IT Career JumpStart


July 27, 2009  2:52 PM

About Oracle’s Hands-on Cert Training Requirements

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Anybody who reads this blog regularly already knows that Anne Martinez’ Web site GoCertify.com is a favorite go-to resource for me when I’m researching information about the certification marketplace and its various programs and offerings. Recently, Anne has added a blog to the site that includes guest slots from all kinds of industry participants — including me on odd and infrequent occasions — that’s worth dropping in on from time to time.

I was reminded of this when visiting over the weekend, as I saw a posting from Oracle learning staff Harold Green entilted “Oracle Certification and the Hands-On Course Requirement…” In addition to explaining how and why Oracle adopted the position that some classroom training had to be mandatory for their database administrator and developer related certifications, Green also raises some interesting points about the values and virtues of requiring some training along the way to a professional certification of some kind. Here’s a direct quote “In an era where complaints that ‘paper certifications’ were devaluing some certification programs’ offerings, Oracle made the tough decision in 2002 that mandatory training would be required for most tracks. All new entrants after November 2002 would be required to attend an Oracle course, interact with an Oracle trainer, and participate in the in-class labs.” They’ve stuck firmly to this position ever since.

I can see some pros and cons for this approach. Certainly, the pros for the certifying body are many: some assurance of attendance in commercial training, a chance to expose candidates to qualified instructors and to observe their skills and abilities first hand, increased assurance that candidates get exposed to important tools, techniques, and skills development, and more. But on the students’ side, those pros are offset by the often high cost of training involved, though most people who attend such training do report that it has at least some value, and many rank it as a positive learning experience.

My take on the Oracle program, and many others like it, would be that the value could be greatly enhanced if they would reserve a number of free seats in each class and offer competitive scholarships to those who can demonstrate a real need for financial support. My biggest issue with the mandatory training approach is not that it requires attendees to pay for training, but rather, that it blocks those who would like to attend but who can’t afford to cover the costs involved.

What do you think of this situation? Post a comment here to share your opinions and outlook on this sometimes thorny subject.

Thanks,

–Ed–

July 24, 2009  1:52 PM

Final MCP Exam Voucher winner: Flavio B from Brazil

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Flavio B (who lays claim to an impressive number of middle names as well) does very well with his English, despite being a non-native speaker. I did a little bit of editing on his responses, most to clarify, correct minor spelling and grammatical errors, and to clarify a few points somewhat. I hope he’ll post corrections to this information if I inadvertently introduced any errors or misrepresentations. FYI, my additions to his submission are enclosed in square brackets [ … ].

Flavio B, Brazil

Flavio B Brazil
1. What do you currently do for a living?
   I work for a Oil & gas company administering infrastructure system (full-time job) and teaching MOC classes (part-time job in MS Official Curriculum courses).

2. Please describe your educational background.
   I have an incomplete [Bachelor’s] degree in statistics.

3. What kinds of certifications do you currently hold, if any?
   I have MCSE for NT 4, Windows 2000, 2003 and [MCITP] Server/Enterprise Admin 2008.

4. How has earning a certification helped advance your career?
   Besides the fact that my salary had a big raise since the beginning, now I’m more prepared, have more knowledge, and I have more skills than ever.

5. What exam do you plan to use the MCP voucher for?
   I achieved all certifications I had planned for 2009 and have no immediate plans, but probably will use the voucher for some exam on Windows 7 technologies so I can keep updated on the newer technologies.

6. What kind of advice do you have for your peers and colleagues about earning a certification?
   Certification is good, but it’s not all you have to do. A good college is VERY important. Good relationships with other people are important, too. Among other things I recommend studying ITIL/Cobit and other tecnologies like Linux.
    a) How about finding a job?
    Even with good skills, finding a job in my country is very difficult. As systems became more stable, less Admins are needed to maintain those that companies are running. So, layoffs sometimes occur and the remaining admins have to deal with the same systems with less resources.
    b) What about improving your career prospects or outlook?
    Improving my career now depends on various internal projects at my company. One of the projects is a Novell Netware migration in which directory [services] and files must be migrated to a new Windows 2008 environment. After that, new projects will arise.

This concludes my coverage of our recent free MCP voucher contest. I hope you have learned as much from your peers and colleagues as I have, and gotten an extra erg of inspiration to help you pursue your own career development goals!


July 23, 2009  3:14 AM

MCP Exam Voucher Winner John C.

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

John C, Virgina Beach, VA

1. What do you currently do for a living?

I am a Systems Engineer and work with databases – primarily SQL Server but some Oracle. I started on SQL Server version 6.5 and have tested on all versions since then. This has been my work for the last ten years. Prior to that I was a Network Administrator for three years and moved into SQL Server to gain a specialization. I have also taught Microsoft technical courses as an MCT on a freelance, part-time basis.

2. Please describe your educational background.

I graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration from Ferris State College in Big Rapids, Michigan in 1982. I earned a Master of Information Technology degree from Virginia Tech in 2007.

3. What kinds of certifications do you currently hold, if any?

MCTS: SharePoint Services 3.0
MCITP: SQL Server 2008
MCITP: SQL Server 2005
MCDBA: SQL Server 2000
MCSE
MCP+I
MCT (former)
CTT+
A+
CCNA

4. How has earning a certification helped advance your career?

It gave me credibility when I was making a career change from Accounting  to Information Technology. I keep taking exams and gaining new certifications because in this industry, if you’re not advancing, you’re falling behind. I don’t want to become obsolete.

5. What exam do you plan to use the MCP voucher for?

SharePoint Server (MOSS) exam 70-630

6. What kind of advice do you have for your peers and colleagues about earning a certification?

Look at what’s in demand and what’s up and coming. Get involved with local user groups for networking purposes and to help keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on in your community.

John C. is the next-to-last of the individuals I’ll be profiling for our recent contest. Our last winner, Flavio B from Brazil, will be featured in my next blog on Friday.


July 21, 2009  1:54 PM

The enduring value of IT certification

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

In running the contest to select winners for some MCP exam vouchers graciously donated by Microsoft, and in profiling four of the six winners (so far, I’m still chasing the other two) I’ve found myself revisiting several thoughts and ideas that have confronted me throughout my dozen years toiling in and around the IT certification marketplace. I’ll state these ideas briefly and directly, then comment a bit on the thoughts and observations they prompt.

  • Earning IT certifications takes real time, money, and effort.
    As obvious as this is (and should be) lots of people don’t really get just how much time and effort is involved (the money is pretty straightforward) until they go through the process a few times. We’re talking about giving up evenings and weekends, sacrificing on leisure or family time, and knuckling down to get some real work done.
  • Acquiring and maintaining IT certifications really can help an IT career.
    If there’s one thing that pops out at me from my interviews with the winners, and from thinking about those I know who’ve earned major certs and then put them to work on the job, it’s that the same interest and passion that goes into earning IT credentials can also be employed to help people advance their careers. Does that mean there’s no real connection with the IT certifications themselves, but only with the drive required to earn them? No; rather, it means that you have to talk them up, use them, and build on them to do your career some good.
  • For some, IT certifications are like potato chips: they can’t earn only one.
    All of the winners had passed at least a dozen IT cert exams, and many had earned half-a-dozen IT certifications or more. Most started with A+ and/or Network+, then went on to chew through two or more mid-range Microsoft certs such as MCSA and MCSE, with MCTS and MCITP credentials either earned or underway (why else would they want to win an MCP exam voucher?)
  • IT Certs build confidence as well as competence.
    To a person, all the winners talked about how earning IT certifications helped them in their careers because they improved their attitudes and confidence about encountering and handling problems on the job, as much because of the experience they gained in developing problem-solving, research, and learning skills in earning certifications as because of the various subject matters they had to master to pass their exams.

I’ll be commenting further on this experience in upcoming blogs, but thought you would find these observations interesting. I’ve seen this all before, but it’s refreshing to see it again, especially in such a positive light in these times of economic crisis and uncertainty.


July 17, 2009  3:55 PM

With RTM in Sight, Look for MS Learning to Gear Up on Win7

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Now that the Windows 7 RTM is in plain sight, and should be trickling into lots of hands pretty soon — see my recent Windows Enterprise Desktop blog — expect an onslaught of Windows 7 training materials, exams, labs, and more to start blasting forth from MS Learning. Indeed a quick search there on Windows 7 already turns up lots of interesting stuff including (bulleted items all quoted directly from the preceding search engine results):

I predict there will be lots more to follow, possibly in the next 30 days. For sure, there’ll be more before September is over, and no doubt a full slate will be announced on or before October 22, the Windows 7 general availability (GA) date.


July 15, 2009  1:59 PM

MCP Voucher Winner Renne B from The Phillipines

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

1. What do you currently do for a living?
I am currently working as an IT Operations Head/Team Lead for an IT Outsourcing Company here in our country and also doing some part-time jobs as an IT Instructor.
 
2. Please describe your educational background.
I started my studies with an Associate/Vocational degree and currently on my way on pursuing my Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science

3. What kinds of certifications do you currently hold, if any?
I currently hold MCP, MCDST, MCTS, MCITP and various local government certification credentials from our Country’s Technical Education Department (TESDA).

4. How has earning a certification helped to advance your career?
It really helped me a lot, it boosted my morale alongwith my career, and I got everyone’s recognition and acknowledgment. It is an important stepping stone to success in reaching my goals in life.
 
5. What exam do you plan to use the MCP voucher to take?
I am planning to continue on pursuing my MCSA Credential, particularly Exam 70-290 and/or 70-291.
 
6. What kind of advice do you have for your peers and colleagues about earning a certification?
Certification is very crucial because it defines an industry standard, a commitment to a level of knowledge and learning that can be relied upon. Like a professional license, certification offers structured and reliable evidence of skills. Through certification you can show current and prospective employers what you’ve really got to offer. Saying so is one thing, but proving it is enitrely another.
 
As this epigram from Microsoft notes: “GREAT IT PROFESSIONALS AREN’T BORN, THEY’RE CERTIFIED” 
 
Special Message:
Hello Ed, thank you very much for choosing me to be one of the lucky winners of your exam vouchers. I am really grateful and thankful for this wonderful opportunity, may God Bless you and your family.
 
Again, I thank you very very much.

<end Renne’s testimonial>

All I can say to Renne in return is “You’re very welcome, and good luck with your continuing career development activities.”

Best wishes,

–Ed–


July 13, 2009  2:42 PM

MCP Voucher Winner Interview: Thomas L, Essen, Germany

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Thomas L, Essen, Germany

1. What do you currently do for a living?

I’m living in Germany, in Ruhr Metropolis Essen, which has been selected as the European Capital of Culture for 2010. I’ve been working in the IT Business for more than 12 years. Since May 2005 I’ve been working as a Consultant for Avanade Deutschland GmbH, a Microsoft and Accenture joint venture, on large national and international projects.
2. Please describe your educational background.

I’m a Graduate Engineer for Vehicle Engineering. From 1990 – 1997 I studied Vehicle Engineering at the University of Applied Sciences in Cologne, Germany.

3. What kinds of certifications do you currently hold, if any?

MCITP – Enterprise Administrator, Charter Member
MCITP – Server Administrator, Charter Member
MCTS – Microsoft Windows 7, Configuration, Charter Member
MCTS – System Center Configuration Manager 2007, Configuration
MCTS – ISA Server 2006
MCTS – Desktop Optimization Pack, Charter Member
MCTS – System Center Virtualization Manager 2008, Charter Member
MCTS – Essential Business Server, Charter Member
MCTS – Hyper V, Charter Member
MCTS – Microsoft Windows Vista, Configuration
MCTS – Business Desktop Deployment with the BDD
MCTS – Windows Server 2008 Active Directory Configuration
MCTS – Windows Server 2008 Application Platform Configuration
MCTS – Windows Server 2008 Network Infrastructure Configuration
MCSE – Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2000, and Windows NT 4.0
MCSA – Windows Server 2003, and Windows Server 2000
MCP – several MCP exams for MCSE / MCSA

4. How has earning a certification helped to advance your career?

Certification has always been very important for the companies I was and I am working for. When I changed employers in former positions, I was always up-to-date certified. That was my advantage – the new employer did not have to spend money for me to take courses or certifications. It’s always better to say I have than I will.

My current employer is requesting all his employees to keep their certifications up to date. The earlier you archive a current certification the better it is for your career. Beside other factors certification is currently necessary for a promotion to step forward to the next career level.

For my employer, the best skilled and certified employees are a business advantage compared to other companies that don’t have such people. Our customers set a high value on such consultants and when in doubt they will always choose a certified one. Such people are easier to sell, and that is an advantage for both parties, employer and employee.

5. What exam do you plan to use the MCP voucher to take?

70-635: TS Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2008, Desktop Deployment

6. What kind of advice do you have for your peers and colleagues about earning a certification?

Try to be the first one certified on new technologies like Windows Server 2008 or Windows 7. Use the Microsoft Website, the Technet Forums, the different Blogs and some latest books  to get the theoretical knowledge about the product. Take some time and set up a (virtual) environment and play around with the particular product. Learn by doing, install, configure and maintain the product according to the skills being measured. If you have a problem, you can walk through the Microsoft communities to find if others have similar issues – mostly they have and you are not alone. If you can’t find a solution for your problems, feel free to ask the community and you will see, there will be a hint or even an answer. Learn how the product looks and feels, and then the questions in the exams will be familiar for you.

6.a. about finding a job?

Use the Internet or your local newspapers and computer magazines for suitable jobs. You will see that a lot of employers require up-to-date certificates. If you haven’t completed your certification road yet, don’t hesitate to contact the company anyway. Mostly there will be enough time to complete your certifications until the new job begins. Show the new potential employer that you have a deep knowledge of the product you are interested in. Don’t give him the feeling that you need four options from which one will be correct.

6.b. about improving your career prospects or outlook?

Try to be the first to be up-to-date certified and find a certification roadmap that meets your needs. You will find exams for developers, administrators, and engineers. And you will find add on certificates for those who keep a basic certification like MCSE or MCITP Enterprise Administrator. Stay on your road and don’t get upset by new exams. First of all finish your exam series like MCSE, if you have already most of the required exams. And then choose update exam to get up-to-date. And don’t be afraid to ask your employer paying the exams and the training courses, books, and equipment. Most of them will support you during your certification roadmap because it’s good for them to have certified employees.

Thanks very much for entering, Thomas, and for providing such good and helpful advice. Again: congratulations on your win.


July 10, 2009  5:07 PM

MCP Voucher Winner Interview: Steven M from Canada

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Here’s his filled out questionnaire, in its entirety:

1. What do you currently do for a living?
 
I am an IT application Specialist working in Intermediate IT. I have years of experience in the non-for-profit sector who has now moved over to corporate work. I see myself as a chief grunt and bottle washer, my job is to make the vision happen, or figure out what is needed to make it happen. Like a sergeant in the army my job is to get things done, and done well.
 
My goals are to be a lifelong learner, to continue to grow my skill set both professionally and personally. To be a student of both the profession and life.

2. Please describe your educational background.
 
I have been in University part time for the last 20 years. I have done minors in computer science, Geographical science, psychology and religious studies. I graduated college in IT in 2007 with a 2 years associates degree Network Specialist + from triOS College. I am currently enrolled in my last course to graduate from the University of Waterloo with a BA.

3. What kinds of certifications do you currently hold, if any?
 
Here is my list of current certifications:
 
MCSE Windows Server 2003
MCSA Messaging Microsoft Windows Server 2003
MCTS Windows Server 2008 Active Directory: Configuration
MCTS Windows Server 2008 Network Infrastructure: Configuration
MCTS Windows Server 2008 Applications Infrastructure: Configuration
MCTS System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008, Configuration
MCTS SQL Server 2005 Implementation and Maintenance
MCSA Windows Server 2003
MCP 2.0
MCTS Business Desktop Deployment
CompTIA Network+
MCP
MCITP Consumer Support Technician
MCITP Enterprise Support Technician
MCTS Microsoft Windows Vista: Configuration
CompTIA A+ IT Technician
CompTIA A+ Remote Support Technician
CompTIA A+ Depot Technician
Microsoft Office Specialist Microsoft PowerPoint 2002
Microsoft Office Specialist Microsoft Outlook 2002
Microsoft Office Specialist Microsoft Access 2002
Microsoft Office Specialist Microsoft Excel 2002
Microsoft Office Specialist Microsoft Word 2002
 
You can see some of my planned certifications here.

4. How has earning a certification helped to advance your career?
 
I was out of work after an injury and even though I had almost 20 years computer experience, I had no current formal training and no certifications. I applied for job after job without success.. While at triOS college and working towards my diploma and my certifications I continued to update my resume on Workopolis.com a head hunter found it there, and my current employer is the second job he submitted me for. Both my college and certification experience helped me get that contract job and I have since become a permanent full time employee. My certifications helped me to bypass the usual probationary period, because they showed marked skill.

5. What exam do you plan to use the MCP voucher to take?
 
I plan on taking 70-647 Windows Server Enterprise Admin, to finish upgrading my MCSE to Server 2008 technology.

6. What kind of advice do you have for your peers and colleagues about earning a certification?
 
In my opinion certification can only ever help you. You can prove existing knowledge. It is a good way to gain new knowledge and learn new technology. One of the best ways to make yourself learn something new is to be invested in it. If you have bought the exam voucher and only have a year or it expires, it motivates you to put in that extra time and effort to learn the material and to prepare for the exam.

6.a about finding a job?
 
Be persistent, I applied for over 100 jobs while off work, without a single interview. Then  a head hunter got me two interviews and a job in under 4 months, once I had more current training and certifications on my resume. Use all the tools at your disposal, LinkedIN, Workopolis, Monster.

6.b about improving your career prospects or outlook?
 
Consider training and upgrading your skills, find out what certifications are hot and in demand, then go after one. If your off work, discipline your time, spend part of each day work searching and part training and prepping for certs. Treat looking for work like a job, get up at a set time, do a set amount of work each day. If you can afford to prepare for certs and have the discipline for self study include that in your daily schedule. Be persistent. Ask for help when you need it, both on the training and the job search front.

(Ed just as an aside triOS college is a modular program , you only take one course at a time,  4 hours a day in Class 1 in lab, and do one course after another. They have already dropped MCSE, and replaced with 70-640,70-642, 70-646 and the three Blackberry Admin Certs. The program when I did it was A+, Net+ Career Management, 70-620, 70-290, 70-291, 20-293, 70-294, 70-298, 70-299, 70-622, Linux+, 70-284, 70-431, Business Communications, Career Development. Now the program is A+, Net+ Career Management, 70-620, 70-622, Linux+, Blackberry Support Specialist, 70-640,70-642, 70-646, Scripting with Power Shell, Virtualization, 70-236, 70-431, Business Communications, Career Development.) The program changes year by year and even term by term as new technologies become prevelant.


July 8, 2009  4:00 PM

MS Exam Voucher Winners for “Cert Success” Contest

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Here is a list of winners by first name and last initial, plus city and state (US) or country (outside US). All the winners should have received an e-mail from SearchNetworking.com by now, asking for their mailing addresses so that the physical paper vouchers may be mailed to them (if you haven’t gotten such a message yet, please post a comment here to the blog and I’ll work with you to get this taken care of). For the benefit of all and sundry, here are the names, in order of ranking (highest ranked response comes first):

  • Melissa S Spring, TX
  • Thomas L Germany
  • John C Virginia Beach, VA
  • Renne B Philippines
  • Flavio B Brazil
  • Steven M SE Ontario, CA

Now that they’ve all won, I need each of the winners to fill out the following questionnaire, so that I can write up interviews with each of them, mostly for this blog. As the “big winner” Melissa S. of Spring, TX, will be profiled in a SearchNetworking.com article as soon as I can get her on the phone for an interview, and write up the results. Stay tuned for lots more information about all of these folks right here!

Winner Questionnaire:
1. What do you currently do for a living?
2. Please describe your educational background.
3. What kinds of certifications do you currently hold, if any?
4. How has earning a certification helped to advance your career?
5. What exam do you plan to use the MCP voucher to take?
6. What kind of advice do you have for your peers and colleagues about earning a certification?
    about finding a job?
    about improving your career prospects or outlook?

Please cut and paste the questionnaire into an e-mail message and send it to me ASAP at ed at edtittel dot com. Your speedy replies will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks to one and all who participated. It was an interesting batch of entries to consider, and lots of fun to choose and rank the contestants.

–Ed–


July 6, 2009  4:50 PM

Comments Always Welcome! Choose Your Programs Wisely!!!

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Recently, I received a comment from a reader on my August 18, 2008 blog entitled “Understanding What Drives IT Salaries,” from an astute young reader named Ronald Moore. He observed that it makes sense to choose an academic computer science or MIS program that prepares students for multiple certifications as a way of jump-starting one’s assault on the workplace with both degree and certifications in hand. He goes on to mention earning a CS degree that prepared him for a whole laundry list of certs, including A+ and CCNA plus various Microsoft and Oracle credentials as well. Very interesting!

For those considering such options, I’d urge you to factor the certs mentioned against their age and planned obsolescence. Ron’s not in bad shape, even if he does decide to go after an MCSD in .NET or an MCDBA credential. But with a new version of Windows Server now on the drawing board for 2011, certs based on Server 2003 (such as the MCDBA and the MCSD) are nearing their expiration dates. It doesn’t make sense to tout preparation for a cert that won’t be around for too much longer, but given the sometimes glacial speeds at which academic programs move along, that’s a possibility that prospective candidates must ponder when choosing any kind of training program that involves certification, academic  or otherwise.

I’d urge prospective students (and their parents) to quiz the admissions folks about how programs adapt and evolve to accommodate new certifications as old ones age out of the picture. I guess an outdated cert may be better than no cert, but isn’t worth anywhere near as much as a current one. If the idea is to help degree holders to get an edge into the job market, it’s best to make sure that the edge stays sharp and provides a way to cut through the red tape into the short list of “real job contenders” when the time comes to enter the workforce.


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