Editor's Desk

Chill, People

Is Microsoft making the right decisions with its cert program in regards to .NET? Well, consider how other companies change their exams to address a significant technology shift.

Obviously, the Microsoft Certified Professional community cares about the fact that mix-and-match is gone and discrete tracks for Windows 2000 and .NET are here. If it had been a movie, your responses to the news on our Web site would have ranked an R rating for explicit language.

The pronouncement was the first out of the new regime running the training and certification group in Redmond. Lutz Ziob, who now manages the division, comes from CompTIA, where he ran the certification programs. He certainly had an easier time there. After all, the A+ certification is still the same basic credential it was when first introduced in 1993.

At Microsoft Ziob faces the bigger challenge of maintaining the value of the Microsoft credential at the same time he urges Microsoft's partners—in this case, people who hold a Microsoft title—to move into the new technologies. After all, that's what partners do—support a company's efforts and in return drive their own successes.

Was this first set of announcements a blunder?

Microsoft has to address the technologies it's developing; it makes more money getting new stuff out the door than supporting the old stuff. That said, if you're an MCSE on NT 4.0 or Win2K, guess what? You don't lose. You're still an MCSE. If you're wondering what to do on your resume, leave it at "MCSE," don't reference the particular platform you're expert at. If you're still in the process of becoming an MCSE on Win2K, guess what? You don't lose either. That OS has a long and healthy future on servers for years to come. But no matter how Microsoft structures it, that doesn't make you an instant expert on .NET too.

Yes, if you work for a solution provider that has to maintain a particular number of certified professionals at a certain ranking, your boss will put pressure on you; but if you had any wits about your work, you knew about that requirement going in. One of the wonderful things about this country is that nobody holds a gun to anybody's head to force a particular learning track. If you don't like cutting edge or you're burned on exams, find yourself a job where it doesn't matter.

I don't have much space here to address the complaints registered about this news; but I will speak up about one aspect of your arguments: Those of you who believe Cisco Systems has it all figured out with its CCIE program, which never gets versioned, consider this: You must either retake the written exam or take a recertification exam every two years. If you fail to do so, you're placed on inactive status. Eventually, you're kicked from the program and have to start from scratch. This isn't unique to Cisco. ISC(2) has similar requirements: maintenance fees every year and continuing education credits or retaking of the exam every three years.

Perhaps Microsoft is headed that direction, and this is simply the first step. I think it's a good idea. I'll post your responses in a future issue. Yell at me at dian.schaffhauser@mcpmag.com.

About the Author

Dian L. Schaffhauser is a freelance writer based in Northern California.

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Reader Comments:

Fri, May 9, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

I fully agree what all has been said about certifications , I think certifications are nothing but revenue generating scheme of Microsoft

Thu, Jan 30, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

The latest stats on the growth of Linux are fantastic! See you at the South Pole.
"Go South Young Man.", "GO SOUTH!"

Fri, Jan 17, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Microsoft is making a big mistake by constantly requiring recertification every single year. Most of the topics taught in the M.S. courses are not used in real life networks. M.S. constantly changing their minds on how or if they are going to certify / de-certify is not helping the I.T. community either. Common Microsoft. Pick something and be good at it!
I am pushing my customers towards Open Source Linux, and I encourage other network Guru's to do the same. If enough do it, we can make Microsoft respond to us !

Fri, Jan 17, 2003 dennis providence

The idea of decertifying individuals is ludicrous. For the vast majority, there was a big investment of time, talent, and money. And to just capriciously decertify individuals based on testing is to say they are no longer a competent Microsoft professional.

Please consider there is no other profession or industry that requires rectification through testing. Neither a doctor nor a lawyer, a plumber nor electrician, a teacher nor nurse is required to take another test in order to maintain their certifications. All of these professionals are simply required to attain a specified number of continuing education units (CEUs) within their industry over a specified period of time. They are not required to take a test or required to take a specified course at a specific location. Most CEUs can easily be achieved through professional development seminars or participation in some form of classroom training.

Knowledge and experience are not simply lost overtime. While there may be a need to refresh individual knowledge and assure the industry that each candidate is maintaining a standard level of competency, testing is not the solution. This method has only proven to be a form of negative reinforcement and causes a lot of people to abandon the whole certification process. A positive way to continually lift the standards and encourage people to stay within the certification process would be to provide greater professional development and more incentives. Of course whatever option is chosen, it should also demonstrate greater flexibility at a more affordable cost.

I look forward to a time when Microsoft will be able to strike a balance between profits and education. It would be nice to see them become an industry leader in the certification process and not be driven merely by money and market share. It would be nice to no longer see them wanting to mimic the competition but wanting to be the leader. It would be nice to see a time when everyone will appreciate the value of certification and be proud to hold this certification.

Wed, Jan 15, 2003 Anonymous USA

Even the Windows 2000 Microsoft Tests DO NOT do a good job of assessing Real, Business Experience and Knowledge of the Products. The questions cover Strange and Uncommon situations IT admins RARELY if EVER come across. As far as passing the tests goes, Reading 1,000 page books and doing extensive Labs and Supporting the Product for Years is LESS EFFECTIVE than just buying a Transcender or one of the other 1,000 test prep software's out there out there and JUST STUDY IT - Do NOT NEED ANY EXPERIENCE OR TO DO ANY LABS. YOU HAVE TO LEARN THE TYPE OF QUESTIONS MICROSOFT ASKS AND HOW TO LOOK FOR CLUES AND KNOW HOW TO ANSWER THE QUESTION. ALSO, WHY DOES EVERY QUESTION HAVE TO BE A BOOK IN ITSELF? By the time you finish reading the question, you forget how it started. But, I guess if you look at it from their perspective - How can you create questions that are Tough so that the Cert is considered Valuable? And are we upset with the quality of the tests or the fact that we can't pass them the first time or without spending money on books and testing software?

Wed, Jan 15, 2003 Matt Missouri

There are both good and bad on the new change. The good is it now creates a "step ladder" approach on being certified. You also get to keep whatever cert you obtained. I think there should be some advantage to being an MCSE for 2k and then going for it in .NET, such as less tests or some tests transfer over. I have not seen .NET, but I am sure Active directory and network infrastructers are very similiar if not identical. Taking core tests would be fine. I also still think the "standard" tests such as A+ and Network+ should be included. Yes, the tests do cover the same principals, but these are industry standards and people should know them like the back of their hands. The tests do and have evolved also and are a bit more complicated then when first done as well, unlike what this article mentions. Microsoft software is "proprietary" in certian aspects, but networks and physical hardware generally follow standards. Without knowing things like that, you can not get Microsoft to work. Microsoft saying we were not MCSEs for NT4, that was crazy. Its not like Microsoft zapped the knowledge out of our heads and now we are obsolete. Changing the format of the test taking does not uphold the level of value on the cert, but I think this new approach is a good idea and in the right direction.

Wed, Jan 15, 2003 ess_el UK

Microsoft’s idea of upgrading one’s certification to keep abreast of changing technology is fine provided the change doesn’t involve as much effort, cost and frequency as we are all aware of. Maybe the reaction from professionals already certified would not be as negative as it is now if, by the time they finish one set of exams, the next one is underway or already waiting for them. Sure the certification helps one with the job they may perform but companies certainly don’t need professionals who are qualified in technologies that they may or may not embrace in the immediate future. They would find it less expensive to invest on people with skills matching their current setup. Maybe if this process of finalising exams for certification in .NET MCSE is put off till end 2003 and started next year, it would give certified individuals the time to assess the impact of the new technology in their current jobs, in the industry and on their careers as a whole.

Wed, Jan 15, 2003 Jody WI

Excellent topic... However, Microsoft does need to make a decision and stick with it. They also need to give people a heads up on what will be required, and provide the training materials to accomplish this certification. While they have provided developers with loads of training manuals for .NET. They still don't have any courseware that applies to Windows 2003 Server from a MCSE perspective.

Wed, Jan 15, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Dian - according to your own analysis, which is appreciated, you seems to be saying between the lines that if you're already MCSE on any track, then great, you're set. No need to worry about upgrading, unless you work somewhere where they require that, and if they do, might want to consider a change. Thanks, that's exactly how I'm handing it.

MCSE (doesn't matter what track)

Wed, Jan 15, 2003 Elcio Favare Sao Paulo - Brazil

What is this conversation about? Luke against the Empire? Let me say something. IT market changes with the wind, every day we have new challenges, and a good way to know best practices and get skills to join different technologies into a real Solution (and that's what the customer wants, not a lot of tech gadgets) is study hard and, If you can, do the exams to test your skills. Of course that Microsoft courses and tests do not show all the products bytes, but they are getting better. I work with tech support and I'm HP/Compaq ASE, IBM CSE and Microsoft MCSE (NT4, W2K, EXCH5.5 and ISA). As new products come to field, you have to know how to design, support and implement, so to keep my skills up to date I have to do the HP exams every time. I've done it since 1997 with Compaq products - 3 exams to certificate (plus your OS certification), plus 3 exams to re-certificate until now and more 3 to do in 2003 - and what's the problem with this? That's the career I've chosen, and to be "on top" you have to make your plans and reserve some money - probably made with your cert. - to keep improving. For the ones who like to talk about Master Degree, put in your minds that is a completely different choice for your career. A Master Degree put you on the IT Administration Field (not network administrator), so try to look ahead of your noses and think more before start shouting, if you have done it a couple of years ago, we could talking about other stuff now.

Well, happy new year and success with your plans to 2003

Wed, Jan 15, 2003 Anon UK

The company I work for was in no hurry to upgrade to Windows 2000 never mind Windows.Net. We would have been happy to stay with NT 4 forever and are only now considering the move to Windows 2000 because Microsoft are withdrawing support for Nt 4. Our managment take the view that upgrading software cost's money while adding nothing to the bottom line - managers at other companies are sure to think the same. I think market forces will prevail and make Windows.net Microsoft's slowest selling product yet - for these reasons I have upgraded my MCSE to Windows 2000 but won't be bothering with Windows.net

Tue, Jan 14, 2003 Shady Youssef (MCSD) Egypt

Regarding the new certification track and versioning you on the MCP site.I think this is fair enough for MCSEs. Yes folcs MCSEs work is full dependent on the current OS technology and even the minor changes in Wizards; don't you Programers out there agree with me. A totally different situation is for MCSDs, they certify you as a Solution Architect and a programmer capable of creating desktop and web apps. It doesn't matter what language you use or what version. It is a shame to ruch programs and software engineer to follow such an illusion of Microsoft updates.What is the .NET? It is just a tweak of the Java Run Time Environment and the Java Virtual Machine. Guys there is no news about that, others have done it 15 years ago.to sum up.I only respect Microsoft as an ADVERTISEMENT COMPANY not a technology leader.

Tue, Jan 14, 2003 .NET fluff CA

I’m an MCSA that has been discouraged by this shift in certification policy. I have seen .NET, and played with the beta release, the difference in Technology is not that different. My feeling is that 80% of the companies will not see the justification to upgrade to .NET, since many are still upgrading to 2K. The fundamentals are the same; it’s not like the big step from NT4 to Win2K. So…. once I become an MCSE I will have to take 2 more tests to upgrade both my certifications (SA, and SE), that is if my electives are still valid (if not that would be another set of tests). The determining factor is, how long will Microsoft keep the 2K certifications around? It’s important to note that most people that have been in the industry for a while will tell you “Once an MCSE, always an MCSE”. You don’t see MCSEs from the 3.5 days as 2K or .NET MCSEs, because they have proven them selves to adapt and survive in this strange and awkward job market. That is why I think I will pass on this .NET fluff. Thanks for listening; I will depart from my soap box now. ;)

Tue, Jan 14, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Microsoft Certifications are becoming a DEAD issue. Until Microsoft can pull it's head out of it's "_____", and make a decision on the path it wants to take, then stick to it, Myself and others are going to jump off of the "recertification" treadmill that Microsoft seems to want everyone to be on.
My employer does not want the continued expense and headache of constantly having someone in training, with no break, just to satisfy the whims of Papa Bill Gates.
My company is looking into Linux as a viable alternative, as are several other former MCSE's from other companies in my area.
I think Microsoft is making a big mistake on it's business direction....
Time will tell !!

Bill W.

Tue, Jan 14, 2003 Tucson, MCT Tucson

Currently working a double teaching ICND in the daytime and the MOC 2126 in the evening. What's hard is working with a product all day (Cisco), that works flawlessly and then at five, start troubleshooting Windows 2000 so that MOC labs can work. I'm slowly drifting away from MS and doing more and Cisco. Tried to show my students what .NET (Server 2003?) looked like as a root domain in a tree in a exisiting forest. No can do. You have to run Adprep first, modify the Schema in windows 2000, sacrifice a goat on the keyboard and pray for the best. I'm tired of the crap but I'll do the .Net (Server 2003?) cert because it is so sticking simple, full of holes big enough to drive a truck through and business as usual for MS and me. And besides, who cares? It's just a another cert to hang on the "I love me wall." You got to admit, the goof balls at MS that run the cert program have never had a cert, couldn't pass a cert and yet we allow these clowns to dictate cert policy. You'd thing that something dictating policy would have a background in the subject matter.

Tue, Jan 14, 2003 zbot Anonymous

No more money from me Microsoft no more chasing after worthless certificates.

Tue, Jan 14, 2003 exMCT USA

I tried to phase out any MCSE or Microsoft credential. I'm used to as MCT
and done part time teaching on AATP.
The changing of MCT policy which
force me unwillingly drop my MCT status,
which I have spend more than one thousand dollars to get it.
I don't want to chase my life with certification and certified Win2000, Win2003, 2004, 2005, 2010.......
I think MCSE Win2000 is my last
Microsoft certification.
I have earned MCSE NT and Win2000.
It's not fun and cost money to maintain
those certification esp. with those cheap
employer which does not support training
and certification.

Let Win2000 MCSE be the last certification in Microsoft world.

Tue, Jan 14, 2003 exMCT Anonymous

I tried to phase out any MCSE or Microsoft credential. I'm used to as MCT
and done part time teaching on AATP.
The changing of MCT policy which
force me unwillingly drop my MCT status,
which I have spend more than one thousand dollars to get it.
I don't want to chase my life with certification and certified Win2000, Win2003, 2004, 2005, 2010.......
I think MCSE Win2000 is my last
Microsoft certification.
I have earned MCSE NT and Win2000.
It's not fun and cost money to maintain
those certification esp. with those cheap
employer which does not support training
and certification.

Let Win2000 MCSE be the last certification in Microsoft world.

Tue, Jan 14, 2003 noone USA

Give us a break!

Tue, Jan 14, 2003 Mike Texas

I am finshed paying for Microsoft certifications. 2 MCSE's and a MCSA.
This only seems like a revenue generator, exams and BOOKS

Sun, Dec 29, 2002 Scott Spiess Redding, Ca

I think retiring certifications are the way to go. That said, you should still be able to put on your resume that you “were” a NT 4.0 MCSE or “were” Windows 2K MCSE. I have a Cisco CCNA and CCDA. In three years, I either take the tests over again, upgrade to CCNP or loose them. I don’t have much of a problem with that, because you are either working with Cisco products or you are not working with Cisco products. I have in the past, posted that performance based testing was a great idea and the Microsoft needed to raise the bar to get and keep their MCSE’s competent. Cisco and others are using performance based testing to insure some level of quality in its certified people. I have posted about this topic before. Some of those posts were flames, but the point still is, you need to know your job to do your job. In the end, you will need to either keep getting your upgraded certs or have enough experience to where the certs do not matter. Microsoft has made it very clear that they want to control the bar (lower it) for marketing purposes only. Microsoft is not worried about you; they are only worried about themselves and how much product they can sell. Microsoft has done a crappy job with its certification program and in my opinion has lost most, if not all of its credibility.

Scott Spiess
MCSE NT 4.0 & 2K, CCNA, CCDA, CCA, CCEA, CNA, RSASecure ID

Fri, Dec 20, 2002 Leslie Asher Walnut Creek, CA

Windows 2000 exam questions are more tricky than Windows NT exam questions. So current test takers must emphasize book learning over field experience, despite Microsoft's announced intentions to the contrary. If this trend continues into .NET exams, fewer professionals than ever may opt to renew their Microsoft certifications. Instead, more professionals may opt to do as I did -- return to college and complete a master's degree. University questions are generally held to a higher standard of fairness and relevance. The resulting degree is universally recognized and not subject to expiration.

Fri, Dec 20, 2002 John Potanos Wheaton IL

I think that we, as technology professionals, have to accept the fact that MCSE credentials have their place in the marketing of one's self or one's company, but they are certainly not all of the marketing. You still need to be able to communicate your strengths, and waving a piece of certification will NOT do it by itself. Microsoft SHOULD change the program as their products change. I do not look at my MCSE credentials as a skills metric, I view them as evidence that I have aligned my learning to the Microsoft path. So let them change the program. It really will not affect my ability to deliver technology solutions, which is what I am paid to do.

Fri, Dec 20, 2002 Rick Oak Ridge, TN

I personally am fed up with Microsoft. I was an MCT, but lost it due to non activity. I support Microsoft products on a daily basis and the products I support, I understand the real world problems with it. The changes in Microsoft's MCT program basically limits the field professionals. In the future, most trainers will be professional trainers who only work for CTEC's and only understand what the MOC book says. I have lost all interest in certification and test taking. The tests aren't real world either. They are a play on words to confuse the testee. Each time they fail us, they get more money.
I HATE MICROSOFT.

Thu, Dec 19, 2002 Charter 2000 SLC, UT

Schaffhauser has missed Ziob's real challange. He should be so lucky as only to need to maintain "the value of the Microsoft credential." The previous regime deliberately allowed the credential to be diluted by the cheaters while paying knowingly dishonest lip service about their false efforts to enforce exam standards. They promised MCSE 2000 wouldn't be a paper cert like NT 4 was. Does anyone really believe there are 150,000 people that could pass the 2000 tests straight up? Fool me once (NT4), fool me twice (2000), fool me yet again (.NET)? I don't think so. Ziob needs to prove his integrity is worth my time and money.

Thu, Dec 19, 2002 Aaron Carr West Chester, PA.

What bothers me about Microsoft is the way they treat the very people who support them. These professionals have spent money getting trained and taking certification exams. They recommend Microsoft solutions for the companies they work or consult for, then they are treated as though they don't matter.

I for one have had it. I've been using UNIX for some time now. Not long ago I certified with Sun Microsystems, and I won't be renewing my Microsoft certifications.

Microsoft has lost an integrator. I no longer recommend Microsoft solutions either, because they don't treat their customers much better than their certified professionals.

I'm sure that I am only one of many to make this choice.

If they keep using these heavy handed tactics on everyone, in a few years people will be saying, remember that company, uhhh who was it...oh yeah, Microsoft.

In simpler terms, don't bite the hands that feed you.

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