IT Career JumpStart

September 4, 2012  4:38 PM

A new kind of temp: the “ad hoc company”

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

In today’s modern economy lots of people work independently, as contractors, temporary workers, freelance contributors, and so forth and so on. In a very nice story for HP’s Input Output online magazine, prolific freelance journalist and science/technology writer Pam Baker profiles the whys, hows, and wherefores of creating a temporary business entity called an “Ad Hoc Company” for the express purpose of winning a specific contract or business engagement of some kind.

In her story she makes the point that business opportunities will come along from time to time that might be too big for a solo player to handle on his or her own, but that an ad hoc company could be just the right business vehicle for tackling such  projects. Essentially, these organizations coalesce solely for the purpose of winning some contract or landing some piece of business — ” a discrete project” is how Ms. Baker puts it — and stay together only long enough to win and service the business involved. This approach enables multiple solo players to collaborate on a single project without necessarily forcing them to establish a permanent legal identity, and go through the time, expense, and effort involved in starting up a limited partnership, limited liability corporation, full-blown corporation, or whatever to get the ball rolling.

Ms. Baker’s best piece of advice in putting something like this together focuses on taxes and accounting: She says “sit down with a good accountant before proceeding…” with any government or private contracts, and be sure to address “tax concerns” lest they “eat your profits otherwise.” This is good advice because the parties in an ad hoc company must take steps to protect themselves from and avoid liability of any kind, and losing profits also has to mean losing the primary motivation for creating any kind of temporary business entity, either. This makes an attorney another necessary party to any such kind of move, because you’ll need one to provide legal advice about your options, and to set up a joint venture or whatever kind of business vehicle you and your partners decide is worth implementing. See Ms. Baker’s story for excellent advice about setting up a joint venture, and all of the legal options that makes available for ad hoc business operation. And finally, don’t overlook the need for insurance to protect against the various kinds of liability that can accrue to business ventures of any kind, including temporary ones.

Link: How to Build an Ad Hoc Company to Fit and Win a Specific Contract. Check it out!

August 31, 2012  2:02 PM

MS Ups IT Academy Cert Profile

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

In browsing through the latest posts on Microsoft’s Born to Learn blog, I came across an item from Lorna White entitled “Prepare Your Students for Successful Careers.” In it she notes that the two recently-resuscitated “big name” Microsoft certifications — namely, the MCSD (Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer) and the MCSE (Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert) — will be “now available through Microsoft IT Academies.” Why is this a big deal? Let’s take a detour to visit the IT Academy program to help me clarify my contention…

Understanding the Microsoft IT Academy Program

MS itself defines the program as

“…a college- and career-ready education program available to all accredited academic institutions, designed to provide students with the 21st century technology skills necessary to acquire certification and be competitive in today’s rapidly evolving workplace. The IT Academy Program also provides educators and staff with professional development opportunities. This subscription-based membership offers a world-class technology curriculum with lesson plans, E-learning, student projects, and assessments. To date there are more than 10,000 IT Academy members in more than 160 countries.”

In North America, many high schools and community colleges are IT Academy members, as are an increasing number of vocational training programs and even four-year and graduate school programs as well. The IT Academy Program enables these institutions to integrate MS training and certification components into their conventional curriculum, and to propel students toward certification as well as certificates of completion, diplomas, and degrees.

What’s Up with the MS IT Academy and MS Certifications?

Previous incarnations of the IT Academy have focused on Microsoft’s lower-level certifications, especially its Microsoft  Technology Associate (MTA) and Microsoft Office Specialist credentials, with some limited forays into the soon-to-be-defunct Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS), Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP), and Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD) credentials also available through this program. This latest announcement may seem trivial, but it essentially includes the mainstay certifications in the Microsoft programs in this mix (and because the MCSA, or Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate, is a pre-requisite for the MCSE, also perforce brings that credential into the Academy line-up as well).

In short, this means that some high-school graduates may very well add an MCSE or MCSD to their diploma when they leave secondary school. It also surely means that many two- and four-year degree earners will also walk away with one (or perhaps more) of these credentials when they matriculate. This is not just good for the individuals involved, but also helps to establish and cement the value of the Microsoft credentials involved, too. Readers with kids in school, or with relatives in high school or college, may want to point those young people at these offerings and encourage them to investigate their opportunities to participate in learning that could help contribute to future earnings, and a better shot at an enduring IT career. Need I say more?

August 29, 2012  4:05 PM

CompTIA Ups Count of ISO Accredited Certs to 5 with Storage+

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

According to a press release dated August 28, 2012 entitled “CompTIA Storage+ Powered by SNIA Earns ISO Accreditation,” the organization’s storage credential has met the ISO/IEC 17024 accreditation criteria. This cert is a collaborative effort between CompTIA and the Storage Networking Industry Association (aka SNIA) for dealing with storage and backup subject matters.

A typical storage array (HP StorageWorks)

A typical storage array (HP StorageWorks)

The five CompTIA credentials that have achieved ISO accreditation include the A+, Network +, Security+, and Advanced Security Practitioner certifications, in addition to the aforementioned Storage+. According to a February 2012 study cited in the CompTIA press release, “data storage and backup ranked as the number one or number two priority for organizations of all sizes — micro, small, medium, and large…” In addition, “… the study also found that 92 percent of organizations felt storage and data back-up skills are important or very important to their IT needs.”

I couldn’t agree more, and it’s nice to see that CompTIA felt strongly enough about the value of the Storage+ credential to put it through the time-consuming and expensive process of ISO accreditation. Not a bad place for IT professionals interested in storage technologies, and backup and restore tools, methods, and technologies, to get started on a learning curve that can carry them to interested places in their careers. For more info, check out the CompTIA Storage+ Powered by SNIA home page.

August 27, 2012  4:26 PM

Back to School Reflections

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

This morning just after 7 AM, we dropped my son Gregory off for his first day of third grade at his local elementary school. And no sooner did we return home than my wife headed out to Austin Community College to try to wangle her way into the first day of some language classes she wanted to take, but was unable to pre-register for. She’s not home yet, so I can only assume she’s in the classroom for the first of her two classes today. All of this has got me thinking about the “back to school” state and what it can mean for IT professionals.

Even for IT professionals who already have a bachelor’s (or perhaps a more advanced degree) an occasional return to school can be a good thing. It can provide access to current technical or professional information in a structured setting, help keep your mind and learning skills sharp, provide another source of potentially valuable networking with fellow students and faculty, and give you a chance to try on new subjects, ideas, and perspectives. These intermittent forays into learning can also occur online as well, and are often available at very reasonable costs on schedules flexible enough to shoehorn themselves into busy, modern, working lives.

For some certification topics — especially those that benefit from (or require) hands-on access to complex systems or devices — classroom or online training may be the only way to make sufficient progress to master the curriculum (or like many Oracle or VMware credentials, meet stated certification requirements that mandate attendance at authorized training of some kind). That’s why even older professionals with multiple degrees should still be willing to contemplate a return to the classroom for continuing education and professional development. Simply put: while it isn’t free, it can’t hurt, and it might actually help your career and to keep your skills and knowledge fresh.

As for myself, at age 60, I’m unlikely to chase any more degrees but I can’t rule out a back to school experience for myself, either. There are plenty of classes I would like to take — yes, even in the classroom, though there are many more high-quality online encounters also available nowadays as well — even now, in the final phase of my working life (I’ve had a part- or full time job continuously for the past 44 years, I now realize to my astonishment and amazement). My own interests lean toward technical and certification topics, but I’m as likely to be in front of the classroom nowadays, as I am to be sitting in a student’s chair (I’m flirting with TrainSignal right now, who’ve asked to talk to me about teaching Windows 8 or Windows Server 2012 classes, for example). But to keep a long and productive career moving, I am still ready to head back to school myself from time to time. You might try it, too!

August 24, 2012  5:41 PM

Planned MS Certs Retirements Paint The Shape of Certs to Come

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

In early August, MS Learning Product Manager for developer and SQL server certifications posted an interesting item to the Born to Learn blog entitled “Upcoming exam retirements and availability of related certifications.” This innocuous title actually heads some extremely interesting information, as I will soon elucidate. Let’s start with a table of upcoming retirements based on associated retirement dates to provide a snapshot of what she reports:

Upcoming MS Cert Retirements for 2012/3
Visual Studio 2008 & 2010
SQL Server 2008
July 31, 2013
MCITP: Database Developer 2008 MCTS: .NET Framework 3.5, Windows Workflow Foundation Applications
MCITP: Database Administrator 2008 MCTS: .NET Framework 3.5, ADO.NET Applications
MCITP: Business Intelligence 2008 MCTS: .NET Framework 3.5, ASP.NET Applications
MCTS: SQL Server 2008, Implementation and Maintenance MCTS: .NET Framework 3.5, Windows Forms Applications
MCTS: SQL Server 2008, Database Development MCPD: Web Developer 4
MCTS: SQL Server 2008, Business Intelligence Development and Maintenance MCTS: .NET Framework 4, Service Communication Applications
MCPD: ASP.NET Developer 3.5 MCTS: .NET Framework 4, Data Access
MCPD: Enterprise Application Developer 3.5 MCTS: .NET Framework 4, Web Applications
MCPD: Windows Developer 3.5 MCTS: .NET Framework 4, Windows Applications
MCTS: .NET Framework 3.5, Windows Presentation Foundation Applications MCTS: .NET Framework 3.5, Windows Forms Applications
MCTS: .NET Framework 3.5, Windows Communication Foundation Applications
Windows Server 2003
Windows Server 2008
July 31, 2013
MCTS: Windows Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuration MCITP: Enterprise Administrator 2008
MCTS: Windows Server 2008 Network Infrastructure, Configuration MCSA on Windows Server 2003
MCTS: Windows Server 2008 Applications Infrastructure, Configuration MCSE on Windows Server 2003
MCITP: Server Administrator 2008 MCSE: Security on Windows Server 2003

What does this table really tell us? Several interesting observations emerge from this collection of cert exams scheduled for retirement at the end of July in 2013:

  • The key to the retirement date is that it tells you when the associated certs will no longer be available to be earned. Presumably, this means the exams will also disappear from the roster of available items in the MS exam catalog.
  • We are seeing the pending lapse of certifications based on Visual Studio 2008 and 2010, SQL Server 2008, Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2010. That means that only newer versions than these will remain valid certs in another couple of years — namely Visual Studio 2012, Windows Server 2010 R2 and Windows Server 2012, and SQL Server 2012.
  • This is the quickest and most aggressive retirement schedule I’ve seen so far from MS, and I have to believe it reflects a strong “out with the old, in with the new” mindset along the lines of “out with MCITP, MCTS, and MCPD; in with MCSA, MCSE, and MCSD.”

August 22, 2012  5:00 PM

Reflections on R&R: Work Missed But an Edge Regained

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Last week, I did something I  haven’t done since I starting working as a self-employed writer and consultant full-time in 1994: I took a real vacation for eight whole days. Granted, two of those days were more or less lost to the time required to travel from my home in central Texas to the San Diego area, but six of those days involved nothing more than making sure my eight-year old son and wife had the time of their lives exploring nearby attractions, amusement parks, dining establishments and the beach, while making the most of our hotel stay and lack of usual household chores and responsibilities. The only thing I did that was remotely work-related was to check e-mail on my iPhone once a day, just to make sure nothing had blown up or gone amiss to the point where I would have to fire up my PC, roll up my sleeves, and do some real work. Fortunately for me and my family, nothing like that came up and we were all able to enjoy ourselves, the scenery, and our activities without me peeling off all day long to pound at the keyboard, attend meetings, answer phone calls, and yada yada yada.

A cheesy but nice image of the San Diego skyline

A cheesy but nice image of San Diego

I did go through some withdrawal during the week away from my desk, and I did suffer occasional feelings of guilt or responsibility along the lines of “I should be working.” But instead, we got to visit some cool amusement parks (LegoLand and SeaWorld), the fabulous San Diego zoo, and the “Silver Strand” beaches near the far end of the Coronado peninsula across the bay from San Diego. And upon my return home, I soon found myself right back in the swing of things and hard at work, though I was surprised to have only 90-odd emails that I actually had to read, and about half of which required some kind of response, during my first two days back at my desk (today is my third day back at work, which gives me the opportunity to compare the work mindset to the vacation mindset, and see some value in both states).

On the whole, I have to say that taking some real time away from work was quite refreshing. I’m humping away at a bit of a backlog with more verve and energy than usual, but am also glad to be back into my normal routine and interested in lots of projects and activities now underway or coming soon into my inbox. A real break proved to boost my energy level and my zest for work, and also helped me to appreciate many things I really like about my job, my work situation, my colleagues and co-workers, and life at home.

As an added bonus, we all got to see some interesting sights, visit some great places, and get an infusion of something new and different outside the “same old, same old.” I hope my son will carry the memories of his San Diego visit pleasantly and proudly for the rest of his life, and I hope he’ll acquire a taste for new people and places from time to time as well. They help add interest to life, but also help us appreciate the joys and splendors of home life and the usual routine.

It’s no wonder that productivity studies show that Americans who do take regular vacations are more productive than those who keep their noses incessantly to the grindstone and take no such regular breaks. Sadly, Americans take fewer and shorter vacations than people from most other first-world countries. Do yourself a favor: take an occasional break from your work routine. Even if you can’t afford to travel, get out of your workplace and your usual rut and do something different, even if only for the odd long weekend here and there. It will not only help you refresh yourself and recharge your batteries, it will also make you more grateful for the work you do and the life you lead. It worked for me, so it should hopefully also work for  you!

August 20, 2012  9:05 PM

CompTIA Plans to Introduce Performance-Based Exam Questions for A+, Network+, and Security+

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

By March, 2012, CompTIA will add performance-based questions that require candidates for the Network+, A+, and Security+ exams to interact with online simulations to carry out a task or solve some problem.

Blog Header for CompTIA info about new performance-based exam Qs
Blog Header for CompTIA info about new performance-based exam Qs

CompTIA made its plans public in a blog post whose headline is shown in the preceding figure. It also published the following schedule for the introduction of such questions in its three most popular exams:

  • A+: Updated versions of the two A+ exams — namely 220-801 and 220-802 will include performance-based questions, and become available in October 2012. The old, multiple-choice only versions (220-701 and 220-702) will remain available until August 31, 2013.
  • Network+: The updated version of the Network+ exam (N10-005) will do likewise, and should appear before the end of 2012. The old, multiple-choice only version of this exam (N10-004) remains available until August 31, 2013.
  • Security+: The current version of the Security+ exam (SYo-301) will get an infusion of performance-based questions, and become available sometime in the first quarter of 2013. No info on if the old version will remain available after the new one comes out, but I think it unlikely.

CompTIA also provides some words of warning about its new performance-based questions: “Exam candidates must pay careful attention to the wording and details of each question in order to form the correct answer.” They also opine that “To prepare for exams with performance-based questions, CompTIA encourages candidates to gain hands-on experience with exam objectives, in addition to engaging in their preferred methods for study and training.” I’m guessing this means there’s some potential to encounter trick questions in the mix, so candidates should be forewarned and fore-armed before they tackle the next-gen exams. I’m also guessing that this means some reworking will be needed for exam prep materials, and that interactive labs and simulations will start to become increasingly important tools for CompTIA exam preparation, too.

August 10, 2012  3:57 PM

David Foote Lights Up the Most Recent BLS EmpSitSum

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

The BLS is the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, a wing of the Labor Department. EmpSitSum is how I’ve come to think of the monthly Employment Situation Summary that this agency publishes, nearly always on the first Friday of each month. Last week I commented on the latest such report in a blog entitled Another First Friday Echoes “Slow Growth Mode”. This morning, an interesting and unexpectedly welcome press release from IT compensation and employment guru David Foote showed up in my inbox, and it’s both radical and inspiring enough to provoke a blog from me.

The title of his piece, labeled “IT News Analysis,” is “Technology employment trends in the July 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics United States Employment Report: Largest monthly expansion of IT labor force in more than three years as 18,200 workers are added to payrolls in July” (PDF Format). Yes, I know it’s a real mouthful, but the final sub-title really grabbed my attention, as I’m sure it will also grab yours. In his report, he identifies four job segments that he states are “commonly associated with IT professionals.” These are:

  • Telecommunications and Data Processing
  • Hosting and Related Services
  • Management and Technical Consulting Services
  • Computer Systems Design/Related Services

Foote reports 4,900 new jobs added in the first two segments above and says this is “notable because this is the first monthly net job gain in these categories since November 2010” (he quite rightly excludes the data for September 2011, when a large cadre of 45,000 striking Verizon workers returned to their jobs after an August work stoppage). He also reports that an additional 13,300 jobs were added in the other two segments as well, for a total of 18,200 new IT jobs for July. He also indicates that these two segments have continued to grow steadily over the past two years, and have added 242,000 jobs in that time frame.

In my previous blog post, I had wondered whether the latest EmpSitSum was a dark cloud looking for a silver lining, or a silver lining looking for a dark cloud. It appears I overlooked some good news for our own home sector, and I wanted to share the news with my readers as soon as I saw his article. And I have to thank him for helping me find the “Industries at a Glance” section on the US BLS Website, where much more detailed breakdowns by sector and segment are available. Thanks, David!

August 8, 2012  4:32 PM

A Quick Peek at the Coming Win8 Packaging

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

OK, so GA is coming in a little under three months, on October 26, 2012. According to The Verge, this is what the packaging for Windows 8 will look like when boxed versions of the new OS appear on store shelves that day.

Images of the Windows 8 (left, white) and Windows 8 Pro (right, dark) boxes

Images of the Windows 8 (left, white) and Windows 8 Pro (right, dark) boxes

Source: The Verge (8/7/2012)

From what blogger Salvador Rodriguez reports about this leak, the colored graphic at the left-center on each box represents its new “Windows 8-style UI logo,” which also appears in monochrome form on the spine of each box. I’m guessing that the colors inside the window panes are just fancy dress-up for the box art, and that the simple monochrome logo will continue on unchanged. No real word yet about what’s actually inside the box, and if it will include more than one DVD to accommodate the Windows 8 bits (as I look at the ISOs for the Release Preview, if MS wants to provide both 32- and 64-bit versions, it will probably need a separate DVD for each one).

No more crazy plastic shells for OS media, though. Having fought (and occasionally lost) against the prior enclosures for Vista and Windows 7, if I have to open one of these boxes, I’m reasonably confident I’ll be able to find my way to their contents without risking injury or frustration! This finally gives us something completely positive and complimentary to say about Windows 8 that everyone can agree on.

August 8, 2012  3:40 PM

Microsoft Launches New MCSD: Web Applications

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Just yesterday (August 7, 2012), MS announced a brand-new Microsoft Certified Solution Developer credential — namely, the MCSD: Web Applications. This new cert is based around Visual Studio 2012, with a focus on developing what the company calls “modern, interactive web applications that seamlessly integrate with data-driven services.” Specific technologies mentioned in conjunction with this new cert include MVC (the well-known model-view-controller design pattern, now practiced within most interactive design environments, including VS 2012), Azure (Microsoft’s Cloud platform, which supports all kinds of interesting developer access and APIs), HTML5 (the latest incarnation of HTML, which offers powerful and interesting animation, interaction, and multimedia support), and CSS3 (the latest version of Cascading Style Sheets, which includes support for extended media controls, 3-D button effects, and numerous dynamic event-driven behaviors).

Born to Learn Blog header for MSCD: Web Applications announcement

Born to Learn blog header for MSCD: Web Applications

Three exams are required to earn this MCSD credential:

Right now, there’s a free beta period running through the end of this week (until and including Sunday, August 12) with some free seats still possibly available, so act FAST if you’re interested. Use promo code WWW486 for exam 70-486 and WWW487 for exam 70-487; but because they’re in beta these exams have a 71- prefix instead of the 70- prefix they’ll sport later on when the final release of the commercial version is accomplished. The beta period for 70-480 is already closed, sorry.

Individuals who already hold the MCPD: Web Developer 4 certification are eligible for a 2-exam upgrade path to the MCSD: Web Application credential. The two exams required are 70-480 (already mentioned earlier in this blog post) and exam 70-492 Upgrade your MCPD: Web Developer 4 to MCSD: Web Applications (not yet available, but coming soon).

Each of these exams maps to a 5-day course that covers all exam objectives, and provides students with the chance to learn and drill on necessary skills and knowledge. The course for 70-480 is scheduled for an October, 2012, release, with the other exams to follow early in 2013. Exam prep books should also be available at around the same time as well. See the Microsoft MCSD: Web Applications home page for more information.

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