside the Microsoft Certified Career Conference (MCCC). During three different one-hour periods I ran real-time chat sessions with attendees to answer IT certification and career planning questions. My typing skills and on-the-spot thinking skills got a killer workout yesterday and by the time the last one-hour chat session concluded I was more than ready to call it a day.
But man, was it ever busy and fun! During the first one-hour chat the focus was mostly on general certification and career planning. But perhaps because my old colleague and co-author Don Poulton joined me for the second session (he’s the author of the brand-new Pearson title MCTS 70-680 Cert Guide: Microsoft Windows 7, Configuring) we spent nearly that whole hour answering very pointed and specific questions about that exam in particular and Windows 7 certification topics in general. In the third hour it was a mixed bag, and I wasn’t anywhere near as frantically busy as I was during the first two sessions, probably because everybody online (including me) was getting somewhat frazzled near the conclusion of a very long day.
Microsoft employee and conference organizer Tjeerd Veninga told me at one point that over 2,200 people had registered for the conference, and I saw the number of active online participants break 600 several times during the day, and cross the 700 mark on a couple of occasions. Let me hasten to observe that these numbers represent my occasional and desultory checks on site activity and are by no means either complete, thorough, or anywhere near official: they just represent what I saw myself during those few idle moments when I had time to look, and remembered to check the event counter page whose URL Microsoft made available to me.
Upon visiting the Recordings page in the conference, I can only report that there aren’t any visible yet, and that the page blurb now reads “Recordings will be available after the weekend.” Once I get a crack at those materials, though, I’ll report back here about what’s available, and would be happy to approach MS about making some of them publicly accessible to interested readers if they’d like to see them for themselves.
All in all, it was a great experience. I look forward to getting even more involved in the next MCCC, and hope you’ll be more inclined to join in the hubbub as well.
In this case, NC refers to the sovereign state of North Carolina, and MS is of course my old friend and familiar, Microsoft. Two press releases tell the story in some detail, but their headlines by themselves are enough to lead my blog in the direction in which I’d like it to go (in both headlines I italicize some key language, and in both cases the emphasis is mine, not Microsoft’s):
- North Carolina Is First State in the Nation to Adopt Microsoft IT Academy in All High Schools
- North Carolina Public Schools and Microsoft Announce the Nation’s First Statewide Partnership to Provide IT Training to Every High School Student
First, a brief explanation: The Microsoft IT Academy is a Microsoft-sponsored program that offers students the opportunity to acquire what the company calls “real-world technology skills” to help them get ready for college and, eventually also, the workplace. As part of the program, high-school teachers obtain access to elements of the Microsoft official learning curriculum but also get professional development support and resources to help them customize these materials for use in their classrooms. The only thing that’s not mentioned in these press releases is a donor for or source of computing equipment and facilities (without which these classes really can’t deliver the goods), so presumably that’s already available in NC’s high schools. A pilot program will begin, starting in January 2011, at 20 school districts around the state, and all of the state’s 600-plus high schools are expected to get with the program during the following school year.
I was a little disappointed to read further into these press releases and understand that the primary thrust of the IT Academy is on productivity software as evidenced in this quote from the State’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, June St. Clair Atkinson:
The ability to effectively use Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access is an essential skill in most businesses and offices today. I am pleased that North Carolina can provide this opportunity for teachers to improve their skills and for students to be career-ready. [Source: "Provide IT Training" release.]
Fortunately, the “All High Schools” item also mentions that students may have the opportunity to earn MCP credentials (which cover more main-line IT oriented topics that include Windows servers and desktops, as well as other Microsoft technology platforms and software development environments). The corresponding tools will be made available to “schools interested in offering more advanced technical certification,” and I can only hope that will ultimately include most, if not all, of the NC high schools if not immediately then over time.
Microsoft will also make its DramSpark program available to the NC high schools, which will allow students free access to Microsoft designer, developer and even gaming tools and training. Likewise, they will also implement CareerForward as well, a free Web-based learning program that was originally constructed as part of the Microsoft Partners in Learning efforts and includes information on career planning and development, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship so that students can get a sense of what life and work is like in IT not just as a vocation but also as a potential business.
Overall, this sounds pretty great. I only hope that the program as implemented lives up to its potential, so that other states take notice and get on this bandwagon.
On Thursday, starting at 4:00AM PST (UCT -08:00), and running for 24 hours after that, you can partake of the live portion of the upcoming Microsoft Certified Career Conference (visit the registration page to sign up, and don’t forget that full-time students and MCPs or better get 50% off the $55 registration fee). I’ll be coordinating 1-hour-long chats with online attendees three times during that period, so do please drop in to ask questions, express opinions, or share your IT certification, training, and career experiences with others during these time slots (when I’ll be holding chats in the Backstage Channel chat area):
1. 06:15 – 07:15 CST (-06:00 UCT/GMT/Zulu time)
2. 11:45 – 12:45 CST
3. 16:45 - 17:45 CST
In the meantime, I’d like to share some screen caps of what the online conference environment looks like. When registrants enter the online conference login page and then log in, they land first in the conference Lobby:
Looking at the various left-hand navigation elements, let’s chug through them one at a time:
The Agenda, offers cool color-coded filtering tools (I’ve got it set up to show the first two keynotes, having clicked the red button), so you can use it to select from all of the various tracks and offerings available while the online conference is underway. The next button (My Sessions) is where you can use the agenda to set your own schedule of activities while the conference is underway, so I’ll skip that one.
Each attendee can set up his or her own user profile for the conference (this is more important for speakers like me than it is for the rank and file, but it’s a great way to use the conference as a social networking medium as well as a learning medium, so I’m kind of jazzed to see how it works). Here’s what mine looks like, trimmed just to its display area at the right.
Services and the Career Fair (where MS says there will be hiring companies online trolling for candidates as well as job seekers galore — at last count, registration is hovering around 2,000 —) won’t be online until the conference goes live, so I’ll skip them, too. That takes us to the chats where I have custody of the “Backstage Channel” where users will be able to post questions throughout the whole conference and where I’ll be holding my online chat sessions.
Speakers get their own thumbnails in the area with the same name, where each thumbnail links to their profile. So far there are 37 speakers listed on this page, including some big names in career advice (Dick Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute?) and all kinds of MS heavies (lots of MCTs, evangelists of many stripes, and all kinds of MS Learning folks, too).
With the conference not yet live, there are no recordings to access. But once things get going, recordings will be posted within hours of session completion and the online materials will remain available for at least 90 days after the conference has completed. Thus, you’ll be able to return to the good stuff as often thereafter as you like.
[Note: I am working for the MCCC as a volunteer. I am not getting paid for this. So I'm not shilling (or selling out). I'm just trying to help create what I think will be a valuable and useful encounter for attendees, and a great laboratory for online conference activity.]
I had the good fortune yesterday (11/8/2010) to speak with Joseph Sack, a Program Manager for the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) credential on SQL Server 2008 . Sack comes by his position honestly, having toiled in the SQL Server trenches for over a decade, and having served as a Premier Field Engineer (PFE) for Microsoft before taking up his mantle as manager of this particular certification program. In fact, Sack earned his own MCM in the very first SQL Server program on that topic back in 2006 when they were still known as “SQL Rangers.” Sack is also active in the Professional Association for SQL Server (aka PASS), which is holding its 2010 Summit conference in Seattle, from October 8 (yesterday) through October 11 (Thursday).
The purpose of my conversation with Sack, as it turned it, is to help get the word out on a massive sea change in the SQL Server 2008 MCM program. Starting at mid-day today, Microsoft will no longer require candidates for this credential to attend a three-week, $18,500 training sequence to prepare for the credential. It also plans to start grooming its substantial community of existing SQL experts — of which Sack estimates there are “several hundred” in North America alone — to earn a SQL Server MCM by challenging its two exams and earning this credential sooner and more easily, rather than later (and more expensively).
For the record those two exams include a written portion ($500) and a demanding lab exam ($2,000) so this credential becomes neither a pushover nor incredibly cheap as a result of this change. But it does become much more reasonable for the sizable pool of existing SQL Server experts to opt into this program in a more timely (and affordable) fashion.
Sack has been incredibly busy revamping the program (especially the lab exam, with input from over two dozen world-class SQL Server subject matter experts, from both inside and outside Microsoft) and the new regime kicks in today. Be sure to visit the recently updated page at Microsoft Learning entitled “New Path to Microsoft Certified Master: Microsoft SQL Server 2008” for more information that includes a detailed description of this program, and related exams and requirements. Interested readers will also find the MS information release SQL Server Masters Certification Goes Global noteworthy in this context as well.
I’m up to my armpits in revising the Sybex book Computer Forensics JumpStart into a second edition at the moment, and have almost gotten through the entire first draft as of today. One of the more interesting exercises in this book was to talk about available certifications in the area of computer forensics, and I’m very pleased to say that I came up with two very good ones (the CFCE and the PCI) that Anne Martinez missed in her introduction of the brand-new Certified E-Discovery Specialist (aka CEDS, which made its debut on 11/1/2010) in her latest newsletter. Of course, that only makes us even, because she alerted me to a couple about which I had been unaware).
Here’s a combined list of the items you’ll find in Appendix C of our upcoming book (due out in January 2011) and in Anne’s most recent newsletter, in alphabetical order with links (asterisked items are in my book, but not on Anne’s list; items with a plus didn’t get onto my radar until Anne pointed them out to me in her article):
- AccessData Certified Examiner (ACE)
- Certified Computer Examiner (CCE)
- Certified Digital Forensics Examiner (CDFE)
- Certified E-Discovery Specialist (CEDS)+
- Certified Forensic Computer Examiner (CFCE)*
- Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI EC-Council)
- Certified ProDiscover Examiner (CPE)
- CyberSecurity Forensic Analyst (CSFA)+
- EnCase Certified Examiner (EnCE) and EnCase Certified eDiscovery Practitioner (EnCEP)
- GIAC Certified Forensic Analyst (GCFA)
- Professional Certified Investigator (PCI)*
Who says that two heads aren’t better than one? Actually, it’s really three heads, because I ran my list past Neil Broom, the principal behind the Technical Resource Center for Computer Forensics, and a co-author and technical editor for our book. The result is a pretty comprehensive list of computer forensics certifications that are not just currently available (there are more, including the dangling remains of some now defunct credentials in this area) but also worth researching, and possibly even earning. FWIW, Neil’s opinion is that the CCE and the CHFI are the best of the vendor neutral bunch, and he also gives the ProDiscover and EnCase vendor-specific credentials the nod as well. As for the rest, dig in and draw your own conclusions, knowing that most of them have been around for three or more years.
After prolonged and interesting discussions with Microsoft Learning, I’m going to pitch in and help out with their upcoming career day conference on November 18 (two weeks from today, in fact). My role will be to attend online, and blog to report on what’s going on, and to hold three different one-hour chat sessions to answer questions and provide information and advice from a non-MS “help your career” perspective. MCPs and students enrolled at a recognized higher learning program (usually based on their email addresses AFAIK) can get half of the conference’s $55 registration fee waived with corresponding proof of one or the other (visit the link in the first sentence of this blog to get all the details).
What’s interesting about this 24-hour, round-the-clock training and cert extravaganza is that everything is going to be recorded and will remain available to attendees for the foreseeable future. As far as I can tell, this is a lot of potentially interesting and useful content for a very little money. That’s why I’ve decided to chip in and help out, and why I hope you’ll attend yourself, and let your friends, colleagues, co-workers, and family members know about it too. See you there online!
Microsoft has announced that it will now offer more free online training for building Windows Phone 7 applications and games. The new training content is available on Channel 9 and on Zune.net, or by subscribing to Zune Marketplace or iTunes. The training includes a total of 19 video sessions, plus digital course materials to match and expand upon that video content. Please check the Microsoft Born to Learn blog “More Free Training…” for more information and a description of each of the new sessions.
In addition to these new training courses, Microsoft also offers a free ebook titled, Programming Windows Phone 7, which teaches readers the basics of writing applications for Windows Phone 7. Famed long-time programming author Charles Petzold wrote this book, in complete cahoots with the Microsoft Windows Phone 7 development team. It promises to be a worthwhile read, and the price is right, too!
At least half a dozen times per month, I get e-mail, field postings, or otherwise receive queries from people seeking career and/or certification advice. Way, way back in August 2008 I wrote a blog posting here entitled “7 Questions for Highly Effective Career or Certification Advice.” I’d urge any and all readers interesting in soliciting my feedback or input on their career aspirations, situations, and/or educational and certification plans or needs to read this over and to answer the questions outline therein. For convenience, I reproduce them here, too:
2. What is your prior work experience? How many years of work, and what kind of work have you done? Any volunteer work? Part-time work in school or elsewhere? (You’d be surprised how much value employers give to those who show evidence of being able to hold a job, and how much credit they give to people willing to work for nothing as volunteers or part-time to get experience in their chosen fields.)
3. Where do you live? What is the job market like there? How much opportunity for entry-level people? mid-career people? senior people?
4. Are you interested in working in management, or would you prefer to stay on a technical track? Have you ever done any project management (and again, school, part-time, and volunteer experience all help)?
5. What kinds of certifications interest you? Please describe any certification held, currency status (if applicable), and when earned.
6. Do your long-term career goals include staying in your current position (or in the same field as the next position you’re seeking, if applicable)?
7. What kind of job are you doing now? What kind of job would you like to be doing? How important is salary to you? How important is job satisfaction? If you could have any job at all, what would that be?
With answers to these questions, I get to know something about the person as well as the various options they may be pondering. This helps me to provide answers that have a better chance of helping both in the short and long terms, and that can be tailored to their specific location, circumstances, needs, and goals.
I hope this makes sense, and that future advice seekers will understand why it’s very helpful to me, and ultimately to them, to provide this kind of data.
Best wishes in your planning, hopes, efforts and progress toward a fulfilling and meaningful career.
I spent a very interesting three-quarters of an hour on the phone earlier this week with Ken Rosen (the Lead Community and Evangelism Manager for Microsoft Learning) and Tjeerd Veninga (the Certified Trainer Community Lead also for Microsoft Learning), talking — and then, brainstorming — about the upcoming Microsoft Certified Career Conference (aka MCCC) to be held online on 11/18/2010. I learned a thing or two and also inflicted a few ideas on these gentlemen during the course of our call.
The real goal of the conference is to help people at all levels of career development and experience, from aspiring newbies to grizzled veterans, to improve on their career prospects and interests. In fact, where possible, Microsoft would like to lead IT workers into technical areas where opportunities are likely to remain bright even during dark economic times (like the doldrums in which we find ourselves enmeshed at present, for instance) and for the foreseeable future. This kind of rationale, it turns out, played a key role in the topics that were chosen for coverage in this upcoming conference, which will run for 24 hours straight on 11/18/2010. Drat! That reminds me that I forgot to ask them what time the affair will kick off in UCT or GMT timing, so the world can synch up on the actual start time (…firing off an e-mail to the Wag-Ed rep to see what I can find out…and sure enough a call-back informs me that the show begins at 12:00pm UCT 11/18/2010 ).
Interestingly, I learned that any student registered at an accredited institution of higher learning, or anybody with an MCP or higher-level Microsoft certification, qualifies for a 50% discount on the $55 registration cost for this event (MS has been kind enough to comp my registration fee, so I can report live on the conference while it’s underway). I also learned that any funds collected in delivering the conference will be “paid forward” into other MS Learning conferences and activities. In the words of Ken Rosen “it’s not a profit center or a money-making effort.”
As the event gets closer, I’ll be working with Misters Rosen and Veninga to target specific items for coverage and reporting. And who knows, I may even talk them into hosting a Q&A panel where I and other certification folks can field and answer questions from conference attendees. Stay tuned: I’ll be reporting weekly up to, through, and after the conference takes place.
As of Tuesday, October 19, Cisco has reworked its voice (VoIP) and security certifications at the professional level. There’s a new CCNP Voice to replace the former CCVP, and a new CCNP Security to replace the former CCSP. In speaking with Cisco Learning staff on Monday 10/18, I learned that the primary impetus for these changes — which you can find described in more detail in the company’s 10/19 press release entitled “Cisco Redesigns Voice and Security Certifications to Align with Evolving Job Roles and Business requirements” — was to move coverage and focus on these topics up the evolutionary curve, in the sense that most businesses have now deployed VoIP and formulated security policy, and are ready to employ best practices and procedures to put related tools, technologies, and platforms to work.
On the Voice side, this means that the focus is now on integrating Cisco Unified Communications products and platforms into existing network architectures, and to validate what the company calls “…a robust set of skills” when it comes to implementing, operating, configuring, and troubleshooting an IP network where voice and data services mix and mingle. Candidates will also have to understand and master Cisco’s Collaboration 8.0 solutions, especially as they related to integrating and troubleshooting voicemail and messaging applications that include Cisco Unity Connection and Cisco Unified Presence. There are also new exams in the mix: 642-467 on the Cisco Unified Communications Applications (CAPPS), and the 640-461 Cisco Voice and Unified Communications Administration (ICOMM) will freshen up the CCNA Voice certification as well.
On the Security side, there’s a new four-exam curriculum that seeks to support specific job roles and responsibilities for network security engineers who must test, deploy, configure and troubleshoot core technologies and devices involved in network security. IOS coverage for Cisco routers and switches, zone-based firewalls, high-availability VPNs, and IPS/IDS elements in the Cisco arsenal all come in for content and coverage. Candidates should also expect to see focus on and coverage of security and risks management skills and knowledge in the revised CCNP Voice credential as well.
Cisco will keep its CCVP and CCSP cert exams alive until 2/28/2011 and 4/8/2011 respectively, to give those candidates in process on the old regime a chance to finish up before these credentials are retired. But when current or immanent CCVP or CCSP holders wish to renew their credentials (which they must do every three years) they will have to shift over to the CCNP Voice and CCNP Security certs instead.