Certification: It's Not Just for Admins Anymore
Lori Chung now knows what a subnet mask is, and how a DHCP server differs from
a DNS server. And because she does, she’s a confident, productive salesperson
instead of the unsure employee thinking about quitting her job that she was
just a few months ago.
The difference? Chung has gone through an in-house certification training program
developed by her employer, Lieberman Software Corporation. Lieberman
has launched an unusual program to certify every employee who deals with the
public, from the engineers to the secretaries. The certifications are Microsoft-based,
from the entry-level Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) to the highest-level
Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE).
The impact it’s having on the employees and company is profound, if Chung
is an indicator. The training, she says, “Built my confidence level, in
being able to position our product.”
Chung, an account manager who’s been with the company about one-and-a-half
years, was having trouble selling the software, since she didn’t understand
the industry from an administrator’s perspective. “I felt like I
wanted to better relate to the customers, speak their language. People buy from
people they trust, and you have to relate to that customer.”
The training kicked off earlier this year when Phil Lieberman, the company
president, hired a full-time Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) to teach the
certification classes during business hours.
“I saw that it was very hard to get salespeople to understand the product
as they got more complex and feature-rich. So I put in a training program about
the products. [But] even after extensive training, I found the people selling
the product weren’t comfortable handling requests that went past what
they learned in [the product] training.” What was missing was an understand
of what the customers did. That’s where the certification training has
"[MCP training] built my confidence level in being
able to position our product."
Chung agrees. “I really wasn’t sure if I was going to stay here,
because I really didn’t have the confidence. [Phil Lieberman] believed
in this and said he didn’t want me to give up. I struggled for several
months. But straight out of my training, I had the best month ever. I think
the [newfound confidence] conveys to the customer.”
Lieberman says that attitude is common among his employees. “I think
it’s jazzed them considerably, made them very enthusiastic. It’s
given them incredible confidence in talking to customers; they can make a connection
and understand them.”
Chung has put that new understanding to good use. “One customer was having
default gateway issues. I didn’t know what that was before, but [this
time] I knew what the IP address, subnet mask and default gateway was.”
For Lieberman’s company, it’s had benefits beyond increased enthusiasm.
“The fact that we’re offering training as a benefit has brought
in a much better pool of (potential employees),” he says. Additionally,
employees like Chung are more likely to stick around, since they recognize the
investment the company’s making in them.
An investment that’s been very costly—in addition to hiring the
MCT and paying for all training materials (including the Microsoft Official
Curriculum, or MOC), Lieberman is even paying for the tests themselves.
He says there are no negative ramifications for failing to get the certification.
“The goal of this is to help them and us, not to be punitive. I’d
rather use a carrot than a stick,” Lieberman says. That approach appears
to be working: Chung became an MCP Dec. 16 after passing her test on the first
Given all the time (taking employees off the job for hours at a time) and expense,
has it been paying off? Lieberman uses Chung as an example. “Lori was
the No. 1 salesperson last month [September] for our company, and has never
been before…As much as it cost, I consider it a bargain.”
Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.