The Next Big Certification Thing
When it comes to the next step in your certification, look at what you like to do and how you can go about learning it, rather than what may be the next hot certification.
- By Greg Neilson
Although I’m a CNE 5, the last version I worked on was 4 and, extensively,
3. I have about three years’ experience with NT and have experience in
rollouts, process improvement and team leader roles—but I’ve yet to undertake
any Windows 2000 training and have minimal experience with the product.
I live in Adelaide, South Australia, which is a fairly small city; our
market for contractors is quite competitive.
I’ve completed the four NT core exams and need to either
take the four Win2K exams or the Accelerated Exam. My problem is that
I have little money. What should I do to find some work dealing with Win2K?
—Russell Gill, MCP, CNE 5
Adelaide, South Australia
I have my CCNA 2.0 and my NT 4.0 MCSE. What’s the “next” big certification?
Russell, as a contractor you owe it to yourself to keep up on your skills.
This means that—one way or another—you need to pick up Win2K skills now.
I wouldn’t be concerned about the costs of formal courses, as with your
existing skills and experience you should be able to complete your education
through self-study. I’m afraid that NetWare will only continue to decline
in the marketplace and so, too, will the value of your skills in this
Although you haven’t had any significant hands-on experience, I think
you’ll find that more companies will soon be moving forward with their
mass Win2K deployments. In this way, if you have existing experience with
NT 4.0 and understand the new features, there’s no reason why you couldn’t
be involved in a Win2K rollout. Of course, those involved in the design
and support of AD will need much more hands-on experience, but I’d think
that most of the other project members would be able to hit the ground
Adelaide is a very small market for IT, so you might want to consider
relocating to a larger market such as Sydney or Melbourne. It’s true that
things are quiet throughout Australia right now, but you’ll have more
options in these big cities. Americans seem to think nothing of crossing
the country to relocate for their career—yet, in Australia, we pretty
much stay in the same city in which we were born. Of course, if you make
a lifestyle decision to stay in Adelaide for you and your family, make
sure you understand the career implications.
Cliff, as to the question of the next big certification, I believe we
covered that a couple of months ago (July 2001). It seems a great many
people are headed down the Cisco path, with the CCIE being the top of
that mountain. However, as I said before, those just starting out are
going to find it tough to command the big dollars that CCIEs have in the
past. I’ve no doubt we’ll start hearing soon about a backlash against
Cisco certification, just as some are now unhappy about unrealized expectations
from pursuing Microsoft certifications.
I continue to believe that Linux will have a growing role in IT, although
I’m not one of the true believers who thinks that one day it’ll dominate
all (including the corporate desktop). I’m not certain how valuable certification
will be in this area. I’m using certification in Linux as a structured
way to increase my Linux skills; for now, I think hard-won experience
is king for the foreseeable future.
However, the concern I have about your question is the concept of picking
a technology winner upon which to base the next phase of your career.
In theory, this sounds reasonable, but there are many reasons why great
new technologies don’t reach critical mass. Even well-placed industry
analysts can be made to look like fools when we look back at their fearless
predictions on the adoption rates of new technologies. I think it’s best
that you leave the business of picking winners to the stock market or
the track and base your career decisions on what you really enjoy.
Having said that, you need to be aware of declines in technology fortunes,
otherwise you’ll soon find yourself without any marketable skills. This
is coming from someone who, at various times, was very strong in OS/2
LAN Server and later Novell NetWare. Right now, staying with Microsoft
is a solid, conservative choice, but this may not always be true in the
future—we all have to keep our eyes open for any significant shift in
Microsoft’s fortunes. This, of course, isn’t likely to happen this year
or next, but who knows where Microsoft will be in the marketplace by the
time you and I are reaching retirement age. In this case, you don’t have
to make an educated guess as to which technologies to move, as you’re
well placed to understand what everyone else is migrating to.
Greg Neilson is a manager at a large IT services firm in Australia and has been a frequent contributor to MCPmag.com and CertCities.com.