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The Certification Boat

How would you rather get your MCP: reading books and fiddling with a homemade network in your windowless basement or tooling around Jamaica and the Grand Caymans on a cruise ship?

That’s the question Neil Bauman hopes you ask yourself, and it’s why he’s added Microsoft certification to his other Geek Cruises offerings.

Geek Cruises started about two years ago, with a trip for Perl programmers. It was so successful that Bauman’s added other computer specialties, including Java programming and Linux. “Certification Sail,” as he calls the MCP cruise, is his latest offering. It’s a seven-day excursion in November, starting in Tampa, Florida and meandering in Cozumel, Mexico.

“In the olden days, once you passed the MCP test, you could expect to get a 10 percent bump in pay from your employer,” says Bauman. “And by and large, you had to pay for it yourself. If you have to pay for it yourself, would you rather spend 40 hours in Idaho or the Caribbean?”

The cruise has three full days at sea, and that’s when the majority of the training is done. Each of those days is spent in training from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The program is aimed at helping attendees pass two of the core MCSE tests: 70-210, Windows 2000 Professional, and 70-215, Windows 2000 Server. “We’re going to push them hard,” Bauman says of the students.

How hard, though? Wouldn’t it be easy to be distracted on a cruise ship? Not for his target audience, according to Bauman. “There are rooms on the ship that don’t have windows, and that’s probably where I’ll run this. When you’re at sea, geeks tend to be bored. [They] find this to be the ideal use of sea time. In Alaska, sea time is beauty time. In the Caribbean, all you see is ocean. You just don’t need to keep seeing it.”

Cruise ships have another aspect conducive to learning, Bauman points out: They’re largely cut off from the outside world. “Beepers and cell phones don’t work at sea.”

Although the Microsoft certification track starts out small, offering just the two tests, Bauman says, “There’s a 100 percent chance I’ll be doing more certifications.” He’s currently looking into .NET certifications, which will likely be released later this year or early next.

So, what could be better than getting your certification in the Caribbean? Getting the boss to pay for it. Bauman even has suggestions for how to approach your employer. “Word is spreading that these are high-end cruises. The cruise itself is very inexpensive, typically $1,000, including food and room for seven nights.”

Geek Cruises can be found at www.geekcruises.com.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.

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