IT Career JumpStart

March 16, 2010  4:03 PM

New Cert Survey Now Features Virtualization Among an Otherwise Familiar Cast

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

In the latest “Between the Lines” for ZDNet, TechRepublic guest blogger Bill Detwiler reports on the “Top five technical certifications by salary.” Based on an IT salary survey conducted in tandem between Global Knowledge and TechRepublic (the third year in an ongoing series–see their joint 2010 IT Skills and Salary Report for more details), their “Top 5” list includes some old familiars as well as a relative newcomer that’s been attracting strong interest for some time now.

Here’s Detweiler’s list, followed by some commentary from yours truly:

1. $99,928 – CISSP (Cert. Info. Sys. Security Professional)
2. $93,953 – CCDA (Cisco Certified Design Associate)
3. $91,271 – VMware Certified Professional
4. $89,864 – CCNP (Cisco Certified Network Professional)
5. $86,454 – MCSE (MS Certified Systems Engineer)

I’m a little surprised to see the relatively junior Cisco CCDA certification showing up in the number two position, and very interested to see the relative newcomer VCP showing up in the number three slot. of course the CISSP is no surprise at all in number one (where it’s been in multiple salary surveys many, many times before). I’m very interested to see that the Windows Server 2003 (and older) based MCSE is still so close to the top of the charts, and also glad to see a solid professional-level credential like the CCNP filling the number four position.

If you want to see the full report, you’ll need to join the TechRepublic site (if you’re not already a member). The survey contains lots of interesting information and is probably worth a look, even if you just want to see how your personal situation and salary stack up against the pool of respondents (all 19,500 of them).

March 11, 2010  5:12 PM

Another take on the employment situation

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Sandy Leeds is a senior lecturer for the prestigious MBA program at the University of Texas. Even though he doesn’t have  a PhD (he has all kinds of other degrees though, including a BA, an MBA, and a law degree) he’s an award winning faculty member nevertheless. Check out his blog which is called “Leeds on Finance.”

In his blog for today, he makes an interesting observation that has me thinking about — and maybe even rethinking — my own previous blog right here (entitled “Employment still going sideways“). First his observation, then my thoughts:

Unemployment has peaked? One economist said that we’ve never seen unemployment drop 0.4% and then go on and hit new highs. In other words, he argued that since unemployment has come down from 10.1% to 9.7%, unemployment has peaked. (Citation)

It’s inarguable that employment has come down just a teeny bit (0.4% is how much unemployment dropped from December 2009 to January 2010, and February held that same line more or less intact), but it’s also interesting to ponder the economist’s observation that Mr. Leeds cites in his own blog. I guess that means it’s not the size of the downward swing that’s so interesting about this decline, but rather, that following that kind of retrenchment, the unemployment situation has not swung back the other way as far as the historical record can tell us.

Ultimately, the assessment of this apparently paltry improvement depends on whether or not you believe that just because something has never happened before, it’s not going to happen this time around, either. On the one hand, with a depression and a half-dozen or more recessions to look back to and analyze, that’s an encouraging observation to make. On the other hand, these kinds of predictors might better be interpreted as “it’s highly unlikely that unemployment will increase again” rather than “ain’t gonna happen.”

Although this is more encouraging than I had thought when looking at the February numbers, I still don’t think it’s time to break out the champagne and the party hats. There are still too many people looking for work, or feeling stuck in their current jobs, for euphoria to kick in. And while we’re at it, I’d still like to see more tangible signs of improvement for the IT sector rather than “we’re not losing as many jobs as fast as we were in 2008/2009.” ‘Nuff said.

March 5, 2010  8:33 PM

Employment Still Going Sideways

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Rats! I’d hoped for some good news in today’s February 2010 Employment Situation Summary from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, but what I got was more of the same. Unemployment is unchanged at 9.7%, and job losses were low but still present at 36,000 for the month. In fact, most of the numbers anybody might care to examine in this report show little motion, forward or backward.

But the real news for IT workers showed up a little later in the report where I found this sentence “Job losses continued in construction and information, while employment continued to increase in temporary help services.” I guess that points the direction for IT workers out of a job looking for something, anything to keep their ships afloat!

I guess we’re all still waiting for some kind of dramatic development or seminal event that kicks the economy back into more normal circumstances. With little motion up or down for Feburary, it looks like we’re going to keep waiting for some time to come.

March 3, 2010  3:20 PM

A few faint glimmers of hope, employment-wise

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

This morning on NPR I heard two faint glimmers of hope on the employment front. First a recent study of planned layoffs by executive placement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas shows that those numbers are down to their lowest levels in four years. And second, a recent report on job losses indicates that the trend is likewise down with guesstimates for February job losses (the BLS numbers come out on Friday) at or under 20,000 for that month.

I take some heart from both sets of numbers. The first indicates that employers are seeing fewer reasons to trim staff than they have for quite some time. The second says that the number of jobs lost (both planned and unplanned) continues to wane. Together, these statistics tell us that things continue to improve somewhat, though we’re by no means out of losing territory (job losses and layoffs do continue, albeit at a slower pace) and onto winning ground (where, ideally not only the general jobs numbers would improve, but also where IT employment would increase as well).

I continue to repeat my incantation “Be calm. Stay put. Things will improve.” knowing that while we do indeed see a few small rays of sunshine, the overall forecast remains pretty grey and gloomy, all the way into 2011 and beyond. But for the first time in quite a while, I find myself looking forward to the February job numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (the same BLS I mention in my first paragraph here) rather than dreading what they might portend. Let’s hope that modest or faint improvements improve somewhat themselves in the months ahead, and that the trickle of good news turns into a torrent. We could all use some encouragement, to be sure!

February 26, 2010  4:59 PM

When Things Go Sideways, Hunker Down!

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

I play pool twice a week, and am a proud, card-carrying member of the American Poolplayer’s Association. This organization operates pool leagues all over the US, and uses a reasonably accurate handicapping system to permit players of all skill levels to compete against one another with some chance of success.

The team captain on my Thursday night nine-ball league is a great big strong guy, who’s often called “Big John” to distinguish him from the other player named John in our group (and to give you an idea of how big “Big” is, the lesser of the two weighs a good 230 and stands at least 6’2″ tall). Big John sometimes has a problem playing pool because he will occasionally get angry or frustrated. When that happens, he starts banging the balls very hard indeed. Though it does create an impressive display of kinetic motion and power transfer, his accuracy suffers when he does this and this often means that when he loses his cool, he also loses his match.

Last night I was keeping score when he was called upon to play for a second time at the very end of our five-game series (one of our other players is expecting a child and because the bar where we play is one of the few “smoking allowed” establishments left in Travis County, TX — believe it or not, pool halls are one of a very, very small number of places that serve alcohol where indoor smoking is still legal — she’s wisely decided to sit out the rest of the season to avoid further exposure to second hand smoke). Big John’s opponent made 8 out of 10 points on the first rack of balls, and I could see the smoke start to come out of his ears.

I told him that he could get mad if he wanted to, but if he wanted to win he needed to shrug off the score and concentrate on maximizing his opportunities to score when his turn came around. I observed that his opponent needed to score 38 points to win, whereas he, Big John, needed only 25. If he played his game correctly, he could easily attain his scoring goal before his opponent beat him.

I’m not sure if my words of advice made any difference, but Big John did indeed settle down and proceeded to inch his way up in the standings, while his opponent started blowing hot and cold on the table. Ultimately, Big John was able to win because he stayed cool, and scored points whenever he could. He attributed his win to having consumed sufficient malted beverages to let him remain philosophical even when he got behind. Perhaps that played a role, but I have to think his attitude of “do what you can, whenever you can” is what won him the game. In a statistically rare conclusion to the evening, we tied the other team 50-50, and everybody walked away with their dignity intact and a positive outcome for both sides.

On the way home to the house last night, I thought that our current economy is a lot like that pool game, and most of us IT workers have the tendency to react like Big John does when he starts getting behind. When things don’t go our way, we tend to get frustrated. If they keep going south long enough — as they sometimes will, and indeed as they have for anybody who works in IT for the last couple of years and a little bit more — we even start getting angry about our situation, and the gross unfairness of it all.

Alas, macroeconomics is even more indifferent to the fates and fortunes of IT workers than a poolplayer’s opponent is to his attitude about getting behind or losing. With the economy going up just a little lately, the temptation is there to get angry and frustrated about the slow pace, and even the “one step forward and two steps back” progress toward recovery. But if we can all just remain cool, and hunker down, we’ll be able to seize the inevitably opportunities that will come along when things begin to pick up in earnest…even if that means waiting until 2011, or 2012, or even longer than that. I repeat “Hang in there!”

February 25, 2010  10:43 PM

Cisco Simplifies, Streamlines CCNP

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Cisco’s given its Cisco Certified Networking Professional, or CCNP, credential a substantial reworking, and as far as I can tell all the changes are very much for the better. Instead of four 90-minute exams, the format also switches to three 120-minute exams. Topics get a much-needed refresh, with old or little-used stuff out the window, and a more rational naming and coverage scheme now in place.

The old exams included:

  • BSCI or Building Scalable Cisco Internetworks
  • BCMSN or Building Cisco Multilayer Switched Networks
  • Implementing Secure Converged Wide-Area Networks (ISCW)
  • Optimizing Converged Cisco Networks (ONT)

The new exams are a whole bunch more straightforward:

Certcities quotes some interesting commentary on the revised CCNP and exam changes from well-known Cisco cert author Wendell Odom in an article on this topic entitled “Cisco Announces Major Changes to CCNP.” Troubleshooting is back with a vengeance and topical coverage has been squared up with what plays on the job. Definitely worth a read!

February 21, 2010  9:03 PM

Citrix Cert Virtualization Update Path

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Until the end of 2010 (12/31/2010, that is) individuals who hold a CCEA (Citrix Certified Enterprise Administrator) or CCIA (Citrix Certified Integration Architect) credential for MetaFrame Access Suite 3.0 or MetaFrame XP Presentation Server can follow a special “update path” to qualify for the CCEE (Citrix Certified Enterprise Engineer) for virtualization credential. This path consists of three steps, as follows:

Step 1: Gain Administration Experience

Update path candidates must obtain on-the-job, real world experience using and administrering the products that make up a current Citrix virtualization solution — namely, XenApp, XenServer, and XenDesktop. It’s also essential to understand that exam content for the CCEE for Virtualization rests on XenApp 5.0 for Windows Server 2008, so that hands-on exposure to and knowledge of this platform and Windows Server 2008 is absolutely essential. Citrix also offers product-specific Administrator series credentials on these various items to help individuals bone up for the CCEE exam.

Step 2: Pass the Citrix Engineering Exam

Candidates must take and pass Citrix Exam A15 “Engineering a Citrix Virtualization Solution” (this exam is not yet available, but with a beta release target date of April 2010, it probably won’t go into public release until June or July of that year).

Step 3: Complete the CCEE Program Documentation Requirements

Candidates must agree to the CCEE for Virtualization program agreement language, to be made available in the Citrix Certification Manager environment online. Once the CCEE is formally released, this agreement will also become publicly available.

Long story short: looks like those planning to climb to the next Citrix certification rung, or who wish to carry forward from CCEA or CCIA credentails, should be thinking about getting involved in the beta program for the CCEE and should be working with the required platforms for that credential right now. See the “CCEE for Virtualization Update Path” Web page for more information and pointers to other related items.

February 21, 2010  8:46 PM

CompTIA Takes Strategic Position on A+, Network+, Security+ “Freshness Dates”

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

In my blog of 1/13/2010, I applauded CompTIA for its decision to grant its most popular credentials — namely, the ones called out in this blog’s title — only a three year lease on life. After that, they said, individuals must either meet continuing education requirements or re-take the exam to maintain the currency of their credentials. “Fair enough,” I thought when I read this pronouncement, recognizing that most major cert programs include some kind of freshness guarantee for their credentials, so that employers don’t have to check the granting date and then make sure its holder has stayed current independent of a credential’s own inbuilt safeguards.

This decision to change the rules of the game after the fact (or perhaps more cogently, after lots of people paid good money for a credential that was sold to them at least in part on the notion that it “never expires”) caused a huge outcry from the certified community. I took flack for agreeing with this decision on CompTIA’s part, and the organization itself suffered from an enormous backlash from its vast population of certified professionals.

As is often the case when rule changes fail to work for those affected, CompTIA has retreated from its earlier position. The current situation now involves a “watershed date” for A+, Network+, and Security+. Anybody who earns these credentials on or before 12/31/2010 remains certified for life. Starting on 1/1/2011, these credentials have a three year life and must be renewed, either by meeting continuing education requirements or by retaking the latest version of the exam.

To get the complete (revised) story on certification renewals from CompTIA, see the statement entitled “CompTIA Certification Renewal Policy” from Todd Thibodeaux, President and CEO, of that organization. I can’t find a pub date on this item, but it had to appear some time around 1/26/2010 (the day that a press release from CompTIA entitled CompTIA Certification Renewal Policy Clarified appeared).

As rougly translated from Jean-Baptiste Alphone Karr’s famous epigram (“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”): the more things change, the more they stay the same! If you’ve already got one of these CompTIA certs, you’re good for life; if not, you’ll have to renew if you delay until after the start of next year to earn one. Moral of this story: if you’re thinking about one of these credentials, be sure to earn it before the end of 2010.

February 17, 2010  4:09 PM

Another MS Study Option: “Career Packages”

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Those IT professionals seeking advancement, or aspiring IT workers seeking positions, may want to check out an interesting combination package available (for some time now) from Microsoft. It’s called a “Career Package” and includes coverage of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, with SW Server 2008 R2 scheduled to follow in the March-May 2010 time frame.

Here’s the basic concept:

1. Enroll in any class listed in this table on the Microsoft Learning Special Offers page (Classroom training tab; no links are live on this screencap though you’ll find them active on the source page, with more coming soon in addition).

Four courses for now, 8 more to come

Four courses for now, 8 more to come

2. After clicking Enroll, enter the product name for your platform of choice, then scan the search results for a graphic that reads “GET SOFTWARE with Career Packages.” These courses will include free software along with the standard class materials.

This is the logo to look for

This is the logo to look for

You may have to extend your geographical range to find such offerings right now (for example, I found none in Austin, TX, which is currently the 16th largest city in the US; the only such courses I could find were in the Dallas and Houston metro areas). Be prepared to pay for this privilege, too: the sticker price for most such courses runs around $450 or better per classroom day. But if you qualify for some kind of financial assistance or tolerable financing, it might still be worth attending one of these three to five day sessions, where you’ll get initial hands-on and strong exposure, and come away with tools and licenses you can use to equip a home lab.

One more thing: the links from the MS search function to the vendor’s Web sites aren’t direct nor terribly seamless. Be sure to write down the course number for which you want the Career Package deal. That proved to be the best way to get to the Learning Partner sign-up and cost information pages, once I followed the “Register for this class” link on any specific listing item.

February 9, 2010  2:09 PM

Up, Down and Sideways: IT Employment in 2010

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

My return from Belgium, and back to work in my home office, coincides nearly exactly with the latest employment situation summary for February, 2010. Although the numbers reported include an unexpected dip in unemployment (from the unchanged 10.0% reported for the preceding month of December, 2009, to 9.7% for January, 2010) they also include a scary and sobering statistic. That is, the ranks of the unemployed now number a staggering 9.3 million people, of which 6.3 million are classified as “long-term unemployed:” people who would, in fact, be working if circumstances were such that they had a job to hold.

Given that IT represents about 5.35% of the total workforce, that’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 313,000 IT professionals out seeking work. As I’ve observed in other blogs, IT may be poised for an upturn later in 2010, but that turn is going to have to climb to significantly higher levels to reabsorb all of the IT professionals currently un- or under-employed. Then, too, we must also include the 1.3 million individuals who will earn a college degree of some kind in 2010, adding another 70,000 individuals likely to also seek employment in some kind of IT role or another (assuming the same proportion of IT degrees as there are IT workers in the general workforce).

What does all this mean? Although the economy may have turned a corner, and improvements are already in progress, it’s still going to be some time before employment in the US returns to anything like normal. And of course, what holds for the economy also holds for IT: most experts do anticipate some kind of uptick in IT hiring by the second half of 2010, but with over 300,000 people from the under- or unemployed contending for those positions, along with another 70,000 individuals who will be knocking at the door for entry-level positions, things could remain “interesting” for a long time.

There are those who believe that IT will never return to its former glory days and soak up all of the excess people who are ready to return to work, or who soon will be ready to join the IT work force. I happen to think that IT is increasingly an engine for growth and competitive advantage, and have to believe that a real recovery will mean that the excess gets soaked up and demand continues upward even from there. But only time will tell, and I can’t even say how soon will be soon enough to say if I’m dreaming or onto a genuine relationship between enabling technology—namely, IT—and real market growth.

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