IT Career JumpStart


February 6, 2009  4:57 PM

MS Leaks “Career Assist” Details in Blog



Posted by: Ed Tittel
adult education, Career Assist Program, Career planning, continuing education, IT career planning, IT careers, IT certification, Microsoft certifications, Second Shot Program

Microsoft Certification Project Manager Ken Rosen has let slip the details on the “Career Assist” program in a post to his Born to Learn blog. It actually went up on Wednesday as I was waiting for official word from MS, and reports the same Friday, February 6, public release date that MS PR shared with me yesterday by phone. You can see his original language at “Oh, the heck with it…

Here are the salient details:

  • Between today (2/6/2009) and June 30th (6/30/2009) individuals who register for Microsoft’s Second Shot program can get an E-Learning Collection for $35.
  • This e-learning offering remains available for only 90 days (rather than the usual 180 days for full-price e-learning collections).

It will be interesting to see if this also applies to Premier Collection 6337, as I wondered in yesterday’s blog. It seems pretty clear that this is a “one and only one” kind of offer, though Rosen says that those signed up for Second Shot already will have to sign up again to qualify for the e-learning discount. Does that mean if somebody is willing to work hard enough between now and the end of June that they can knock off more than one collection to prepare for multiple exams? That’s not yet clear, but when MS does release the final, official word some time today, I’ll post an addition to this blog to clear things up.

After all the initial hoopla, I was hoping for something more (and thus, also find myself hoping that this is an “all-you-can-eat” deal rather than a “single-serving” one). But only time, and Microsoft, will tell…

10:53 AM CST (GMT/UCT -06:00) 2/6/2009 –Ed–

Update on 2/10 10:41 AM CST

Career Assist is now live and official. Read more about it on Born to Learn. My guess was correct: it is a one-and-only-one offer so once you sign up for a single collection, that’s the only item of that type for which you will qualify for the discounted $35 price. Still one heck of a deal, though, and obviously intended to entice more students into the e-learning classroom for other, follow-on courses at full price. No all you can eat, though. Bummer!

February 5, 2009  4:45 PM

Stay tuned for further “Career Assist” news from MS



Posted by: Ed Tittel
adult education, Career development, Career planning, continuing education, IT certification, Microsoft Career Assist, Microsoft certifications, Microsoft e-learning

Alas, the program details for the “Career Assist” program from Microsoft foretold to me last week have yet to materialize. The original launch date for this program was supposed to have been yesterday (February 4) and I waited on this blog to discuss them until the day had come and gone. Instead I got a nice apology from the PR folks for Microsoft Learning citing some unexplained but undeniably real delays in getting the word out. At this point, all I can say is “stay tuned for further details.” I’ll follow up as soon as I can get more information on what promises to be an interesting and potentially valuable cert-prep offering from Microsoft.

At this point, all I know is that Microsoft plans to offer a major discount–as much as 90%–off the price of some of its e-Learning collections. As a quick visit to the E-Learning catalog will quickly reveal (thanks to the “Most Popular” default Sort order that shows what is selling best already), the top items there are invariably collections of some kind or another.  Likewise, change the sort order to “Price (High-Low)” and collections all float to the top thanks to their higher sticker prices. You’ll see numbers that range from a high of $960 (Premium Collection 6337: Upgrade Your Windows Server 2003 MCSE…) to a great many in the $200-400 range, many of which also target specific certfication exams (70-293, 70-536, 70-431, 70-272, 70-294, and on and on). Search on “70-” and you’ll see all the items (primarily also collections) that focus on specific certification exams.

At this point, I find myself really wanting to hear and know more about this planned program. At current prices, the offerings are interesting. At substantial discounts they may be too good to pass up! I also just touched base with MS PR by phone and they tell me all will be revealed some time tomorrow, so you won’t have to stay tuned for too much longer. Be like me, and try to be patient.


February 2, 2009  3:58 PM

Microsoft readies financial aid for IT pros



Posted by: Ed Tittel
Career development, Career planning, IT certification, Microsoft certifications, Microsoft e-learning

When I read on the MS learning center site last month that the company had plans to help cash-strapped IT professionals boost skills and knowledge, quite naturally I e-mailed their PR folks to ask what was up. At the time, they couldn’t yet tell me anything but I have recently come into possession of some information that provides a foretaste of announcements planned for next week in this general arena.

A new learning program is on its way from Microsoft: it will be called “Career Assist,” and will be laid out in detail on Wednesday, February 4. Certain e-learning course collections–especially those that aim at specific certification exams–will become subject to a substantial discount (wish I’d saved my $100 of “try-it-out money” already spent last month to investigate offerings for this opportunity!). The Second Shot offer will also attach to this program, so that individuals who go on to take exams based on their learning will be allowed a second, free re-take if they don’t pass on a first try.

The whole idea is to make obtaining certification easier and more affordable. I’m not necessarily sure about the “easier” part because none of the content or exam coverage has changed (nor am I sure anybody really wants it to). But for those willing to follow an e-learning path toward certification preparation, those costs are going to get significantly cheaper. And because MS has focused its e-learning collections first and foremost at the most popular/sought-after certification exams, this could provide an interesting double-whammy where the costs of self-study actually go down for the first ime in many, many years.

Be sure to visit the Microsoft Learning pages on February 4 to get all the details. I know I will!


January 28, 2009  6:13 PM

NPR weighs in on re-employment: “Move where the jobs are”



Posted by: Ed Tittel
Career planning, IT careers, IT job search

My weekday morning wake-up routine always includes at least a half-hour of news from National Public Radio, and this morning was no exception. I did hear an interesting bit in their news coverage today, however: some very good advice about how to cope with a layoff. I can’t find the story on their Website just yet, but if the dates on existing stories are any indication it will post tomorrow or the day after.

The essential points of this story were these:

  • Americans have become much more rooted in their locations than they were even 10 years ago
  • If you get laid off, it makes sense to move where the jobs are, rather than staying put and hoping for the best

Though it may be tempting to wait and see if the economic recovery or stimulus bucks from the US Government help to alleviate job scarcity in some areas, the reporter made the excellent point that the longer one waits to get into a new job, the more profound the resulting impact on feelings of self-esteem and well-being, as well as the greater the financial impact involved.

At 56 this news hit me like a slap in the face. I already hate to move my household and that tendency has only increased as I’ve gotten older. But it’s undeniable that the best way to find a job if you’re out of work is to go where the prospects are at least positive, rather than “slim to none.” Obviously this has the biggest impact on rural or non-metropolitan areas where a small number of big employers can cause a savage impact on the local economy through layoffs or site/plant closure.

Upon reflection and a grim encounter with my own resistance to the idea, I have to agree that when jobs are scarce, the best hunting has to be in those areas where there’s still some “game” to be found. And although I would hate to have to sell my house, pack up all my wordly goods, and uproot my family, it would be a better strategy than staying where only luck or connections might possibly lead to a new job in my current location.

But hey, except for a few short periods (none longer than 9 months) I’ve been a self-employed freelancer since 1994 (it will be 15 years in May of this year), and I’ve had to keep confronting the possibility of under-employment (or at least, under-earning) through good times and bad over that entire period. So let me end today’s blog with a series of “Big IFs” that might offer an alternative to those determined to stay put where they are, come hell or at least, no ready full-time permanent job prospects:

  • If you can fund 3-6 months of living expenses out of savings or other ready cash resources
  • If you can stomach the idea of being self-employed
  • If you can pay for health insurance out of your own pocket (it costs me over $1,000 a month for a family of three)
  • If you have skills you can turn into ongoing cash flow
  • If you have customers who will part with their money in exchange for your work

Then you might be able to consider self-employment as an option to moving for another full-time, permanent job. Otherwise, it may be time to start scouting those locations where IT work is still to be had. Hint: start with the top 20 metropolitan areas first: work is where the employers and markets are most concentrated, and that’s where to find them.


January 28, 2009  5:55 PM

Don’t forget “other sources” when funding IT training



Posted by: Ed Tittel
adult education, Career development, continuing education, IT skills development, job seeking skills

As veteran blogger and commenter Suzanne Wheeler (she writes “Views from the PIT-People in IT” blog here) noticed about my previous blog, it’s important to factor other sources of financing into the equation when job loss, underemployment, or other circumstances lead people to ponder the suitability of and financing for continuing adult education. Thus, I am very nicely reminded to point out the following potential sources of funding for those in need of additional support for a training, skills development, or “back to school” adventure:

  • Federal Student Loans, about which information is available on the Web at http://studentaid.ed.gov/. See also this nice third-party overview of available programs at SallieMae’s CollegeAnswer.com.
  • State employment or unemployment programs (use the search engine on your state’s Website, or Google something like “Oklahoma education assistance” or “Oklahoma employment assistance” for more information). See also the State Unemployment Insurance Benefits page from the US Department of Labor.
  • Be sure to ask at local employment or workforce centers about available training benefits, vouchers, or programs as you apply for benefits, or otherwise interact with such offices.
  • Check with local community colleges to see if they have any free or discounted training offerings for unemployed or underemployed workers: many do. Community College Week Magazine sponsors an active an informative Website that you can use to find such resources in your geographical area.

If you can’t come up with the money for continuing education, IT certificaiton, or skills and knowledge development entirely on your own, please don’t be bashful about looking for–and, more important, asking about–other sources of help and funding. This is a case where some persistence and lots of knocking on doors can really make a big difference.


January 23, 2009  4:07 PM

CompTIA Lets New Network+ Loose on the World



Posted by: Ed Tittel
CompTIA, IT careers, IT certification, IT certification study tips, Network+

With the organization’s decision to hew to ISO9000 requirements regarding training and certification, it looks like CompTIA will be refreshing and updating its credentials on a rather less leisurely schedule going forward. The latest Network+, released on January 9, is a good case in point. Though the previous version is called Network+ 2007 (it was refreshed in that year) it actually launched in 2005. Expect to see CompTIA on a pretty rigorous 2 to 3 year exam refresh cycle from here on out, though.

What’s new in Network+ 2009? Here are some random factoids:

  • Exam ID: N10-004 (JK0-016 Education); previous N10-003 (JK0-012 Education)
  • Number of questions: 100; previous 90
  • Cut score (minimum passing score): 720 (80%); previous 554 (62%)
  • A formal “Bridge Exam” for individuals who hold the N10-003/JK0-012 Network+
  • Substantially revised exam objectives, and a rebalancing among exam domains with new (and welcome) security, devices, and tools domains.
  • Lots of new/modern networking coverage, including IPv6, APIPA, authentication and encryption, wiring standards, WAN technologies, network performance optimization, and security topics galore.
  • The Acronym list is up to a full four pages and gives a pretty good idea of what you need to recognize and know.

I’ve always thought Network+ was a pretty good exam and credential, and this one continues solidly in that vein. Highly recommended for entry level IT workers seeking to demonstrate some basic but useful networking chops. Members pay $191 for the exam, non-members $239; the bridge exam costs $135/170 (members/non-members).


January 23, 2009  3:46 PM

Don’t forget “other sources” of IT skills development funding



Posted by: Ed Tittel
funding IT skills development, IT career planning, IT careers, IT certiication

As veteran blogger and commenter Suzanne Wheeler (she writes “Views from the PIT-People in IT” blog here) noticed about my previous blog, it’s important to factor other sources of financing into the equation when job loss, underemployment, or other circumstances lead people to ponder the suitability of and financing for continuing adult education. Thus, I am very nicely reminded to point out the following potential sources of funding for those in need of additional support for a training, skills development, or “back to school” adventure:

  • Federal Student Loans, about which information is available on the Web at http://studentaid.ed.gov/. See also this nice third-party overview of available programs at SallieMae’s CollegeAnswer.com.
  • State employment or unemployment programs (use the search engine on your state’s Website, or Google something like “Oklahoma education assistance” or “Oklahoma employment assistance” for more information). See also the State Unemployment Insurance Benefits page from the US Department of Labor.
  • Be sure to ask at local employment or workforce centers about available training benefits, vouchers, or programs as you apply for benefits, or otherwise interact with such offices.
  • Check with local community colleges to see if they have any free or discounted training offerings for unemployed or underemployed workers: many do. Community College Week Magazine sponsors an active an informative Website that you can use to find such resources in your geographical area.

If you can’t come up with the money for continuing education, IT certificaiton, or skills and knowledge development entirely on your own, please don’t be bashful about looking for–and, more important, asking about–other sources of help and funding. This is a case where some persistence and lots of knocking on doors can really make a big difference.


January 19, 2009  9:40 PM

What about spending money when you have no money?



Posted by: Ed Tittel
adult education, continuing education, IT certfication, IT job search, job seeking skills, professional development

I just did a follow-up phone interview with TechTarget news writer MIchael Morisy, who raised the question with me “Will people really spend money on certs in a down economy?” Notice carefully the use of “people” in this question: we’re talking about individuals spending their own hard-earned money, perhaps from a dwindling pool of savings, perhaps from a severance check that is being pulled in Lord knows how many directions for how long is anybody’s guess. It’s not  a pretty pictures, particularly for those facing the question of how best to get back into the word force in the wake of job loss.

My take on this situation has evolved a bit, thanks to my conversation with Mr. Morisy, to include the following perhaps essential points:

  • Don’t look for the unemployed to be rushing out to spend any money on training or certification at all, unless they believe it will make a big difference in their prospects for another job, or the speed into which they can slot themselves into a new position.
  • If the unemployed (or underemployed) do decide to train and certify as a bootstrapping or prospect enhancing strategy, look for them to stretch whatever dollars they do spend all the way to the breaking point. This is good news for publishers of self-study materials, practice tests, and training simulators, but won’t do anything to improve the bottom lines at top-dollar training companies such as Global Knowledge, Fast Lane, New Horizons, or Learning Tree, nor will it do much for top-flight vendor training programs like those at Cisco, Microsoft, IBM, RedHat, and so forth.
  • In an uncertain economy with an indeterminate amount of time to devote to skills and knowledge development, individual goals are likely to be single-point and very focused. Though some may go back to school to finish a degree, or pursue a more advanced degree, most IT professionals will be looking for programs they can finish in a few months. Likewise, most will shy away from time horizons that span more than six months, let alone a year or more.
  • Online training sources may experience a bump in business during this time of rising unemployment and rising job uncertainty. Those barely hanging onto questionable or doomed positions will probably join those already out of a job in droves on Websites where they can obtain study materials to prep for valuable certifications, interact with experts and other students, and practice for or simulate real-world and/or exam conditions to help them prepare for a trip to a test center nearby.

The last time I did the analysis of what a typical certification  cost, the breakdown looked something like this:

  • Cost of the exam: usually $150 to $500 (only a very few exams cost more than that, but some go into the thousands, such as the Cisco CCIE Lab exam, various RedHat lab exams, SAP consultant exams, and so forth)
  • Cost of reading/study materials: $30 for an Exam Cram, $50-60 for an All-in-One Prep tool for many exams, up to $400-500 for a more complete library for more demanding exams (CISSP, CCIE, SNIA, and so on). You’ll also find flash cards, command references, exam reviews, and other prep materials readily available, mostly for very poplular credentials (CCNA, MCSE, MCSA, A+, Network+, Security+, and  so forth).
  • Practice exams: $90-150 per set, with one or two sets typical for most self-study exam candidates.
  • Other sources of expense: travel to/from test center, access to online labs or simulators, exam retakes. This can add as little as nothing to overall costs to over $1,000 when air travel and lab or simulator time are essential to passing exams.

In this economy, especially for those out of work or contemplating same, the tendency will be to low-ball expenses to the point of absurdity. Under the circumstances, this is not a criticism: it’s simply the application of common sense to a difficult situation.


January 19, 2009  9:17 PM

Foote Partners Pinpoints 10 Top IT Jobs for 2009



Posted by: Ed Tittel
Career development, Career planning, continuing education, IT certification, job seeking skills

My old buddy David Foote at IT compensation specialist firm Foote Partners, recently shared with e-week the results of his latest compensation data in a slideshow named “10 Hot IT Jobs for 2009.” Here;s a list of what he came up with in “David Letterman Top 10″ (reverse) order:

10. Storage Directors: coordinate storage, reduce overall hardware outlays (consolidated storage usually costs less than decentralized, distributed storage). Relevant certifications include SNIA, plus offerings from ECM, HP, Dell, IBM, Cisco, Sun, Oracle, and many others

9.AJAX Developers: Microsoft’s ASP.NET technology that support Web 2.0 interactivity and media on Web sites, using browser-neutral ECMAScript/JavaScript and dynamic HTML. Relevant certs: ProCert, Microsoft, Brainbench

8. Security Architects: somebody’s got to design security policy and implementations to match; that’s what these people do. See our infosec cert survey for plenty of pointers.

7. Virtualization experts: everybody’s doing it, and certs are starting to pop up in this area, primarily from VMWare and Microsoft, but also IBM, and probably other big vendors (HP, Sun, Dell, and so forth) soon

6. ITIL Managers: with governance interest and participation at an all-time high, and growing further, ITIL and business process expertise are increasingly valuable. Check the ITIL site for more info and pointers.

5. Enterprise Architects: These guys get tagged to “automate and streamline processes and infrastructure,” and can save organizations big bucks. Related certs: Sun/Java, IBM, Microsoft, EACOE, Institute for Enterprise Architecture, ITAC/Open Group

4. Outsourcing and Vendor Managers: Project Management Specialists who run existing vendor relationships. Related Certs: PMP plus items from number 3.

3.  Vendor Procurement Specialists: in a tight economy VPAs and other vendor agreements will be reworked. Foote says “…companies are going to be renegotiating contracts like crazy.” Related certs: American Purchasing Society, Institute for Supply Management, Senior Professional in Supply Mgmt (SPSM)

2. Resiliency Services Professionals: A new buzzphrase for BC/DR, these services are gaining major traction in the middle of the marketplace (enterprises are pretty mature in this respect, but there are a lot more medium sized businesses in need of such things right now). Related cert programs: See “Cert Programs

1. Business Intelligence (BI) Experts: help organizations keep up with customer thinking, market makeup, pricing, services, and other key aspects of the target audience. Related cert programs: IBM, Microsoft, TDWI/CBIP

Let this be an inspiration to those looking for more ways to fill their personal development and training dance cards for 2009.


January 14, 2009  6:50 PM

Out of an IT Job? Then what?



Posted by: Ed Tittel
adult education, Career planning, continuing education, IT careers, IT certification, job seeking skills

In some e-mail with a fellow certification market follower recently, my correspondent opined that those who find themselves out of work in IT can look for a silver lining in such dire circumstances. The sudden change of work status creates a fabulous opportunity for study, learning, training, or other activities that can sharpen current IT skills or help to develop new ones.

Of course, the recently unemployed don’t usually have nothing but time on their hands, so this will take some effort, some ingenuity, and above all, some motivation to keep digging into something that isn’t paying very well at the moment. Don’t forget to file your job loss paperwork, make your unemployment claims, and go through whatever motions your local job placement authorities may require of you. Obtaining more income must always come first. But pursuing IT skills and knowledge should come a close second, because it may open more doors for your job search,. It could also broaden the field of positions you could fill, thereby increasing the odds of finding something new, and hopefully shortening the time it takes to get into a new job.

Given that unemployed people are rightfully wary about spending money on anything, you’ll want to be creative in finding materials for your hurry-up and unexpected learning adventures. Ask around to see who’s got books and study guides. Check out your local library to see what’s there (if you can’t afford Internet access at the moment, you can often sign up to use Internet-connected PCs at that same place). Surf the Web for good, free materials. You’ll also want to check out local community colleges for classroom training: these are the most affordable adult education providers around, and your (un)employment status may even qualify you for reduced- or no-cost training.

While you’re looking for that next job, this might be a perfect time to pursue that credential you’ve always been interested in, but never had the time to go after. It could also give you the opportunity to investigate interesting technologies or platforms that you never had time to dig into before. Think about high-demand IT specialties, such as storage, information security , ERP software, software architecture, databases, identity management, and so forth, and pretty soon you’ll have a wish list that’s at least enough to keep you busy, if not enough to last a lifetime.

As the old saying goes, a problem for some is an opportunity for others. Turn your employment (or underemployment) problem into an opportunity to learn more, and pretty soon you’ll be doing more, too!


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