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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 paid off.

Lori Chung

"[MCP training] built my confidence level in being
able to position our product."

Lori Chung

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 try.

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.”

About the Author

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

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Reader Comments:

Tue, Nov 29, 2005 Anonymous Anonymous

Cool. Thanks for the info.

Fri, Feb 18, 2005 Wade Hoffarth Westminster, MD

I agree with Ms Chung about certification training being of value. I have also benefited from the status qou and confidence felt after passing any industry test. I have also gone back to work the same day and managed to lose some data to a failed drive and suffer from horrendously bad lackawanna disease. but assert that my basic negligence to backup routines isn't my gig. Even having otherwise crashed an array as a result, of the latter I was obviously more well trained and equipped to better at protecting the box now than before.
Anyone feel any safer tonight...

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