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Field Certification Program Strives for Acceptance

The influx of “paper MCSEs” has led many to call for some type of hands-on testing component. The Field Certified Professional Association tries to address that.

The influx of “paper MCSEs” has led many to call for Microsoft to institute some type of hands-on testing component, similar to what Cisco Systems does for its CCIE. It's the goal of the Field Certified Professional Association.

One of the laments about Microsoft’s certification process is that it turns out under-qualified IT workers. The influx of “paper MCSEs” has led many to call for Microsoft to institute some type of hands-on testing component, similar to what Cisco Systems does for its CCIE. Microsoft has, so far, refused and said it has no current plans to offer lab testing.

That’s helped birth the Field Certified Professional Association. The goal of the FCPA, according to Chairman Dr. Amir Elahi, is to supplement the knowledge-based certification with performance-based certs. Elahi said in late 2000 he contacted a number of major employers who complained that they had IT workers with the titles but not the skills to do their jobs. That prompted to him to form the FCPA (www.fieldcertification.org).

“We verify that [test-takers] know the conceptual stuff, but hands-on [testing] validates that they have those skills,” Elahi said. “Performance-based exams fill a vacant niche in the industry and alleviate the issue employers had that they had certified individuals, but they [couldn’t] perform the tasks.” Elahi emphasizes, though, that field certification isn’t meant to replace the current crop of exams and titles. In fact, examinees are expected to be certified before taking an FCPA test.

Beginning July 1, 2002, FCPA offered six exams: four were based on Microsoft products such as Windows NT and Windows 2000; one was for Cisco; and one was a generic PC technician, comparable to CompTIA’s A+. The names map Microsoft title names closely: Field Certified Systems Engineer (FCSE) and Field Certified Systems Administrator (FCSA). In the case of the FCSA, Elahi said Microsoft cribbed the name from the FCPA. “Microsoft took their MCSA [title] from us. We had the FCSA before Microsoft came up with its title.” A host of other exams are in the works.

The exams, Elahi explained, are based on job roles, not products. Roles include systems administrators, database administrators and software developers. The exams last between two and eight hours and are initially priced from $395 to $995, depending on exam length. During the test, examinees are confronted with a broken network and trouble ticket or a live network. Various tasks must be completed and the network brought up to speed within the allotted time.

As of late October, the FCPA has administered about 120 exams. Elahi estimated “about a 60 percent pass rate so far, but a large majority of the exam takers were senior people, not entry-level people.” The FCPA has three testing centers in the U.S. and one overseas, with goals of 20 approved testing centers in the U.S. and five abroad.

A key to making the program a success is getting field certification recognized by HR departments, as well as validation from vendors. Ehali said they’re well on their way to both. “We’ve contacted some major employers like Lockheed Martin, Unisys and IBM, and they were extremely excited.”

Those heavy hitters, along with other companies, Elahi remarked, “said if there were a way they could measure actual skills, they’d make it part of the hiring process. We then contacted vendors and, nearly unanimously, they were all very excited. Once we made the announcement [about the program], we were getting calls from all over the world.”

But vendor support appears slow in coming. While Cisco, Red Hat and Novell came out early as FCPA sponsors, no new information regarding their participation has appeared on their Web sites since the first months of the launch in 2001. Microsoft has maintained its distance completely; the company couldn’t be reached for comment at press time.

One veteran IT recruiter thinks field certification is a great idea. “I think it’s amazing. We mostly place project professionals, so the hands-on experience wildly outweighs the certifications” explained Jeff Markham, metro market manager for the San Francisco office of Robert Half Technology.

Although Markham is only familiar with the FCPA through its Web site, he said the very idea of hands-on verification of skills is becoming increasingly important. “Experience coupled with certifications is the best of both worlds, especially in project work. Our clients want someone who can hit the ground running on the treadmill.”

Markham said that although his clients aren’t talking about field certification yet, they will be in time. “As long as [the FCPA] can market this thing, if it can get word out, I think it would be a great thing to have on a résumé for a consultant.”

He also believes that field certification can be a significant differentiation in the job hunt, “for people who want to separate themselves from masses who are looking for jobs.”

About the Author

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

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Reader Comments:

Sat, Jan 18, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Field Certification will make Microsoft Certified anything worthless. You don't have to have a Certification to fiqure that one out.

Fri, Jan 17, 2003 Kevin NY

It seems as if we all have a problem in this area. I have been in the field now for 18 years. I see both the newby's and the grandpa's. Some have the experience and some have the paper. The grandpa's in most case does not have the paper and it's really hard for them to protect their jobs from the newby. The newby's have the paper and lose their jobs because of the inexperience. This test will be good for both. It will get the grandpa's to move further. It will help the newby's get some experience in a area. Be real the grandpa's are going to go sometime and the newby will be here. This holier than now attitude should not come from either side. The result's should be let's further ourself's.

Wed, Jan 15, 2003 Rook Chicago

This is another attempt to rip off the IT professional. Every time I meet somebody whining about paper MCSEs, it invariably turns out that they don't have any certifications at all. The same thing is true of college degrees. No certification is going to guarantee that you can do a job and I have interviewed many people whose experience is so limited, they couldn't perform in a given job either. Either you work to pick up the necessary skills or you don't. Nobody is born with them and they burn your knowledge base to the ground every two years anyway. Since no corporation wants to hire anybody without experience, the only choice that some has who wants to break into the field is via the certification route. And for those of you who are experienced, and think you are safe...take a look at the Indian subcontinent. Lots of folks there with plenty of experience and certifications who will take your jobs for a pittance if they can get them....

Wed, Jan 15, 2003 Phil Anaheim

The comments in this thread of posts are exactly the reason why microsoft does NOT offer a hands-on lab exam. You guys do know that the CCIE lab is thousands of dollars, right? And it costs that much to have the equipment, to develop the test, the personel to grade and administer the test.

People would be in an uproar if they heard MS was going to charge even $500 for an exam - and that's why they can't do it, unfortunately.

Fri, Jan 10, 2003 Billy Anonymous

I think if you are a paper MCSE it will show in due time anyway, why do we have to keep paying to prove ourselves. If a company makes a bad decision and hires the WRONG guy for the job, then fire him. We all shouldn't have to pay for it.

Thu, Jan 9, 2003 Renzo Connecticut

Now what after all the years and money invested, plus hours away from my kids and family, someone decide that we might be paper MCSE, I will like to sit you down Mr. Elahi and see how good you do in both scenarios, I might give you all the answers on your hand and I bet you you will not pass as easy as you think, it take knowledge and most of all common sense which you will only get with experience, now if you tell me that you might want to join the billionars club, that will be something else but try something different not from my packet, if my boss want to see what I can do, he just have to ask and not pay you. Why don't you try something else like seling the a bridge you might have better luck.

Thu, Jan 9, 2003 Renzo Connecticut

Now what after all the years and money invested, plus hours away from my kids and family, someone decide that we might be paper MCSE, I will like to sit you down Mr. Elahi and how good you do in both scenarios, I mught give you all the answers on your hand and I bet you you will not pass as easy as you think, it take knowledge and most of all common sense which you will only get with experience, now if you tell me that you might want to join the billionars club, that will be something else but try something different not from my packet, if my boss want to see what I can do he just have to ask and not pay you. Why don't you try something else like seling the a bridge you might have better luck.

Fri, Jan 3, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Official? Microsoft has stated that there will be a new cert for .Net Server 2003. Expect to see it by Summer 2003. The FCPA is also official and offering their new certs too...You need to take Field Exams at an authorized FCEC - Field Certified Exam Center.

Thu, Jan 2, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

So is it OFFICIAL ?

Thu, Jan 2, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

I absolutely agree with TrueProfessional's comments. As expected Microsoft announced a new MCSE credential for .Net Server 2003. While vendor exams are to be expected, without a vendor-neutral, vendor-independent process the whole thing is somewhat talking out of both sides of ones mouth. The FCPA is on target here and we will definitely see more of them and performance lab-based exams in the future.

Wed, Jan 1, 2003 TrueProfessional Washington, DC

I think the biggest problem in this industry is too many of the "professionals" don't crack a book. They think they know how it works, but when pressed for the technical details or asked to open and read a network packet, these "engineers" don't have a clue. If we are going to title anyone "engineer" then some form of vendor-independent certification is necessary. Just like any other type of engineer, some combination of paper-based certification complimented by independent testing is necessary. I have read all 7 volumes of the Windows 2000 Resource Kit. I read the emerging RFC's for new technologies. So for all the touting of how "skilled" IT professionals are most couldn't explain the technical details of a single standard technology. Paper based exams need to focus on hard core technical knowledge, and hands on certification is welcomed to prove the ability to implement these technologies. After taking the exam and seeing how hard it is (especially troubleshooting) it is a validation I feel we need. Ask yourself when was the last time you read a real technical piece of writing or modeled the technical aspects an architecture. It isn't just knowledge or skill but a compliment of the two that makes us Engineers.

Sat, Dec 28, 2002 Amos Malaysia

No practical experience will be hard even if you are MCSE or MCSD. What is the use of having it?????

Sat, Dec 28, 2002 Matty MCSE, CCNA, A+ ce Wash State

Employer from new York... "Way to kill a conversation!"

Is that another special gift of yours... :-)

Sat, Dec 21, 2002 Employer New York

Hey.... hello??????? heeeellllllloooooo ?????? anybody there..... ? I still have 200 jobs available!!!!!! anyone with a MCSE will do! I've tried to look of FCSE but.... well.... you can still email me! My email is on the first page of this f*cking message board... come visit me and I will KKKKICK your BUTTS!

Fri, Dec 20, 2002 techone Anonymous

Anon has the perfect answer ...

Fri, Dec 20, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Hey Big RedCNE: Novell was one of the first organizations to back Field Certs and with their recent foray into their new certs in this regard, also says volumes.
Most pro's I know respect both platforms so let's not go off on a tangent here!

Fri, Dec 20, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

That's it! Once is enough for either MCSE
or MCSA. I don't want so many Windows
Certification which waiste my money and
time

Fri, Dec 20, 2002 BigRedCNE Anonymous

This is all just M$ silliness. Novell is premium technology and the CNE cert has and always will provide a better engineer working on a better product.

Thu, Dec 19, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Did anyone notice in the article that Robert Half from Robert Half Technology Consultants...a BIG IT recruiter...that this was a good idea!

Thu, Dec 19, 2002 larry.k Western Mass.

Wow, what do those "real" MCSEs actually do? I mean besides making up euphemisms to describe those who are entering the IT field! What is it really about? Are you afraid, insecure in your own expertise? There will be competition for your job; there always is, always has been. And where did you "experts" come from anyway? God created you; I think not; you began as someone new to the field who had studied hard to get a chance; just like we do nowadays! So keep on making up those new cliches, while I continue to study up. I'm good, I'm certified, I'm waiting, I WILL take your job!

Thu, Dec 19, 2002 TookTheTests WashDC

OK. I have heard all of the comments. I am pleased that so many people are coming back to this board to post and re-post. That's good. It helps all of us to listen and tune or retune our thinking.
I know how frustrating it is trying to break in and these days "stay in" a job. It's competitive. Employers are constrained. They seek to find the best people they can, but they are being flooded with applications. Let's give them a break. Some job applicants will basically say and do anything to get in. Employers want and need to be careful. They have used certifications in the past and present as a way to screen out undesirable or under-qualified people. But most intervies I have gone to look for three things: College, Certs, and Experience. College and Certs are very clear. Either you have them or you don't. This prevents lawsuits on the part of people who apply who think they are being turned down because of age, sex, or other discrimnatory acts. The employer simply has to say, "Sorry, you don't qualify because you don't have the certs or college degree that we require."
What are folks going to do when the job ads start asking for FCPA Certs and you don't have it? You will be eliminated. It's a game, and we all know it...but we have to play it to some extent.

To me experience is the critical component here. But "experience" can be so very subjective. What experience, how much, of this kind or that, with these results or this... and on and on. But you can't even get in the door to some employers until you get by the HR screeners.

So, like before, I have little choice but to comply and I will continue to comply. This also demonstrates another key issue to many employers. It shows character. I am fearful that many of those who have posted comments earlier have other issues that employers sense, that disqualifies them much more than any cert can give them. If we are not willing to be true professionals then sometimes...maybe...we deserve exactly what we get.

To those outside the USA, I believe the FCPA is trying to expand. One of you guys should contact them...there could be a business opportunity for you there. Hey, the old adage may be true...and perhaps is very true..."if you can't beat them...join them."

Wed, Dec 18, 2002 anonymous Anonymous

I have read all these comments and I find it really intriguing with all these comments. I for one has just completed my mcsa and my mcse in Win 2000. I understand the frustration of very experience guys working with so called paper mcse's. I have worked in the IT industry for 5 years since I graduated from college with my BA in CIS. I met lot of guys with MCSE's during my earlier years and while some of them were dummies to say the least' alot them really brought something to the table and I learnt alot. Lets not get too emotional about an MCSE, or whatever it may be. Experience is what counts I believe it served me well by going to college first and getting my degree, then getting the experience and then pursing the MCSE to garner more knowledge. I believe that is what has allowed me to be gainfully employed even during this downturn in IT.

Wed, Dec 18, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

You live in a country of your own, create your own certifications and don't bother with the US-centric type! I don't buy products from Australia living in the US.

Wed, Dec 18, 2002 Des Embrey Brisbane Australia

What about those of us not in the US? The certification program already ignores us far too much. Benefits here? non existent! Salary issues? Never helped. Job market? Shot like it is everywhere. But this far from Redmond nobody gives a squat about non-US MCSE's ... Like so many others I did mine entirely to simply show that I knew the stuff. It was no walk in the park in many cases - so much of the exams are US-centric (ever seen a T1 line in Australia - I think not - different specs you gits in Redmond - not all the world is a state of the US you know!)

I have serious issues with the whole "paper MCSE" designation too ... let's see ... a degree involves how much hands-on? A Masters involves how much hands-on testing? None. Zip. Nada! But do we call them "paper Masters" and demand they start doing hands on testing? Frankly I've become entirely disenchanted with the whole certification process anyhow - the upgrade path from NT4 MCSE to later was poorly managed and only served to sour me even more on it all.

If employers want good people they have to know what they are looking for when they recruit and then tailor their recruitment toward that. If they can't be bothered doing that simple thing then who can be surprised they get the wrong people??

Wed, Dec 18, 2002 Healthcare IT tech West Coast

I got into IS/IT back in 1991 after serving 6 years in the Marines as a gun-plumber. I paid my IS dues by working in school computer labs and mom & pop computer shops while getting my degrees (AS in CIS, BA in Business), because I knew that experience was the key to getting and keeping a job. When I finished my BA, I got a job with a big healthcare outfit as a desktop computer tech. At the time, I had no certifications, and I felt like a meathead during the tech portion of the interview. Now, almost 6 years later, I have an A+, Network+, MCP, CNA, and am close to getting an MCSA (I also just finished an MA degree). I have proven myself a good IT employee, but I'm also a good academic and test-taker as well. I say that because many of the questions on these tests do not apply to my real-world position. Big firms (like the one I work for) don't really allow everyone to do everything. We have server teams, desktop teams, network teams, and so on. And as a result, there is very little overlap - as a desktop tech, I don't get to touch the servers very often. So for me, studying for and taking certification tests is my only real gateway into gaining knowledge about certain aspects of IT that are denied to me due to my work environment. However, even a number of the desktop test questions don't apply in my speciality. For example, we don't use unattended installs - we use ghost images to build our desktops. Maybe some will call me a "paper" MCSA, and I suppose that is their right. But, I had no experience with Novell 4 when I got this job, and now I'm one of the techs on my team with the most Novell 4 experience. My point is that anyone with discipline, motivation, and aptitude can learn what it takes to succeed in an IT job. The tests, hands-on or not, are helpful, but maybe they are being given more weight than they deserve. I sense that some of the employers on this board don't have the desire to grow and groom a new hire into a loyal, experienced employee. Maybe they can't do that due to their business requirements, but it seems sad to be considered only a commodity. I suspect that if I was interviewed by one of them, they'd show me the door because I couldn't subnet from memory or speak in binary. Whatever happened to using projects to accomplish people, instead of using people to accomplish projects? Maybe that's a cliche statement, but its true nonetheless.

Wed, Dec 18, 2002 Thomas Spring field

Took the test; don't you think i realize it's a performance based? but before you jump into that lab,what have you been doing? memorizing concepts/Tcp'ip etc. Lets face it, you have to learn theoretically before going hands-on. You crawled before you walked, so don't sit there lying about you walking in the lab and taking the exam without prior mastering the concepts" cramming". If they are going to charge me some 300-400 dollars, they can hire a web development company to design their web site, plus this is simply a quick money making scheme which will in a few months dissolve just like most baseless certs have in the past 2 yrs.

Wed, Dec 18, 2002 phil london

I see that Took the Tests has made no attempt to address my points about the three years experience.
I have plenty of real world experience and have taught MCSE for the lasts 18 months but have only recently completed my own. This is only because I neede to to become an MCT.

I am perfectably capable of passing any practical test you can throw as I have made and broken networks all this time. I have just migrated a company from nt4 exchange 5.5 to SBS 2000 with exchange 2000 and I promise you the issues that I had with live people and data are likely to be way more complicated than your tests
However your fast track is not available to me.
So because I have made sure I am not a paper MCSE I have to pay twice as much as if I had decided to be a paper MCSE.
Dream on Buddy
A paper MCSE who has sat and done nothing but set up user accounts for three years is somehow better qualified and more competant than I am in your mind and this is at odds with the statement that you can either do it or you can't. IF I can pass the practical test why the hell does it matter when I passed the MCSE as I might have been waiting for elective to go live or wanting to do .net exams or any number of other valid reasons I also wonder how many people have three years post MCSE 2000 experience.
This is why I think they are jokers.
How about someone tell me why I am wrong and how come a paper who has sat on his butt and knows sod all is better than I am and why should I not do the fast track if I am good enough. After all your exam is supposed to be measuring what I know today but clearly is not.
You will simply lose all the people like me and without proper acceptance your scheme will fail (we after all will be the hirers of staff one day so annoy us at your peril)

I can produce you any references you like to say whatever you like!!!
Incedently on the fast track page what is an MCSE4? I have never heard of it. (and anyway does this mean MCSE 2000 or NT4 or both?)
All the fees quoted on the fee page expired six months ago!
There appear only to be four test centres in the world although the fees started 18 months ago
All in all this smells of a scam. very significant that MS are keeping their distance IHMO

Wed, Dec 18, 2002 TookTheTests WashDC

Tom from SpringField has it all wrong. There are no questions to memorize. You have to go into the test and actually DO IT. This is a "performancebased" lab test. This is what eliminates those who are just "paper" people. You are confronted with a partially broken or improperly installed system which requires you fix it. You are also asked to get between 5-6 machines working and talking to one another on a network, set up TCP/IP address ranges, configure advanced DNS,WINS, DHCP, RRAS, and the troubleshooting aspect is even more challenging because when you're trying to get some of the other done you discover all the other problems and then you have to fix that before you can continue. There is not enough time to do it all, and that is part of the process as well because you are forced to make decisions. They also require you to sign a formidable non-disclosure and then have built in test security features. Two FCE or Field Certified Examiners must review your notes and the system after you are completed for verification. This is most definitely not for novices, and those of us with experience will find it a real challenge, but it can be done. It will definitely weed out those who do not know their stuff and can not perform the daily task of a network admin or engineer and this is why in my opinion once employers get wind of this it will start being used to screen resumes. There is no way to cheat here. Either you can do it or you can't. Regarding the web site, yeah, I would agree it needs to be re-done or checked again for errors. That looks bad, but those things happen. But the people I met there were really good people and most certainly not a bunch of "jokers." That's a bit harsh. This is a good thing overall.

Wed, Dec 18, 2002 phil london

These people cannot even get a website to work properly

It is full of 404s. ie loads of internal links do not work. This stunning lack of attention to detail does not inspire confidence that they are serious players. ie no one checked their web design.

I certainly would not send money to anyone who is so incompetant.

They also offer fast track to people with three years post MCSE qualification experience. This is a joke as it is favouring paper MCSEs. I took two years to get mine as I was working at the same time. According to this bunch of jokers it would have been better to buy testking and cheat my way through at then start and then get the experience instead of applying and testing all the things learned in the real world. What a load of BS

IMHO this will never catch on as they have no credentials

Tue, Dec 17, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Pre-Qualification for those with prior hands on lab certs. Might as well get the extra alphabet with no testing required.

Tue, Dec 17, 2002 Thomas Spring field

Just because you've got 30 yrs of experienece does make you an IT God. Lab testing is good, but has it's own problems. the concept is proving how much you can memorize, go to the lab and execute. After a few hrs, you are given a P or F. if you pass, that's it, everything you learned is quickly forgotten and you are up for another cert. Employers jump out of the box excited about hiring these people. The bottom line is all one has done is proven they have the ability to learn and endure, which is positive, but if the whole idea is simply to line-up your resume with 10 certs hoping to be paid 6 figure incomes, then most of you are mistaken. I've read resumes with ppl holding at least 7 certs with 0 experience.. In the last 30 yrs things have changed, and i am convinced that the guy up there with 6 yrs of experience can give you a run of your money.

Mon, Dec 16, 2002 Xman NY

thanks for your opinion TookTheTests from WDC! finally someone who actually took the test! Chevy is right in so many ways and we have a very similar path... although I was lucky cause I came in in the .com boom... now things are the same for all of us! Maybe this FCxx isn;t so bad after all... will wait a bit and see...

Mon, Dec 16, 2002 TookTheTests WashDC

I am another one of those who took the exam down in Maryland. I already had the MCSA, MCSE and "experience." It was tough. This is no pushover and it's nothing at all like the 70-nnn exams. But it was fun and I enjoyed the challenge! I would recommend them to anyone. When I put the FCxx on my resumes something very interesting happened. Employers asked what it was an I got interviews and they were very interested. Some were impressed. I am still waiting to see if I get some new opportunities from it, but I can't blame these folk for the general economy and slowdown in I.T. When jobs start to come back a bit stronger like they are hopefully predicting for 2003, I should be in a better position because of this unique designation. In my opinion, it's worth it!

Mon, Dec 16, 2002 Yotamaster San Diego

What are we really talking about here? A true hands on cert....sounds great in theory; but if you have the same type people in charge of it as are incharge of the paper tests, wont the out come be the same? I have met all sorts of MCSE's, truely knowledgable to not having a clue, how would this change if the same un-real world situations are tested hands on or on paper? Our industry as a whole has suffered from bad publicity due to price gougers and bad techs, the hay day of the .com era are over. I just completed my MCSE and I have to tell you; I learned more about what not to do, then what to actually do from the certs. I dont think the problem lies with the testing curricula, but more with the fly by night tech schools that pump out thousands of unprepared techs each month. Sure they have all the MCSE answers memorized, but fall short when the work really needs to be done. In todays world a degree is becoming a requirement for upper level IT jobs. This is a fact I can understand but don't understand the reasoning. A degree shows dedication and higher knowledge, but face it, with the lag in todays educational system anyone coming out of college has a lot less tech knowledge then someone fresh out of tech school. I don't think there is a simple answer to this delima, but untill there is, I'll just keep takin certs and adding those profitable little letters after my name.

Mon, Dec 16, 2002 Chevy South Hadley

I previously posted on p. 02. This is the first time I've ever come back to read subsequent posts: thank you all for the additional insight, even the Employer from NY! But I need to clarify the situation that some of us face: I received my A+ certification after working as a PC repair technician for several years. I chose to take formal courses for MCSE because I was concerned about being self-taught to begin with as an A+ technician and also to show that I was willing to invest the time and money to support the idea of professional excellence in moving up to the next level of my career. I was given the odd networking assignment every so often, but basically I was in a dead-end job because my employer decided to cut its networking services division. After several more years (a total of 6.5), I left my employer because it wouldn't give me the training I needed despite the fact that it operated training centers and taught the very same courses in which I had expressed an interest. At the same time my son was born and my wife and I agreed that I would take a year's sabbatical to care for him, attend evening courses for the MCSE and then take the certification exams. I took the courses seriously, reading every word of the MS materials before class and not missing a single session, participating in all the lectures and labs over a five-month period while helping my fellow classmates whenever I could (four of us still keep in touch). What really bothers me is that no one feels any obligation to bring along the next generation of networking technicians, administrators, and engineers now that times are a little tougher. How dare anyone assume that we are in it only for the money when we are willing to take and be paid for entry level positions! Those of you who came into IT when jobs were plenitiful have no right to your smug attitudes about the "wannabes" and "paper MCSEs". We expect some "monkey" work to show that we can progressively assume more responsibility, to be at some point a true peer among IT professionals. But we never bargained to do all of this by ourselves. We have made an incredible effort to acquire sufficient skills so that we can jump right in and show that we understand what needs to be done. We have above average intelligence and have demonstrated both personal motivation and a commitment to the work. But, I repeat, we can't do IT alone! We can't truly know how to plan, setup, maintain, grow or fix a network unless we actually start working on one! In the meantime, I can't offer to work for less and I can't force my way into a job-sharing situation (not that I should, undercutting the pay that someone else needs to put food on the table for his family!). Isn't anybody out there listening? Isn't anybody looking at the big picture? Cheers, Chevy P.S. All I ever meant to accomplish with my MCSE certification was to prove my ability to learn and my sincerity in not wasting my own or others' time. I intended above all to earn the chance to work with employers who would provide the opportunity for professional growth and additional training throughout the remainder of my career.

Mon, Dec 16, 2002 obidike nigeria

the idea of handson (lab) exams isnt bad at all, but at what expence. Whos the the examiner is it uncle bill himself or his aides, or someone else who has loads of years experience;(wasnt he a novice at a point?). The mind torturing exams is more than enough. IT is very dynamic and know one can have the kind of experince Dr. Elahi is asking for, without experience in the working enviroment

Mon, Dec 16, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

To Steve in Detroit - I have 30 years of experience in IT. I started back when they used Hollerith Code on mainframes, keypunch cards, Fortran, Cobol, Assembler...all long before C+, J, Perl, and all the new things most are familiar with today. Don't lecture me about experience. In my opinion the FCPA, like everything else that is new, will be refined, tested, and improved. And like the CCIE before it, which also was criticized when it first appeared, those who us who can remember the past realize the I.T. is cyclical and that history repeats itself. Sure the FCPA is new. No one is stating that it isn't. BUT, if it takes root some of you whose comments I have read will once again have proven that your lack of vision may have cost you more than you bargained for.

Sun, Dec 15, 2002 Bob Anonymous

I touched my first network in 1984. Since then I have constantly striven to keep up, both as a "paper chaser" and as a "doer". In all that time one constant I have observed are those that are unwilling to put forth the effort for "the paper" are the ones extolling their own virtues and abilities with no need for certification, and coincidentally no proof of either. I agree a paper tiger may have small teeth, but with age and experience that changes.

Sun, Dec 15, 2002 Xman NY

Certfications : YES !
but not THAT EXPENSIVE !
It's done the time that we (IT) earned big $ ! I now prioritize GOOD TRAINING + EXPERIENCE than certs. I'd rather know the job (Better than having a MCxx or FCxx) Good employers will hire you for knowing the job even without FCxx for as long as (1) they give you a chance to prove your skills (like a good tech interview for a start) and (2) you can prove that you have the experience they require for the job.
For me certifications has only be a way to please the boss... it sucks to study for these stupids tests! None of the questions in the tests are relevant for the job. In those tests you are always the supper Net admin with super powers to do whatever necessary to fix the problem without budget constraints and no need to consult the boss about how you plan to solve the problem!!! these tests (labs or not labs) are from another world! By the way am also a CCIE... I know what a lab test is and I don't need one more!!! To the RECYCLE BIN the FCPA!!!

Sun, Dec 15, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Sorry, but I'm hiring the CCIE before some guy with 6 years of experience in who knows what. People without certs only know what they have been exposed to. People with certs have been exposed to everything on particular subjects in detail. If you don't have certs, you don't even know what you don't know. I guess that is why so many uncertified folks feel justified in talking smack while certified folk are forced to work with your mediocracy on the job. I'm going to war with the guy who has been highly trained to do the job, not the guy who has been shot at before. People without certs need to quit whining about those who are better suited and trained for IT. They need to start training up if they want to keep their jobs.

Sun, Dec 15, 2002 Steve Detroit

Mr C.C.I.E, you must be one of those techs that think with a C.C.I.E, you can not do no wrong in IT. That's bull shit, just because you were tested does not "VALIDATE" you know anything. Experience is key to every job.. I'd rather go to war with a person whose been there before. Employers know nothing about IT and rely heavily on some recruiting agency which decides or evaluates candidates for matches. These agencies are the problem and they often hype anything blowing it out of proportion. What will FC++ prove? That you are technically hands-on and qualified to tackle projects? don't think so, and besides, it only add's a black cloud to the mass of certs out there. To summarize, i have no respect for you being a C.C.I.E because of your arrogant and self-proclaimed TOP IT guy. Do wht you have to do to move forward, but don't brag because i still believe up to this date you've not tackled a single problem that CISCO trained you in the lab for.

Sun, Dec 15, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

6 yrs of IT experience, layed off and and really feeling the heat. "Employer" evaluate your comments. You are definately not helping. I am tired of working for large corporate companies, dealing with layoffs and telling me that my certs are not worth a dime?.. well, i am going into business on my own and will be very selective on certifications i plan to take in the future.

Sun, Dec 15, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

I don't agree with the last comment at all. Cisco started the "lab-based" exam program years ago with the C.C.I.E. Are you saying those of us who obtained the C.C.I.E. were "confused?" Lab based exams go way beyond the written vendor exams. They validate. If the news article is correct and Elahi is telling the truth when he says “We’ve contacted some major employers like Lockheed Martin, Unisys and IBM, and they were extremely excited.” -- how long do you think before we will start seeing job ads asking for FCPA Certifications? If or when that occurs, what will the average person who desires to work for those companies be required to do? The point is this, employers offer the jobs and they determine what they want from us, and we have to make a choice on whether or not we want to meet those requirements. If an ad says college degree required then I had better have a degree. If it says experience I had better have it. If it says MSxx or FCxx then I shouldn't be surprized if I don't get a response or I get turned down for a job or an interview. It's the law of supply and demand. In the current job market the suppply is high and employers can pick and choose. In this event, that means I am competing for every opening. I need to be better than the other person and college, certs, and experience all factor into the equation. When supply was low as it was in the late 90's during the Internet boom, we all raced to see who could get certified first in anything as fast as we could so we could take advantage of the market need. Now that things are reversed for a short while, we really have no choice than meet the requirements. I ask this, "What harm does it do to take an FCPA exam, if I can afford it, and "taste and see?" Hey, maybe the 160 or 180 other folks who have already do so know something that others haven't caught on to yet, and I don't want to be in that position. So, I will at least find out more information on this, due some more research, and if it checks out I will probably move forward. If it is the "next, new hot-cert to have", I'd be a fool not to.

Sat, Dec 14, 2002 JRS_TECH Anonymous

This new certification is a load of confusing crap. It is a lot of money and work to get a normal certification, and we don't need more validation. If you have some actual experience and skills and couple of certs then that is enough to get you an interview, but certs don't guarantee you have employable SKILLS, just some technical knowledge. Positive past work experience in the field is where the skills come from and everyone should be aware of that

Sat, Dec 14, 2002 Matty MCSE, CCNA, A+ ce Wash State

Once again I agree with the "Hands On Lab exams" But to clarify something about the way people are getting there MCSE. I setup a Windows 2000 Server machine with a windows 2000 pro workstation and a windows 98 workstation. I used and still use "SmartForce which is now Skillsoft" as my web based e-Training, I also used Sybex and Microsoft Press books. It took me just about one year to pass all seven exams. I had already got the A+ cert before I started this, because as being a computer geek on my own for sometime I realized this was a good path to start, the MCSA was not initiated at first when I started. I now am using the same methods to get my CCNP from Cisco. I will have to study hard and run labs myself to pass the "Hands On Exams" ...Won't You!" .... Mr. Perfect It Man. Jes! give a guy a break, why are so many IT People afraid of new people coming into the business, I never said to anybody I deserve acertain amount of money or I wont do it. I will take whatever salary is meant for the particular job I get. I realize if I can't do the job I will be fired, so I will only take on a job I think I can handle.

Sat, Dec 14, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Joe is right. Employers want someone else to do the work of screening for them. That's probably why they will love these new exams. It does it for them and they don't have to pay for it.

Sat, Dec 14, 2002 Joe Richker Orlando, Fl

I'm taking a trip back in time back 31 years to when I took the FAA Airframe & Powerplant tests. I had already completed the written portion of the exams and passed with excellent scores. I shelled out the $50 fee and spent 4 hours with the designated local examiner who was empowered to give the Airframe practical exam even though he wasn't a FAA employee. After 4 hours of answering questions, riveting this and welding that, he signed my Airframe ticket with a passing score. I will never forget his last remarks “You now have a license to kill people in large numbers. Try not to use it.”

When the cost of making mistakes and learning from them on the job gets as high as is it in the aircraft repair business, I will support Field testing & Certification: until then, no. I have been in the computer fixing business for 23+ years with 12 of it in PC/PC networking. I am learning new things so fast that there is precious little time to develop an in depth hands on skill for something so complex as the Building a Windows 2000 Network Infrastructure (course 2153, test 70-216). The routing and remote access areas of this course are a whole career path in themselves.

Employers need to do their homework and look at the job history of the applicants and verify the applicant’s past experience. Only two of the over 50 of interviews I have been on in the last 14 years did any real hardware/software testing to screen applicants. Many times the Technical/IT person didn’t have the time or talent necessary to screen the applicants, and relied on the headhunter to do it for them. Shelling out the $400 or more is just another way of bleeding the applicant and taking the responsibility off the hiring party to do the proper research and background checks.

Sat, Dec 14, 2002 Xman NY

to the employer form NY ! keep your f**king jobs! and you better start doing yours well and better. if you expect FC** to fill in your 200 vacancies you will be out of job sooner than you think!!!

Sat, Dec 14, 2002 Harry NY

I think Anon has a point. A lot of these people who keep bragging about their “experience” and who get angry about certifications are not as expert as they would like you to believe. A lot of them bluffed there way into jobs in the boom years when companies would take on almost anyone and they have been bluffing ever since. Now they are scared they are going to be exposed by new qualified staff who are prepared to work for less than their bloated salaries. Many of these uncertified self proclaimed experts couldn’t even get a job in today’s job market – so they cling desperately to the jobs they have and get aggressive with anyone who might possibly know more than they do.

Sat, Dec 14, 2002 Ted SF

Employer from New York sounds a right charmer. You can tell he gets off in being in a position of power over people who need a job. I bet he is one those managers who bully and belittle their staff and he is mean with money too. Has he ever wondered why he has so many vacancies while there are so many people looking for work ? could it be because no wants to work for him. Personally I would sooner starve than work for a jerk like him.

Sat, Dec 14, 2002 not an engineer Anonymous

These guys actually think their certification should earn an individual the title "Engineer", implying Professional Engineer. I wonder if they understand how long it actually takes to become a PE? I wish these computer testing people would just call it "Expert", as it is (or at least should be...)

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 DR Anonymous

Let me say in addition to my earlier comments that I feel MS should come up with a single track of certification. It should be 5 tests or less. It should be OS independant. It should be basically the same from now until eternity. It should be extremely hard and once you get it your done no more uprgrading. They should offer comprehensive training that lasts for months in a classroom/lab setting and is comparable to a similar amount to college tuition for the same amount of time. I do not have to go back to college evry 12 months to recertify my BS in CSC nor should I have to continaully do this to stay in the IT field. As for the employers, They want the super genius at the rock bottom salary. I have seen tons of jobs that want the alphabet and 400 yrs experience. I have 6 yrs exp and my MCSE and find that I dont have half what employers want in the job posting. A lot of employers have no clue. They want a MCSE 2000 with 5 yrs exp in windows 2000...cant even do math! I guess I will apply for that one in 2005 but by then they will want MCSE X.0. Then they want you to maintain networks here and in timbuktu and to h*ll with your family you will never see them again because you are living out of a suitcase and in airports because they are too cheap to hire a LOCAL area network admin for each location who is capable of working independantly. This was what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a LOCAL admin and maintain my servers and PCs for my location. I do not want to be part of some big corporate HQ team that travels to all of the satellite locations to fix whatever broke because the trained monkeys at the remote site are lucky if they can make coffee. The problem is the bean counters...the CIOs now report to the CFOs and neither had a clue to begin with. The problem is microsoft. The problem is the training centers. The problem is the HR departments who require you to walk on water in addition to having 10 certifications and 10 yrs exp. The problem is the tech sector having gone bust. The problem is NOT the paper MCSEs. Hire these people for you LAN and quit flying your uber-genuis people all over creation. Leave them at central command to aid and assist your "paperback" heros. Once they know their LAN you will have less problems than you have with the suitcase generals who are never in one place long enough to solve all the problems. And If you are really large quit trying to hire one guy to do your netwrk, your servers and your databases. Those are 3 SEPERATE Jobs thank you. Then maybe I can find a job that will use my 6 yrs exp and MCSE without havng to get my suitcase out of the closet.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

You people just don't get it! It's not the certifications but training that gets you ahead.
Passing an exam by visiting www.braindumpsareforchumps.com does not constitute formal training and will get you nowhere in the job market! IT training has been around a long time and is proven to work.

Only in the past 5 years have so many tried to jump aboard the "gravy train" and make a fast buck off of those who believe all the slime ball ads.

If you are serious about your statements then stop making the certification vendors and testing giants rich. Don't take their exams but get the training!

Of course the Microsoft T&C group didn't do too well last quarter because too many of you stopped taking "certification" classes and exams!

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 DR Anonymous

I got my MCSE NT 4.0 and have a BS in CSC I was working for company A at company B (fortune 500) as a contractor. I did it for 6 years. I paid for the books and exams for the MCSE myself. When I was going to start working on my 2000 certs I got laid off. I was a PC/LAN technician with minor admin powers and they had simplified my job so much that a trained monkey could do it. Now I can not afford to pursue the "paper" certs. Also I am disolutioned with the whole idea anyway as you are constantly upgrading your certs. I went to work and fixed the problems and whenever necessary I did the overtime. After getting the ship righted, I went home and studied. I doubt that I will continue this path because I would rather spend my time at home with my wife and small child than with a boring cert book or keep paying hundreds of dollars for the privilege of being one of the chosen. As I can not find the job I want, I am going to start my own business as a computer consultant and do OJT from here on out as my means of continued education. I am going to focus on the small to medium sized businesses instead of the corporate meat grinders.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 To NY employer Anonymous

you sound like you have shares in FCPA... Maybe should get certified in how to interview, or better yet offer the training

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 ME PA

We all received our certs the same way, we studied our butts off, did practice exams and studied some more then passed the tests.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 KIM for Spain Australia (for now)

to T8... you are very right ! Myself, I did take trainings (MOC)... at my own expense... but I was lucky... I got it at a very good training center (yes there are a few out there) and only for $500 a week (as to compare to the $2000+ a week in EU or US (I speak of CTEC of course - not fake boot camps!) I took the training just because I was to busy at work... and I has really just enough time to sleep when I got home from office.
At least at the training center, I had time to learn... and I did learned a lot. Full are those people thinking that a training will give them all the "know how" ! the only thing it does (at best) is introduce you to the topic. ... I said that the training center I went was good cause we did not really do all the exact MOC... more labs, less lectures... and the trainers really knew their topic! (for a change!) The hard thing for new-bees is to find the real good training center!
you might be wondering what's the name or the place... well... its not in US and not in EU and it is worse spending the ticket plane and the hotel to attend their classes... but it wont help pass the tests in that sence that they are not a "boot camp" type of thing... simply a training center and they simply teach the real thing! ... but, this being said, I still learn most of what I know today from experience and self-study!
To talk about the FCxx... well this might be a good thing... let them find some sponsors first so that they can bring cost down bellow $100! but am not so sure that this new FCxx will be good enough to prove that you know your job better... there is something more than what you know and what you don't... a good IT guy must have the PASSION and ATTITUDE... the job is more than a job... its like being a doctor (MD) . A great IT person (he/She) has this thing inside that makes him or her always want to learn more... that can be distrubed in the middle of the night to fix something... not that I compare IT to MD (far from it!) but ... for me it's really a passion... it's more than a job...

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Raymond Anonymous

I agree, mechanics only need to be certified once and they work on the same engines for the last 30 yrs.. You get certfied once and forget everything thereafter.. With IT it's a different ball game: Paper certs must exist because there is no logical way to keep up with technology. with new stuff to learn every 6 months.. it's just to hard.. That's why we have all these problems.. trainers can't keep up, centers are swamped with underqualified staff, employers are confused and not even sure what kind of technology they need to run their businesses.. so lets be fair and say.. IT has created this rush and the only way to make up for it is by using boot camps.. etc.. and the products are poorly trained IT guys.. so lets not blame the the techs but rather the whole IT system.. Lawyers are trained for years to last as a lawyer.. Nothing is new.. the law that studied in 1950 is still the law today. can you say that about IT? i don't think so.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Dean Smith Anonymous

Most ppl here are blinded focussing on irrelevant issues. Before you start acussing IT techs who spend time and money to get certified, why dodn't you guys copmpare IT with other fields.. Lawyers, mechanics, cpa's etc.. all these ppl have some sought of training but are less scrutinized in terms of their certs and training.. ever asked yourself why? ..
IT is big business, i don't see any other profession out there that has as much info.. and components niched to work together than IT does. So lets stop accusing ppl of pursuing their dreams .. what's wrong with being a paper cert? in IT there are mno limits..as to how much or where you can go.. In otherwards, IT has room and will always create opportunities.. Most of you with experience and current certs will soon relequinsh your egos in the next 5 yrs.. What's hot now is hot and i commend all those aspiring to achieve something to continue. Forget about these lame employers and recruiters and ego fested certified individuals who think they deserve everything and someone else deserves none.. The field exam is not necessary.. does not prove anything, MS knows it's not gonna do much and so does the founders of this cert. if i were you i'd save up the money or invest it on something else..

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 T8 Anonymous

Any sort of certification process has it's holes. I personally believe the field training will be beneficial. If designed correctly, it should separate those who really understand their stuff from others who are good at regurgitating information. With so many 'bootcamps' out there turning people into MCSE's faster than North Korea can produce SCUDS, it's no wonder the certification value has lessened. I personally know quite a few people who hold MCSE certs that really do not know squat about networks operate. I personally do not hold the certification (I did nail the transcenders), but can run loops around some MCSE's. I consider these people the 'paper MCSE's'. The ones that paid a bunch of money for some instructor to spoon-fed them information to pass the test. They're the ones diluting the bowl from the certified AND qualified individuals.

Question: Why would someone spend thousands of dollars and hours of their time to have someone read a set of books and labs that you can purchase directly from Microsoft (or better yet get off of Ebay) for probably under $1000 and read yourself. Answer: Because the instructor will know what's on the test and will teach you what you need to know to pass it.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 unemployed NY

to the employer form new york... good way to go ! you want the FCxx to help you do your job !... you really are a greedy... money money money... all you say is non-sence ! am unemployed - no money - seven years it IT - with MCxx certs... you want me to take a $1k exam? you'll have to pay for it ! or maybe you should try to DO YOUR JOB by setting up you own TEST LAB for applicants.... well.... let me guess... too expensive!... you'de rather hire someone with the FCxx! it will save you some precious $ ! I'd never like to work for you! you're the kind that pollutes the IT industry... just like all those fake cert vendors... YES we DO LIVE IN A LESS THAN PERFECT WORLD,... but you sure are not helping making it a BETTER WORLD. The world we live in today is what we make of it ! (by the way!!!) --- and now you can keep your 200 jobs!

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Mike St. Louis

I am so tired of hearing about "PAPER" certifications. They are such a small percentage of the total MCSE's and CCNA's that they should not be ignored. In my experience, the people that I have heard yell the loudest are the one that are not certified and are not that good at their job. The people that I have worked with that have certs have always been head and shoulders above the rest of the people in the department. The best thing we all could do is to promote ourselves rather than to let others degrade us.

Mike Johns MCSE CCNA

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Employer New York

Revolution...that is.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Employer New York

First to Russel in Berkley: Reality is hard to accept. I sincerely wish we all lived in a more perfect world but the reality is we do not. Your diatribe in the current state of economic affairs only resulted in obsfuscating the issues nor luciferous to core discussion. Please find another soap-box to preach from.

To NoShut: Lawyers pass the bar exam, doctors must do residencies and pass board exams, accountants must practice for two-years before they can take the C.P.A. exams so why do people think they can just take a few classes and pass a few tests and then ask me to hire them and pay them huge salaries. Prove to me first you have the real-world skills I need, or at the very least make me comfortable that you do. The FCPA Certifications are not easy. I know when someone comes into to me and holds the C.C.I.E. that it did not come easy. I envision that the FCPA could be...mind you I said could be...the next new hot certification to have and to hold. The problem at the moment is that to few people have experienced the program. The marketplace will be the final judge. With less than 200 total test takers to date, we simply do not have a valid sample from which to judge. Perhaps Elahi needs to release the names of those who have taken the exam, both passed and failed, and everyone should have the opportunity to ask them about the experience and the perceived value? However, I would predict if employers find the FCPA certs to be another way to qualify or disqualify applicants they will.

To Thuddome: I stand corrected on the number but 1,000,000+ MCP's is still a huge number, and just because someone is an MCP doesn't prove anything. Did you also notice that Microsoft has now announced a new upgrade path for W2K MCSE to .NET Server MCSE! Microsoft also recently announced they were adding new test questions to the exams that were more like the Cisco 607 exams? I wonder why? Microsoft knows the problem but refuses to fix the problem. They would get sued to kingdom come by all the CTECS if they changed course now! The problem is not the training programs. Microsoft created this monster. The CTEC white books are a rip off. The MS Press books sell for $35 on Amazon.Com and they are word-for-word of the CTEC manuals with the labs adjusted for one person. Most don't know this. The FCPA in my opinion should be applauded for their efforts to mix things up again. As in the end of the Hunt for Red October -- "a little revoltion is a good thing now and then..."

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Russell/Information Syste Berkeley, CA

To the "Employer from New York:" I think your knowledge, experience, degrees, certifications, and economic bottom-line mentality has created a blind spot in your psychological awareness and it is a hindrance to involving your emotional intelligence in real-world judgements.

You are, after all is said and done and by any other name you want to call it (justification), perpetuating: egotism or selfishness, dehumanization of others and yourself, neanderthalism, denial of outcomes that make people feel worthless in a society more concerned about money which one way or another represses environmental & social-ecology.

Furthermore, your attitude or net effect fuels greed which is the corner stone of captilism.

As far as I am concerned, anyone can be an IT person if they have a commitment or a passion from the heart, they sincerely like people and want to be helpful, they are reasonable, they want to learn from ups and downs or challenges, and they make efforts (at their own speed) to master the various aspects of their IT environment.

Likewise, an employment (social) environment which emphasizes empowerment (universally) versus slave/master relationships will more likely successfully harness & control computer technology that produces viable or life-supporting results (for all people), instead of folks "sweating it" to enhance the profits benefiting just a few...

Personally, I can do without your brand of humanity because all it does is lend phoney creditbility to your unexamined assumptions that autocratic management is the only way to conduct business.

At best, your thinking is very linear; and you're an educated fool...

"None are so blind as they who can see."

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 noShut Anonymous

I am also tired of hearing about “Paper MCSEs”. Anyone that hires on certification alone without looking at experience deserves what they get. Everyone has to start somewhere and the MCSE is a great way to show that you have the intellect and desire required to do the job. The same insult could be directed to “Paper Lawyers” or “Paper Engineers” fresh out of college with their degree and no experience. I would make a distinction between those that worked through the tests by studying and working the labs over a period of months and those that went to a one-week boot camp and passed all the tests the same week.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 RickLawless KC

You know, Paper or not, most compaines will only hire certifed people. You can't blame people who are paper for trying to get their foot in the door. However, If they lie in the interview about their skill set, then that's a problem. It seems these days it doesn't matter if you have skills or not. Your still going to get laid off from work, so who cares? Basically we are all suppose to work so proficiently we eventually work ourselves out of a job right? Not even the learning centers really teach how to fix a broke MS or Novell network right? Instead of coming out with another broke ass certificate, there has to be a revamp of the teaching centers. They need to teach how to do the job intead of how to pass a test. OK so someone failed a hands on prctical. Does that mean their stupid? No! So does this new vendor offer training on how to fix a broke network, or do they just want to get money laying the smack down on paper certifications. I would much rather take a class from a vendor as this then take the hands on exam and get something out of it, than to just take a stupid hands on lab according to their way of fixing things.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Alien Mars

To Cert or not to Cert, this is the question! I say CERT!. Note the use of HTML! :-) It's a fun way to benchmark your skills

1. For all of the new commers to the Information Technology Field, remember getting a job is the process of putting a square peg in a square hole. Your vision, attitudes and demenor all have to match the employers. I saw a guy at Comdex with a shirt on that said "MCSE Certified NO JOB". He should have looked in the mirror. What a SLOB! No wonder. Think! You are competing for money.

2. No experience? Create a project. You don't fit the corporate image? Either change or find other customers. Spend the money for the FCPA on some gear and bandwidth and setup a porn site or something. Show you can turn a nickle. Join the NPA and get a NextDay PC site. You will have 100,000 + items you can sell for commission. Try consulting. "It's a competitive world- Depech Mode" There may be 1.2 million MCP's but there are 4 billion potential clients.

3. Anybody read their junk mail lately. You can buy a degree and no one would know the difference. Just because something, the FCP, is more expensive doesn't mean it's better. No greenhorn apprentice (Paper MCP) should be expected to be an expert. That stance is not reasonable.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 MCSE, CCIE Washington DC

What will come next is the big question? All tests are flawed!!! They are tests aren't they?
The current tests are fairly good at testing the knowledge base and some skills of the candidate. No test will ever match the way real life happens. If the candidate doesn't have the prior experience to match your needs then it will always be a bigger gamble to hire them.
Raising the cost of exams will only push the testing cost onto the employer or the few rich consultants.
Any exam that can't be completed within two to three hours is not an exam but an endurance contest.
We already have to recertify when ever a new product or update appears.
There will always be people who can pass tests who can't do the work and those that can't pass but you can't live without.
Exams will only be as good as the exam objectives, the person writing the questions and the evaluator reviewing the results.
Also, how many times do we have to prove that we know what we are doing when your going to fire us either when we finish or we make the first mistake anyway.
If the current tests and your interview are not strong enough for you to evaluate a new or existing employee then maybe you should not be the one doing the evaluating.
I have spent tens of thousands of dollars of my own money and many years to get the education and certifications and if you can't tell that I know what I am doing after the first week on the job then you haven't asked me to do anything or you didn't need me in the first place.
That first week on the job is a field certification and it is with your equipment, software and people. Use it!!!

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Thuddome Denver

Employer from New York, check your numbers, there are 1,166,071 MCP's, it's on the first page of the mcpmag.com

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Don't blame it on hiring managers. I'm a Network Manager and I have the final say. Every, and I mean every, MCSE paper grad I have interviewed has never had a clue as to the real world. I have interviewed many for various IT jobs. They can spout off a ton of info on lots of theoretical stuff that is largely irrelevant but sure impressive. But I don't blame them or Microsoft, I blame the community colleges, boot camps, and vo-tech/trade schools for taking these people's money (and often taxpayers money), and paper certifying them. They promise these great jobs and salaries. I pay paper MCSEs about $25K to start, and that's only if they have some experience. I will not under any circumstance hire a paper MCSE w/o experience for anything but a $9 an hour internship. No one I know does. The cert w/o exp is USELESS.

I feel bad for these poor people. They've been lied to by greedy recruiters. I should know, I worked for awhile as a lab tech in a boot camp. What horror stories could be told!

It is obvious why Microsoft will never give a field test. There's too much unexplained crap that happens with every version of Windows that few even seasoned MCSEs can explain or fix. So, what happens when one of the 85,000+ XP bugs shows up in a field test? A little embarrasing, I'd say.

Just ask yourself this; would you risk brain surgery from someone who only took a correspondence course? Would you trust your network to a paper certified MCSE? Would you risk a major scewup by a paper "E" that'll cost your copy thousands of dollars a minute?

The reality is this. Outsourced IT to systems integrators who hire fresh MCSEs at, yes, $9 an hour direct from the mill. Why? Because they're everywhere, and will work cheap, too. They think they can "get in" after a few years to a real IT job at real money, but by the time they do, that dream job has already been outsourced to...another Systems Integrator.

Bottom line is, put the boot camps, community colleges, trade schools out of business. That'll do it.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Trainer/admin Ohio

Since this discussion is largely about new treadmill MCSEs trying to break into IT, let me address that.

Most incoming students have no idea what the MCSE is about. Very few have looked at Microsoft's website-even to know how many tests it requires!

Anyone who is ready to write a check for $8k without taking a couple of hours to check it out deserves whatever rude awakening they get.

The MCSE cert is meant to help administrators with some experience hone their skills in Microsoft products. The training products and classes are developed with that in mind, and they do that quite nicely.

The MCSE cert is NOT meant as a foot in the door to IT-Microsoft says that loudly and clearly on their website.

If you want to get into IT, look at foundational certs like A+ and Network+, and maybe MCSA. Really, as a newbie (which is not a derogatory term in my vocabulary, but a descriptive one), do you think you have any business proving design skills?

No, I'm not afraid of your abilities, and no one else with a few years of experience is either.

I have helped a lot of people break into IT (and let me repeat the MCSE is not for that) and my students are absolutely astonished at how little they really know, even about the products they feel confident on.

You can talk about RIS, disk quotas, and ntbackup all you want, but in the real world, I wouldn't use any of them.

Add in all the other software, *nix, Novell and Lotus products, and you see that knowing Windows is a very small fraction of real-world skills.

I'm sorry that this magazine's bogus salary survey helped spawn a training industry where many companies are willing to tell you anything to make a commission.

Now, to the topic at hand: even at $400-$900, I don't think anyone is going to make a killing on these tests. Factor in the facility, the equipment, the test proctor, and the investment needed to develop these tests, and the cost seems reasonable to me. Ever look at the cost of a CCIE? I hear a lot of people whining about how M$ is trying to milk you by making you take new tests and more tests, but I really don't think they make all that much money off of it. They aren't a testing company. I know it actually costs the testing centers more to offer the tests than they make from them!

So, are the FCPA tests worth taking? I'd say no. Is this going to say anything to employers? Not much. Most will never have heard of it. Will employers pay to get you certified in order to try you out?
No, especially with only a handful of testing centers.

There are other ways to evaluate candidates, such as the Brainbench tests (not the public ones on their website, the ones they sell to businesses).

Look at a program such as the Microsoft Office Specialist (formerly MOUS). This is a hands-on, task based certification with a huge company behind it. But many companies have never even heard of it, much less have any idea what it really encompasses.

Now, if M$ were to institute something like the FCPA instead of their multiple choice tests, that would be meaningful.

I train people, I run networks, and I make hiring decisions. Take my advice-don't expect a miracle, check out THOROUGHLY any major decision before you plunk thousands down on it, and be realistic about your goals and expectations.

Any certification is meant to substantiate your skills. If you dump your way through the cert, or even if you just use a dump to study what's only on the test, then you are like a person who cheated their way through college. You have a peice of paper that fits nicely on the bottom of a birdcage, but what do you really have to show, abilitywise, for your efforts?

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Hey, all of you that have graduated kindergarden, for $ 400.00 I'll certify that you can color within the lines. Also if you are in need of a refresher, for just $999.99 I'll send you a template for success. Come on, a designation says you know the theory and that is why you make ten dollars an hour if you don't have the experience. If I had the money to buy into every gimmick proposed out there I wouldn't have to work. A designation only gets you as far as the interview

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Phil philadelphia

Certification helps in the job hunting process because in fact many HR departments are told what to look for on a resume. I have heard about instances where the position called for a system administrator with 7+ years of network experience and their MCSE. THe individual that I spoke to had the 7 years experience but was overlooked because he did not meet the MCSE requirement. To some it only helps, it doesnt make or break the opportunity. To others, it will make you or break you. It is good to have. I personally feel being asked to perform administrative tasks as in Novell CNE exams with NWadmin or Console 1 is the better way to go.

The other thing is that if Microsoft decided to make their exams more in depth, more hands on and more like Cisco exams, they would cost more to take and to prepare for. In that event, chances are less would pursue them. Its been labled as a paper certificate but then again there are soo many paper certified people out there that the certificate shows understanding of the material but doesnt prove anything unless you can do the task.
I know A+ certified technicians that were not aware of that fact that if you couple Pc100 SDRAM with PC133 SDRAM, you may have compatbility issues. Why did they not know this, because this sort of thing is not covered on the A+ exam. Experience and a college degree will matter more some day because going through college takes more effort and time to get through. You can't memorize your way through college.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

A few years on a similar job is no substitute for a certification. Sure it is best to have certs and experience, but people with certs far more knowledgeable and well rounded. I make a rather low to average wage as supervisor in tech. I'm a MCSE, CCNA, A+. Who do my ovepayed uncertified friends call when they have problems on the job? Me. And I fix them (hoping they will drop my name).

I'm sorry, but if you don't have the advanced training, you don't even know what you don't know. Stop with the jealous crybaby stuff, and get trained.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Richard/MCSE/MCSD/MCDBA CT

*Job experience *is* field experience.

*Performance exams are no substitute for job experience and proper reference checks .

*All test certificatons are paper.

*It's up to MS to close the braindumps that devalue the paper cert.

*It's up to HR to verify job experience and to conduct meaningful technical interviews based on their job requirements.

*The last thing future MCSEs need is to nourish the thought that a field test will replace job experience and pay more bucks for another useless cert. What's a paper MCSE worth today in the training marketplace? 5K? 10K? How about 20K if you add a field exam? Or one fat goose egg when it comes to employment without some related job experience!

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Zoea Anonymous

The whole issue about being certified is irrelevant to some degree. I met an employer who hired a director of IT to do squat for 135,000k. The only reason he was hired was he was over 40 yrs and his resume indicated he had been in the field for 10+ years. The guy has no certifications whatsoever.. (hey but he still got hired for big bucks).. also.. with nepotism and corporate culture that stereotypes, it's hard. It doesn't matter how many certs you have.. so long us you don't fit a certain stigmatic look, forget abt being hired.. Finally, field certification, what a joke.. every IT guy is unique and it's not about how many certs or years of experience has, but what he or she can do. Lets face it.. the bottom line is 3 things: can you do it, how, and creativity.. just because you are not certified doesn't mean you can't do the job..FCSA is costly and will definately not fullfill anything.. fixing a problem in a lab testing does not prove anything, there are various IT problems there everyday and it all boils down to how you approach each problem and find solutions. I am saying this because we end up finding things that are not even located in the knowledge base areas.. If you can get certified good, but the whole certification and hiring process is getting out of hand..HR depts are non-tech and know nothing abt IT.. so when hiring it's all about luck and corporate appeal versus technical skills and knowledge.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Employer New York

Well, this article is getting a good deal of attention and I think that is good. Look, I know that everyone needs to start somewhere in this field. I did. But things have changed in the last few years. There are over 1.7 million MCP's and the training facilities keep pumping them out and lying to people about the realities of the marketplace. I have personally reviewed over 3,000 resumes this last year alone. In the 15 second glance I gave most of them, they ended up in the 30 gallon trash container I keep next to my office. Why? Because they lacked experience or they couldn't tell me the key critcal question - Why should I hire you? I want to know what a person can do for me not just the "alphabetic soup" I find on most resumes today. Can you save me money? Can you make me money? I know you want my money but I don't want to give you my money if I can't make a decent ROI on it. I don't want to spend money on your training or even a training exam unless it benefits me and my company. I'm the one with the job. You come to me. In this market I am in control and I have the right to tell you what I am looking for and if you don't have it then you have a choice to make. Either get it or get out of the way! I am weary from all the people who tell me how much they have spent on getting training. When I hear the word "I spent this..." or "I spent that..." I am turned off. I like the person who projects to me the concept of "I invested in my future..." kind of thing. College education has traditionally been the historic route. I hold a Master's degree and have nearly completed a Ph.D. and hold more certifications then I wish to count. But I have made a decision long ago that if I wanted a career in I.T. that I had better become used to "investing" in myself again and again and if I choose not to do it, then it's time to retire or find something else to do with my life. I am sorry that so many people are hurting in their careers at the present time...but as an employer I have to make the best choices and investments that I can. While the FCPA process is new, in my opinion is has tremendous merit. Yes, time will tell. But for all you whiners and complainers out there...it's time to grow up and smell the coffee cooking.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Anon Anonymous

A couple of people have asked why experienced non certified IT people get so angry about people with certifications. Well I think I know the answer. Of course some experienced guys are real experts but a lot of them have been winging it for years- reading the help files , posting questions on bulletin boards and by trial and error eventually getting it to just about work. And it's these guys who feel threatened by certified new comers who might "find them out". These experience guys would obviously not make a mistake when asked to identify the components of a server but their lack of theoretical knowledge can lead to some very odd networks. And it's worth remembering that on the first day in their first IT job their experience was zero just like the paper MCSEs they now ridicule. Who is the best person to hire a paper MCSE with no experience or someone with no experience and no MCSE. . At least you know you won't have to keep explaining terminology and concepts to the paper MCSE . We once took on someone because they had a lot of experience in a PC repair shop - there is no way they would make a mistake confusing a modem with a network card - but it was a real pain having explain every little thing to them - what's a domain ?, what's DHCP, what's a sub net ? I think we might have done better to take on a paper MCSE. Experience is of course vitally important but that doesn't mean theoretical knowledge doesn't matter.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Certifiable Wa

Most of us started at the bottom. Personally, I started assembling computers for $7 an hour, and worked my way up from there. The reason people are prejudiced, is most (not all) newbies go out and spend their 10k at some school, and really do expect to go straight to a network admin job. It's not the way it works. You have to start at entry level. (Which are few and far between because of the number of unemployed IT workers). These newbie MCSE's who go out and apply for senior level jobs, are absolutely killing the market for those of us who worked to get where we are.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Ken CT

You have all these people with certs and without certs and with or without experience but where do the new experienced people come from? Were these experienced people born with the knowledge? I have never seen such a prejudice against new people coming into any industry as I have in this industry. I have tried to get internships and been laughed at. I paid over 9k for my certs and they haven't earned me a dime. Now I am a low paid slot tech at a local casino. I will be attempting to transfer into IS soon but they use a mainframe system so my certs probably won't help. MCSE, MCP,MCP+I, CNE, CNA

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Early M. Anaheim, CA

Guess what guys? I’m an IT Manager and yes I’m certified as a CNE, CCNA, CCNP, MCP, MCSA, AND MCSE, plus I have a few Comptia’s certification. I think certifications are great, they at least tell me that you have made an effort, but that’s about it. I have been in this field as far back as 1984 and I must admit I have come across many individuals with paper MCSE claiming they know everything about networking. Yet, when faced with real live incidents many fell apart, leaving me with only one option – you’re fired. It’s sad because the real problem is not the guy that I hired, but those schools and trainers that failed to prepare him for what IT is all about. It just kills me to see those ads on television claiming that certification will guarantee a starting salary of $50K a year. I must admit back in the early 90’s, before the (dot com) crash, this was the case and I had no choice to pay a guy $50K or more who claimed he knew his stuff. Why? Because the (dot com) environment created such a shortage of IT professionals you had no choice but to hire what came your way. If you didn’t make an offer on the spot, the guy you just interviewed would literally have a job the next day. Now, the table have turned and I have my pick of resumes. Unlike, many employers, I have a series of questions I ask during the interview to see just where someone’s skill sets are. Afterwards, I give them a sheet composed of 10 questions and ask them to give me verbal answers with explanations. You can’t imagine how this simple process weeds out so many papers MCSE and experience MCSE. Experience MCSE’s? Yeah, I have a problem with many of them as well. Who wants to work on a team with individuals who think they are network mega-gods. Those who refuse to be open to new ideas and suggestions, who are not team players and most importantly who are not willing to mentor others who are seeking to learn. Trust me, I seen it all! Will a new hands on test like the FCPA help? It might, but from an employer prospective, I’m looking for more then a knowledgeable person. I’m looking for someone who’s willing to fit in and understand that IT is a continual training process. I’m looking for individual who are willing to be reasonable about their salaries and where they fit in. Would I personally take a hands on test? Probably not! But, that doesn’t make it a bad idea. It simple – it’s your choice. For those of you who are only here for the money, you are the real paper MCSE’s. I love my job and the satisfaction of always growing and learning new things. Go ahead, make my day, see if you can say the same about the reason you chose this profession.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Kevin Bollinger, MSCE/CNA Jeffco, CO

I welcome this! I would much rather be able to pass from hands-on as opposed to studying forever for the paper tests.
A lot of times, I think how I would actually go through this in a hands-on situation anyway when trying to answer paper questions

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

The FCPA is just another money-making idea brought to you buy those new to this industry trying to make a quick buck!
The only possible way to weed-out paper certified individuals is to give them a job and require them to perform!

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Matty MCSE, CCNA, A+ ce Wash State

Gerald R, Thanks for speaking your mind. Once again how can some of the IT techs in here disagree with Gerald's way of thinking after he has acomplished what he has after all the schooling he has achieved, and that is what I have done to get my certifications "Iwent to school" ... Yes I sit at home and study and memorize, but I also have lab scenario's and they are doing the same thing as a server or router or switch, as the case maybe, of course there are not real networks involved but that is what a simulator is. Dont get me wrong I agree with the field exams and I will take the exams and I will pass them, maybe not on first tries but I am determined and smart enough to do IT net work as well as any man who first starts out, "Let me in the door and I will prove myself a worth while employee"

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Just another way to make money off people. After paying upto $8K on classes, which have lab and study material "Microsoft Offical Materials" that are inaccurate, have labs that effectively don't work due to type-o's, I would once again pay for a field test. Yeah, right.. I think Micro$oft should invest in MORE accurate materials, or pull the contract from whatever company in INDIA that produces them and find a company that can reproduce ACCURATE materials. Let's face it, You pay good money for this stuff, and good money for the exams.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Jim MCSE,CNE,CCNA Anonymous

The reality is that schools generate lots of "paper" CNE/MCSE's. These are people with little or no IT experience. People sitting at home doing nothing can go to these schools, pay their money and get their certs. This tends to water down the employment pool and everyone gets paid less, because now the actual cert which took alot of studying to obtain are cheapened and somewhat tainted. I have been in the IT field for 13 years and there are people out there making just as much as I am with no certs. So why did I bust my hump to get the certs? Cause I beleived that they would help me get more money, but they don't. That's because anyone that has good memorization skills and a pocket full of change can become certified. Experience is the number 1 thing that counts with HR people. A cert will maybe get (perhaps) an interview, but not the job. In other words, they don't mean alot anymore.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Geoff Van, BC

Hmmn. There seems to be a lot of anger created by the use of the term "paper MCSE". Tip: If you feel that threatened about it... you should probably worry about your skills. I have had the unfortunate duty of weeding out the paper MCSE/MCSA would-be techs... and let me tell you: "newly-certified" doesn't make you a paper MCSE... but if you can't remember "all of that stuff from those classes" and braindumps were involved in a lot of your study processes... then yep, you probably are paper-only. I'm with Beowulf on this one.. you need people with the skills to step up when something breaks. And as long as there are braindump sites, I'm going to have a lot of green MCSEs changing NIC cards on workstations.. because that's all I can trust them to do. Would a "field test" help me verify some of the real skills? Yep. I'm going to take these tests myself, I think.. and if they're good, we'll use em.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Certifiable Wa

Gerald - I think you are correct in saying this cert is a waste of time and money - if applying this cert to someone who already has a number of years proven experience. However, I think it is a valuable tool for people new to the industry, and gives them the opportunity to prove they know what they're doing - we all know that the MCSE testing environment, as it stands now, does not do so.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Good article...I recently has a MS-instructor who is a paper MCSE with little to no Field experience, he didn;t even know that by default a DNS install is 127.0.0.1, which has to be change to be a member of itself when isntalling A.D.

I think the MS labs in the MOC classes should reflect more time and hand on for the students.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

One reason employers are disssatisfied with MCSE candidates lately is that in my observation, today's MCSE technician is generally not a college graduate (4 yr), is retraining from typically a blue collar career, and is basically the "TV repair man" of the new millennium. The market is so full of MCSE's at this point and so many IT professionals are out of work that employers can hire for a low cost. Let's face it...MCSE does not carry the weight it once had and salaries and hiring trends support this. As a CIO at a large corporation, I would much rather interview a college educated IT major with hands on experience and the ability to translate business needs to technology solutions even at the added expense of a higher starting salary. O by the way...I am also an MCSE.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Gerald R Anonymous

I personally have over fifteen years in the IT industry and over fourty industry certifications. I hold every certification Microsoft offers, including the MCT, MCSD, MCSE+I, MCDBA and the MCSA. Additionally, I hold nearly every Cisco certification available including the CCNP, CCDP and CSS1. I am also certified as a Citrix CCEA, CCI and CCA. I also hold a CISSP and my PhD. is in Computer Science. That being said, every engineer worth his salt enters the field is a paper engineer at one time or another. Any man or woman who spends the time, money and effort to get certified is worthy of respect and assistance from their peers. However, it is my opinion that this "Field Certification" is simply a way for some one to skim a few dollars from techs who desperately need a job to provide for their families.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Certifiable Wa

I can really sympathize with Mr. Employer from NY - it costs an unbelievable amount of money when a wanna-be fakes his way through the interview process. If you are a rookie, and can't show proven field experience, this exam is a great way to show you know what you're doing. I don't think he has a problem giving a job to someone who is trying to break into the field - he just wants to make sure they are capable of doing the job, and what's wrong with that?

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Steve UK

Hey, Mr. Employer from New York. You are completely wrong. I don't want to work for you - or anyone like you.

Everyone has to start somewhere, even "network wanna-be's" as you put it, Oh and by the way - try using apostrophes correctly. People need experience to hone their skills. If employers are not prepared to employ people and let them improve on the job, very soon, all the network experts will be drawing their pension and there will be no-one left to fill the gap. Keep your 200 jobs. Good luck to you.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Many of you guys are missing the point of certification.

Certification is showing that you are qualified to do what the certification stands for. MCSA, shows you have the ability to fully administer a MS network. MCSE shows that you have the ability to fully design and implement a MS network.

Being qualified doesnt mean that you were able to read and answer a few questions based on the limited scope of the exam.

The industry needs this. It doesnt matter if you were able to read and answer questions. What matters is whether or not you are able to sit in front of a computer and do the task at hand and do it efficiently. If you can't, then your abilities are inferior to anyone that can and it should be reflected in your certification, your position, and your pay.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 John IMC

All Right! Now I can be a cash cow for ANOTHER certification group!! Yippee!

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

This is just another type of govermental program and it will not catch on. Sure, there are paper MCSE'S out there, they learn on the job. The real problem is that what is in the books and the class material are not on the tests, so that is why people have become frustrated and become paper MCSE's. There is a reason Micosoft does not do this and this new company will be a thing on the past soon.

Michael Glaser

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

I agree with the people who contend that the Field Cert would be easier than picking up on the test questions that are designed to “trick” you. But keep in mind that the reason the CCIE is so difficult is because they don't allow ENOUGH time to complete it. I have known colleague after colleague that have passed the written portion of the CCIE with flying colors. Then they fail the field portion because they claim they “know what to do” but just don't have enough time to do it. Extending that concept, think about how long it takes for an average server to reboot.... then think about the less than updated “low-spec” equipment used in testing centers. Then subtract the reboot “time” from the “time left on your field exam”. I’m not contending that we allow someone 8 hours to install a NIC driver. However, isn’t the point to “get it right” within a reasonable period of time? Keep in mind we are talking about a “field-testing scenario”. It makes more sense to constrain the time for written exams, because let’s face it: You either know the answer or you don’t in most Microsoft exams. Message to Dr. Elahi: Field-testing is a good idea whose time has come. But lets iron out the wrinkles before throwing $1000 dollars at it.

I have an observation I’d like to make about the IT profession. Most of us strive for improvement in our respective technical fields. I’d like to suggest that some of us take a basic grammar and spelling class to bolster our technical education. It is truly disappointing to see spelling and grammatical errors in many correspondences that pass by my desk/computer each day. To have this happen in the purview of word processing programs with spell check and grammar check is unacceptable (especially considering we use and have used computers everyday in our jobs). Most managers give pay raises and promotions to those who are the most qualified (both technically and educationally) for the job. Doesn’t it make sense for use to collectively improve the profession so that (in the long term) we will be treated with respect and dignity? Perhaps our positions and salaries will become commensurate with that.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Employer New York

Well, it's about time! I am so sick and tired of all the network "wanna-be's" and the money I have spent recruiting, screening, and fixing the problems of all these "seven-test wonders" that I WELCOME the FCPA and applaud what they are trying to do! I'm the guy all you babies want to work for. Suck it up! This is the cost of doing business and I won't hire anyone anymore unless they can PROVE they know what they are doing. And I'll go farther than that. You take the FCPA Exam, pass it, and then let me know. My e-mail address is listed. I have two hundred jobs for the first ones to complete the process!

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Nader Anonymous

Hey, what the fuss, Employers should check for themselves, They can pay for the tests for their respective employees just to make sure they're qualified, but the Job seekers (especially experienced ones) should not be required to pay to show it !!

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Students coming out of a good training program have lots of lab time. I am more concerned over really bad questionsprotected by the statement that they are experience questions. Who has experience (2 years?) with .NET and XP at this point. If a person can read and retain the information to be a "paper" MCSE I would still hire them. This type of person would be easy to train and gain experience. $395 for a test on top of the $120 testing fee. Maybe Microsoft's new motto is "never give a sucker an even break".

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 networksup Anonymous

I think the comments about IT being arrogant about "paper MCSEs" and the fact that people feel this term is old are slightly misdirected. I do not let my HR department screen my position applicants. I rank the resumes, interview the people with a series of technical questions based on the certification and real life network scenarios and then I call back those for a hands-on interview that make the cut. You would be amazed at the amount of people who can answer their way through an interview but cannot do something as simple as program in a Class C IP - when asked to perform this hands on task, 90 percent had to ask me what a Class C IP was. I have had the side of a server off and had the server hooked up to a switch in plain sight and when I asked numerous MCSEs to identify the hardware the NIC was identifed as a modem, a USB card etc.... The biggest problem is with the Microsoft curriculum and the unrealistic expectation that people get when they take the courses and get certified. It is simply not enough to prepare someone for most positions and the ads for these certifications are downright misleading. I worked in the field for a couple of years and spent every waking hours learning everything I could before I was ever sent to a Microsoft class. We actually called our boss to have the instructor replaced because he was so incompetent. The entire program is broken and it makes me mad when I see single mothers and other people who cannot afford to be ripped off that have been conned into taking out loans thinking they can start out at 50k a year (with no experience) when the program cannot do that for someone without experience from somewhere. Anyone should be able to make a career change, just be prepared to put in a lot of effort and time and acquire knowledge before paying through the nose to get rammed through a course that cannot fill in the gaps without a ton of practical experience. I think the Field Certification Program is another ripoff - I want to see for myself what people can do before I hire them and I am not going to trust someone else to make that decision and I am certainly not going to waste my budget on that fee when I can do it better myself.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Keith NJ

I think alot of the push for the field certifications come from the "big boys" being insecure. They already posses alot of the knowledge and will likely be framers of such certifications. This will allow them security in their jobs. They fear a job market that thrives on new knowledge and alot of times kids coming out of college are on the cutting edge. Companies also need to realize training their IT staff is an on going thing and should really invest in having the more experienced IT professional mentor the new comers. Not everyone is a guru.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 John Ritchie New York

So let me get this straight. First, Microsoft charges ~$1K for the tests (not including training). Transcender jumps in to suck another ~$1K for their practice tests. Now a new organization isgoing to milk us for another $1K to verify that we "really, really" know what we are doing. My co-workers have been preaching Brainbench to me, that's it's just as good. Well, now that the MS market is truly becoming a joke, it's time to make the switch. Later.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Darwin Colorado

Interesting. Still, just like Microsoft this venue predetermines the knowledge base. In a true environment with muli-levels of tasks, the tech would earn a cert depending on how far and how much they accomplished. The idea should be for the tech to learn from the test and use the knowledge to better serve his customer.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 jharvey Anonymous

There wouldn't be a problem with too many 'paper' MCSEs if employers were willing to hire different levels of skills --read entry level -- into their IT departments. Even entry level MSCE can do basic maintenance leaving the big stuff to the more experienced administrators. Too many employers just want heros. So how does a paper MCSE get experience if no one wants to give them a chance?
On the other hand, I've also heard from IT managers that even a good resume with lots of experience doesn't always prove the IT guy will fit it. Enthusiasm, willingness to learn new technologies and go the extra miles often makes the difference between a burn-out and good employee.
And, last but not least, isn't the author of the article a 'paper' MCSE? How about an article on options, like writing and editing, available to paper certs.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Gianky Italy

I didn't think how many paper MCSEs exists.... I'm quite surprised and disgusted.... I've worked for 10 yrs before thinking on getting cert.
Certs should be for proven experienced candidates, already working in the field who wants to step up the career ladder.
I've read about thousand $ spent, weeks of training, cram, dumps and whatever... The MCSE meant 7 days for me, 7 exams without studying nothing.
Why anyone suggests MS to accept exam candidates only over 5Yrs experience?
Overmore, I tried the Hands-on sim that MS will insert in their exams... this would mean easier exams, it's just too easy.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Brian Colorado

I am sick and tired of spending money to be told that hard work and time is going to be worthless unless I get "Field Certified". What's next? The Master Field Certified program? I beginning to really dislike most of the schools I have attended. I refuse to pay thousands of dollars to take a class when I can research and find a good book and learn it on my own. I also say the Field Certified testing is way out of line, I'd would never be able to pay for it. I refuse to pay another dime for any certification until the industry figures out what the heck it wants. As far as I can tell, CCIE is the way to go.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Dickinse NIH

I have been an MCSE/CNE since the early 90's. One thing that has always bothered me is the form the testing takes. Anyone who has take Designing a MS Win2K Network Infrastructure or Active Directory (215 minutes and 280 minutes respectively) knows how painful it is to have to read senario after senario on the screen. Tears rolling down, while trying to maintain a level of concentration to pass the test. This is not a practical exam, never was and never will be. Even from the Novell days I would have loved to have taken hands on exams in more real life setting. It would be more expensive though you would need fewer tests. More likely a combination of the two.

Way back when, Novell was the master of rote, minutia and word games. I found it rather refreshing to take a microsoft exam that seemed much more practical and geared more toward how to do things. But now it seems that Microsoft has taken the lead in that field as well. The two afore mentioned tests seem to be more tests of endurance and word games than of practical knowledge.

I say "Bring on the hands on!" I do not know if that would weed out "Paper MCSE's" but it would make staying current much easier.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 AlanTTT Anonymous

A certification that involves testing practical hands on skills is long over due. If Microsoft have got any sense they will start to include it in MCSE it might help to give the qualification some much needed credibility. OK so it will cost more but what do we want good certifications or cheap certifications ?

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Matty MCSE, CCNA, A+ ce Wash State

My Question is... Why do so many IT guys get so mad at anybody who gets a certification, if you are better qualified and can prove to an employer that you have the skills for the job you will get the job, the IT filed is not for arrogant non-cert holders alone!

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Matty MCSE, CCNA, A+ ce Wash State

Thank you Steve from UK.
I have a small computer service, which makes a small amount of money. I am a MCSE, CCNA and A+ certified tech. I went out and got these certs because I wanted to get involved in large networks with a established corporation, to better my career and lifestyle.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 noone nowhere

As someone who has worked for a long time in tech, and has more than a few certs to go with it, I can see both points of view. All certification is passable if you prepare properly. It doesn't guarantee that you can do the job, but it mostly helps. Even a CCIE is capable of making mistakes, and even a complete moron could pass the CCIE if they had the proper preparation. I think the market will determine whether this field certification stuff will take off. And that mostly revolves around what the employer starts looking for. The "paper" MCSE will always be around, because there are so many resources available to help pass the written exams.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Steve UK

Certifications prove you know enough information to pass the exam on any given day. The following day and different questions, you may not pass. If you were at work and a real life critical server had a problem, you would call upon all the resources at your disposal to find out what the problem was and try and fix it. If you didn't have the information on the tip of your tongue, you would look in books, check the web, ask colleagues, etc... That doesn't necessarily mean that you aren't any good when it comes to the job - just that you haven't been in that particular situation before. Certification + Experience are the key. If the paper certification helps you get the experience, all well and good.
Steve - CNA, CNE, MCP, MCDBA, MCSE

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Thuddome Denver

And by the way, I'm a paper Win2K MCSE with around 7 years of large enterprise experience. Did I learn anything from the tests - NO? What did I do to prepare - Put on my Microsoft Helmet ? Do we need to expand certs - NO, why? Did my cert get me my job - YEP, kept my resume out of round file! Could anyone pass MCSE tests - I don't think so. I think the real problem is all the folks claiming to be MCSE/MCSA certified and are not. When I was going for my Win2k MCSE it seemed like everyone I talked to already had it and was giving me advice. Strange thing was I recieved a card and certificate for being 1 of the first 2000 certified on Win2k. Are all 2k MCSE's in Denver or what? Lots of faking going on...

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Thuddome Denver

I don't know about your companies, but I interview and quiz all candidates. If your company hires merely from a piece of paper, you've got problems. I use the MCSE/MCSA certs as a way to weed out the folks who have no experience.

Fri, Dec 13, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

"demonstrated ability to achieve" paul from 12/12/02.
The almighty dollar demonstrates my ability to achieve. And its telling me to walk on by this scam.

Thu, Dec 12, 2002 Joel Hawaii

IT certifications, as opposed to degrees, are short lived. You may have spent $x,xxx on certifying for NT, but now Win2k, and very soon .net/XP, is the big thing. Certification is just a short-lived validation of some level of experience/education with a particular product. Expect to recertify as a requirement of remaining relevant in the industry.

I've interviewed a few too many candidates with MCSE/CCNA/A+ certs that couldn't do some of the basics. If you are going to spend the time taking the tests (and presumably studying for them) then you can take the time to learn how to do the basics like map drives.

With that being said, I think some sort of task-based validation of experience is a positive change. Just like any other job search, you need to stand out from the rest of the applicants and this is another way to do so.

Aloha from Hawaii!
Joel - MCSE (2K), MCSE+I(NT4), MCP(XP), CCNA, A+

Thu, Dec 12, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Paper or not, once a person get certified, he/she is certified, period. The method of how they get certified is not that important - working in a company will show that because as you work (gain experience), you become practical with the product more than just the concepts. As for myself, I got my MCP like within 3 months of college graduation. As for the training to become certified, I agree with Chevy that the MS material (MOC) only gives you (less than) half of what you really need to know. The other half or so would probably from those resource kits or technet. So whats my point? Take this for an example. RHCE and the future FCSE in Linux. Since RHCE is already performance-based, when FCSE (Linux) does come out, given my understanding the these FC certs are vendor-neutral, who wants to the FCxx when they can get vendor-based certified like RHCE. Back to MS if say MCSE was lab-based, this wouldn't necessary make it easier or harder. Suppose in the actual lab test, you are allowed to use the help files (making it like open book), then you can say it's easier. But if you can't, then that will make it harder. Besides I don't believe the help files can answer everything you want to know, further yet, in the exam, time is an issue so searching for help can in fact lose time.

Thu, Dec 12, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Ninety-nine percent of MCSEs (and CCNAs) I've met (through their CVs and in flesh) are paper ones. They are just toddlers with three months of industry experience and yet claim to know the A to Z of networking, ins and outs of MS products and the whole gammot of CISCO technologies.
This does create a lot of problem during recruitment. But then I don't blame them coz the industry has spawned this phenomena "wittingly" and the respective companies had steered the market for paper certifications to sell their products. Even today, you can buy any (repeat any) of these paper's questions for a dime (a smart guy won't even spend as much - they are freely available over share counters). What more would you expect from certifications? Lets face it. you cannot stop paper MCSEs, paper CCNAs, paper Checkpoints ... from overshadowing the real ones. As long the certifications are product-based and vendor-based, it implies that one vendor is trying to supercede it's competitor in the market, wants to sell more, wants more support guys (in lesser amount of time than is feasible) and hence low quality support guys. The idea here is for the vendors to together, develop certifications together, maybe combo ones that are mutually beneficial to each other (hence focussing on the quality of the product and the product support guys), put on a blanket experience (industry/training) level after which certification can be attained (something similar to SAP where you can only appear for the SAP exams only if you have attended the original SAP training) and a proper validation of that experience. More factors can be added here for improving the quality of the pros but this is for the starting.

Thu, Dec 12, 2002 Richard NC

I guess time will tell if performance based testing will take off. I’m a trainer that always emphasized hands-on labs and getting hands-on, real-world experience to my students. But I’m prejudiced. I’ve already taken and passed the FCSE exam mentioned in the article (in fact Dr. Amir Elahi was the proctor of my exam). 8 hours of extreme Windows 2000. I can tell you this: if you really are a “paper MCSE”, no way would you pass. I would also say if you didn’t have several years of very intimate knowledge of the subject matter, you wouldn’t pass. I do agree that the price is very steep. But a potential employer is requiring it, so I took it (yes, some employers are on the bleeding edge believe it or not). I can’t tell you what is on the test, but I can tell you more about the experience if you’re interested…

Thu, Dec 12, 2002 one ppl Anonymous

Detroit is right! buy a Sun workstation is rather better than take this cert!

Thu, Dec 12, 2002 seb philippines

explain to me how IT people in developping countries who can not even afford to pay for an MCP exam can afford a LAB test !!!
I got my skills from the ground up working hard and always searching for the cheapest solution because I had no other choice! When I meet an employer that says " you MUST have MCx, CCxx MCxx etc..." I say NO! if YOU want all those letter after my name YOU (employer) will have to PAY for it! in the meantime YOU will pay me for my SKILLS!!!

from Seb P. MCSE (NT4) MCSE 2000, MCDBA, MCSD, CCIE. 15 years in IT in the philippines.

Thu, Dec 12, 2002 Paul Anonymous

As a true paper MCSE and MCSA (I never worked on a "live" network until after I certified), I look on the Microsoft certification process just as I do college degrees - both provide the concepts and demonstrate that a person has put forth the effort (and investment) to achieve a goal. No employer with any brains would expect a new college graduate to immediately transition into a job without some practical experience and the same should apply for System Engineers. By the same token, many positions are open only to college graduates, not so much for their education as for their demonstrated ability to achieve. Field certification would serve as further evidence of a person's professionalism. And that is really what's up with this discussion.

Thu, Dec 12, 2002 Pissed Off Bob Right nearby

Just Imagine the following - Lets imagine that we did 7 MCSE exams + 2 more MCBA exams and about 3 more MCAD exams ALL on ONLY by CRAMMING and not having any real experience other thatn the book and sims and the employers don't check CV's 'cause they never heard about it. I guess thats the one way PAPER MCSEs are going to get employed .. SURELY the CV shows the years of experience and the compnaies one worked for ..? Can they not call and check up on the employee ..
Employers get what they pay for or in other words when they choose to go about it the wrong way .. get a recuitment panel or muster up some IT pros (reknown and reputable) to question and evaluate these people before hiring them.. i can ramble on but for now ... FC whatever is ony trying to make some money off some mindless dopes .. you think anyone with 5+ years experience is going to spend $$ on that.. these people have peers and connection in the IT arena .. They don't need to make Dr. Whatever any richer.. Let me stop before i start cursing...

Thu, Dec 12, 2002 Matty IT and Me the paper Anonymous

If I had all the money the managers of the large corps want me to spend on cert exams and now the lab exams, i wouldnt want or need to look for a promising career in IT. But since i love the IT field I will keep working at it. Please keep the hands on labs reasonably priced for us to prove ourselves. Again!

Thu, Dec 12, 2002 timxcd detroit

Interesting. I think that Microsoft and the whole industry puts too much importance on certification, I got my MCSE for NT 4.0, but I'll never get another one, was a waste of my time in looking back, and with software moving at the rate it is, learn it, use it, then move on, no time to waste. $395 to $995 for a hands on exam? I'd rather buy a new pc or enjoy a weekend on vacation.

Thu, Dec 12, 2002 Chevy South Hadley

I have been sitting on my hands trying to find any work that even remotely involves what I paid over $12,000 for in MCSE courses and certification exams. The practical experience was supposed to come in the form of labs which were often glossed over even when the equipment actually worked. One honest instructor made it clear that the "official" Microsoft materials we used gave us only half of what we needed to know to pass the exam!
Now we face a down economy with the IT sector particularly hard hit and some clown wants me to pay for more exams to prove that I can overcome the lack of those hands on skills to begin with? In your dreams!
If I have learned one lesson it is that I will never pay for courses again. I was told two years ago that there was an insatiable demand for networking technicians and no end to the necessary work that needed to be done in our society. Now all I hear is that picky employers only want people who can "hit the ground running". This is reflected in the total of eleven days work I have found in two temp positions in the past six months.
Well, Mr. Employer, there are lots of people out here like me who only need a chance to start working to show what they can do. I know the lingo and concepts, but my knowledge is radioactive (it has a half life) and I need to start doing what I can to reinforce what I have learned.
So when you find me, I will insist that you help me keep my certifications current. I do have a choice: anyone smart enough to pass seven Microsoft exams is smart enough to work outside of IT. Heck, I may even work on the beach for the rest of my life. But what goes around comes around, too. Don't tell me ten years from now that there's a shortage of IT workers! I will either be part of the solution or won't give a hoot.
Cheers, Chevy

Thu, Dec 12, 2002 Bushmaster Anonymous

Rock has a very good point! This is getting very stale. Most weak minds will waste a lot of time trying to minimize the effort put forth by persons like Rock and myself. Like Rock, I worked my but off to get certified an I already have a BS and Masters. The certification tells the employer that you do have the mental capacity to conceptualize beyond the tactile components of IT, and possibly contribute to the tactical and strategic planning phases of Executive Management. Use all available assets to move up! Think out of the box as they say! By the time this stale argument is over, I would have gained significant experience across the Managerial spectrum. Keep talking! I' keep moving. The only ones making any money are those offering the next certification process to end all other processes.

Thu, Dec 12, 2002 Thin Paper MCSE Louisiana

I really don't have a bunch of experience on servers and the like but i live in Lousyana and theres not a whole lot of that to go around. I am a true paper MCSE in that I got my paper and have plenty of desktop and network experience but not much on the server side. But how else would you get experience if not by someone opening that door for you????
As for the cost I'll keep mine paper thanks.

Thu, Dec 12, 2002 Jerry Anonymous

What a load of crap! Let's do all we can to muddy the waters even more whilw in the middle of the worst recession this industry has ever experienced. GET REAL IDIOTS!!! find another way to fleece unemployeed IT workers. Jeeze!

Thu, Dec 12, 2002 theEVIL1 Roch

Are only the holy-IT born to have IT jobs. Are those of us who HAVE(no option) to change careers are just left to starve and give up their children to the state, because we are just "paper MCSE's or MCSA's"?? Get real! Yes, most human resource managers don't know squat and will get a company a less than desirable candidate. Money doesn't talk, it swares (Bob Dylan).
However, it would still be easier to do any Microsoft exam on a live box/network. You can react to what is going on. Yeah, real life.

Thu, Dec 12, 2002 Bushmaster Anonymous

Rock has a very good point! This is getting very stale. Most weak minds will waste a lot of time trying to minimize the effort put forth by persons like Rock and myself. Like Rock, I worked my but off to get certified an I already have a BS and Masters. The certification tells the employer that you do have the mental capacity to conceptualize beyond the tactile components of IT, and possible conribute to the tactical and strategic planning phases of Executive Management. Use all assets available to move up!! Think out of the box as they currently say!! But by the time this stale argument is resolved, I for one would have gained significant experience across the spectrum. Keep talking. I'll keep moving. The only ones making money are those offering the next sure fire certification to end all certifications.

Thu, Dec 12, 2002 O Yea! mcpmag.com

I was a "boot" or "Newby" (what kinda bee don't fly? a Newby) in the Marine Corps, I was "Rookie" when I started in the Copper Mines, now I'll be a "Paper MCSE". That's cool with me cause it's how you do the job when your in there that earns you respect, and I left every job with respect. The big boys can afford to set up a lab and test in the same office as the interviews. This field certification is a borderline scam.

Thu, Dec 12, 2002 Rock Anonymous

I keep hearing all these comments about"paper MCSE's', frankly its getting to be pretty stale. I Had to work my buns off to get certified for my MCSE NT 4, and 2000. The fact that I don't have years of experience is the only barrier Ive come accross.
How many of you boys out there had a whole lot of experience before you got your first job? What! you knew all that tech stuff when you were born?
Someone gave you an opportunity, and you took it. Then you got certified, good for you!
I've noticed, in any profession, that just because you hold a certification, license, or whatever doesn't mean you can do the job, and you can have years of experience to boot. It seems to me in order to pass the certification exams you need to know ALL that stuff.
I agree it would be far better to be tested on real boxes in a network setting. But I think the cost here is waayyy out of the ball park.

Thu, Dec 12, 2002 Paper MCSE/CCNA/Net+ Anonymous

Seems to me that no matter how much experience you have, when you take the exams they all arrive in the form of "paper". Face it guys, we all have experience, or we wouldn't be leaving comments on this subject. I had to invest a lot of money to get what I have. I am also very proud of it!!! I too think that sitting in front of a Windows box would make it a WHOLE lot easier than a 6 page "scenario" question from uncle Bill. Half my job comes from knowing "where" to look/go to find my answer!!!! If I could look in the help menu of a windows box, I think I could probably "ace" the exam.....kinda like an open book test!!!
Cut the cost in half and maybe some of us paper guys would think about adding that piece of "Paper" to our list of wall hangers!!!

Thu, Dec 12, 2002 Booda Northern VA

I've become completely disappointed in the whole certification process. More employers, from my experience, are looking more for degrees and experience. Quite a few IT managers that I interviewed with said they could care less if I was an MCSE. They only wanted to know what can I do and how long have I been doing it.

Thu, Dec 12, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

I don't know about anyone else, but the fee for certification exams comes out of my own pocket and does not get reimbursed by my employer. The "initial" price for Mr. Elahi's exams would definitely be beyond my means.

Thu, Dec 12, 2002 Beoweolf SJ,Ca

Now, if the employer...especially the "big boys" are willing to front the test cost, after they have gone through reasonable pre-hire interviews...No, that would'nt happen. The reason "paper MCSE's" exist, is hiring managers taking short cuts or basing decision on how little someone will take to do the job. An untested MCSE can handle a well designed system, on a sunny day, but when the shinola hits the fan, "who you gonna call?"? We spend a lot of time, effort and money to acquire our skills, then we get low-balled when it's time to pay. I think I miss main frames mainly because, the cost of the hardware made the cost of hiring good people seem reasonable. It's hard to justify the employee cost for system administration and managment, when the box cost so little and looks so much like the PC sitting on everyones desk top.

Thu, Dec 12, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Very good in theory, especially if fees for the actual exams are reasonably priced. Uh-oh... "the exams last between two and eight hours and are initially priced from $395 to $995". Hey, have you cats turned a profit yet? And when can I sign up, Mr. Gates...er, Elahi?

Thu, Dec 12, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

A field test would be a lot easier. Being able to sit down and do something infront of a PC is a heck of a lot easier than having to know the details before hand. No trick questions. No minor details to miss. Just do it. I'm not going to pay that much for it. The idea that it would be in anyway harder than a normal test is not quite accurate though. Lets face it Windows tests are easy because they are WINDOWS tests. The software is designed to be easy. Remove trick questions and answers and you have a cake walk.

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