IT Career JumpStart


December 14, 2008  8:58 PM

Can Virtualization Certs Get Real?

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

As the former series editor for Exam Cram, I still get new titles from that series in the mail from its publisher, Que/Pearson Education. On Friday, the VCP/VMWare Certified Professsional Exam Cram by Eliaz N. Khnaser (Que, 2008, ISBN-13: 978-0789738059) showed up at my doorstep. This got me to thinking: “Is virtualization technology ready to get real in terms of useful, career enhancing certifications?”

So far, my research turns up a resounding “Maybe!” Let me explain: Virtualization technology is white-hot, and is carving out a space for itself in data centers and IT operations around the world. There’s no denying that VM tools and technologies are changing the ways that IT and individual practitioners do their jobs, set up servers and clients, and make things work from the desktop all the way into supercomputer territory.

But the issue with many certifications, especially those that focus on mass markets(read: sizable enough to be economically “interesting”) , is their ability to be used effectively as cookie-cutters. That is, they must be able to stamp out umpty-ump copies of themselves in a form and fashion that both IT professionals seeking certification and IT managers and HR professionals, seeking to fille open positions, make promotions, and create new job roles can all agree is useful, relevant, and productive in the workplace. Thus, the real question with VM technologies is “Are we there yet?”

Certainly, the appearance of the VCP certification argues that steps toward sufficient commiditization and standardization are underway. Even more encouraging, there’s MSTS exam 70-243 System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008, Configuring available as well.

Although the contents and coverage of the VCP are perfectly reasonable and respectable, I’m still a little leery of this credential for the simple reason that VMWare also requires candidates to complete (and more important from the perspective I’m about to elucidate, pay for) a VMWare authorized training class on related subject matter. At $3000 a pop, the vendor’s incentive to sell classroom seats all too easily gets confused with (or overtakes) their desire to create a sizable population of certified professionals.

Microsoft’s entry into this space–where authorized training is not required (though it is recommended) to earn certification, and where many pathways to credentials always exist, including self-study–helps to lend more credibility to VMWare’s efforts than may be comfortable for both parties involved. One thing’s for sure: VM technology is here to stay, and more and more of us IT professionals are going to have to master its wiles and ways. Hopefully, these certifications will help that process along.

December 12, 2008  5:38 PM

By the Numbers: MS Posts Latest Cert Tallies

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

No less often than once a quarter, and sometimes as often as once a month, Microsoft updates its “Number of Microsoft Certified Professionals Worldwide” page. The last update occurred at the beginning of December (12/1/2008), the prior update occurred on 10/27/2008. In the interim, some interesting developments have occurred:

  • Across the board, new-wave credentials are growing in population–this means MCTS, MCA, MCITP, and MCPD–a phenomenon I can’t help but think that MS Learning staff finds comforting. The first year of any new cert program is always a little slow and often proceeds by fits and starts. Things here finally seem to be smoothing out as the program moves deeper into its second year.
  • Within MCTS, the biggest winners are the .NET Framework 2.0 and SQL Server 2005 credentials, which reflects their early-into-the-program presence and the popularity of the MS development tools and database platform. Other areas with more than 10K achievers include MS Exchange Server 2007 Configuration, and MS SharePoint Server 2007 configuration, plus all the Windows Server 2008 topics (Active Directory, Applications Infastructure, and Network Infrastructure). Windows Vista Configuration has jumped to a surprising 48,962, and is now the most popular MCTS credential (more than 20% ahead of SQL Server 2005, which comes in second at 40,202).
  • MCITP numbers are all still pretty low (mostly just over 1,000 to somewhat more than 8,000) and continue to show slow but steady growth. Leading topics are Enterprise Administrator, Enterprise Support Technician, and Database Administrator. Lagging way behind are MS Office Project Server 2007 (under 400), Consumer Support Technician (1,037), and Business Intelligence Developer (1,043). No big surprises there, except perhaps that Enterprise Administrator totals are nearly double those for Server Administrator totals (8,320 vs. 4,654).
  • MCPD numbers also remain low, but likewise manifest steady growth: Web Developer comes out on top at 7,784, followed by Enterprise Application Developer at 6,330, trailed substantially by Windows Developer at 2,749. I’m guessing we’ll see these numbers jump in the next reporting period, owing to substantial jumps in MCTS developer numbers over this period.

Another interesting historical phenomenon emerges from MCSA and MCSE numbers. Whereas MCSA counts are uniformly much higher for Windows Server 2003 than for Windows Server 2000, MCSE numbers decline steadily from NT (395,818) to Windows Server 2000 (290,456) to Windows Server 2003 (141,498). Certainly, I believe Microsoft wants to reverse this trend and seeks to endow its newer certs with more cachet and value. It will be interesting to see how this desire plays out in future numbers.


December 10, 2008  5:13 PM

Add Experience By Volunteering

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

In an article entitled “Beef up your resume by doing volunteer IT work” that dates back to January of 2000, Jeff Davis makes the very interesting point that on-the-job experience is an important leavening agent for classroom training and IT certifications. He goes so far as to mention the “paper MCSE” phenomenon and the essential missing ingredient that often comes up in job interviews for candidates with degrees and credentials but not much time in the workplace. In fact, I make the same point myself in another story for Certification Magazine entitled “Real World Experience Aids Certification Preparation” as well.

Key points to recall in this context might be recounted as follows:

  • Look for volunteer gigs where you can develop skills you need, or sharpen skills you haven’t used for a while
  • Be sure to stress the “doing good, while learning” aspect of your experience. Mention it briefly in your cover letter, add a short “Volunteer Work” section to your resume, and be ready to talk it up in the interview situation.
  • As always, stress what you learned, what problems you solved, and what you did when referring to volunteer experience.
  • Be ready with a reference from each volunteer gig you mention, and make getting a reference part of what you do each time you tackle some kind of volunteer IT task.

If you’re not going to get paid for earning your experience, you will want to have something to show for that work and effort. What better than another tool to help you advance your IT career?

–Ed–


December 10, 2008  4:48 PM

How about Networking Certs? Try this survey…

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

The very nice folks at SearchNetworking.com get my partner, Kim Lindros, and I to update a list of network certification for them on an an annual basis. The latest incarnation is called the “Networking Certification Guide,” and was posted on August 19, 2008. Even though that’s over three months ago as I write this blog, the content you’ll find in this survey of networking related certifications remains over 95% accurate and correct. I’m not sure if that means the survey is especially good, but I can see some relationship between the uncertain state of our current economy and a relatively static IT certification landscape for as long as these “cloudy conditions” persist.

That said, IT professionals interested in taking a look at their certification options in the networking arena are bound to find this collection of items pretty interesting. Here’s what you’ll find as you take a closer look at these three alphabetized lists (by vendor or sponsor organization) of credentials:

  • Cisco Certification Guide: this was assembled by the crack editing team at SearchNetworking.com, and larded liberally with quotes from Ed and other networking nabobs, but we nevertheless don’t want to take credit for somebody else’s work). You’ll find all of Cisco’s certs covered in this piece.
  • Basic certifications: You’ll find 35 offerings from companies ranging from 3Com to Planet3 Wireless/CWNP here.
  • Intermediate Certifications: 24 credentials from outfits such as Aruba to Sun Microsystems.
  • Advanced/Expert certifications: 10 credentials from organizations ranging from Alcatel to Network General.

All in all, there are lots of good pointers and information to programs in all kinds of networking related tools and technologies here, where the notion of “something for everyone” (as least for those who work in IT) isn’t terribly far off the mark. Please check it out and use it to help with your career planning and development.

–Ed–


December 5, 2008  4:52 PM

The Perils, Pitfalls, and Pluses of Project Management

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

In previous blogs I’ve discussed the potential value of project management as a soft skill (particularly in Part 4 of my Soft Skills Survey sequence from September 08). I remain completely convinced that for most IT professionals, especially those who aspire to technical lead or IT management positions, there are few better ways to pursue such career goals than by going after training and certification in this area. The Project Management Institute rules in this arena, where its CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Management) and PMP (Project Management Professional) certifications stand out amidst a field of possible options (a nice survey appears in this About.com article “Project Management Certification“).

But I hasten to point out that acquiring project management certs is one thing, and rigorously practicing project management disciplines is entirely another. This is one of those areas, like so many others, where a little bit of knowledge can be more dangerous than complete ignorance. For example, Jadeep’s “Project Management – A Sad Story” blog posting tells a truly pathetic tale of “over-promising and under delivering” on client projects.

Just because you have a project manager appointed and responsible for projects doesn’t mean that the projects will actually be managed. There must be sufficient discipline and involvement from staff at all levels to make sure that reports coincide with reality, that milestones are being met, deliverables created and actually delivered, and so forth, for any kind of project to succeed. As Jadeep’s tangled mess so aptly illustrates, sometimes things get out of hand and must be rescued or reworked. When this happens, the first order of business is to determine what the real status is and when, if ever, anything can actually be built, delivered, implemented, or whatever the project plan calls for. After that it’s usually time to revise the requirements, revisit the deliverables, and rework the schedule.

Ignore this obvious advice at your own risk. Just as the eating provides the proof of the pudding, the outcomes and outputs from a project provide the proofs of success and failure, sometimes in astonishing mixtures!

–Ed–


December 5, 2008  4:32 PM

Looking for IT Work Over the Holidays

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Given the state of the economy and a rising unemployment level, I’m sure there are plenty of IT professionals out of work and looking, as well as those who are working and just thinking about making a change. I can’t do anything to address the urgency of the search for those currently unemployed, but to those folks and prospective job-seekers I have to observe that even in the best of economic times–which we are most assuredly not enjoying at the moment–the period from Thanksgiving through the first week of January is never a truly great time to look for IT work.

To a large extent,this phenomenon is a function of the way life’s focus tends to back off from work to other things during this time of year. To some extent, it reflects a disinterest in hiring new people and then having to give them several days of mandatory vacation time more or less right away. Then, too, many budget cycles end along with the calendar year, and IT departments have either used up their headcount or are saving it for next year’s budget. No matter how you decide to explain things to yourself, the odds of landing a good new job during this time of year are rather slimmer than usual.

For those who aren’t currently work but need some cash in hand, seasonal Christmas work may offer some temporary work and income. Although you may not relish the prospect of selling computer and electronics gear, a background in IT will make you better qualified to man a station at Best Buy, Circuit City, Office Depot, department stores, and so forth where they sell computers–and often, lots of them–over the holiday season. Though traditional IT jobs may not be jumping out of the woodwork, temporary IT jobs at companies that do lots of holiday business–such as ecommerce outfits, online retailers, seasonal food or drink providers, and so forth–can often provide work through the middle of January to those with both interest and the right qualifications. Try searching for “part-time IT” in your local job boards and newspapers (CraigsList can be a great source of information on such opportunities). With a little ingenuity, you can find something to do and keep the wolf from the door while whiling your way through the holiday season.

For all parties, working or not, I also recommend using this relative downtime to work your various social networks–friends, family, school chums, former and current job colleagues, professional groups and associations to which you belong, and so on–to get the word out. Let people know you’re looking, tell them what you’re looking for, and either give them or point them to a current resume and some kind of “statement of interest” and “statement of capabilities.” Let the former tell people what you’re interested in doing, and the latter tell them what you can do, what education and certifications you hold, and what kinds of professional accomplishments you can claim.

You can also use this time of year to search out companies and organizations for which you’d like to work. Spend some time on the Web and learn as much about them as you can, and try to get a sense of what kind of position(s) you might be ready, willing, and able to fill. The more you learn about your prospective targets, the better you’ll be able to present yourself when the time comes to make your pitch and apply for a position.

Don’t just sit around twiddling your thumbs, though. With a bit of down time at your disposal, the key is to use it to make yourself a better candidate when a valid opportunity does come along. Good luck, and happy holidays!

–Ed–


December 5, 2008  4:32 PM

Need a guide to infosec certs? Check out this (our) survey!

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

One continuing bright spot in the IT specialization/employment world is information security. More and more companies and organizations are devoting personnel to this area, and more and more IT professionals are finding it worthwhile to obtain or demonstrate expertise in information security subjects, tools, and technologies. But with hundreds of options to choose from, what’s a savvy IT person to do when it comes to narrowing her or his selections? Why, consult our survey at SearchSecurity.com, of course!

Every year, my partner in grime, Kim Lindros, and I compile a survey of all the certification programs we can find in the area of information security. It’s called the “SearchSecurity.com guide to information security certifications” and covers 71 vendor-neutral and 36 vendor-specific credentials. It also includes analyses of these various offerings, and identifies the most popular and/or useful credentials across the various categories used to break the surveys up into manageable chunks.

Putting this survey together each year is a big job, and requires an enormous amount of checking (for existing certs, which come and go with amazing frequency) and surfing (to find new infosec certs, which pop up like mushrooms after the rain). As you look this material over, please e-mail me [mailto:etittel at techtarget dot com] or post here if you can point me at any credentials we’ve somehow managed to miss. There are so many of them, I’m sure we missed at least one or two. We’ll be updating this survey again in Q109 so I hope to hear from you on this score sooner, rather than later.

Thanks a bunch in advance for your help and support with this project. Those pondering infosec certs will also surely find it useful (our lowest reader ranking for any of this survey’s many parts is 4.68 out of 5.00, so I know we must be doing OK).

–Ed–


November 28, 2008  4:17 PM

Black Friday Could Be “the Bomb” for Home/Personal Computing

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Hey Readers!

If you’ve been putting off a purchase of a new notebook or desktop PC, or other computing gear for home or personal use, TODAY might be the day to raid the exchequer and plunk down some of that hard-earned cash on gizmos, gadgets, or gear. In researching and contributing to an article for Tom’s Guide entitled “Shopping Guide: Black Friday and Beyond” I was forcibly reminded that the day after Thanksgiving is a great day to shop for technology (and anything else you can think of)–and seriously tempted to part with some of my own valuta on my own personal quest for faster, more productive home computing.

As I write this blog, it’s already too late to cash in on the doorbuster sales items designed to lure people into stores, often at horrific hours (midnight Thursday, 5 AM Friday, and so forth). Because most such items are on allocation and only the first handful of people who line up outside the door can cash in on such bargains, these kinds of items are mostly teasers designed to attract people’s interest and steer them toward other purchases, which may be marked down but not necessarily to the point of incredulity. Two examples: Circuit City offered a Compaq Presario C717NR notebook PC that normally costs $500-600 for $300, and Amazon.com essentially set-up an online lottery to let people bid for chances to buy items like an Asus Eee PC 900a netbook PC for $129 (normally costs $300-400). For ordinary mortals with average luck and insufficient patience to break out their sleeping bags and camp out in a parking lot for twelve or more hours before the doors open, more ordinary deals will have to do.

A surprising number of such deals are available online from well-known purveyors of goods, gear, and technology. As a holder of a Dell Preferred Account I got their “Black Friday” e-mail bright and early this morning: Inspiron Mini 9 for $300, 19″ wide screen LCD monitor for $129, and so forth and so on. Likewise, stalwart PC/component vendors such as Newegg. SuperBiiz.com, Provantage, and others, also have killer deals on systems and components, with no need to leave your comfy chair and fight for a parking place.

If you’re in the market for some high-tech computing equipment, today may be a very good day to scratch that itch, and come away with some of the best prices you’ll see this year. Check it out, and happy shopping, whether virtual or real!


November 26, 2008  5:00 PM

Nice Plug from a Nice Blog(ger)

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

I hope those of you who dig into blogs on TechTarget’s IT Knowledge Exchange take the time to explore the many other offerings available through this excellent information exchange and public forum. In case you haven’t checked out Suzanne Wheeler’s “Views from the PIT — People in IT,” you might want to give it a try. She’s a Generation X type who’s been working in the IT trenches for over a decade, and has many useful and interesting things to say about daily workaday life in information technology. Like me, she’s all over the place (in a good way) with her coverage, mixing up information about IT certifications, book reviews, interpersonal (soft) skills, technology musings, and a whole bunch more.

What brought her to my attention this morning as I began casting about for today’s blog topic (more spontaneous than usual, given tomorrow’s holiday and my urgent need to clear the decks in time to go fight my way into Central Market this afternoon to pick up my brined Kosher turkey for tomorrow’s big meal) was a cross-link reference to one of my own blogs about Entry-Level Certs in the context of a nice piece she put together about financing IT certification costs through local colleges and universities. She’s a proponent of the institution for higher learning she’s currently attending–Western Governers University (WGU)–which offers some very attractive online training and degree programs, in addition to serving the Salt Lake City area locally. In an August 14, 2008 posting she observes that the program not only includes the cost of cert exams in its tuition charges (plus a free retake if you don’t pass on the first try), attending also makes students eligible for federal student loans, and you can take as many classes per six month term (fixed price tuition) as you can stand. It’s a great deal for those interested in chasing down IT certifications and/or a BS or MBA in various IT disciplines.

I’m a strong proponent for, and former instructor at, our local community college, Austin Community College, where they also offer a plethora of certification courses and training, and where financing is likewise available, and where tuition runs about $54 per classroom hour (a strange but familiar measure) for up to 18 hours per semester. As you look around for training deals and coverage in your area, be sure to check out local community and technical colleges, too, because they often offer a killer combination of good instructors, well-equipped labs, and low costs.

But what really got my attention–and a big grin–was Wheeler’s remarks about me in her blog when she said “Ed is such a skilled and knowledgeable professional just reading his bio makes me tired!” Little does she know how tired I sometimes get, but I like to blame my active, inquisitive 4.75-year-old son Gregory more than the pace and demands of work.

Thanks to everybody for reading my blog. I wish you and your families the best of holidays and good cheer. Above all, may your turkey be as juicy and succulent as I expect mine to be!

Best wishes,
–Ed–


November 24, 2008  5:51 PM

MS Re-Betas Exam 70-563 on .NET 3.5 Development

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Over the weekend (11/22) Microsoft Learning Manager Jeff Koch re-opened the beta for exam 71-563 Pro: Designing and Developing Windows Applications using the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5. Remember, most MS exams start with 71 in beta, which changes to 70 when they go into production, so this exam will eventually be numbered 70-563. If you want the exam preparation skinny, you’ll find it on an old-style (.mspx) 70-563 Prep Guide page

There are several interesting things about this announcement:

  • The original beta period ran from October 13 through 30, 2008; the new period runs from 11/19-12/11/2008. What’s interesting about that is that the announcement on 11/22 follows the start day by three days.
  • Microsoft usually gets more takers than seats during beta periods, but the fact that this exam is going into another beta period strongly suggests two possibilities: First (and most likely), that they didn’t get enough takers in the first go-round to completely exercise the exam; second (less likely), that problems with questions surfaced during the first beta–such as those everybody gets right or wrong, neither of which helps to distinguish know-nothings from know-somethings–that are being addressed in a repeat try.
  • Might the lack of uptake on the exam indicate a similar phenomenon where the .NET Framework 3.5 and Visual Studio 2008 are concerned? Maybe: if you look at .NET Framework 3.5 related credential counts on the MS “Number of Microsoft Certified Professionals Worldwide” page, you’ll see counts that vary from 128 to 240 on the Technology Specialist front. The Microsoft Certified Solution Developer counts, which include mostly older .NET Framework versions at this point but also include some .NET Framework 3.5 numbers, on the other hand, vary between a much more considerable 2391 (Windows Developer) and 7319 (Web Developer), with Enterprise Application Developer at 6073. Right now, it’s hard to say…

With Visual Studio 2008 and the .NET Framework 3.5 just turning one year old, it’s probably just a new development toolset, environment, and APIs still gathering momentum and finally getting off the ground. Whatever the reason for this extended beta period, it gives Microsoft Developers working on the leading edge another chance to take the exam for free. Check it out on the Beta Announcements blog.


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