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Microsoft Certified Architect Program Ahead of Pace with New MCAs

Update: Dozens of newly minted Microsoft Certified Architects announced as program begins "pilot phase."

Orlando, FL -- The Microsoft Learning Group tells MCPmag.com that the Microsoft Certified Architect program is entering the pilot phase and announced that it has already minted 39 Microsoft Certified Architects. Of those, 19 are internal to Microsoft and seven are employed at the Hewlett-Packard Company, one of several companies to help Microsoft develop the program. The Interlink Group also had a hand in the development; on Tuesday the company issued a press release announcing that two of its employees have obtained the rigorous, peer-reviewed certification.

The pilot phase marks the end of a six-month-long beta development phase and marks the beginning of another important phase in which program developers can test key parts of the certification's rigorous requirements, such as recruiting and mentoring. Program Manager Andy Ruth offers one anecdote, in which a candidate who possesses architect-like experience and credentials was coached to appear before the peer-review board. Ruth says that the board was able to expose the candidate after a short battery of questions.

Mentoring may have been key in helping that architect candidate get through, but "we didn't have the mentoring in place," says Tony Redmond, CTO of HP Services and HP Security, who was able to observe the board's work for a week. Redmond believed that the help of a mentor and additional experience are the hurdles that's keeping that architect from getting through.

Program Manager Andy Ruth says that the Learning Group has already received lots of interest in the program. "We expect a flood of e-mail the day we announce that the program is live," he says. The board is currently running two board reviews per month; as more board members are added, the program will be able to increase the number of board review events. Ruth says that it plans to certify about 500 MCAs by the close of 2006.

Looking more closely at the MCA, one might perceive an obvious gap between that certification and the other certifications. "We're working on how best to address that," says Keith Loeber, chief certification strategist with the Microsoft Learning Group, but says that there is a breadth of experience and skills that come from working outside of Microsoft's technology domain. For one, he cites the difficulty in being able to develop the skill that comes with working on a project with technological and personnel diversity. Secondly, he cites the high level of expertise that candidates need to obtain certifications that already exist in the marketplace, such as the Project Management Institute's PMI title, one of many which can fill that gap. "Candidates will have to have extensive external expertise," he adds. Redmond said that a significant number among the more than 2,000 program managers at HP possess the PMI cert, but the architects have nothing that they can use to showcase their expertise. "We have our own way of [certifying architects at HP], but it's not an industry cert," says Redmond.

MCPmag.com will follow this story with more details next week. To read a Press Pass roundtable discussion with Tony Redmond, Andy Ruth and Interlink Group's Joe Shirey, go to http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/features/2005/jun05/06-06MSLearning.mspx.

In other news, Loeber has confirmed that exams for SQL Server and Visual Studio are expected soon after the release of the respective products later this year. He also says that release of the 70-293 and 70-294 exams with performance-based questions has been pushed to the August/September time frame, citing problems in rolling out international language versions of the 70-290 and 291 exams in March.

About the Author

Michael Domingo has held several positions at 1105 Media, and is currently the editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.

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