Back in 2005, Microsoft was one of the first companies or organizations to introduce a software architecture certification — in this case, the Microsoft Certified Architect or MCA. With a resurgence of vendor-neutral architect credentials like those from The Open Group and the International Association of Software Architects (IASA), Microsoft recently announced it would discontinue its own vendor-neutral certs in this area. Instead, the company plans to provide financial and other support to both of those organizations to foster continued growth and coverage for increased professionalism in software arhchitecture out of house, and to focus exclusively on MCA offerings related to specific Microsoft technologies in-house.
To that end, the former head and originator of the MCA program within Microsoft, Andy Ruth, has left that company to go to work for IASA as its VP of Education. Ruth’s charter is to create career roadmaps and tools to help the group’s 60,000-plus members worldwide. He’s also working to define and implement an entire career path’s worth of software architecture credentials for that organization. Microsoft is also providing some funding for, and is working with both IASA and The Open Group to ensure that they continue to define and develop more vendor neutral IT architect credentials. The Open Group’s IT Architect Certification, like the IASA’s emerging IT Architecture certification program, both target the cultivation and professional development of software architects within a vendor-agnostic, if not vendor-neutral framework.
This approach is very much in keeping with other technical areas in IT, where professionals must often acquire both vendor-neutral and -specific credentials to demonstrate skills, knowledge and competence. In such situations, vendor-neutral coverage assures proper understanding of general skills and best practices in the overall field, complemented by vendor-specific skills and knowledge with particular frameworks, toolsets, and development or project management environments. IT professionals interested in software architecture will want to dig further into the offerings from The Open Group and IASA, particularly those individuals interested in or just starting down this career path.
Back in March 2010, Microsoft announced a special Veteran’s intiative called Elevate America to provide technology skills and related resources for returning military veterans and their spouses, to help them transition back into civilian life and take up useful and productive roles in the workforce. Recently, MS expanded on this initiative by announcing support for proposals from veteran’s service groups, work-force agencies, and nonprofits to assist in this effort. In fact, Microsoft plans to provide up to $2 million in cash grants, plus up to $6 million in software and other resources over the next two years to provide backing for their veteran’s support efforts. Veteran’s groups that have signed up for this initiative include the following:
- The American Legion
- Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)
- Paralyzed Veterans of America
- the USO (United Service Organizations)
- Wounded Warrior Project
In addition to competing for grants, these organizations will also provide members to serve in an advisory capacity with Microsoft to make sure that benefits, grants, and offerings match up to actual veteran’s needs and abilities.
This is a fantastic initiative, and I hope that Microsoft can up its financial and support antes even further, and will keep the program going for longer than two years. Studies show that it can take 4-5 years for many veterans to fully re-integrate into civilian life after returning from combat tours, and that some veterans take even longer than that to return to “normalcy” (and of course some sufferers of PTSD as well as other forms of more visible battlefield trauma never really complete that return journey at all). I’m hopeful that other technology companies will create similar programs.
I also think that we who work in IT and benefit from the sacrifice and suffering that our military personnel routinely accept as part of their jobs can turn around to pitch in and help their brothers in arms make the return to civilian life easier and faster. Where do we sign up?
Last Friday, as with the first Friday in each month, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics published its Employment Situation summary for the preceding month (April 2010). This time the numbers are all over the place, reflecting some positives and negatives, plus plenty of status quo unchanged values as well. Let’s march through the high points and attribute them to one of these categories (Up, Down, Sideways).
Upward Trends/Positive Changes
Job gains aer starting to spread across more industry sectors, including manufacturing, professional and business services, health care, leisure and hospitality, plus federal positions (thanks mostly to hiring for the 2010 census). 195,000 people also moved from the ranks of the unemployed into the employed column, the biggest recent move of this kind in many months. And finally, finally, finally numbers edged up for the Information industry: employment in this section is finally moving back down, from 10.1 percent in April 2009 to 9.4 percent in April 2010. Unemployment gains and losses were also adjusted upward for February and March, 2010, from -14,000 to +39,000 and +162,000 to +230,000, respectively. The most positive number is that for the increase in the size of the US labor force for April which, at 290,000, is the biggest jump in employment in the past two years.
Downward Trends/Negative Changes
The overall unemployment number increased slightly from 9.7 percent (where it had held steady for January through March, 2010) to 9.9 percent. Likewise, numbers for long-term unemployed persons — those out of work for 27 weeks or more — continued to climb to a total of 6.7 million (such individuals now comprise 45.9 percent of all unemployed workers). The numbers of “marginally attached” workers in the labor force (those who weren’t working, but wanted to and were available for work, and had searched for employment sometime in the past twelve months) also edged upward from 2.1 million in April 2009 to 2.4 in April 2010. The increase in discouraged workers (those not currently seeking employment because they believe no work is available to them) is even steeper: up from just under half a million (457,000) in April 2009 to 1.2 million in April 2010.
Sideways Numbers Show Little or No Change
Unemployment rates by demography that are little changed include those for Caucasians, adult men, adult women, teenagers, blacks and Hispanics. Involuntary part-time workers (those who’d like full-time jobs but can’t find any, who elect to work part-time rather than not at all) remained more or less unchanged at 9.2 million overall. Overall unemployment numbers are also pretty static in these industry sectors: wholesale trade, retail trade, information, and financial activities.
What Does All This Tell Us?
Things continue to thaw or improve on a “little by little, here and there” basis. This tells me that gradual improvement is taking hold in more places over time, but still in small increments rather than by leaps and bounds. I do see signs of improvement at present, with more to come, but it looks like any recovery will be slow and drawn out rather than quick and widespread. For IT workers, this means my ongoing mantra remains “Keep cool. Stay put.” I wish the news were different, but don’t we all?
Those of you who notice such things will recognize that my blogging frequency decreased dramatically over the past 5 months, culminating with my lightest month ever in April. It’s for the best reasons: I’ve been insanely busy with a big consulting project and also appeared as an expert witness in a trial that took place in Tyler, TX, at the US Fifth Circuit Court last week. The case is now over, and my consulting project is winding down (and ends on May 21) so I’m announcing that as of today, I’m back on my usual schedule of three times a week from here on out (and back up to 12 blogs monthly).
To those of you who missed me: “Thanks!” To those of you who didn’t, “Thanks, anyway!” And to those of you who could possibly care less: “Please keep up the good work!” I’ll be returning to my normal coverage of certification programs, promotions, and offerings, the IT employment situation, and IT career advice, information, and resources. If anybody’s got any burning questions, post them here, or look up my email on my Website at www.edtittel.com and drop me a line.
In my plans for the next few weeks:
- The short-lived MS Architect level certification is being phased out, in favor of an industry-wide, standards-based credential (and it’s not from MS, either). I’ll visit with the foks behind the program and report on my findings later this week.
- Information Security remains an evergreen area for certification and career development. I’ll be reporting on some new programs and activities in this arena, including several programs that target some new US Government backed or mandated elements.
- Looks at some IT career areas where opportunities abound, with attending information about training, experience, and certification (where applicable).
To one and all: “Thanks! It’s great to be back to a more normal (and I hope less hectic) schedule.”
Get ready for a new Microsoft certification program, aimed to sit between various single- or dual-exam CompTIA credentials and more advanced Microsoft credentials like the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) and the Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP). The program is going to be called the Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) or perhaps the Microsoft Certified Technology Associate (MCTA, but I’m sticking to MTA for the time being) and so far, several exams designed to bring CompTIA certified people with Server+, Network+, Security+ are in the works, along with some entry level developer stuff.
In the past couple of months, I’ve had some confidential sources inside the publishing industry fill me in on this, but didn’t feel comfortable sharing what I know until I ran across a brief piece from Emmett Dulaney at CertCities.com dated 3/24/2010 and entitled “Microsoft Creates New Certification” to let me know that enough info has leaked out for me to say the program exists. In addition to the credentials that Emmett calls out in his story, my information is that .NET development, project management, and other topics will also fall under the MTA umbrella.
Here’s a list of Microsoft exams that will relate to individual credentials under the MTA umbrella, lifted straight from the MS Learning Exam Index:
Note that these new exams all fall inside 98-3xx exam numbering, and that four of these five items already have links into the Microsoft Learning exam descriptions (links are provided). I don’t know when Microsoft plans to issue a formal announcement of the program, but the official available date is on or around June 1, so it’s going to have to be sometime soon. Look for more information here when and as that happens — I’ve already launched a formal “when can you tell me more about this?” query with the folks who handle PR for Microsoft Learning.
At the invitation of Microsoft Learning, I spent about forty minutes on the phone Wednesday with Chris Pirie, General Manager, Worldwide Sales and Marketing for that division within the company. We talked on a number of topics, most of which were centered around career start and career development, and I learned numerous interesting things that I’d like to share with you here.
Although IT may not yet have turned the corner (it’s one of only three sectors to continue losing jobs in the US as of the latest US BLS Employment Situation Summary, for example), Microsoft Learning sees ample indicators of an upturn ahead. Windows 7 is among a handful of key tools and technologies (also including Microsoft Exchange and Windows Server 2008) that is providing learning and skills development opportunities that should in turn lead to improved employment prospects for IT professionals, as well as career advancement or other positive job changes.
Pirie reported that Microsoft Learning had its best month in 8 years in July 2009, when they witnessed a huge increase in uptake of courses, exams, and other revenue-generating activities within the division. Since then, demand has tempered somewhat, but Microsoft Learning is still ahead for the current fiscal year (Microsoft’s FY runs from July 1 of Year-minus-One to June 30 of Year, so the current one started on July 1, 2009 and will end on June 30, 2010) and they expect it to be a very good one for their operations and activity levels, as well as for their bottom line.
In describing why this would ultimately be good for IT and IT jobs, Pirie alluded to an IDC report dated July 2009 entitled “The Economic Impact of Microsoft’s Windows 7, Worldwide.” As with any analyst report commissioned by the vendor whose products reported on, it’s probably worth treating this treatise with a bit of well-informed skepticism, if not the proverbial grain of salt. Nevertheless, this piece makes some interesting observations and arguments about the impact of Windows 7 on the entire IT economy (or the “Microsoft ecosystem” that this report uses as its term to describe that portion of IT most likely to be affected by Windows 7’s introduction and adoption). Some interesting numbers emerge from this piece, including support for as many as 7 million IT jobs worldwide and some staggering revenue numbers ($17.2 B in direct revenue to MS by the end of the 2010 calendar year, along with another $300-plus B in revenue for directly-related products and services).
Of course, the percentage of new jobs in this mix is not addressed, so we have no way of knowing what kind of dent it might make in the 12 percent unemployment in IT in the US, and the probably somewhat higher global number for IT unemployment that goes with it. But that’s where some other elements of my conversation with Pirie do shed some interesting light. Microsoft’s huge numbers for the current FY show the biggest growth vectors outside Europe, North America and the developed countries of the Pacific Rim. In fact, said Pirie, fully 25% of their 2009 numbers came from India (that is, one quarter of all the individuals who earned some kind of MS certification in 2009 were Indian). Other big growth areas include Africa, the Middle East, and South America, where IT is finally starting to assume the kind of role and importance it has long enjoyed in other more developed economies.
I ask Pirie: “What does all this mean to IT professionals?” and he comes out with some interesting answers. He sees leading edge technologies, including Windows 7, virtualization, and cloud-based development and services as what he calls “the sharp and pointy edge of things.” This is where learning and skills development will do IT pros the most good, and the topics from which they can reap the biggest rewards. He also believes it’s time for IT professionals to “step up their game” and pursue advanced training to position themselves for future trends and economic improvement. Although I know his ultimate aim is to sell training courses and certification exams (all of which also benefit from this exhortation) I have to agree that staying ahead of the curve is the right place for IT professionals in search of improved employment opportunities and enhanced job security as well. There is some gold in these remarks and reports, and it’s probably wise to give his exhortations some credence along with some genuine attention and consideration.
Microsoft has a pretty slick new Silverlight based education aggregation tool available, called the Microsoft Desktop Player. Just for grins I set up a query that specified me as an IT Pro, looking for resources on Win 7, in my role as an Enterprise Administrator focusing on Development/Pilot activities.
Here’s what pops up in response:
To the left of the control pane depicted in the preceding screenshots, you’ll find a playback area where the items you select will appear on your screen. I first tried it out on Firefox, only to learn that the player requires IE 6.0 or newer. In IE 8.0 it worked like a champ. It’s not a bad way to go spelunking through various MS Information offerings on technical topics, so why not give it a try?
Today’s the first Friday in a new month, so the US Bureau of Labor Statistics regales us with the previous month’s “Employment Situation Summary.” Once again, the big numbers show little sign of advance or retreat–gross unemployment continues to hold steady at 9.7 percent–but I see other signs of improvement and encouragement, even though the IT sector lost 12,000 jobs in March.
Why do I say this? Let me share some other numbers with you–namely job gains and (losses) for March on a sector-by-sector basis. Only three sectors were down in March (IT among them, alas) while all nine other sectors were at least slightly up for the month. With a strong majority of employment sectors finally showing job growth (though plenty of individual numbers are still in the red, as Table B-1: Employees on nonfarm payrolls by industry sector and selected industry detail will attest), it appears that we are finally turning a corner on the overall employment situation.
Here’s a quick summary of those numbers (positive numbers are unadorned, negative numbers are in parentheses):
|Sector||Net Chg||Sector||Net Chg|
|Mining & Logging||9,000||Construction||15,000|
|Financial Activities||(21,000)||Professional & Business Svcs||11,000|
|Education & Health Svcs||45,000||Leisure & Hospitality||22,000|
Although none of the numbers even begins to put a dent into our overall unemployment, it’s a welcome novelty to see so many of them in positive territory. It’s not enough to move the overall unemployment figure by even one-tenth of a percent (which translates into 157,000 people or so), but it’s still nice anyway.
Thanks to a warning e-mail from Wag-Ed flack Heather Vaughan (and I’m not using that term in a perjorative sense, she’s great to work with and very pro-active) I just took a look at the new and improved Microsoft Learning site, which now revolves around a re-imagined Learning Catalog. A quick look at my catalog reveals the new organization:
Things look cleaner than they used to, and the catalog is set up to permit easy browsing by type of content as intimated by the preceding screenshot, and by subject as well: there’s a search button labeled “By Product/Technology” outside the frame of the screencap, off to the top left of the Web page.
After remembering which Microsoft Live ID to use to access my personal training catalog (a must if you want to see what you’ve got in your hopper, so to speak) I was surprised to see how many courses I’m still on the hook for. I was also pleased to see that the Windows 7 offerings are now pretty darn complete with over 40 items on offer under that heading. Be sure to give it a visit, and check things out!
In looking at any number of recent reports on IT certification and salaries, it’s become pretty noteworthy that the Project Management Institute’s Project Management Professional (PMI PMP) is emerging as a “must-have” credential for IT professionals interested in developing their career potential — especially for those interested in assuming team or project lead positions, if not making the transition from individual contributor to technical management. The same Global Knowledge report that I’ve mentioned in recent blogs has been picked up and reported on all over the place, including GoCertify.com, ZDnet.com, and so forth, with a particular emphasis on the top 5 spots in those results.
With the PMP now enshrined at the top of this heap, I’m inclined to grant kudos and praise where it’s obviously due. I’ll do so, however, in a non-obvious way — namely, by explaining how project management helped me turn my book-writing skills into a hoppin’ and poppin’ business. For those who don’t know my background, a little history: as I was studying for MS cert exams in the 1996-1997 time frame (following the release of Windows NT 4.0 and all the certs that went with it) I discovered that the only study guides available at the time were great, big, hefty encylopediac tomes that work as well as doorstops as they do at delivering the goods. I developed a series of books called “Exam Cram” that sought to tell knowledgable professionals only the barest minimum of information they needed to know to prep for such tests. With the series still going strong today, and with titles for all the major IT certifications (and numerous other fields besides), the idea has some continuing legs and remains the second most popular computer books series around, second only to …For Dummies. From 1998 until 2004, in fact, my small team of 6 full-time staffers produced 45-55 certification titles yearly over that entire period.
What does this have to do with project management? I’ll tell you: we had to crank these books out so quickly, and then as new topics and versions kept popping up, so often, that the only way to make the normal publishing process work was to build each title around a project manager. That person became responsible for all phases of each book’s design, development, writing, editing, and finally, production. At several points in time, my staff and I had as many as 20 books going at the same time. With that kind of work volume (and workload) we simply couldn’t have kept up if not for rigorous, well-planned and closely tracked project management people keeping track of progress, solving problems, and making sure work got finished on time and at or under budget.
This applies to all kinds of areas of work, especially in the IT domain. If you’re interested in becoming a player in the field, and like to be in the middle of the action, I’d urge you to look into and if you are interested to earn the PMP certification. It will change your life and career, and help you grow your personal and professional skills and knowledge more than you might think. Check out the PMP at the www.pmi.org Website: you can find classroom and online courses, study guides, practice exams, and all kinds of ways and means to prepare for and earn this valuable credential. Highly recommended…and yes, there’s an Exam Cram for this credential, too!