IT Career JumpStart


August 24, 2009  1:04 PM

An Old Concept Keeps Its Legs

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Dear Readers:

After seeing Emmett Dulaney’s latest selections for “Books of the Week” in his latest CertCities.com Certs Column, I sent him the following e-mail:

Dear Emmett:
When I came up with the idea for the Exam Cram series in 1996, I was unable to sell the concept to any of the big publishers. Today, it’s part of the Pearson Education family of imprints and still going strong. Nice to see your capsule summary of the original concept in your latest CertCities column, which reads “The third edition of the Network+ Exam Cram by Mike Harwood is a good study book for someone who has been implementing and administering networks for quite some time and now just wants to get certified in it. [italics added here for emphasis]” That impetus drove me to create this series, and it’s nice to see it’s still alive and well, even though I’m no longer involved in it day-to-day.
Hope all is well with you, too.
Take care,
–Ed–

Indeed, it is nice to see that people still understand why I was compelled to create this series of books in the first place. I was frustrated that somebody like myself — an experienced professional with a good technical background who just wanted to know how best to deal with an upcoming cert exam — had to purchase and wade through a great, big, expensive study guide simply to glean the information about what was on the exam and how best to prepare for its rigors and questions.

If you’re looking for a good tool for cert exam preparation and an Exam Cram is available on your exam topic, it’s probably worth a once-over in a nearby bookstore, or a trip to Amazon to see if it gets mostly picks, or mostly pans. When its rating is mostly positive (like the Harwood book to which Dulaney rightly gives the nod in his column) it can be a valuable addition to your arsenal of cert prep tools.

HTH,

–Ed–

August 19, 2009  9:27 PM

Performance-based MS exams take an 83 prefix

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Call it the end of an era, or perhaps the start of a brave new world. Others who, like myself, have gone looking for MS Exam 70-640 (TS: Windows Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuring) probably also walked away scratching their heads when they couldn’t find hide nor hair of this exam. A blog posted on MS “Born to Learn” yesterday entitled ‘What happened to “70-640?”‘ makes everything clear. This is a performance-based exam and as such is a relative rarity that will soon gain numerous other cohorts in the MS exam annals. As such, it gets a prefix of 83- (so it’s exam number 83-640), rather than the more familiar and expected 70-640. The exam is the same, and the same objectives still hold as described in the MS preparation guide (whose URL still includes the string ’70-640′ BTW! ;-). You just have to scroll down further in the Prometric exam listings to get to those that start with 83- and to finally wind up at 83-640.

Sign up today! Who knew?


August 17, 2009  1:25 PM

Do’s and Don’ts On the IT Job Hunt

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Once again, Esther Shein at IT Career Planet has struck gold in a recent story on the IT job front, as she did in April with her Social Networking story (about which I blogged on April 13 right here). This time, it’s a June 8 story entitled “Searching for an IT Job: The Do’s and Don’ts.” I stumbled across this story in response to an e-mail from a friend asking for good sources for resume rewrite tips, thanks to a lucky search engine hit on this lode of good advice.

Shein’s observations don’t necessarily introduce anything new or especially startling, but do include some excellent advice to consider as you re-read your resume with a gimlet eye, and think about how resume, cover letter and interview should all work together while you’re on the hunt for a new position. Here, I distill some of the most useful points from the story but also encourage you to follow the link in the preceding paragraph to read it in its entirety:

  • Focus on results, not just skills and knowledge. Tell prospective employers how you put skills and knowledge to work, what wins they led to, and how they helped the bottom line. Much more compelling than a list of stuff you know or have learned, or certifications earned.
  • Don’t sacrifice important detail to keep your resume short. It you have to leave important stuff out of your resume just to cram it into a page or two, you may short yourself in the candidate selection process. Provide more detail on your most recent positions, and only list jobs ten or more years old, with a proviso such as “Additional information on older positions supplied upon request” to help keep the length manageable, if necessary.
  • Go into specifics. While this notion gains importance for cover letters and interviews, tailoring your resume to meet specific employer needs or situations is smart, if you have the time and energy to craft your materials for specific opportunities. Use what you can learn or already know about the outfit and the open position to present yourself in the most appropriate and positive light. Here again, remember that technical info is good, but explaining how what you know and can do can help the bottom line is much, much better.

If you keep these ideas in mind as you prepare your materials, and go through the interview process, you’ll be much more likely to put yourself in a situation where you can pick and choose among multiple opportunities, rather than having to take the first offer that comes along. Good advice to remember, even when the economy picks back up and offers become more predictable and normal, rather than rare and unobtainable.


August 14, 2009  11:58 AM

Good Advice On Striking Out on Your Own

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

When I was a kid, lots of people smoked and thus, matches were everywhere, and matchbook covers provided the informational equivalent of cereal box copy in a slightly different venue and often in a very different vein. Of course, that was quite a while ago (I celebrated my 57th birthday last weekend) and the catchphrase “Be an Artist” probably doesn’t resonate with Gen X and 7 readers who never saw it plastered all over the inside back covers of  comic books and on matchbook covers at a young and tender age as I did.

If “Be an Artist” was a slogan for schoolkids seeking escape from the grind of daily studies, then “Be a Consultant” is the anodyne for work-weary IT professionals seeking a creative outlet from the daily grind. To those for whom this updated catchphrase has more than passing appeal, I’d like to recommend a recent article in Certification Magazine by Ken Sternberg entitled “Trend Spotting: Life as a Self-Employed Consultant.” In this story, Sternberg makes numerous valid points about scoring in the consulting game, using a profile of independent consultant Ken Conquest to illustrate them. Here’s a sampling of what you’ll find therein:

  • Nail down a technical degree from a good school
  • Pay your IT dues, and work your way up the food chain, wearing as many job hats as proudly and effectively as you can
  • Customer service skills and knowledge are good, because consulting is all about customer service
  • Soft skills to develop include conversation, effective listening, restating what was heard to clarify understanding, managing expectations
  • Whenever possible, under-promise and over-deliver
  • Make your certifications work for you, and put them to work in your resume, on your business card, and in your conversations with current and prospective clients

Readers seeking a lengthier, more humorous, and truly wonderful exposition of the consultant’s role in business could do a lot worse than to turn to Gerald Weinberg’s immortal classic The Secrets of Consulting (Dorset House, ISBN: 0932622013, 1985) or to turn to his identically titled blog. If you’re thinking about following the singleton’s route to IT bliss, be sure to check out these various resources. Good luck!


August 12, 2009  7:01 PM

Hmmm! What does “230 mpg” really mean?

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

In looking over the Larry Dignan blog for SmartPlanet, I find the headline “Chevy Volt: 230 mpg in city driving: $2.75 per 100 miles…” tantalizing at first, infuriating as I read on and discover the basis for the mathematics. This is only the charge for gasoline in a car that drives 40 miles on stored electrical power alone, and fails to include the charges for powering up the battery in the first place.

I don’t know where Larry lives, but in my part of the world, electricity is pretty expensive. Austin Energy, for example, charges $6 per month, plus 3.55 cents for the first 500 kWh, and 6.02 centers for each additional kWh over 500 from November through April, and 7.82 cents for each added kWh from May through October, not to mention the fuel adjustment charges that kick in. According to MichaelBlueJay.com, for an example, the 2009 average for Texas electricity is about 9.16 cents per kWh including all charges.

This all goes to show that when you decipher claims about performance, it’s essential to understand what’s being measured, and how related measurements are taken. While the old adage “you can’t monitor it, if you don’t measure it” remains as true and important as ever, it’s still important to know what’s being measured (and in this case, upon closer investigation) what’s not being measured as well.

Ultimately, the old IT acronym TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) will come into play for the Chevy Volt, as it does for all motor vehicles. Only then will we really understand what the $40,000 price for the vehicle actually pays for, and what other costs must be incurred to operate this vehicle over time and distance for commuting, travel, and so forth. Whatever those turn out to be, this promises to be a fascinating phenomenon to observe, and from which to learn.

Maybe we can start making similar claims about the Internet for miles per kWh. In that case, I’m sure the Internet will leave the Chevy Volt far, far behind!


August 10, 2009  4:00 PM

The Economist Echoes July 09 Job Situation Conclusions

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

One my favorite and most trusted news sources, in addition to NPR, is the British weekly news magazine known as The Economist. I’ve been a subscriber since the early 1990s, and have never had much cause to regret the $100-plus it costs me to get it delivered to my mailbox 51 weeks a year. I was therefore pleased to see the conclusions in my last Friday’s blog subtantially echoed in a recent story from their August 1 issue entitled “First, the good news.”

Although this story deals with the euro-area economy rather than the US economy, many of the same observations and conclusions emerge from its coverage. Although things still aren’t exactly good, and such recovery as we’ve seen still can’t be characterized as either strong or vigorous, indeed things lately aren’t as bad as they’ve been in the past. In some EU member countries, and some industry sectors, unemployment remains a pressing problem, particularly in Spain where rates in excess of 18% (!) are reported.

In European IT likewise, I suspect that bunker mentality (“hunker down and wait for things to improve”) also prevails. In e-mails from Europeans and Americans working in European IT-related jobs, I’ve confirmed that things aren’t completely dire, but that it’s still not time to be looking for a high-paying new position just yet, either.

Sounds like the situation on both sides of the pond is about the same for IT professionals. Let’s look for more signs of improvement when next month’s Employment Situation posts on September 4, just before Labor Day.


August 7, 2009  2:51 PM

The July 2009 Employment Situation Finally Posts

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

The markets and their followers have been abuzz with anticipation of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Situation Summary for July 2009, which just hit the Web and the newswires at 8:30 AM EDT this morning. Although analysts had anticipated a climb in the unemployment rate from 9.4 to as high as 9.7 percent, the lead paragraph includes the following very cheery items, which I expect should buoy those markets substantially today:

  • “the unemployment rate was little changed at 9.4 percent”
  • “the average monthly job loss for May through July (-331,000) was about half the average decline for November through April (-645,000)”
  • “nonfarm payroll employment continued to decline in July (-247,000)”

The last item actually appears first in the original source, but I list it last so I can remark that this is the lowest monthly job loss in quite some time. The ongoing trend that things are not as bad as they were before is continuing, though we’re still losing rather than gaining jobs.

Not all the items in this report are necessarily cheery, however. Here are some that might give pause to the inevitable thoughts about recovery, and let us know how far we have to go to regain equilibrium and move beyond into true economic and job growth:

  • “the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) rose by 584,000 over the month to 5.0 million”
  • “in July, 1 in 3 unemployed persons were jobless for 27 weeks or more”
  • Table A-11 indicates that unemployment in the “information” industry stands at 11.5 percent (as compared to 4.1 percent in July 2008), and in the “professional and business services” industry stands at 10.9 percent (as compared to 6.1 percent in July 2008) Table B-4 indicates that average hourly earnings in Information declined by 0.5 percent, and increased in Professional and Business Sevices by 0.2 percent.

What does all this mean? With a total of 15 million Americans still unemployed, things remain tough all over, particularly in IT, where things are somewhat worse than they are overall. It’s still time to sit tight, stay put, and keep an eye out for trouble heading your way. Hopefully all the talk about and longing for recovery will translate into tangible signs of same soon.


August 6, 2009  4:07 PM

Help Desk Institute and MS Team Up for Win7 Cert

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Microsoft and the Help Desk Institute (HDI) have teamed up to define a new IT professional credential on Windows 7. It’s called the MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Support Technician 7 aka MCITP: EDST7 and adds a requirement to pass one of two HDI hardware exams to the base level MCITP .

The base level MS requirements are:

  • 70-680 TS: Windows 7, Configuring
  • 70-685 Pro: Windows 7, Enterprise Desktop Support Technician

The HDI exams are:

  • HDI Support Center Analyst (HDI-SCA)
  • HSI Desktop Support Technician (HDI-DST)

Although other credentials (such as MCSA and MCSA) have permitted CompTIA certifications to be applied for credit in lieu of other MCP exams, this is the first time that Microsoft has required a third-party certification as part and parcel of earning an MS credential. It should be interesting to see how this turns out. For more information about applying the HDI exam for credit toward the MCITP: EDST7 credential, check out this Microsoft Certification page on the HDI site.


August 3, 2009  1:10 PM

After You Get Certified, the Real Work Begins

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

In reading over an interesting story by Lynn Lawton (international president of ISACA and the IT Governance Institute) at Certification Magazine entitled “I’m Certified…Now What?” I was reminded that while earning an IT certification does have intrinsic value, it’s what people actually DO with those credentials that really counts. For those in or facing this situation, I’d recommend reading her story, which is filled with good advice and suggestions (though it will soon become obvious to readers that her own organizational affiliations have dictated the certifications and subject matters she chooses and uses as examples to illuminate her coverage).

Beyond all the things that she mentions: getting the word out, displaying a framed certificate, asking for a raise or looking for a new position, and so forth, there is one more thing I’d like to encourage those preparing to earn a new credential, or those who’ve just passed the bar to same, to consider: how to describe their newly- or soon-to-be-earned cert in a variety of situations:

  • Quick hit: In sales lingo an “elevator pitch” is a very brief but compelling version of your story that you can deliver in 30 seconds or less — the time it takes to ride an elevator in a sizable office building. Using the popular CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) cert as an example that might go something like: “As a CISSP, I’m qualified to design, review, and oversee implementation of corporate or organizational security policies, including physical security, software security, and Internet security. I can also work with HR and training organizations to make sure employees understand the need for and value of information security.”
  • Cover letter/resume copy: This usually boils down to a paragraph that explains what the certification covers and why it has value. For the CISSP that could be expressed as: “The CISSP is built around a common body of knowledge that covers access controls, communications and network security, security management, security for software and systems development, cryptography and related encryption techniques, security architecture and models, operations security, business continuity and disaster recovery planning, security-related rules and regulations, ethics, and investigations, and physical security. This credential qualifies its holders to help research, forumulate, implement, and audit security policy for an entire organization or company, and to make sure that policy as stated and as implemented agree substantially with one another.”
  • Interview/promotion/raise discussions: Whereas the other items are amenable to quick, accurate examples, this topic should involve at least 5-10 minutes of conversation, so I can go only into the broad outlines of what goes into such a conversation. This is where you have to explain the content of the certification, and justify its value to your interlocutor in terms that demonstrate some kind of value add to his or her organization. Thus, instead of saying: “I know how to select a VPN for remote access that will provide encrypted access to internal information resources and assets,” you might start with such a statement, but then go on to add “This will protect Internet traffic from unauthorized snooping or access, and make sure any private or confidential information that traverses a remote access link remains safe from unwanted disclosure.” You might even want to add some discussion about SOX, HIPAA, or PCI (as relevant) to mention how this protects the organization from potential liability that unauthorized access can incur. Hopefully, you get the idea: tell them what’s in it for them, if they choose to make use of your cert-related skills and knowledge. If you do a good job, they’ll be eager to jump at this opportunity.

Overall, the idea is to sell yourself while also explaining and exploring the value of your certification and the knowledge, skills, and experience it’s led you to develop and acquire. Good luck with your new or upcoming credentials: take this approach to obtain the best return on your investment in earning it!


July 27, 2009  3:11 PM

Interesting Blog/Discussion on Windows Vista

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

I’m a long-time reader of Mary-Jo Foley’s “All About Microsoft” blog on ZDNet. One of her recent postings (7/23/2009) is entitled “The Scarlet V: What’s a Vista business user to do?” addresses some issues about migrating to Vista, even at a time when a newer operating system (Windows 7) is about to be released.  She observes that until recently, MS execs have continued to advise enterprise customers to continue with their Vista migration plans if those plans were already underway, but that they might want to skip ahead to Windows 7 if those plans were still in the planning (or considering) stages.

She then raises the interesting possibility that Vista users may be turning into second class desktop citizens at Microsoft, but proceeds to refute that possibility via an interview she conducts with Mike Angiulo, General Manager of Microsoft’s Planning and PC Ecosystem team. She then examines Dell’s position on migration, and talks about the US Air Force which has already deployed 90,000 Vista desktop and notebook installations. The question remains an interesting and puzzling one, though —namely: “What should enterprise customers who’ve started or planned to migrate to Vista do now, in anticipation of Windows 7’s October release?”

What really makes this blog post worth chewing on, however, is the Talkback section where readers have already posted 149 comments as I write this blog. Therein, you’ll find all stripes of Vista regard well represented, from total loathing, to “it’s just another OS, live with it” to “Vista is a good, solid operating system that works well and has caused no special problems for us.” Absolutely fascinating to read, because Vista stirs so much passion in the responses you’ll find, all across the love it/hate it spectrum. Be sure to check this one out.


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