Professionally Speaking

The Next Big Certification Thing

When it comes to the next step in your certification, look at what you like to do and how you can go about learning it, rather than what may be the next hot certification.

Although I’m a CNE 5, the last version I worked on was 4 and, extensively, 3. I have about three years’ experience with NT and have experience in rollouts, process improvement and team leader roles—but I’ve yet to undertake any Windows 2000 training and have minimal experience with the product. I live in Adelaide, South Australia, which is a fairly small city; our market for contractors is quite competitive.
    I’ve completed the four NT core exams and need to either take the four Win2K exams or the Accelerated Exam. My problem is that I have little money. What should I do to find some work dealing with Win2K?

—Russell Gill, MCP, CNE 5
Adelaide, South Australia

I have my CCNA 2.0 and my NT 4.0 MCSE. What’s the “next” big certification?
—Cliff Williams
Cliff.Williams@wheaton.com

Russell, as a contractor you owe it to yourself to keep up on your skills. This means that—one way or another—you need to pick up Win2K skills now. I wouldn’t be concerned about the costs of formal courses, as with your existing skills and experience you should be able to complete your education through self-study. I’m afraid that NetWare will only continue to decline in the marketplace and so, too, will the value of your skills in this area.

Although you haven’t had any significant hands-on experience, I think you’ll find that more companies will soon be moving forward with their mass Win2K deployments. In this way, if you have existing experience with NT 4.0 and understand the new features, there’s no reason why you couldn’t be involved in a Win2K rollout. Of course, those involved in the design and support of AD will need much more hands-on experience, but I’d think that most of the other project members would be able to hit the ground running.

Adelaide is a very small market for IT, so you might want to consider relocating to a larger market such as Sydney or Melbourne. It’s true that things are quiet throughout Australia right now, but you’ll have more options in these big cities. Americans seem to think nothing of crossing the country to relocate for their career—yet, in Australia, we pretty much stay in the same city in which we were born. Of course, if you make a lifestyle decision to stay in Adelaide for you and your family, make sure you understand the career implications.

Cliff, as to the question of the next big certification, I believe we covered that a couple of months ago (July 2001). It seems a great many people are headed down the Cisco path, with the CCIE being the top of that mountain. However, as I said before, those just starting out are going to find it tough to command the big dollars that CCIEs have in the past. I’ve no doubt we’ll start hearing soon about a backlash against Cisco certification, just as some are now unhappy about unrealized expectations from pursuing Microsoft certifications.

I continue to believe that Linux will have a growing role in IT, although I’m not one of the true believers who thinks that one day it’ll dominate all (including the corporate desktop). I’m not certain how valuable certification will be in this area. I’m using certification in Linux as a structured way to increase my Linux skills; for now, I think hard-won experience is king for the foreseeable future.

However, the concern I have about your question is the concept of picking a technology winner upon which to base the next phase of your career. In theory, this sounds reasonable, but there are many reasons why great new technologies don’t reach critical mass. Even well-placed industry analysts can be made to look like fools when we look back at their fearless predictions on the adoption rates of new technologies. I think it’s best that you leave the business of picking winners to the stock market or the track and base your career decisions on what you really enjoy.

Having said that, you need to be aware of declines in technology fortunes, otherwise you’ll soon find yourself without any marketable skills. This is coming from someone who, at various times, was very strong in OS/2 LAN Server and later Novell NetWare. Right now, staying with Microsoft is a solid, conservative choice, but this may not always be true in the future—we all have to keep our eyes open for any significant shift in Microsoft’s fortunes. This, of course, isn’t likely to happen this year or next, but who knows where Microsoft will be in the marketplace by the time you and I are reaching retirement age. In this case, you don’t have to make an educated guess as to which technologies to move, as you’re well placed to understand what everyone else is migrating to.

About the Author

Greg Neilson is a manager at a large IT services firm in Australia and has been a frequent contributor to MCPmag.com and CertCities.com.

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