November 25, 2013 2:45 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
In mid-October 2013, VMware acquired Desktone, a leading player in the “Desktop as a Service” (DaaS) space. At the same time the company’s Horizon View platform supports delivery of Windows desktops and applications to mobile users on a wide variety of devices. This puts standard corporate desktop capabilities into the hands of users who may have only smartphones or tablets running Android or iOS at their disposal, as well as more typical “road warriors” armed with Windows notebooks, laptops, or tablets (as well as other desktop OSes such as MacOS or Linux).
The first step in an associate – professional – expert cert sequence for mobility is out; more to follow in 2014.
At the same time, VMware is rolling out a Workforce Mobility certification track, and has made its VMware Certified Associate – Workforce Mobility (VCA-WM) credential available to interested candidates. A Professional-level follow-on credential will be out in 2014, with more advanced tiers to follow thereafter.
All this tells me that VMware is taking cloud-based virtual desktop technology incredibly seriously, and betting at least part of its future on delivering products, platforms, training and certification to arm its partners and customers to cope with a brave new part of the IT landscape as soon as they can put up the necessary scaffolding and infrastructure to support that effort. The acquisition of Desktone speaks loudly to their desire to do more than enable cloud-based VDI, but also to become a player at the services end of that business.
Thus, it will also be really interesting to see how the various Workforce Mobility certification credentials unfold, and what kinds of capability for defining and maintaining images will be exposed to the IT professionals charged with turning the general idea of DaaS and mobile, device-agnostic access to virtualized, cloud-based Windows desktops into working and viable desktop infrastructures for everyday mobile and remote use. We’re in the process of doing nothing less than reinventing IT as we know it — or so I am convinced — so it should be simply fascinating to see how all this unfolds, and what VMware lets its customers and partners do.
November 22, 2013 3:08 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
I’m reaching out to the major IT cert sponsors to learn more about their programs and benefits for veterans and active duty military preparing to transition out of the service into civilian life, with a special emphasis on prepping for and finding employment in information technology. To that end, I spoke with several members of the Microsoft Learning Experience (LeX) earlier this week to discuss what kinds of programs and benefits are available to these people. In coming months, I intend to do likewise with Cisco, CompTIA, Oracle, IBM, HP, VMware, and anybody else I can find to help me open up the subject for discussion and documentation.
The Army’s Career and Alumni Program (ACAP) is just one of several gems my conversation with MS turned up.
Before I dig into key details of what I’ve learned so far, I’d like to observe that something is lacking in this picture. Amidst all the great and laudable efforts from many players, there’s no central clearinghouse for this kind of information, and overall benefits information available. A vast cast of characters, including the White House, all branches of the military, certification sponsors, training companies, and others are engaged in trying to help our veterans and transitioning military personnel find their way into meaningful employment preparation and job opportunities. But it’s difficult for the target audience to find out how to take advantage of these many opportunities, and how to make best use of programs like the post-9/11 renaissance of the GI Bill. I’m going to do my best to shed some light on this subject matter, and to try to make information more transparent and readily available, to help veterans and those transitioning out of the military make more and better sense of this situation.
In my conversations with various members of the LeX team that included a military recruiter for the company itself, plus various individuals involved in programs and offerings that target this specific audience (veterans and transitioning active duty personnel), I not only garnered some interesting and useful information, I also got a sense of how huge and complex this landscape really is. Here are some key bullet points from our free- and far-ranging discussion:
- The US Army operates ACAP, the Army Career & Alumni Program, which is labeled as “The Army’s Official Transition website.” There, members of the US Army will find locations for physical ACAP centers at various Army bases and installation, a central phone number for questions and additional information, and a virtual online center for those unable to take advantage of the ACAP centers in person.
- The Points of Light foundation takes on veterans as one of its specific focus populations, with a military initiatives component that provides all kinds of information and opportunities for the public to show support for and provide assistance to veterans, as well as to provide information and pointers to veterans in search of career development and employment opportunities.
- Microsoft itself is working with veterans and transitioning service members in all kinds of ways, and through numerous programs, one of which is documented in this recent blog post “From the Conventional Classroom to the Military, IT Academy Is Spreading to New Realms.” A new Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA) takes a curriculum developed by St. Martin’s University based on the long-running MS IT Academy program and its materials, and is making a pilot program at Joint Base Lewis McChord in Ft. Lewis, Washington. There, those who complete a 16-week course to earn certification in development or IT project management areas may be hired into entry-level roles as software testers by Microsoft or Launch Computing (the technology consulting firm that’s administering this program). Plans are to open other such training programs before the year’s end at other key bases in Texas and California, with additional locations to be announced next year. Active duty personnel from all branches of the military, the National Guard, and Reserves, will be eligible for this program.
Finally, my discussion with the LeX team (Sarah Roberts and Dan Sytman of Microsoft, and Sheryl Tullis of Launch Consulting) concluded with some hard-learned advice that they asked me to pass onto members of the target population who may read this blog post:
1. Look for local transition centers for information, guidance, and help.
2. LinkedIn offers numerous advice and mentoring groups that can offer advice, guidance, and good information to those who seek it out.
3. Don’t forget that the job market is tough for civilians right now, too, so that plenty of old-fashioned (people) networking and lots of elbow grease will be required to find a job in IT (or just about any other field) these days.
4. Remember that the modern “GI Bill” is limited to four years of support, so be sure you take it up with a well-crafted plan of training and courses to produce a degree or a collection of certifications, if not both, before you start cashing in on the program. Otherwise, you risk running out of benefits before reaching your education and/or certification goals.
All of this is good information and advice, and should be helpful to those who take time to ponder and then act upon it. Count on me to keep coming back to this topic, and to keep adding to the store of information about programs and providers, and to share any further nuggets of advice and wisdom that I can turn up in my conversations with cert sponsors on the general subjects of training, certification, and career development for veterans and transitioning active duty military personnel.
November 20, 2013 8:31 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
I follow the cert market, especially as technical competencies and the certs that sometimes go with them point to high growth and attendant job opportunities. That’s why I keep getting my face rubbed in that part of the IT landscape that falls under the “mobility” moniker. This area seems to be growing and expanding faster than almost anybody can keep up with, and keeps popping up almost everywhere in the IT world nowadays. Indeed, mobility is transforming the way people work. As a serious player in mobility technologies, Citrix has focused on designing its next-generation training and certifications to help educate businesses and users on those technologies, roles and skills that it believes to be essential for maximizing the business value of mobility investments.
That probably explains why, when I spoke to Ophir Erez, Senior Director of Education Programs for Citrix on Monday, he had a LOT to say on that topic (enough, in fact, that I’m working on another blog post to explain what’s up with Citrix certifications and where they’re heading in the year or so that still lies ahead). But for this blog post, I want to concentrate on a cluster of remarks he made around the topic of mobility in particular.
Mobility is not just a passing fad or fancy for IT; it is reshaping the entire focus and functionality of what IT is and does.
[Image Credit: Shutterstock 126150599]
Here’s what I grabbed from that conversation, transcribed directly from my notes taken during our November 18 call:
- “Mobility is critical to our customers, and ranks among their most pressing concerns. That’s because it has high impact on their operations, and is essential when it comes to getting work done.”
- “Mobility poses interesting challenges because it crosses so many technology lines, for everything from devices, to applications and apps, to networking and infrastructure, to policies and processes needed to protect organizations yet still permit employees to do their jobs.”
- “Dealing with a new and rapidly-changing market and its technologies requires expressing a vision as much as it requires products and solutions.”
- “Making mobility work for business means delivering a consumer-like experience to end-users, while imposing policies and controls needed to meet legal, regulatory, and security requirements.”
I am struck by these words, not just because they’re accurate and relevant, but also because they succinctly capture the issues involved in tackling and keeping up with a rapidly-moving technology and its attendant uses and controls. He does a great job of summing up why mobility is important — it helps organizations get things done — while also capturing the serious difficulties inherent to getting a rope around (and holding onto) something moving at great speed with significant momentum behind it. The requirement for “vision” is about understanding why the demand is there, where its value and appeal come from, and how to turn that demand into productivity and material gains for the organizations that support mobility, especially in BYOD situations. But nowhere else does Ophir’s understanding shine as brightly when he endorses end-user’s expectations that their mobile experience should be the same at work as it is for them outside the workplace, but still remain subject to best business practices, relevant rules and regulations for compliance’ sake, and proper security wrappers to maintain confidentiality, privacy, integrity and access controls as appropriate for the content or data that’s streaming to and from the legions of mobile devices already involved, or on their way to workplace use.
To me, this goes way beyond Citrix and what they’re doing to help enable mobility in the workplace. It reaches all the way from the beginning of the lifecycle, to where hardware engineers design mobile devices and their capabilities (and security) and software engineers build apps or craft protocols to support mobile access and use. From there it extends into the wireless and wired networking infrastructures that enable mobile communications, to the servers that support back-end data access and services, and so forth. In short, mobility really does cross all the boundaries and touch all the disciplines in IT. It really, truly is a game changer. And that’s why it’s bound to alter the IT certification landscape, just as it’s altering so much elsewhere on the broader IT landscape as well. Mobility is no longer an undiscovered country on this landscape, but we will be exploring and feeling our way into it as part and parcel of what it means to work with, use, or manage information technology from now on.
November 18, 2013 10:35 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Over the past week, my recent blog posts on Veteran’s Day have engendered quite a bit of traffic, with comments showing up on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google Plus, and by regular e-mail. And just this morning, my website dropped a message in my inbox from an Iraq vet with an IT background who is heading for the Pittsburgh, PA, area and desperate for work.
Veterans of all branches, and those transitioning from active duty to civilian life, might benefit from more clarity in understanding how to turn good will into tangible results.
In looking around at all of the training and certification options available for vets and servicepeople transitioning into civilian employment, I’m forcibly struck by two things:
1. Nearly every major cert sponsor, and many of the minor ones, offer discounts, free online training, or other special handling and services for such folks
2. More often than not, it’s ridiculously hard to find your way from the press releases or articles that extol such offers to a page or person where you can exercise them
To respond to various requests for information and advice in this area, I am reaching out to major cert program sponsors — including Microsoft, CompTIA, Cisco, Citrix, and others — to try to pull more details and information resources together in this arena. If you have specific questions, comments, or needs for information of this kind please drop me an email at ed at edtittel dot com and I’ll add it to my to-do list in this area.
My goal is to help others find their way through this large and sometimes unwieldy mass of information, hopefully to find something that fits their backgrounds, career development goals, and pocketbooks. Count on me to pay special attention to GI Bill eligibility and other benefits, and to look for the best deals extended to those who’ve served (or are still serving) their country and their fellow citizens. I plan to devote several hours a week going forward on this much-needed information until some of that much-needed clarity emerges!
November 15, 2013 3:03 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
For the past ten years or so, it’s been tough times for the certbiz, especially for former flagship publications fallen on hard times, and squeezed by falling ad revenues. In today’s blog post, I’m pleased to report on an infusion of cash, enthusiasm, new content, and plenty of energy at a couple of important digital properties in this market niche — namely, Certification Magazine (http://certmag.com) and GoCertify.com. Both of these entities have been acquired by the Vallejo Media Group in the past few months (this company is itself pretty new having itself been registered as a Limited Liability Corporation, or LLC, on April 10, 2013 according to Bizapedia).
The Vallejo Media Group acquires both Certmag and GoCertify.com to team up two major digital landmarks on the IT Cert landscape.
This new infusion made itself known to me about six weeks ago, when I entered into negotiations with the Vallejo Media Group to write for Certmag again, after 7 or 8 years of separation from that publication. I served as a contributing editor and a technology editor for that magazine from 1998 until mid-2007, but decided to quit writing for them when they informed me that they had to cut compensation to a level that I hadn’t agreed to since 1986 at the long-defunct MACazine. I’m pretty sure it was nothing personal, because I’d watched the print version of the magazine decline from a fairly hefty 0.25-0.35″ thick state (usually with 120 or more numbered pages) to a vanishingly slender 0.1″ or less (seldom over 48 pages). The missing ingredient was ad sales, which of course funds writer’s pay as well as everything else a magazine does.
The GoCertify.com website, on the other hand, never foundered and was kept going by the stalwart and unfailing hard work of Anne Martinez, its founder, designer, and maintainer. But she confided in me over two years ago that the work-reward ratio was not trending in her favor, and let me know she was looking for a buyer, if a good one could be found. From what she’s told me in the wake of its acquisition by the Vallejo Media Group this summer, she kept up with the big certification and training databases that are that site’s crown jewels right up until control passed over to Vallejo, and they’ve picked them up and kept them going without a hitch since the hand-off occurred.
Voluntary Self-Disclosure: As I’ve already explained I wrote for Certmag from 1998 to 2007, and was also on their masthead (albeit as a freelancer not an employee). I have two more things to share at this apparently appropriate moment. First, I’ve also written (uncompensated) guest blogs and articles for GoCertify.com (look for my name on this articles page at GoCertify for some relatively recent contributions). Second, I’ve just signed a contract to start providing articles for the two sites again, and will be blogging weekly for them starting sometime soon as well. This last bit of new work will be compensated, too. I’d like to assert that Vallejo’s invitation to have me resume writing for Certmag , and to provide blog posts for it and GoCertify to run, represents a sign of returning health in the cert publications biz, and possibly also a ray of sunshine for the overall IT employment, training, and certification markets in general.
To see the first fruits of my efforts for the newly-revitalized Certmag check out my November 14 article for them entitled “Whither MCA and MCM and Why?” It features a recent interview with Shelby Grieve, Director of Certifications for the newly renamed Microsoft Learning Experience (LeX) division, the group formerly known simply as Microsoft Learning. In it, she explains candidly why the current Microsoft Certified Master (MCM), Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM), and Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) credentials have all been scheduled for retirement on December 31, 2013, at the end of this year. She also explains that Microsoft is likely to offer new and decidedly improved pinnacle level credentials to replace these certs, but isn’t yet ready to say what they might be named, how they will be positioned and provisioned with training content, exams, and other required program elements, or when this might happen. She also talks about the challenges that attach to Microsoft’s new rapid release cadence (major revisions to all platforms on a roughly annual basis) and what that means for the company’s certification credentials and training going forward. It’s really interesting stuff, and I hope you’ll head over to check it all out!
November 13, 2013 2:23 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
An interesting bit in the latest GoCertify newsletter (Vol 16, #2) provides telling evidence that integration of IT certification into IT academic training is being kicked up the proverbial notch. In a blurb there entitled “No Certification = No Graduation,” it’s reported that administrators at Fortis College (an operator of online and in-class training for a variety of associate’s degrees with campuses in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, Utah, and Virginia) noticed that while their curricula are designed around various IT certifications — including A+, Network+, and Security+ among others — students weren’t necessarily signing up for and taking the related cert exams.
Fortis puts the onus on students to get certified before they can earn an Associate’s degree
But when those same administrators decided to make completion of two or more certs a requirement for graduation, participation rates shot up remarkably. CompTIA’s October 25 press release “Fortis College Bolsters Student Employability with Certification Requirement” explains further in the context of the Fortis Cyber Security and Forensic Program (an 18-month degree plan in that specialty IT arena). Design of this program incorporated CompTIA’s A+, Network+, Security+ and Linux+ credentials, among a total of 9 credentials overall. Furthermore, tuition and fees were structured to include the cost of exam vouchers so that student needed to pay nothing extra to sit for the corresponding exams. Even so, student participation rates were low enough to catch administrators’ attention.
Presto! When the program’s administrators changed the terms of graduation to require earning two or more certs to get the degree — in a move calculated “to do more to prepare students for entering the job market” (in the words of the CompTIA press release) — participation rates skyrocketed. Fortis has its students take practice exams to prepare for the real thing (always a good prep maneuver, IMHO) and when those scores top 90%, they’re issued a voucher to sit for the real thing. Each voucher includes a free re-take, for those who don’t pass on the first try. As students start racking up cert credentials, Fortis informs it Career Services arm that they are ready to participate in their job placement program, and are “ready to be considered for employment.”
Some interesting stats from the Fortis experience so far: because of intense training, drills, cram sessions, and practice exams prior to taking cert exams, 80% of students pass those exams on their first attempt. In addition, 90% of program graduates either find work just before or just after they graduate, or continue on into bachelor’s degree programs. Less thrilling to read: graduates earn an average annual salary of $34,000 (decidedly on the low end for IT entry-level jobs, though vastly preferable to no job at all).
November 11, 2013 2:38 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Last week, (ISC)2 (pronounced “ISC-squared,” hence the nomenclature in the blog post title) announced the debut of its latest information security certification. Dubbed the HealthCare Information Security and Privacy Practitioner, or HCISPP, the credential takes double aim at information security concerns on the one hand but also privacy concerns as regards patient information and records on the other.
The latest ISC-squared certification bridges the complementary worlds of healthcare IT and information security.
Given that the healthcare industry in the US (and elsewhere in the developed world) is one of a few market sectors that continues to experience double-digit growth (an outstanding exception in economies where the overall growth rate seldom tops 3 percent anymore nowadays), it stands to reason that the field is poised to support information security experts who specialize in its specific IT security and data privacy requirements. And indeed the six domains in this credential’s Common Body of Knowledge (CBK) reflect its dual focus with an even split between the two subject matters:
- Healthcare Industry
- Regulatory Environment
- Privacy and Security in Healthcare
- Information Governance and Risk Management
- Information Risk Assessment
- Third Party Risk Management
Interested and aspiring healthcare IT professionals are invited to visit the HCISPP home page to learn more about the credential, for which the exam costs $349 (sign-up for a Web account at (ISC)2 is now required to see exam prices, for those who may not have visited the site in the last few months, as was the case for your humble correspondent).
November 8, 2013 2:45 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
On my morning walk today, I had NPR on my earbuds, and heard their preliminary prognostications about this morning’s latest Employment Situation Summary from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. I’m pleased to say that their pundits proved off on one of two major points: first, they predicted lower than usual job growth numbers in the 100,000 range; and second, they predicted a jump in the unemployment rate, possibly by as much as three-tenths of a percent. The actual results as posted were somewhat encouraging in light of those predictions: new jobs created came in at 204,000 for October at about double what had been projected, while unemployment “only” ticked up by one-tenth of a percent from 7.2 in September to 7.3 in October.
More slow growth mode for October, if slightly better than the pundits’ predictions.
There’s a “however” to consider, though: the reasons for pundits’ predictions came, of course, from the 16-day government shutdown that occurred in October. But here’s what shows up in paragraph two of the summary page in the BLS report:
Among the unemployed, however, the number who reported being on temporary layoff increased by 448,000. This figure includes furloughed federal employees who were classified as unemployed on temporary layoff under the definitions used in the household survey. (Estimates of the unemployed by reason, such as temporary layoff and job leavers, do not sum to the official seasonally adjusted measure of total unemployed because they are independently seasonally adjusted.) [Emphasis mine]
Factoring the “temporary layoff” of 448,000 against job creation of 204,000, it’s easy to understand why the pundits’ predictions turned out to be more dire than the actual results: apparently, they didn’t factor in the category differences between creation of presumably permanent jobs versus temporary furloughs of government employees who kept their permanent positions (and who, according to Congressional resolutions passed during the shutdown, will be paid for their time off in any case).
As I continue to follow BLS reporting of US employment, I’m continually amazed at how various kinds of classification and categorization of workers produces the numbers we see in the monthly reports that agency produces. We should always remember that when you factor in the so-called “discouraged workers” (those unemployed who’ve given up on finding a job of any kind) the unemployment rate in the US is in the low double-digits (10-11 percent by many estimates) rather than the official 7.3 percent reported this month.
The “Information” numbers in Table A-14 of the report (“Unemployed persons by industry and class of worker, not seasonally adjusted“) convey some slightly different news. Data from that sector for October 2012 versus October 2013 shows that unemployment increased from 7.7 percent of an IT workforce of 27.9 million workers in 2013 to 7.9 percent of 27.5 million in October 2013. That shows a loss of 400,000 jobs in the sector over the intervening year, along with a slight uptick in the unemployment rate. To me, this shows that some caution is necessary in assessing job change or promotion prospects for IT professionals, despite more ebullient news about IT employment from lots of other sources of late (including various reports I’ve presented in other blog posts here).
Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see job creation numbers waxing little by little, step by step, month over month. Although we need to break 300-350,000 a month for job growth to overtake unemployment, and move the rate into the 5-6 percent range that represents “full employment” as defined by most economists, it’s better to be taking small steps forward on the growth rate, rather than small steps back. But as I’ve observed many times in my commentary on employment, especially as it relates to IT, it’s still not time to break out the champagne and canapes. Cause for modest cheer is not the same as cause for celebration, after all.
November 6, 2013 3:50 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Blue Ribbon Techs, as you may or may not know, is one of two companies that is partnering with CompTIA (the other is Canadian company Zylog/Brainhunter) to make digital versions of their certifications available online by request to parties that credential holders authorize to view such information. In practice, this means that those who include special “active graphics” in their resumes, web pages, job applications, and so forth, convey permission to use the Blue Ribbon Tech (BRT) “widgets” to interrogate CompTIA’s certification/credentials databases to check their credentials to whomever clicks the link embedded in the graphic.
This kind of technology is sometimes called digital badging. It refers to creating mechanisms whereby individuals who pass certain courses, earn specific degrees or IT certifications, obtain various licenses, and so forth and so on, can use digital objects (“badges”) in documents to provide proof that what they claim to possess is backed up by an objective, third-party “badge respository.” Further, that repository also attests to a badge’s validity and currency. This is, in fact, the focus of the Mozilla Open Badges project and has produced an emerging standard infrastructure for collecting, storing, maintaining, and reporting on such information.
The Open Badges Wiki is a good place to start digging into details and activities of this development and proselytizing organization.
I had wondered if CompTIA had deliberately avoided participation in the Open Badges initiative, but was cheered to learn from Mr. Kraemer that his developers are presently looking into building the scaffolding necessary to support Open Badges. His group has until now been pre-occupied with handling the vetting, logistics, set-up, privacy/confidentiality, and data collection for background checks, criminal records, and drug testing data related to tying the CompTIA credential look-ups into a variety of job-matching systems for freelance technicians who routinely work with or for large field service operations like those run by IBM, NCR, Dell, HP, and countless others.
I’m happy to learn that what I had interpreted as possible evidence of hostility or indifference to the Open Badge initiative was in fact neither one of those things. Instead, it came from a set of priorities driven by the consumers of those CompTIA digitial credentials who wanted BRT to address matters of perceived higher import than whether or not badging information and format adhered to any industry standards, emerging (as the Mozilla Open Badge initiative is right now) or otherwise. In fact, it looks highly likely that it’s just a matter of time before the CompTIA badging information is made to conform with the Open Badge formats and data representations, now that other, more serious and difficult technical problems have been addressed.
All I say is “Whoopee!” This is the best outcome I could have hope for from my investigations, so I’m quite pleased to report on it.