News

Microsoft Exec Addresses Certification Topics

Instead of a ticket on the gravy train, Microsoft certification has become more of a step up the corporate ladder.

(New Orleans, Louisiana) Instead of a ticket on the gravy train, Microsoft certification has become more of a step up the corporate ladder.

That was the message from Lutz Ziob, general manager for training and certification at Microsoft. Ziob, speaking at the MCP TechMentor conference in New Orleans on Thursday, April 10, said "If you're looking at Microsoft certification as a way to earn more money, you're likely to be disappointed." If, however, you want to use it as a "personal tool for career advancement,” Ziob said, it can help.

Ziob, who came to Microsoft last July from a similar position at the certification company CompTIA, believes another value of certification is that it helps credential holders not just today, but down the road. Part of this is due to what he called JTA, or "job task analysis."

"JTA,” according to Ziob, "is one of most undervalued, misunderstood tools" Microsoft uses to develop certifications. He described it as an "elaborate way to understand what future job you're being prepared for." Microsoft gleans its JTA from surveys, like the one for Windows Server 2003. Ziob said the company surveyed about 2,500 IT workers from 102 countries, and identified 238 job tasks from within the "JTA matrix." That matrix, he explained, details extremely specific information about job roles and how they differ for various title holders.

Ziob said that having identified those roles, the next step is to prepare exams and certifications that closely match them. "There's a very clear difference in job roles between [MC]SAs and [MC]SEs. Microsoft understands what you really need to know. The real skill is to boil it down to something that takes as little time as possible" to study for and achieve the credential, Ziob said.

That efficiency was also built into the upgrade paths from Windows 2000 to Windows 2003, Ziob stated. He also admitted that the last certification upgrade path, from Windows NT 4.0 to Win2K, was clumsily handled and frustrated many MCSEs. "We've built the easiest upgrade path [this time], and done a much better job than last time around."

As previously reported by MCP Magazine, the MCSA upgrade path from Win2K to Windows 2003 consists of one exam. "One standard exam, and it's mapped very clearly. We've condensed it into a two-day course, to upgrade yourself to the next level," Ziob said. The MCSE path is two tests, which can be prepared for from two courses over five days. "That's as condensed and efficient as we could make it," Ziob commented.

He also plugged Microsoft's new Skills Assessment program, which is a free series of tests he called an "objective measurement of your readiness to implement a technology solution." Each 30-question test gives exam-takers feedback on areas of strength and weakness, as well as a prescriptive learning path to shore up weak areas.

There are currently six assessments available, all of which focus on Windows 2003. Ziob said Microsoft will "shortly launch another eight,” encompassing the areas of .NET architecture and security, among others. He also cautioned that it's not a "certification practice test. It doesn’t prep you for certification."

Turning to a sore spot among many MCPs, Ziob used an analogy to address the issue of the growing perception among some that certifications are becoming less relevant in job hiring and career advancement. "Can you imagine being a lawyer and have somebody ask 'Have you passed the bar exam or do you only have experience?' " he said, emphasizing that Microsoft's research continues to show the value of certification to employers.

He also gave advice for those certified on NT 4.0 or not certified, and trying to decide what to do about the new certification path. "If you're already in the path [toward Win2K certification], don't stop now. If you haven't started yet, it probably makes sense to wait until the new tests come out." The Windows 2003 tests are likely to start being released in August.

The MCP TechMentor conference was held April 8-12 in New Orleans.

About the Author

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

comments powered by Disqus

Reader Comments:

Tue, Apr 22, 2003 jwill mid-left coast

Does anyone know when Microsoft will be slamming the door on the Win2000 cert.? January 2003 or sooner?

Tue, Apr 22, 2003 Ben4jam KY

As a new MCSE 2000, I've found that certification DOES make a difference. Even with little (2 yrs) networking experience, the MCSE is instant credibility. As far as cheating on exams goes, it is easier to cheat on the design exams by getting specific information about the scenarios. Ask someone about 70-216 and how many times it took them to pass it (one for me) and you have a better idea of their skill level. I've seen people with all the design certs because they can easily cheat on those but they can't pass the others. I guess my bottom line is this: if you want to work in IT, dedicate yourself to the task and go for it. Whining gets you nothing.

Mon, Apr 21, 2003 Job Market Anonymous

With such a tight IT job market now, if you don't have a lot of experience then all the certification in the world is not going to get you very far, competition is now too tough with IT veterans fighting it out for jobs that a few years ago they would not have even considered taking, e.g. Helpdesk positions.

Mon, Apr 21, 2003 Job Market Anonymous

With such a tight IT job market now, if you don't have a lot of experience then all the certification in the world is not going to get you very far, competition is now too tough with IT veterans fighting it out for jobs that a few years ago they would not have even considered taking, e.g. Helpdesk positions.

Mon, Apr 21, 2003 Microsoft Fan Anonymous

I notice Testking are no longer a sponser, I guess MCPMAG really do read the readers feedback comments, it nice to know that. Also I think I'll wait for the new exams as our organization will be upgraded most likely to 2003 server.

Mon, Apr 21, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Hey Everybody - The good old days of IT are GONE! Face it!! If you've got a good job, hold on to it becuse you probably can not replace it. If your just now trying to break in to the industry - forget it, your SOL. Sorry, that's the truth!

Thu, Apr 17, 2003 Anonymous Los Angeles, CA

Two Comments:

1) I used testking.com study guides to pass the MCSE 2000 exams. I completely disagree these sites are to be considered cheating sites. The guides here are informative where they allow you to view the questions that you will see on the test. Their are two ways to study with these guides. 1) Just remember the answer or 2) take the time to understand the information they are offering. I took a 6 month training with a school that provided us with sybex books. The only thing these books are good for is to give you an introduction to material. They will in NO WAY !! prepare you for the test. I would take my hats off to the person who passes the test with just the sybex books alone. Everyone knows that Microsoft exams sole goal is to CONFUSE you so you can FAIL. I believe this is not fair on Microsofts part.

2) Certification and no experience = NO JOB. It is a wake up call when you just spent six months of your life to prepare yourself for a better career and the most you will probably make is $10 to $12 an hour. I worked as a Admin. Asst. and I was making $40k a year. Take certifications with a grain a salt. They will not guarantee anything if you do not have at least 5 plus years experience.

Wed, Apr 16, 2003 Scott Spiess Roseville, Ca

I would like to say that this is the first time that I think anyone from the Microsoft certification group was actually honest with us. Certs don't equal $, but they help with basic skills that are needed in the job. I hope that Microsoft will continue to listen to us and be honest with us about thier plans.

Wed, Apr 16, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

As a previous MCSE+I, and a Windows 2000 MCSE & MCSA... (who passed the 70-240 exam).. it appears Microsoft has yet to realize it is important to realize that even well paid employees cannot continue to pay for certification study materials and exams at the present rate. The information should be free, in the form of technical manuals, resource kits, etc... the exams should be hands on...and last for many years.

Wed, Apr 16, 2003 anonymous Calgary, Alberta

Being a past NT 4 MCSE and now a Windows 2000 MCSE (yeah I wrote 7 W2K exams, not the upgrade) I can honestly say that Microsoft has made some effort(s) to make the exams harder. As for the value of certification one can debate the pros and cons till the cows come home. However, over the past year I have been very busy fixing very poor implementations and migrations to Windows 2000. Is Windows 2000 that differnet from NT 4.0? Yes, I would have to say it definately is. So what value is a MCSE you ask? Well, in a pile of resumes a MCSE 2000 with industry experience will rise above the "I've got Windows 2000 experience" resumes. At the end of the day being certified is purely up to the individual, but being certified shows that you put in the effort to bring the most product knowledge to your client(s), not too mention a certain level of W2K competence.

Wed, Apr 16, 2003 Keith Ward Anonymous

Barry, the straight answer is that certification with no experience will make it hard to get hired in the current environment. Certification, even the so-called "premium" certs like MCSE and MCSD, can be a foot in the door to a low-level job like help desk, but without significant experience in the industry, you need to set your goals very modestly.

Certs can be a differentiator when there are two job candidates with similar backgrounds and experience. Most employers I talk to say certification is most effective that way- when combined with experience.

Without that experience, I'd recommend spending your money instead on a small home network- one or two servers, and one or two desktops. Buy a book like Bill Boswell's "Inside Windows 2000 Server" or Mark Minasi's "Mastering Windows 2000 Server" and use those as guides. Play with your network as much as possible. Break it, rebuild it, re-configure it. When you've done that, you'll be more prepared for that entry-level job. Once you've gotten a year under your belt, then start thinking about certifications. Good luck!

Tue, Apr 15, 2003 Barry Wallace Portsmouth, VA

I was looking into ordering the core four from Sybex and studying to take the exams myself, rather than having to fork out the huge sums of cash for the courses. Now I'm sure that I don't want to pay the big money for the courses if it is not going to result in bigger paychecks. From what I've just read it seems that certification is of questionable value. I have my A+ cert and that cost me a grand. For someone who is trying to make a career change, what I have read here is not very encouraging.
I hear the ads on the radio and some employers ask for MCSE. The ads all say you can make good money, and the jobs that request MCSE all seem to be good paying jobs. Now I read here that MCSE is not "all that." Can anyone give me a staright answer?

Tue, Apr 15, 2003 anonymous Germany

There is no way to make MCSE every two Years, for every OS which Microsoft spills out of his Factory. Most of the OS are similar and not 100% different than the other one.
Therefore, there must be compact update exam for every transition and for about two to three years time to update.

Tue, Apr 15, 2003 Jason Anonymous

Microsoft is like the government of a country in that they only come out and admit their mistakes after they have long passed. In this article they resign to the fact that they handled the last upgrade poorly. Maybe in 3 or 4 years, they will accept responsibility for not taking proper care to prevent cheating as others have stated. Until the cheating problem is addressed in a widescale and DRAMATIC fashion, the value of the certs will continue to decline. While on the one hand, I thought the 70-240 exam was way too hard, on the other I think that making upgrades easy allows the cheaters to maintain their lie.

Jason Sprague - www.mcmcse.com

Mon, Apr 14, 2003 anonymous Anonymous

ms should provide an upgrade exam for mcse's on nt4 to win2003 like 70-240!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mon, Apr 14, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Stand back, I'll take care of your network. I am MCP Windows 3.1 certified!

Mon, Apr 14, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

If you have sites like www.testking.com , www.hotcerts.com , www.cheatexams.com who would let you cheat on your exams even a 5 yr old can be MCSE certified ..Then how would u expect the market to improve ???...

Mon, Apr 14, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Having certifications is irrelevant if there are no jobs to be had in the ever decreasing IT job market. The job field has become saturated with unemployeed Ex- IT people, still recovering from the burst Dot-Com bubble. The high salaries that Ziob talks about only exist at Microsoft, and they are rapidly losing marketshare and relevance.

Mon, Apr 14, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Having certifications is irrelevant if there are no jobs to be had in the ever decreasing IT job market. The job field has become saturated with unemployeed Ex- IT people, still recovering from the burst Dot-Com bubble. The high salaries that Ziob talks about only exist at Microsoft, and they are rapidly losing marketshare and relevance.

Fri, Apr 11, 2003 Walter Boyd MCT, MCSE (NT Salt Lake City

Regarding "the growing perception among some that certifications are becoming less relevant in job hiring and career advancement" - Since Microsoft refuses to legitmately address the issue of widespread cheating what do you expect? If you're an employer and you can't rely on the vendor to maintain an ethical testing and certification process why should you pay extra for a certified person over one that isn't? Why spend money to get your people certified? I was hoping Ziob would come in and clean up the disaster he inherited. I'm not encouraged. So far all I'm seeing is more of the "Problem, what problem?" crap we've been seeing for years. I guess that's not entirely true. We're seeing a lot of noise about how they develop tests prior to deliberately letting people massively cheat. And a few comments that can only reasonably be interpreted as "well, certification isn't really supposed to mean much." Color me unimpressed.

Add Your Comment Now:

Your Name:(optional)
Your Email:(optional)
Your Location:(optional)
Comment:
Please type the letters/numbers you see above

Redmond Tech Watch

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.