A propos of my recent blog “How do certification plans figure in an uncertain economy?,” and all the surrounding conversation — which features the common thread that high-demand technical specialities in IT, especially more senior credentials in such area, remain active and vigorous certification goals for many — CertMag just published a new story last Monday (July 26) entitled “Today’s Most In-Demand Certifications.” This turns out to be an interesting list, for lots of reasons, so I’ll present it here just as it appears in the story, and accompany it with some comments and observations of my own:
- CISSP (ISC-squared’s Certified Information Systems Security Professional) is a vendor neutral information security cert (about which I contributed to the Sybex CISSP Study Guide, now in it’s fourth edition) that’s been a top ten item since the late 1990s. Recently, the Feds recognized it as among a handful of credentials that would-be infosec workers who actually work for the government, or for a government contractor, must obtain. This has made an already-hot credential hotter still.
- MCSE (Microsoft Certified System Engineer) is getting a bit long in the tooth (it covers only up through Windows Server 2003, and has nothing to do with or say about Windows Server 2008). I’m amazed it’s still at the top of the Microsoft class (though Certmag does say that “…although the MCSE designation is in particularly high demand, job candidates who have earned any Microsoft certification have an edge in the job market” (emphasis mine). To me this speaks of slow uptake of Microsoft’s MCTS, MCITP, and MCM (Microsoft Certified Master) credentials in the market, perhaps along with slower-than-expected uptake of Windows Server 2008 itself.
- PMP (The Project Management Insitute’s, or PMI’s, Project Management Professional) This is a major “soft skills” certification and undoubtedly a very important one. It’s not only a great addition to anyone’s IT resume, it’s also a potential ticket into management. While it’s not completely equal to an MBA, it’s not at all bad, either, and in fact, teaches its holders a great deal of useful information, tools, and techniques designed to boost one’s productivity and job performance. It’s my personal favorite in this batch, in fact.
- CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) The CCNA is the gateway to all of Cisco’s Professional level certifications, and is a pre-requisite for many of its specialist credentials as well. Although I’m surprised to see it here because it’s simply a first step to more advanced learning and credentialing, it certainly is a common stop on the Cisco certification road for most, if not all, of its huge certified population, which probably numbers in the millions by now.
I’m surprised not to see more highly-specialized and hot credentials on this list — such as those from SAP, Brocade, EMC, the Cisco CCIE family, ITIL stuff, and more — amidst these results. For a more catholic view of the certification space, you might want to leaven the previously cited CertMag story with Laura Schneider’s About.com story “Top 15 Highest Paying Certifications in the Technology Industry” as well.
Here’s a snippet from a spam message that just showed up in my inbox (actually, it’s probably not out-and-out spam; I bet I let a “let us send you offers from our advertisers” clause slip by my sign-up for some cert site or another). It provides a poignant reminder of the pending CompTIA certification change that kicks in next year, and shows how clever (and perhaps also desperate) training companies always try to turn circumstances to their advantage:
The point in the first line of the message is key: anybody who earns A+, Network+, or Security+ until the end of 2010 retains that credential for life. After that, those who earn the credential will have to meet continuing education requirements or retake the exam every three years (as I mentioned in a February 2010 blog right here) and pay an annual membership/upkeep fee to keep current as well. Anybody who beats this deadline avoids all of this onus, as the preceding snippet correctly notes.
Let this posting serve as a reminder that the end of the “old CompTIA regime” is coming and that a newer, more expensive one kicks in next year. Let it also serve as a warning that training companies will stop at nothing to chase down your dollars, whether the pretext be fairly substantial like this one, or less so, like many others.
I got the following e-mail this morning from long-time certification guru and occasional collaborator Anne Martinez of GoCertify.com:
I am curious as to your opinion on the current state of the IT certification industry. From my perspective, I felt as if it was picking up a year or two ago, but a slump seems upon it again. It seems that most of the formerly active IT certification websites are largely idle or very minimally active. It is almost as if when the economy first really nose-dived, interest in certification picked up, but now as the economy has not significantly rebounded after time has passed, interest and activity related to IT certification have dropped off again. Do you have any insights on this you would be willing to share/discuss with me?
Here’s how I replied to this inquiry, in brief:
The short, brutal response is that IT certification tracks IT hiring and promotion/raise budgets. With little hiring, and even fewer promotions and raises to go around there’s little incentive for people to get certified right now. As the economist on NPR this morning said about consumer confidence, most people and businesses are still in “wait and see” mode.
To amplify a bit on Anne’s observations, I’ve noticed that CertCities.com is pretty much quiescent, and that CertMag.com is likewise pretty spare on posting, new content, and activity. But sites with a definite axe to grind — including, both the various vendor sites (Cisco, Microsoft, Citrix, Sun, and so forth, all with active certification programs) and the big organization sites (CompTIA, PMI, LPI, and so on, ditto) — have kept on keeping on during this same period with nary a hiccup.
What does this all really mean? Those who have their own reasons for you to get certified are not letting up a bit, while those who serve the market that consists of individuals actively seeking certification, and employers interested in hiring certified professionals, or steering their best employees into certification, are falling off, sometimes severely. And yet, certain areas where jobs available exceed qualified applicants — namely, IT security, storage, SAP, and other high-demand specialties — continue to go great guns. Draw your own conclusions: I’m confused, just like the pundits, prognosticators, and regular Joes out there. Sheesh! How’s a reasonably intelligent, decently aware guy like yours truly supposed to make a living in such turbulent times? Good question, eh? Now, only if I had some more answers…
For years I’ve written about and covered various Citrix certifications, so I’ve spent my fair share of time on the Citrix Web pages and on the phone with Citrix Education trying to nail down what’s available to whom, how much things cost, how long they take to complete, and yada yada yada. Upon my most recent visit to the Citrix Certifications pages, I’m very pleased to report that the company has reorganized and rearranged their look and feel, and has made them somewhat easier to explore (though it still has some way to go in terms of making them equally easy to access and understand).
This screenshot captures the basic layout and tab structure:
Here’s what you’ll find for each category:
- Administrator Series (CCA: notice further tabs for Desktops, Servers, and Networks)
Offerings also make specific mention of XenDesktop 4, XenApp6, XenApp 5 for Windows Server 2008, XenApp 5 for Windows Server 2003, EdgeSight 4, Passord Manager 4, XenApp 5, XenServer Enterprise Edition 4 and 5, Provisioning Server 5, XenServer 4 and 5, NetScaler 8 and 9, Access Gateway 4, 8 and 9 Enterprise Edition, WANScaler 4, and finally, Application Firewall 8, with Platinum versions for some platforms mentioned, and even a Citrix Certified Advanced Administrator, or CCAA, for XenApp 5 for Windows Server 2008 is included under the Desktop tab. Whew, what a tangle dangles from the CCA moniker!
- Engineer Series
Citrix Certified Enterprise Engineer (CCEE) for Virtualization (XenApp, XenServer, XenDesktop)
Citrix Certified Enterprise Administrator (CCEA) for Citrix XenApp (Presentation Server 4)
- Architect Series
Citrix Certified Integration Architect (CCIA) for Virtualization
Citrix Certified Integration Architect (CCIA) for Citrix XenApp (Presentation Server 4)
The structure and coverage of the CCEE and CCIA credentials are pretty straightforward, and easy to follow and understand. The CCA (and CCAA) are less intelligible, and would really benefit from some kind of narrative overview to help readers understand why there are so many of them, how they’re differentiated, the possible (or missing) value of obtaining multiple CCA credentials, and so on and so forth.
Come on, Citrix! Things are improving but there’s still a ways yet to go. Stand the old Talking Heads song on its head, and “start making sense” of the CCA (and CCAA).
Hey! I’m back from vacation, and have to apologize for tardy reporting on Microsoft’s launch of a new family of certifications called the Microsoft Technology Association, or MTA. You can get a reasonably complete picture of the MTA program from Microsoft’s own materials on its MTA pages (please note there are separate tabs for the program overview, a certfication discussion, and a FAQ).
To me, what makes the MTA interesting is its target audience — students still in school, primarily at the high-school level, though I have to guess it will also appeal to community college kids who didn’t get (or take) the chance to pursue MTA stuff in high school as well. MS has designed this program for the classroom, so that it can integrate into curricula in these institutions, and so that testing can be delivered in the classroom (that is, online) rather than requiring candidates to trek to the nearest Prometric testing center to finish up the final step in earning one of these certifications.
MTA credentials fall into two tracks, one for aspiring software developers, the other for would-be IT professionals. On the development side, there are “fundamentals exams” for basic software development , Windows development , Web development, and database administration. On the IT professional track, fundamentals exams cover basic networking, security, and Windows server administration topics. According to Anne Martinez’ recent reporting on this program, these credentials focus on “80% knowledge and 20% skills,” and define a new entry point into the many and varied Microsoft certification programs already available. This may or may not represent Microsoft borrowing a valuable page from the Cisco Academy approach of breaking the CCNA exam into two parts (ICND 1 and ICND 2) for use in its own high-school oriented offerings, in an attempt to catch ’em ever younger and earlier in their life and career stages, or it may just be a logical extension of the company’s own ongoing attempts to provide useful learning and certification programs for as many population sectors as possible.
OK, so I’m on vacation this week and I’m learning how not to be at work most of the time, and how to be relaxing and enjoying my family and my freedom instead. To some extent, this is a challenge all by itself because I’m so used to hunkering down by myself in my office, immersed in a world that’s more virtual than real, chasing interesting phantoms of thought and technology.
This week, my challenge is of a completely different order. I’m out of the customary routine, now responsible for finding things to do, places to visit, and sights to see not just for my own family, but also for my sister’s family (herself, her husband, and their 11-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter). Of course, I’m not in this alone — there are three other adults around to provide input, exert leadership, and guide choices, and the kids are never shy about making their wants and wishes known, either.
But so far we’ve managed nicely to enjoy ourselves and our surroundings. We’ve hit the local beaches four times, have visited a nifty museum or two, and have taken several lengthy hiking excursions into nearby local attractions. It’s always interesting getting a bunch of people moving, and keeping them moving at enough of the same pace to make satisfactory progress between points A and B (or as Tolkien put it as the subtitle for The Hobbit: “There, and Back Again.”
In the meantime, I’m observing that many of the same skills I’ve developed in setting up, configuring, and troubleshooting technology have some small value in helping to manage family affairs and activities. More humorously, my tendency to make assumptions about causes and solutions can also lead me away from the truth just as well in this sphere as it can in my more customary haunts. But gosh, it sure it fun to turn my hand (or more appropriately, to lend that hand) toward steering “rough consensus” about what we should do today, and helping to foster a situation where everybody gets to have fun, and enjoy themselves.
Now, if only I could figure out how to bring this spirit and attitude to work, too!
Work. Work. Work. Go all day, deal with the rest of life as busy schedules permit, catch a few Zs, then get up and do it all over again. That’s the typical rhythm of life for most of us working stiffs, most of the time. Every now and then, though, it’s a good idea to make a break from the dull routine and go do something else.
That’s why I’ve found myself singing “I’m on vacation. I’m on vacation. I’m on vacation.” over and over again during the past few days. The family and I have broken with the usual routine and are spending our days together right now, exploring places and activities we’d never normally undertake during the week. And though the new routine has its own rhythm and I still fall into bed exhausted (or at least, pleasantly tired) each night, it’s different enough for me not just to recharge my batteries, but also to get some perspective on working life as well.
Summer is a traditional time for vacations. And although it’s hot and sometimes difficult to be outside wandering around, it’s a terrific break and a positive and pleasant change. I’m off for the next week, which I hope will be long enough for me to regain my balance, refresh myself, and to feel good about jumping back into the workaday routine by the time I officially return to my desk next Tuesday (June 27). In the meantime, I’ll be sharing some idle but hopefully also productive thoughts about working life and plans from the “different place” that is the vacation mindset. Please stay tuned for more, and I hope you too get the chance to change your venue and perspective in the same way soon, if you have recently done so already!
It’s summertime and the dog days are here. I live in Texas, where it’s HOT, HOT, HOT and where cool ideas can provide some welcome relief from the blast furnace that we call “the great outdoors” at this time of year. Maybe it’s not so bad where you live — and for your sake, I certainly hope that’s true — but nevertheless, I find myself thinking this morning that some cool career makeover ideas might be welcome, no matter where you might hang your hat. So here goes with three pointers to interesting, thought-provoking, and (hopefully) cool ideas on a career makeovers:
1. Joyce Schwartz at SelfGrowth.com has put together a nice article entitled “How to do a Career Tune-Up Every Season” where she provides tips on personal and professional development that target the summer season in particular.
2. Pat Van Haste offers some breif and interesting suggestions for your resume in “It’s Past Time for a Resume Tuneup” where pruning out the old and adding in the new (or recent) is the order of the day.
3. Rusty Weston from gargantuan jobsite Monster.com offers up his suggestions to take on the world in his article “Is It Time to Tune Up Your Skills to Compete Globally?” Actually, AFAIK, it’s *ALWAYS* time for an exercise like this…
Not enough for you, yet? Think about picking up a used copy of The Mid Career Tune-Up: 10 New Habits for Keeping Your Edge in Today’s Fast Paces Workplace from Amazon (pre-owned copies start there at a whopping $0.01, plus shipping, for a true price floor of about four bucks). Full of more exhortations on how to examine possible causes of a mid-career slump or loss of enthusiasm, and some good advice on how to deal with same. Comes from the American Management Assocation press (AMACOM) and takes the whole job/working thing pretty seriously, and thus also gives some serious advice and information to ponder, too. Combine business with pleasure, and read it on the beach if you like. It’s cheap enough that if you don’t like this book, you can give it to somebody else or Goodwill, even, without incurring too much out-of-pocket expense along the way. Enjoy!
The TechNet Evaluation Center released the combined Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 beta package today. Check out this warning that advises end users to steer clear:
Anybody who wants to grab the beta can do so, however, but the usual restrictions apply. To me the most onerous typical restriction is that the machine upon which such a beta gets installed usually has to be wiped and a clean base OS installed against which to apply the final version of the service pack when it becomes available. Thus, this isn’t for production machines by any stretch of the imagination, and I can readily understand why MS wants to discourage home or casual users frm attempting giddy experimentation with this code without fully appreciating what kind of work will be involved when it’s time to replace the beta with the final release.
That said, enterprise and other Windows 7 admins looking to evaluate the impact of SP1 — who usually have test machines at their disposal — will probably want to grab this update and get going on installation and impact analysis. SoftPedia has a pretty nice summary of SP1 available, including a useful overview of the changes that SP1 will bring to both Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. It’s worth checking out, if you want to understand better what’s under the hood here.
As of today (July 12, 2010), Microsoft has 4 more new SharePoint exams on its slate, two each that count toward Technical Specialist (MCTS) and IT Professional (MCITP) credentials:
- 70-573: TS: Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Application Development
- 70-576: PRO: Designing and Developing Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Applications
- 70-667: TS: Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Configuring
- 70-668: PRO: Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Administrator
SharePoint is gaining momentum and marketshare as a Web-based collaboration plus content creation and management system, and these exams should help to raise its credibility among enterprises and organizations interested in putting it to work as part of their day-to-day IT infrastructure.
There are a total of 6 MCTS exams on SharePoint currently available, and the two described in the preceding paragraph for MCITP also represent the complete collection of MCITP SharePoint certs currently available as well. Four MCTS SharePoint exams, plus substantial, documented OTJ (on-the-job) SharePoint experience is necessary to qualify for the SharePoint track in the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) program. So far, a “SharePoint flavor” for the Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) credential is still under development.