Editor's Desk

Lab Experiments

What credentials could offer in the future.

I’m writing this column specifically because I want feedback from you. The topic I’m about to present turned out to be a discussion point several times during the latest TechMentor conference in San Diego, and I’d like to see whether there was something in the hotel water or whether it really does hold merit in the real world, which is where you reside.

First, Contributing Editor Bill Boswell laid out his fairly concise theory about how to add a board certification component to Microsoft’s credential. More on that shortly.

Second, Senior Editor Keith Ward asked an audience of delegates whether they wanted a practicum-style exam (about three-quarters said yes) and whether they’d pay extra to be able to take one (about half said yes). Then he asked a panel of Microsoft product managers whether Microsoft was working on such a program. The short answer was no (for fairly sound reasons).

Third, Contributing Editor Don Jones pulled people together for an informal discussion about the “perfect” certification program. During the talk, people said they’d like a way to set themselves and the people they manage above the norm of the typical IT professional. In case you didn’t know, Don runs Braincore.net, a company that has developed testing technology that enables exams to go beyond standard simulations. For example, to prove you can rename a domain, his software lets you use netdom to do it.

So here’s Bill’s idea, based on his experience—believe it or not—as a board-certified nuclear power plant operator. Require the MCSE as the baseline. Require a multi-hour troubleshooting test akin to what Cisco offers with its CCIE titles. (That would be easy enough to do using virtual machine software, such as Don’s, in which an entire network could be contained in a single box.) Then there’s the oral part of the credential. The candidate must face a panel of experts and answer their questions on systems engineer-style topics. Not only would this provide proof of your understanding of the issues involved in the work, but it would demonstrate your ability to explain advanced concepts and processes to your colleagues.

As a third hurdle, the credential might require the candidate to write a paper, in the style of SANS with its GIAC credential, in which the candidate has to explain a particularly snarly technical issue faced on the job. This would be evaluated by somebody who already has the new higher-level credential.

Tough? You bet. Doable. I think so. Pricey? The cost would have to cover the expense. Of value to the world at large? Hiring managers don’t always have time to stay up on the latest nuances of a vendor’s programs. But when somebody can say, “I’m board-certified,” it sounds to me like it carries the weight of authority.

About the Author

Dian L. Schaffhauser is a freelance writer based in Northern California.

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Reader Comments:

Thu, Nov 13, 2003 Jamey Pittsburgh

This sounds like the idea of people whose biggest accomplishment in life was getting their MBA's. Any self respecting technologist that truly KNOWS the business would not sit on such a board.

Fri, Oct 24, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

How about "practice what you preach." All the editors of this wonderful magazine, who sign their name followed by some cert title, should not be allowed to contribute any articles unless they first MEET THEIR OWN REQUIREMENTS.

Thu, Oct 23, 2003 IceMan a position of not wasting time.

Ever wonder why APache runs 60% of WWW servers WORLDWIDE and IIS runs30%? Because IT savvy companies trust WHAT WORKS rather than who has a better marketing scheme. I have never seen so much emphasis placed on certs as in Microstuff products. I agreee with alot of the responders to this form...get a job and prove what you can do. Stop sitting on the pitty-potty whining about what you should do to make the 5-day courses and quizzes more appealing. It aint no college education, so get over it.

Wed, Oct 22, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

The approach in this article is wrong. MS should publish the exam questions with MS certified answers. - All 2000 or maybe 2500 of them per exam. A fairly modest increase in exam price, used to fund the hiring of a few dozen extra exam question authors would do the trick. With the questions and answers on the web for all to see, prospective candidates could challenge dubious questions pre exam, so reducing the quality threshold for question authorship. Or maybe something self perpetuating like the ability for joe public to challenge an existing exam question they disagree with provided that they suggest two alternative questions. Put the question author's name on the exam question, and you might even get the public to submit say 3000 questions per exam with very little cost to MS.

Flooding the braindumps, or effectively publishing thir own would give candidates the choice of properly understanding the sylabus, or rote learning an excessive number of questions. There comes a question volume where the two approaches add up to the same outcome.

Wed, Oct 22, 2003 John Chicago

With regards to board certification...remember Dr. Jack Kevorkian (sp) was board certified.

Wed, Oct 22, 2003 Lia Washington

This is really great interaction. The one thing I've not seen mentioned is this fact: I don't know about where you work, but where I am there is a 'mixed' enviornment. I cannont afford to concentrate solely on a Microsoft Board when I need to know how to handle Cisco Routers, Unix boxes and telecom issues, too. Get real - I want to be comptetent with the Microsoft technology in my location, so I will continue on with learning but don't push 'Board Level' requirements on just one of the many technologies I must administer. What if they all required this level of 'certification'?

Wed, Oct 22, 2003 Paul Anonymous

Extreme certification. Lets look at the bigger picture. There are few IT jobs out there right now, has been and will be for a very long time. So all you folks that have money and never saw your wallet take a hit by the 911 tragedy can kiss my ass. The real problem is jobs, not another certs.

Sun, Oct 19, 2003 Dan Idaho (don't laugh)

I have worked with the educated Idiot, and after time on the job he became a seasoned professional. I think that in depth lab scenarios will benefit, and if done right can weed out dumpers. However, I also know in this job market my MCSE is squat to a hiring manager without an accompanying respectable cert from another vendor and experience. I think we are taking ourselves just a little too serious if you think that a board certification will get you in the door any better than having an MCSE coupled with good experience in the field, and frankly that’s what it is all about.

Sat, Oct 18, 2003 Michael Clark Sacramento Ca.

Board certification, what’s the point to this extreme exactly. If I am a doctor, a nurse (which I was) or a nuclear power technician as in the example, there is a real need for a certification (or license) that ensures real knowledge. It’s reasonable in those cases for obvious reasons, mess up, and someone dies. Basic simulation tests are more likely to be enough in our line of work, but even in the event of board certifications, we still have bad doctors, nurses and probably less that desirable nuclear power technicians.

The cost for board certifications tend to fairly cheap as well, since the individual has typically just been through a $50,000 to $150,000 collage course of study.

I maintain that certification, for the majority, does what it sets out to do. Test a basic level of knowledge across the entire bandwidth of the given product. I hire based on **experience**, if I am hiring for an entry level person I look for the cert, if you cannot do the job your gone, but you will be replaced with a certified person. Even if they have a degree, I require you to maintain a certification in your specialty, its one thing to know theoretical CIS concepts, but these are vendor’s products, and they are designed to work a certain way I don’t care if it’s LINUX, CISCO or Windows 2003 (yes we have Linux, and yes I require the Linux cert.).

$125.00 a test is enough, you’re over a grand into it when you’re done. Add a simulation if it makes you fell better. Board cert is over the top, and not valuable in this line of work.

Michael Clark, MCSE, MCSD, MCDBA

Fri, Oct 17, 2003 Michael Anonymous

This is ridiculous for something that is so vendor specific. I don't have a Ford drivers license or a Honda drivers license. If it should be a board certification then it should cover more than just Microsoft. Infact it should cover more than just the OS. Sure I agree with having "real" and I stress real world examples and hands on labs. No problem. For now I see a group of people who have found a way to make more money and bring themselves more prestige.

Fri, Oct 17, 2003 Hershel El Paso, Texas

I have attended may classes, which have lab experiments as part of the lesson plan. None of that ever prepares a technician for the real world. Only the hands-on experience has ever proved to be useful. No lab can cover all the problems encountered in the field. No more requirements to climb higher up the ladder. If a person wants to be an engineer, go to a University. Industry, as a whole, barely will hire people now. Their excuse is that "you are over qualified for the job." Try throwing "Board Certified" at them and you will definately price yourself out of competition, should you choose to spend your hard earned money and time on such a senseless project.

Thu, Oct 16, 2003 Chuck - CISSP, MCSE DoD Contractor

Bring on the Lab Environment! I believe some sort of lab environment is the perfect idea to further the MCSE credential; however, a board review environment might sit more in line with a higher level credential than the MCSE such as perhaps, a Master MCSE. The MCSE credential should also require one to recertify on periodically as a few other more sought after credentials do to maintain ones credential status. Though I will continue to recertify, I will focus more on credentials such as Cisco, GIAC, and CISSP as they have more weight in the current job market. As an interviewer, I know experience can be difficult to verify during the hiring process and I see certification credentials as a partial validation, but may incorporate my own lab environment for potential employees.

Something to set one apart from the still lingering Paper-MCSE would revitalize my own desire, as I’m sure will many other MCSEs, toward recertifying with 2003 and future upgrade exams as well as my feeling on its importance with in the IT industry. It appalls me when I hear a college tell me of his/her experience with an unnamed MCSE boot camp offering up the actual examination questions the night before the test. It is paramount that vendors such as Microsoft, Cisco and other content specific credential providers step up to the plate and perform a more thorough certification of the test provider, the boot camp, in order to maintain credibility within the industry. I, myself, am thankful to Intense Schools for providing an environment with exceptional instructors who have the experience, knowledge, and the ability to convey the subject matter and keep the students focused.

I hope to meet some new colleges in the Lab…

Thu, Oct 16, 2003 Larry Southfield

A BS degree and a MCSE and he still does not know this difference between a Network Engineer and a Network Technician. I would explain it but why waste his time.

Thu, Oct 16, 2003 macdeknife Anonymous

Nice, not wanting to waste time he could have made it a bit shorter. I think he has a BS degree, if you catch my drift.

Thu, Oct 16, 2003 IceMan a position of not wasting time

Here we go again.

It seems like the network industry is flooded with ways to make certifications appear glamorous, more prestigious, and carry more weight. Rightly so. They are not engineers, they are vocationally trained graduates of 3- to 4-day courses; a “certificate bearer.” A certified auto mechanic is a mechanic, not a mechanical engineer.

I understand completely when various states do not honor the "E" in MCSE, CNE, CCNE, RHE, et al, because those acronyms are granted for vocational training, not engineering. Most of the discussions I have reviewed position themselves as “adding or carrying weight” or “looking more prestigious” when exploring the workforce. Business cards become crowded with Nick Coolguy, MCSE, MCT, MCP, CNA, CCNE, A+, CompTIA iNET, CCNA, CCNP, Oracle 9i. Enough! Who are you trying to impress?

An engineer completes a rigorous college curriculum, and depending on their discipline, may elect to become “Board Certified” in such areas as geology, medicine, chemistry, architecture, physics, electrical or mechanical engineering. By the way, Board Certified as recognized by reciprocal states is conducted through a state agency. Since most if not all states recognize “certificate” recipients as vocationally trained and not academic (therefore not a “real” engineer), you will be hard pressed to find non-partisan political introduction of new budgetary agencies and commitments that will review Nick Coolguy for “Board Certification” consideration.

A “network engineer” completes a series of vocational training that may consist of perhaps seven classes followed by seven quizzes. In lieu of arguing with all those in favor being classified as an “engineer,” “carrying weight,” and appearing “prestigious,” let’s look at a simple example;

An electrical engineer will evaluate p and s shell orbits, Coulomb’s Law, review statics, and a myriad of other electrical behaviors to achieve a design. A design that allows a chip to be created, or data to be transmitted in a multitude of media over various pressures, volumes, and temperatures. A network “engineer” on the other hand, opens a box of blue cable, plugs in the connectors, powers on the box, and follows on-screen wizards. Sure, it gets more complicated, maybe they have to create a 26-digit hex WEP and write down what they just thought of. Hey, the stay-at-home housewife next door did that last week after a trip to PC Club! She must be An Engineer!

I've heard all the arguments. Been there and done that (BS and MCSE) so I do know I’m talking about. If you want prestige (like I keep hearing from these discussions), stop asking to be something you’re not. Drop the board certified dream and get on with business. It seems like there must be a lot of unemployed “engineers” out there since they keep wanting to add value to their certificate. If they were employed, they wouldn’t have the time to worry about this nonsense; they would be “taking care of business.”

Thu, Oct 16, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Here's a really cool idea, not sure why no one has thought of this, how about trying this approach on all the editors of the magazing who have certs and let's see how they do,

Thu, Oct 16, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Very nice article. I would only suggest that some disclosure should be in order here. For ex., in the October 2003 issue of the magazine, out of a total of 58 pages, there are a total of 8 (I'm not sure how to calculate %, this kind of math wasn't part of my MCSE requirements) full page ads, 6 (p.35,39,41,54,55,57) from course training & testing co's, and 2 (p.49,51) from Microsoft. In addition to advertising from Microsoft partners and the totally hot babe on p.15.

Wed, Oct 15, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

can't you people see that this is a racket? who needs mcpmagazine? all they do is sell more certification. how long has it taken you to earn back all the money you've spent getting certified? did you earn it back before you had to shell out more for the next cert. upgrade? like I've seen on so many postings in these forums:

Mo' Money!!!!!

Wed, Oct 15, 2003 Kuldeep Seattle

I am not sure that the Board Certification is going to enhance the value of MCSE or any other Microsoft certification. These certifications are largely around products. The people interested in theses OS products and Applications needs to master configuration, management and troubleshooting skills. These are not academic subjects. In fact, none of these Certifications can turn someone into a Product Engineer. In this case, it is about MicSoft products. What is the point of becoming like Cisco? I do not see much value in becoming like Cisco. Their high end Certs are also around the few products they manufacture. The focus of Microsoft should be on enhancing the quality of tests by adding more and more questions from the real world. A stamp from some Board is not going to do better that the stamp of Microsoft and signature of Bill Gates on those Certificates?

Wed, Oct 15, 2003 CertifyWhat Anonymous

Too much emphasis is placed on certification these days. Just another way for the vendors is make money off of you. Especially for Microsoft where the OS changes is rapid.

Wed, Oct 15, 2003 CertifyWhat Anonymous

Too much emphasis is placed on certification these days. Just another way for the vendors is make money off of you. Especially for Microsoft where the OS changes is rapid.

Wed, Oct 15, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Doctor's, lawyers, structural engineers? Sure, they need board certs... But computer system administrators??? Even using the term engineer is a stretch to many folks' way of thinking. Board certified to conduct database design?? not necessary.

Wed, Oct 15, 2003 Simplicity San Jose

I fully agree with out of work, and is what I would fear with a board review. I currently have the job I am in now because the interviewer was able to "Hiring people have to be able to put things in perspective". You do this by asking a general question, then asking for breadth and width. You can gauge the skill by how much or how little they answer. Too many interviewers have a "killer question" which they hire or not hire off of. I am afraid that these boards will follow the latter attitude. Here is my experience from the hiring side as an example. Co-worker asked interviewee question, interviewee did not know answer. Round table every on liked interviewee but co-worker says did not know answer to question, manager asks should people know? co-worker says yes it is on the first page of this popular book. Needless to say we didn't hire because all weren't in agreement. Killer questions are asked by lazy people who don't want to do a real interview.

Wed, Oct 15, 2003 out of work NYC

I'm always impressed with these holier than thou/above it all journalists who are totally clueless about the real world. (See what happened to Rush Limbaugh who pretended to be above it all.) I have MCSE NT & 2000, 10+ years experience and out of work. All I can say about the technical interviews I get is that they're absolutely ridiculous. Yes, I took & passed all the required exams but didn't take them all this morning & get perfect scores. Also, if I claim experience in a certain technology, I'm not necessarily claiming to have been the grand master architect of that technology in a global international company. All a cert is is a license to practice as is a driver’s license, law degree, CPA,,, I would challenge anyone who questions the value of certs, to allow themselves to be blindsided with a drivers learners permit exam at any time, from any random state. I want to see how fast people will agree to that & how well they'll do. Hiring people have to be able to put things in perspective as far as what knowledge is REALLY(as opposed to a wish list of skill requirements) necessary for the job and the real experience the applicant has.

Wed, Oct 15, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

I disagree with the concept. Too costly. Only the privileged few will be able to do the certs.

Wed, Oct 15, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

I anticipate you will not publish this, but I feel the evolution of skills assessment is going too far.

While there is never wasted training or polishing for people who truly want knowledge there is a point of diminishing returns.

The idea of having review panels for the most part serves the trainer or certification oversight organization by putting more money in their hands.

Certification should be general. For the average Tech most of the learning is on the job, tailored to their environment. That's why there are classifications of jobs such as entry level, intermediate, advanced.

The hiring authority knows (or should know) what they are looking for and selects candidates that appear to meet the job requirements.

I am a Windows 2000 MCSE with over 6 years LAN experience. My present employer needed a knowledgeable LAN administrator not an engineer. We had a detailed interview. Certification was a plus but my answers to his questions went a long way. So even though I studied hard and passed all my exams, I had to demonstrate knowledge, adapt to the job and perform to my employer’s expectations.

My skills assessment was made by my employer and validated by my performance and ability to adapt to my new environment.

Want to improve the quality of certified professionals?

Evolve the tests, make them more reality based, and Use less cryptic questions. Make tests interactive with software interfaces that demonstrate real skills. Don’t ask questions that test your ability to read or require a candidate to guess at what the author is looking for. Let industry weed out the fakes from the real thing. Above all, don't add expensive and needless layers to the certification process.

Wed, Oct 15, 2003 Rod Toronto

MCP Board can never measure what many years of experience doing the actual job a person has done. The market itself has adjusted itself in recognizing the ideal candidate. Also given the poor market condition, I very much doubt this new cert will make a difference for the unlucky unemployed or new professional trying to get in the field. The testing could certainly be improved, and I believe it already has and continues to improve. There is no need to change it at this time.

Wed, Oct 15, 2003 Dave Fosbenner New York

I've been an NT'er since about 1995, have MCSE certs on NT/2000, and soon 2003. As the "IT guy" at a small business, I have a plethora of other responsibilities beyond the scope of an MCSE. I handle three locations, manage licensing, desktops, patch levels, antivirus/security, routers, enterprise backup, on and on. Oh, I take care of SQL 2000, Exchange 2000, and ISA Server 2000 too. Yet I actually fall below the target audience for MCSEs - I manage less than 100 clients, and only 6 servers. On the other hand, it's a mission-critical 24/7 operation here, the pressure can be intense, and I need to be on top of my game.

In studying for the MCSE exams, I learn technologies I'll likely never use at my present job, e.g. RIS & RRAS. I'll probably never rename a domain. That said, I keep my cert. up to date to demonstrate my abilities to my employer, potential future employers, and for my own satisfaction as an IT pro. The time involved learning the nuances of a new OS is admittedly great. Add the study/exam prep factor, and the time easily doubles. I face new server OS product rollouts with trepidation. It's a huge project to learn it, get certified, then deploy it ... every 3 years.

So, BOARD CERTIFICATION you say? "Pumba, ARE YOU NUTZ?!"

Maybe if I'm someone who sits in a room in front of a KVM at a large corporation and works AD and DNS in 8 hour stretches, presiding over a server farm, who never touches anything BUT a server. OK, maybe then. Granted, I recognize the need of top-notch certification for this type of company, and I don't begrudge them that. They don't want to hand someone like me the keys to their network, and I don't want them! But at the same time, do small- and medium- sized businesses want people who can do the IT equivalent of piloting the space shuttle? And do they want to pay the added costs for such talent?

I think there's a simple solution here, and an opportunity for some enterprising outfit who can put it together: independent, third party certification. Leave Microsoft out of it. They handle the MCSE program, and despite all the cries of paper certs, I think they do a pretty decent job. Besides, a company should be able to weed out the paper certs easily enough by looking at the background and experience a potential employee brings to the table.

What's needed is a company independent of Microsoft to setup their own stringent certification program, which would go well beyond the scope of the MCSE. Aimed at the enterprise-level IT pro on Microsoft technologies, the program would completely prevent paper certs from getting into key positions because it would incorporate the various testing aspects you mention in your editorial: written, oral, simulation, and so forth. It will cost a lot more than the standard MCSE, as well it should. Large companies desiring such a standard should, of course, be willing to pay for it. To them I say: "Go for it." Test these IT people on all the nuances of AD, security, and whatever else comes to mind. Have different tracks for SQL, Exchange, etc. If this is what companies want before hiring an IT person, so be it. But not every organization wants that level of mastery. Thousands of competent MCSEs like me who keep their small- and medium-sized companies' systems running flawlessly don't need to spend half a year to obtain such a credential.

The degree to which different sized companies use IT and IT people varies greatly. It's no surprise then that one size fits all certification may need to split into two tiers to satisfy the changing needs of the marketplace.

Wed, Oct 15, 2003 Robert Kansas

To lower the cost and achieve close to the same thing as proposed, how about making it closer to the CCIE; substitue the Board questioning with one written test, and then have several Lab-Type questions using some Virtual Machines on a pc.

Wed, Oct 15, 2003 John Virginia

We have about 19 Systems and Applications (systems but focused on server-side apps) Administrators administering around 225 NT and Win2K servers. For us, a Bachelors degree in CS, Engineering, or related is the minimum to get a resume looked at. The MCSE, along with a couple years experience (or lots of experience without an MCSE) is the plus to get an interview. Interviews consist of 2 parts by IT (HR is separate): a general interview by the supervisor and the manager about job history and so forth, then a technical interview, where we bring in 2 of our most technical SysAdmins to ask questions. If the application is for a specific kind of server-work, like Exchange or SMS, then we'd also bring in that SysAdmin. The questions range from "How would you fix this situation?", to Architecture, to What kind of Resource Kit tools and 3rd party tools you use and why. It's very much like a mini-board ... maybe a half-hour to an hour (a very long time when you're in the hot seat). We've found that very effective in weeding out the wannabees and paper MCSEs from those who've really gotten their hands dirty in systems work in an Enterprise level environment. How much more would this proposal add? Not much. If we were overwhelmed with qualified applicant resumes, we could use that as a discriminator, but that has never been the case. We would still interview anyone with an MCSE + Experience. I do not believe this certification would change the interview process we do now -- we'd still want to hear the technical answers first-hand. I agree with Bill O'Sullivan: "MCSEs would be best served by focusing on diversity in their knowledge, and that this 'Board
Certification' is just going to make us traverse through yet more
loops." I would like to see MCSEs focus on specialty learning: SMS, SQL, SCRIPTING LANGUAGES!!! (perl, wsh, vba), Office Apps programming (it's SO easy to administer large-scale changes in the NT SAM with a simple Excel spreadsheet). These are things we look for that discriminate in the resume and the interview!

Wed, Oct 15, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

I apporove the idea to have some certification requirement of hands on lab and oral reviews. The problem of this has already been brought up with how this can be accomplished. A better way to do this might be to introduce a "master" certification. This could consist of multiple premium certifications along with a hands on and oral review testing scenario. This option would have to be difficult and a road less traveled for most MCP's since its difficulty would weight a lot of merit for those that could achieve it.

Wed, Oct 15, 2003 Rick Tennessee

Just another way for the vendor to make money. Certification is no longer valid due to all the braindumps and sample test exams. Adding a board certification will not validate it again. What needs to happen is real world tests about real world problems, instead of this bullcrap that Microsoft asks on these tests just to fail you so they can collect another 100 bucks. It's all a joke. Some people need real jobs. And besides, it looks like a ton of IT jobs are going to be outsourced by multiple companies in the future anyway, so what's the point?

Wed, Oct 15, 2003 Fred Botswana

The lab experiment sounds good, but it will make a MCSE road-map more steep up-hill hasles.That means, in real life, they will be fewer computer experts, many won't bother to attempt MCSE certifications and hence MS-products will be manned by less competent specialists. This mean in case of any emerging competative product with enough support pool of specialists, may take this advantage.
Regarding "board Certification", will be another means to retarding the speed of information age. As, it will create: inconsistence in board certifications in different regions, especially, where one can use his/her influence to get it, without real knowledge of the product.The obvious question from hiring managers will be Which region/country did you acquire board certification, beacause they would know that they are some which are fake. Information age require-automations, less human involvement certifications sytems, and create consistence worldwide.

Wed, Oct 15, 2003 Mario Platt Portugal

The greatest problem about certifications is the braindumpers. No doubt about that. I know some people that have MCSE on their curriculum and can hardly tell me what an IP address is (yesterday's joke :)). So, bottom line is, I would love to have pratical exams, and even doubled exams, but I want my MCSE to be worth something, and braindumping is making it almost 0.

Wed, Oct 15, 2003 The Truth (MCDBA) Formerly Canada, now in Australia

I believe the concept is pointed in the right direction, however I also believe all MS certifications should take a cue from PMI and their PMP designation (it's currently the only ISO9001 certification in the world).

Tue, Oct 14, 2003 Johnny Blaze Anonymous

WHat I wish is that some hungry company overthrows MS for the knife I have in my back. They are training other countries for nothing. You know who paid for that? You did. You sold there products and took there tests and still some of you will entertain the idea to do more. Its all marketing, they arent having these conversations in India guys, wanna know why? They all have jobs. What we all should be discussing is how to stop all these IT companies, MS, Dell, Compaq etc from sending our jobs overseas.

Tue, Oct 14, 2003 scott chicago

I like the levels: MCP, MCSA, MCSEngineer, MCSX (expert). The board certified is a great idea without the board. I agree with many of the comments from previous posters: make it where people can not qualify for the board certification until 2 to 5 years experience and a current MCSE. Make it like the PMI certification where you need experience, or the Civil Engineering designation that needs experience and then pass the exam, or the Speech Pathologist that needs to pass exams and then produce documentation of experience and then more exams. I also think it should only be live labs without the verbal quiz. I do think that verbal communication skills should be required at some level, but there is too much potential for human test error. There is one drawback to this, technology changes too quickly to re-certify with the board. What happens 3 years from now when there is a new windows server & client version out there. A person pays some good money to become board certified, and then has to turn around and do it again with new technology.

Tue, Oct 14, 2003 Arylnn Calgary, Canada

Perhaps some people are overlooking what Microsoft thinks an MCSE represents - this engineer should be able to design and deploy an enterprise network (1000 seats+) from scratch, taking into account all business requirements as well as technical "knowledge". There's no way I am aware of to validate this certification without something very similar to a board certification. It's how customers do it, and it's how large organizations do it (complete with the written essay describing real-life experience), why isn't it how Microsoft does it?

Why can't these busy administrators with limited funds and less time pass an MCSA that confirms some of that knowledge and experience, and put the appropriate tests, practicums, and essays into place to establish that someone can indeed design a network. Either that, or change the MCSE goals to identify people with lots of knowledge on Microsoft server technology.

If MS won't do it (to keep MCSE numbers high) then this is a great opportunity for a respected third-party to develop the board certification component. The significant cost allows a third-party the profit to develop this without worrying about getting tens of thousands of people certified. (The difference between $1500 or $2500 for certification isn't going to deter many who can justify $1500 in the first place.)

Tue, Oct 14, 2003 ian oz

aaargh! I am an MCT (plus others) with a very low MCPID, and it could have been lower, save for the fact that I was somewhat resentful of the fact that none of my prior learning and experience (10 years!) could be applied to the then nascent MCP program, (my novell certs & experience for example). Collectively, I have over 20 years experience in IT & training & education. I bet none of this will mean squat. I bet that I will have to 'board certify' at vast expense & effort yet again, thus making a lot more money for "someone". Call me stupid, but I am finally starting to realise that what I am doing has got nothing to do with education & training, and lots to do with someone making an awful lot of money. And that someone is not me! Nor, probably, will it be any of my students. Tell me this - will the folks with ultimate responsibility for the program be 'board certified' or will they have an MBA?

Tue, Oct 14, 2003 Rob Perth Australia

What started off as a good idea snowballed into an idea that would be impossible to implement. I agree wholeheartedly that for an IT Professional to prove his knowledge in a Microsoft environment, then there must be some sort of practical component to the MCSE. I suggest leaving the current MCSE program as it is and then add a one day lab to complement it. So effectively, there is the written component and then the lab component to complete the whole program.

I think talking to a panel of "experts" is a silly idea, as is a written essay. I don't see how these can improve on a pratical lab exam scenario.

Tue, Oct 14, 2003 Cliff Tucson

Going on my third MCSE and my second MCSA, and I can only say that I'm glad I'm moving steadily into the Cisco areana. Just give a me another reason not to have to worry about taking another suck-ass microsoft exam and I'm going to work all that harder on getting tight with Cisco. This MCP board pipe dream of yours is just that. Microsft will never have anything to with it cause it won't make them any money. Most people can't afford a single MCP exam, but lets have them pay for board certifcation. Crap. The recent beating that MS took on security just again weakens any hope of the product or the MCSE certification of ever being respected. Not one Microsoft course teaches a tech anything remotely about what they really need to know about Microsoft products. Troubleshooting and fixing the holes in the bad programming, for the non-compatibilty issues with all products to include Microsoft. I could go on and on about the short comings and the failures of Microsoft which are well documented but I won't, and I the bet oral review at the board of Microsoft certification won't discuss that either. Crap.

Tue, Oct 14, 2003 Rick Newton Burlington, Ontario, Canada

Two comments here... First, a practical (a.k.a. lab) exam component that is somewhat more sophisticated than those currently available in Microsoft exams is a good method of measuring how the candidate will react under time constraints. However, this doesn't necessarily capture the full abilities of the candidate -- there are just as many issues that occur in the "real world" that can't be solved, even by the brightest of candidates, in short order as there those that can. In many cases, in my opinion, it is just as important to know how to approach a problem and where to research for possible solutions. Additonally, as many have said a "board certification" that is vendor specific is too narrow to be worth the associated additional cost. In my opinion, to make that level of certification truly useful it needs to cover those things that are "basic" to all networks, no matter who the OS vendor. For instance, TCP-IP implementation, or Operating Systems Interoperability and methods for performance enhancement, network security and protocol security, and the economics of IT in a business. I mention the last for a couple of reasons -- first, businesses are now demanding the same processes be adhered to in IT as have been demanded by other areas of the business for decades; demanding that the outlook of IT within the business demonstrate how these align with the goals of the business as a whole and how these goals are reached better with IT initiatives. And secondly, because other professional designations, such as P.E.'s, for instance, require exposure to these business processes that have not as yet become core to the IT profession. The only other thing that a set of "board exams" can provide to the certification process is the end of the argument to the use of the term "engineer" by computing professionals, as this type of board certification usually implies that "you can be held wholly responsible" when you mess up badly (as P.E.s current can). In summary, then I can see that "board certification" could be put to use by those that are, or will, be in management; and for those that perform the "grunt" work, what is really needed is a method of including exposure to business processes so that a meeting of the IT mind and the business mind can occur.

Tue, Oct 14, 2003 LW VA

Everyone of you has both way too much money and time on their hands. If your going to make a board cert then you had better make it FREE. Why? Everyone that has a cert. is sick of having to pay for what is worthless or made worthless by people like you.
You can't start over or go back so you solution is to waste everyones time and money (which no one has) on something that still won't get you to the place you want to be.
Start by not allowing the publishing of old questions and answers becasue many of them are only reworded (if at all) slightly and then reused . Which then gives away the test even before the test is given.
Why does the PSAT, SAT, GMAT, CPA Exam and all the others still have some crediability left in them - They don't publish the tests or the answers. They control the test, time of testing, how often they test, and they make a real test.
If you want to start over atleast look at how others that have been doing for your examples of how to do it and quit screwing around with what you have, beacuse your only telling everyone that they should have no faith in the quality of what you have or what it produces.
Remember the MCSE was initally a way for MSFT to promote it's products and keep a base of users commited to using them (No matter how bad they got) not prove that anyone really knew anything about them.

Tue, Oct 14, 2003 Brad Cogswell California

Keep it up Microsoft... At this rate not only will the cert itself not pay for itself as far as us MCSE's are concerned it will be yet another revenue source for the Mighty Microsoft. There is little or no help to us to find quality jobs out there. The pay is declining and certification to a lot of companies is barely keeping us on the review pile.
The certificaiton process started losing a lot of credibility when Microsoft announced 2003 so quickly after the 2000 release.
The board Cert is a good Idea but I'm not really thinking that it will be worth the cost such as CCIE.
Look at it as what the average CCIE makes the Highest and the lowest of them in the field then take the median.
I've held my 4.0 MCSE for 3 or 4 years and only currently make almost 40k a year if that with Overtime. I can move to another area sure..... and compete with guys that have less experience and some with more that are used to making twice what I make.
The certs are getting close to beign embarrasing rather than Honorable. However I still wish to pursue my certs however the company I now work for doesnt' think that the cost for me to upgrade my level of certification is worth the exspense leaving it all up to me...

Any Ideas Microsoft?!? You help me Maybe we'll help you.

Adding yet another Hoop to jump through isn't what I really think is needed however it does sound intriguing.

Tue, Oct 14, 2003 Mark Pasadena, CA

While such a board certification would go a long way in easing middle management concers about who they were hiring, I agree with several of the statements above that it will be yet another hurdle which qualified people must through themselves simply to satisfy middle management's desire for a piece of paper. If I was going to spend that much time and energy, I'd rather spend it getting a true Master's or Ph.D. in my chosen field.

Tue, Oct 14, 2003 Alan Anonymous

A concern of mine, as a Director of IT, about the MCSE has always been that it is too broad. Testing with the level of complexity of the MCSE that tests (a) networking (DNS, DHCP, IP forwarding, WINS), (b) OS image creation installation and management, (c) OS configuration control with policies, (d) software application management with policies, and a few others would be more helpful.

I need individuals with each of these skills well developed who can collaborate with each other. The MCSE is too broad and doesn't develop any of these skills well enough.

A board certification sounds promising, but in the areas described above. Not some broad board exam across the full range of topics covered by an MCSE.

Tue, Oct 14, 2003 Darby Weaver Orlando

More on the subject...

This would obviously not be for the entry level or even the 3-5 year crowd. They would be welcome to try and quite a few may even succeed but the crux is it would be for the ENTERPRISE-LEVEL NETWORK ENGINEER, the individual who has been there and done that and can tell you why...

Not the one who "FIXED" it but just says "It must have fixed itself"...

No No No... What's the point of a challenging grueling program if I can study and pass it in 3-6 months...

Many plan on 6mos to a year for the CCIE Lab never mind the 2 years at the CCNA level or the 3-5 years at the CCNP level... (About 6 years on average). And then they still go to the lab an average of 3 times before they pass. And word is that many come and simply do no return - the requirements simply being too great.

This is the kind of program I am refering to. A program that would set the bar for the others to follow, not the other way around.

A guy who passes the CCIE-Written is great, but almost in every case is looked over or not all for someone in need of a CCIE.

MCSE-Board Certified should have the same degree or better of respect. True only about 10 or 12,000 or so would rise to the challenge and that's about how many MCT's there are or the same range for MCSE Plus Internets... And that's about right. 1 in every 500 or so.

Those numbers help distinguish the best from the rest. And this is what we are talking about here.

No my friend this would not be for the person struggling to find a 12,000.00 dollar a year job. No disrect to those on the bench. However, it would be for those who seek 100k plus salaries and the perks and are willing to do what it takes to get there...

Yep these guys would walk on fire or water or even air to design, implement and troubleshoot a network...

Hey, I do it every day... If you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life. Don't know who said it but from Servers to Security and from Racking and Stacking to Routing, I love this stuff and do it nearly 24/7 and think that there ought to be a means to distinguish oneself from the rest...

Get my point.



Tue, Oct 14, 2003 Darby Weaver Orlando

OK.

I like the board-certified MCSE. It reminds me of the rigorous testing testing I received in the Navy some years ago. But one major component is still missing a component to validate that one has actually been there and done that, that is a component that requires a candidate to get signed off by a board-qualified MCSE - who has distinguished himselfherself to do so.

Now you have a program. The value is simple, now you have a program that is extremely tough, expensive and requires a candidate to prove oneself in the boardroom delivering a proposal that may be worth literally millions to the qualified tyope of chap I'd prefer to see work on my mom and dad's candy store.

I know I would have more faith in such a board-certified MCSE. Too many MCSE's have said that the Microsoft Best Paractices are wrong and simply do not work - yet they cannot honestly tell you what they are or even where to find them, but quickly bring up that Linux or Unix is easily superior to a Windows Platform. Yet, being of both worlds I tend to find most of these types to be wanting in these platforms as well.

Yes. Besides if we don't set the standard for our industry soon. Government will have to. And if that happens, it soon becomes bureaucratic in nature and somehow we all lose.

So if you are truly an MCSE and wish to earn that once honorific title that brought confidence with it when you entered a room again, then this is surely a manner to earn that foregone respect.

So you may have to travel and complete a hands-on lab of 1-2 days followed by a Board Certification from your peers. But then hey, the benefits of such a mark of distinction should easily pay for such a trial. Many are paying 5000-10000 to get a few weeks of training where the book is recited to them and they get a piece of paper for simply attending a class. That same class has very little hands-on. Hell, you don't even build a box. What chance do you have when confronted with a failed mission-critical RAID5 Server that runs a company's mission critical apps and has all of that company's source code... Hmmm... Then you find out that the backups are useless because the either the tapes are old or because they did not opt to purchase the SQL Agent for the Backup software....

Ya gotta ask yourself "What would Bill do?"

I'd like to know I'm working with or hiring the kind of guy who can work that problem to a equitable solution and fully trust his or her judegement...

Just little ole me... But it sounds nice. I'd do it.

Tue, Oct 14, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Interesting concept, but do you believe that people will really actually pay to become board certified every time Microsoft releases a new edition of its Windows Operating Systems. I work for a Fortune 100 company that is still rolling out Window 2000 and Active Directory. I was one of the few that actually passed the Accelerated Exam; however, most of the people that work in the IT departments are just now getting long needed experience with the Windows 2000 operating system. In the real world, IT personnel are required long hours, are woken up in the middle of the night, and have little enough time for family and civic responsibilities.

Let’s look at the real numbers. The number of MCSE’s has dropped from over 400,000 to just over 200,000. The number of MCT’s is right around 2,000. People and the industry simply cannot keep up with the round the clock development that Microsoft is doing on two continents. Microsoft in its pumping new products out faster then organizations can roll them out. They are leading the charge for overseas exportation of technology work to countries like India, China, Russia, and Pakistan. Two other things to think about: Why would technology workers want to bust their humps and pay major $$$$ to become board certified every couple years when physicians or attorneys become board certified only a few times during their entire careers? Why would technology workers work to become board certified when most of us are working longer, harder and for less due to the rapid exportation of IT jobs from this country? If you doubt this look at what happened to manufacturing industry when jobs were exported; wages for employees in this industry dropped significantly. While the idea presents an attractive concept the reality is that it won’t work, not now, not in the near future, and probably not ever. Once most IT workers are making the equivalent hourly salary of MacDonald’s workers they won’t even be able to afford to maintain the certifications they have. Thanks Microsoft for helping to put the very people that maintain your products in this country out of work. Instead, Microsoft has pioneered a revolutionary new concept to the industry; remote sourcing of our intellectual jewels to countries where large pockets of population not only don’t like the U.S., but have a genuine desire to do harm to the U.S. If MS is sincere with there attitude of security they will bring these jobs back home where they belong.

Tue, Oct 14, 2003 MCSE CA

Have yet to see the question, but I sure see lots of answers. What are we attempting to accomplish? I would like to see more completely trained and experienced people. Microsoft should pay this tab (note - they are not hurting). People want credentials and certifications they can be proud of? - They should pay for that. People don't know how to hire? Good, they are paying for that already.

Tue, Oct 14, 2003 Dave Field Minnesota

Ultimately MCSE shouldn't be a proof of competence any more than B.A. or B.S. should be. It is still the responsibility of the person doing the hiring to make sure the candidate has sufficient knowledge to perform the tasks expected.

Many MCSEs who have obtained their credentials the hard way complain that the "paper MCSEs" devalue their certification. In reality, the "paper MCSE" is no more likely to get a job than before when the hiring managers know what they are looking for.

We all have this vague unease that somehow the "paper MCSE" will get the high-paying job we have been looking for, and somehow will get to keep it. This does not happen very often. Most companies looking to remain competetive will cut the dead wood loose as soon as the see what it was they hired.

Any hiring manager who relies on the acronym M-C-S-E as a vote of competence should know better, and I am sure I would not want to work for one who doesn't. If they are clueless enough to hire the "paper MCSEs", they are probably deficient in other areas of expertise as well.

I think the value of the cert stands as well as ever to those who value it, and let's let those who don't take their lumps. Eventually this will self-correct as the "paper MCSEs" fail to keep up with developments or lose their jobs and end up flipping burgers.

Just be patient, and be sure your resume (and wallet card) is ready when the opportunities arrive.

Tue, Oct 14, 2003 JTT Anonymous

I would have to vote no on the board certification. If you want to know if someone really has an understanding of the material, ask them when you interview them. I can't count the number of interviews I've been in and they had questions, both verbal and written, of a technical nature. Sure there can be a lot of MCSE's out there, I've been working on MS Server platforms for 6 years and just barely took the time to get certified. Doesn't mean I know less than anyone that has the certification, as a matter of fact I know many people who are certified that don't know anything about server. In my case I just didn't have the time to go prove myself at $125 a test and in the end I only paid for one certification instead of paying for two. Of course if I want to get 2003 certified I'm going to have to find the time and moeny to take a couple more tests, but that's a whole different subject alltogether.

Tue, Oct 14, 2003 Doug Bassett Anonymous

This is one of the dumbest ideas of all time. With Microsoft and other vendors cranking out certification over and over again there is no way that we could devote the time to jump through all of these hoops. At most, maybe a lab like the CCIE's do, but oral boards and papers is stupid. Are we testing IT skill or stroking egos? I have been an MCSE since the old NT 3.51 days and if this flys, I will go herd goats.

"I am board certified." pfft. Still nothing compared to a CCIE and Cisco doesn't have this really dumb idea. Already costs a billion dollars and getting a board and a bunch of english teachers to grade the paper won't be any cheaper. Maybe include a singing contest and a swimsuit event.

I say again, pfft.

Tue, Oct 14, 2003 jeff san jose, ca

I agree with some of the sentiments voiced in this panel. Change will always bring about dissension and conflict.
However, moving the MCSE exams to a board level quantifies knowlegde, and qualifies MCSE as a true IT skill, much like what it was in the beginning...
True, it may be a bit much, but whoever said obtaining knowledge and proving yourself was cheap? Life and death matters aside, i don't think we should think that the field of IT is not as vital to success of major corporations, whose projects and customer presentations could be the key to million dollar deals and behind the scenes, would be a competent, board-certified engineer

Tue, Oct 14, 2003 Outsourced Fortune 5 Company

Why waste more time and money on certification? We're all going to be outsourced/offshored to 3rd world countries in a few years anyway. It's wiser to spend your effort studying for a new career, than studying for "board-certification".

Though the article is excellent in theory, and I'd be the first to agree, it only works if a "board certified" person (you) is willing to work for $12,000 a year without benefits. So what does "board certification" get me? An extra $1K? That's my next college class in basket weaving!
Can you feel the cynicism? :)

Tue, Oct 14, 2003 Dominic Ponozzo Idaho

I am all for board certification in many fields. However I think the certification needs to be reserved for those who not only prove their worth in testing and labs, but also can prove several years of real world experience on the job. It is still possible to gain an MCSE without ever holding a real job related to the matter. Board certification should mandate 3-5 years experience directly in the field prior to allowing a person to even attempt the process. Will it be expense? You bet. Will many people do it? Doubtful. Will those that do make more money? Let the job market decide.

Tue, Oct 14, 2003 Simplicity san jose

Some good poins here. I agree that a number companies could use to berify certs would be useful. I also know of people who list MCSE when really they are working towards MCSE. One problem in cert-board review-interview is a simple question to me might be something someone else has never seen IT environments are often vary different. Also often poorly designed environments create quasi-experts because you need to no a lot to support a bad design. Whereas a well designed environment may a few problems and the builders may not know intrinsic details. I think comanies should focus more on well-rounded experience, checking references, and if more is desired then look to a degree.

Mon, Oct 13, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Alright, I read page two now. STOP DWELLING ON THE MCSE!
Sorry, I've personally noticed it isn't the end all of certifications. And, um, some people actually start out with the MCP and move up as they grow... Boards would stifle this some.

Mon, Oct 13, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

This is a waste of time and money. A board for a vender certification? You have to be joking. MCSE is NOT on the same level as an RN, law boards, MD. (This is not downing the MCSE - it's great for what it is)
The bottom line here in my opinion is that people want to differentiate themselves from everyone else. Good experience and varied certifications can do this. Maybe try the well rounded approach and learn something besides just MS? Don't just collect certs, but actually try finding a niche. Specialize? If all your skills scream "any network admin noob can do this" then you're on the wrong track.
FYI - There's a big difference between being a network admin with an MCSE and a desktop dude with an MCSE. Different experience and knowledge.
Stop working on the crapTIA certs (unless you have to) and work on some real ones?

Mon, Oct 13, 2003 Alex Florida

Just another time and money waster. After taking the MCSE 2003 upgrade exam. Microsoft has a hard time asking a question and coming up with something other than a vague answer. The over written test that looks like it was put together by committee of many, the test is useless as far as 2003 servers new features. But this would be a good profit center for Microsoft. And with the job market the way it is just the unemployed would have time to study and the employed are trying to keep up with the ever increasing work load put on admins would be the only ones that might be able to afford it.
And the cost would it be at least 4 times the cost of an exam now. Just more paper to keep up with.

Fri, Oct 10, 2003 hassan UAE

I think that you are making it harder for young graduates to get a job with this board certificate idea. I think depending on the position, duties, responsibilities and salary one may ask for higher certification such as the one you are suggesting. I think that people in senior IT positions must take simulation exams and get that "board certificate" Ex: for senior level network security manager MCSE is not enough but one must test this person ability and professionalism. Another ex: a person administrating a large organization with international offices and branches all over the world. But for those young people trying to get a job as asst. administrators or junior level positions I think MCP is enough and MCSE is a plus.

Fri, Oct 10, 2003 Nilesh Deshpande NY

What about MCSD ? In my opinion Microsoft screwed up MCSD certification. You will understand just by looking at number of MCSDs worldwide(and then compare it to MCSEs). They did more harm by adding MCAD. There is nothing like department level software development (MCAD) and enterprise level(MCSD).
Practical exams would certainly improve quality of certification. But adding one more certification will not help. It should be part of certifcation. That way HIRING MANAGERS, whether they are knowledgeble or not, will able to make out Programmers from Exam passers.

Fri, Oct 10, 2003 Fed Up in FL Tampa

I guess all of you that think this is a good idea don't have enough of your time taken up trying to keep up with certifications. With people out of work flooding offices with resumes offering $10-12 an hour wages and expecting the world of those employees, I have to ask would this high end certification be beneficial to me in the hiring process? I seriously doubt it. It will help the training industry take all of our money but for all of the time expense and effort I doubt that it will ever pay for itself. All of you that are worried that braindumpers are taking your jobs, I think that you have your head in the sand. Sure there are some out there that don't have a clue, but I think that most of them will fail to be successful and go away or get better at their jobs. I have seen this happen. On the other hand, I think that a Linux or Unix certification would hold more weight to me as a potential canidate than a high end MS cert would. I only say that because I currently hold several MS certs right now and even with 16 years of experience find myself struggling to find a job that will help make ends meet.

Fri, Oct 10, 2003 Jon Reade United Kingdom

Glen is absolutely right. I'm a SQL Server DBA of seven years standing, and as a result I interview a lot of people for the people I work for as a contractor. I do not pretend to know everythnig about SQL Server, and I am not certified yet (although I am working on it as so many employers seem to require it these days). Yet the irony is, I have questioned numerous MCPs, and three MCDBAs (the highest qualification a SQL Server DBA can get for the job) and they ALL failed on the first, very basic question that I asked. My view (and a number of my employers views) is that these people are as Glen says just educated idiots who know NOTHING about doing the job. The other thnig I'd like to see Microsoft tighten up is the ability for people to check up on certified interviewees - I've come across a couple who could not produce a copy of their certificate when asked. The simple solution would be to include a cert. number which people could include on their CVs which would allow employers to match up with one no a database on the Microsoft site, so that people can prove their certification is valid and up to date.

Thu, Oct 9, 2003 Glen Union, NJ

Regarding "We really need a "Board Accredited Engineering Technologist" program..." Let's not forget about HUMAN ERROR and DISCRIMINATION, and the famous "I gave him a bad score because of his plaid pants..." people. How many of you have taken that Design Test. Theres no reason why the regular exams have not included Desgin questions, crap loads of them, I would go for a SIM over "BOARD" review. Some people don't do well with public speaking, how about choking in the middle of your $500 Board Review just because of a stale meatball hero lunch.

Thu, Oct 9, 2003 GLen Union, NJ

Ever hear of the educated idiot? There are so many people out there with so much time on their hands to study and take cert exams to get certified it's not funny. Some of us with the enormous workloads are having a hard enough time juggling work and family and REAL life. To have to prepare for a Board Cert? Let's not get into the fact that some of us had to pay for our own certs. Classes, Books, test prep, it all adds up. The braindumps are another issue entirely. The RIAA has had more success at making people think 2x bout downloadin mp3, Think with Microsoft's resources about the impact they could have on these cites. Comp TIA did a good job for gettin their data of the dumps. You think MS could do the same, or maybe they want more certified folks out there pushing their product.

Thu, Oct 9, 2003 Joe Richker Orlando, Fl

In my wallet sits a 30 year old, unused but still valid FAA Airframe and Power Plant license that allows me to work on any kind of manned aircraft. The airframe exam and the power plant exam are two separate exams. Each examination consisted of a 100 question multiple choice written exam and about 4 hours worth of practical exam to see if I could do the work. I will never forget the practical examiner's last words when he signed my ticket: "You now have a license to kill people in large numbers. Try not to use it".

I've said all that to make my point, that when the servicing of computer software becomes a life or death matter, I would agree to a board certification. Until them it's just another way for a company whose products have more bugs than a summer picnic in a Florida swamp to make money off of candidates.

Thu, Oct 9, 2003 Nikita MA

I agree with Dave. MCSEs shouldn't be tested for public speaking or composition skills. I propose to have a pool of identically configured machines for each lab question. Candidate will VNC to it or use Remote Desktop, inspect configuration, make necessary changes and log off. Later a test administrator will log on and verify that all necessary changes were made. It's also possible to use screen grabbing software to make a "video" of candidate's work. I think that this is much cheaper solution than flying for a full day to a Cisco's lab. MCSE is not a Ph.D. why do we need a board?

Thu, Oct 9, 2003 Bryan J. Smith Fortune 20 Company

We really need this. In an IT world of exploding certification quantity, such an "all-encompasing" approach of labs, experience and peer-review is a very welcomed change.
--
I'm biased, of course, because I'm a traditional engineer too (currently an EI, soon to be a PE). While I have no love for the common "bridge building-oriented" NSPE and state BoPE (board of professional engineers), there's more to networking besides knowing the specs and installing it.
--
We really need a "Board Accredited Engineering Technologist" program to augment computer-administered certifications. A differential is not just called for, but recommended by most professionals these days.

Thu, Oct 9, 2003 Christopher Bell Manchester

The thing about the board certification is that it would kill the braindumpers. Rather than requiring an MCSE as a baseline cut it to a couple of MCPs and make the board certification equivalent to the MCSE. The current workload and cost of a cert are about as high as people are prepared to aim, especially for a single-vendor solution.

Thu, Oct 9, 2003 Dave Colorado

I don't see it working well unless your in a big city. Who is on this panel? They are only going to be available at certain times and places, or are they going to sit there all day waiting for candidates? Won't they have real jobs? You could wind up with a tough board at one place and easy one at another. I would rather see live or sim labs with a series of assignments that need to be completed. Then your measured on what you can do, not what you can memorize.

Sat, Oct 4, 2003 Bill O'Sullivan Springfield, IL

I think that MCSE's would be best server by focusing on diversity in their knowledge, and that this "Board Certification" is just going to make us traverse through yet more loops. I have two MCSE's and I believe Microsoft thoroughly improved the testing for the 2000 MCSE, and another method of improvement is to simply offer additional, real-life labs, not yet another separate certification.

Wed, Oct 1, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

But will it pay off for the one whose "Board Certified"?

Wed, Oct 1, 2003 Greg Neilson Anonymous

Jim - you may have missed the point here. When I am hiring staff for my team, I am the hiring manager. The HR folks do the co-ordination work and ensure that all is legal, but the final decision is mine. That is my interpretation of a hiring manager - the manager of the team that has an open role.

Mon, Sep 29, 2003 Jim Anonymous

This all sounds good, but then you ruined the whole idea by talking about "hiring managers." IMHO, hiring managers are on the same level as HR people - they know nothing about who to hire and what they are hiring for. All decisions on who to hire should be made by the manager of the department needing the person, and all interviews should be done by a panel of people from that department, including the manager.

The system will not get better until the hiring decisions are made by people who know what's going on, and not the know-nothing HR department. HR should do nothing but explain benefits and make sure everything is legal.

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