A question of benefits.

Benefiting Us All

A question of benefits.

When we posted a survey on our Web site in August 1998 to ask you what sorts of benefits you'd like to receive as a Microsoft Certified Professional, over 1,000 people responded during the few weeks the survey was up. Clearly, it's an issue of some interest to MCPs.

As promised in my September 1998 column, we're reporting back to you with the results of our admittedly completely unscientific survey. (Click here to read the comments.) We're also sending the results on to Microsoft. In the survey, we asked voters to choose their top five preferred benefits from a list of 15 choices. Our list included items that are benefits now for some titles (TechNet or MSDN, for example, is still a benefit of becoming an MCSE or an MCSD, but not an MCP); or that used to be a benefit of certification (such as 10 free tech support calls). We also threw in a few items that readers have suggested, such as a discount on Microsoft Press materials.

Your top five choices, in order, were as follows: 1) a free subscription to TechNet; 2) a free subscription to MCP Magazine (thanks for that vote; this was on our Web site, after all); 3) access to beta software; 4) an upgraded MCP certificate receive upon completing a certification; and 5) a discount on Microsoft conferences. Other top contenders: a discount on Microsoft Press materials and a better private Web site for MCPs.

Surprisingly low on the list (10th out of the 15 choices) was the free tech support call package, which was eliminated as a benefit of certification based on a survey Microsoft itself conducted last year.

Many readers complained about the private MCP Web site that Microsoft introduced last year as a benefit (www.mcirosoft.com/mcp). "The private Web site for MCPs is a joke," said MCSE Nick Warner bluntly. "I return to it from time to time hoping that something useful will be added." Vernon Southmayd, an MCSE, pointed out that "the lack of tech support incidents could have been made up by actual material in the MCP/MCSE Web site and a continued subscription to TechNet. Unfortunately, there is little to no value in the current MCP site."

Plenty of respondents pointed out that MCPs are front-line sales people for Microsoft products, after all. As such, they need access to tools like TechNet, MCSD, and priority support. "I was disappointed to find out after passing my first MCP exam that the free TechNet [subscription] was no longer being offered," commented MCP Shirley Dow. "Instead I have to settle for a three-month old 'trial version' that times out after 30 days. Bring back TechNet!"

Amazingly, we also received many comments about the quality of the certificate that MCPs receive ("cheesy," to quote one reader). We agree with you on this one. There's got to be an inexpensive, quick way for Microsoft to resolve this common complaint.

A number of readers called us to task for including the certificate on the list at all. "The pin, membership card, Web site, logos and certificate should be default benefits. You aren't really suggesting that a 50-cent certificate is a benefit that can be compared to a $1,500+ [priority support call] package, are you?" commented J.R. Fillmore, an MCP+Internet. "I really don't think of the certificate and logos as benefits so much as identification and authentication that you are certified," commented Chris Prysock, an MCP.

Helen O'Boyle, an MCSE+I and self-described "one-woman shop," made this point about benefits: "One of the difficulties in selecting appropriate benefits is that not all individuals holding a given title are in the same circumstances. For example, someone who works for a Solution Provider has little need for the beta-evaluation subscription [Solution Providers already receive that benefit]."

An interesting comment from a few readers asked for additional marketing efforts. "The greatest benefit that Microsoft could bestow is to relentlessly promote the certification program to its customers. "In addition to pushing the Microsoft partner program, they should put the same amount of money into placing ads in the big trade papers and journals."  said John Willard, MCSE.

Others commented on the irony of denying MCPs a free subscription to a tool that is extremely helpful in preparing for the MCSE. "I was looking forward to receiving TechNet after I passed the Workstation exam. I heard it was a valuable resource and a good study tool to help me toward MCSE status. Now I see that I won't get it until I'm an MCSE," wrote a disappointed Paul Creager, currently an MCP. "As an MCP certified in Windows NT Server, Enterprise, and Workstation, I have as much need to access the TechNet CD as an MCSE," MCP Beverly Henson pointed out. "It would be a very helpful tool to have."

Based on your votes, Microsoft could move quickly to enhance current benefits simply by spending a bit more on the certificate and by enhancing the MCP-only Web site considerably. More of your comments are shown at the end of this column.

Those of you who took the time to complete the survey summed up this issue better than I can. "Microsoft should realize what a great selling tool I have become for them," commented MCSE Brian Bootsman in voting for more benefits. And, finally, here's my favorite comment, from an MCP named Frank Dimina. "The greatest benefit Microsoft can give to MCPs is to protect the value of their certifications."


More on Benefits...

Just my two cents...

Given the amount of technical proficiency that MCPs provide for Microsoft clients, the benefits from Microsoft upon certification are dismal at best.
Rob Parrott, MCSE

Microsoft took too many benefits out of their program. They need to listen to the MCPs who fix their products on a daily basis.
Gary Stoutenburg, MCSE

Benefits should be added, not taken away.
Stephen Neidinger, MCP

Access to MCP logos is actually free advertising for Microsoft, and shouldn’t be considered a "benefit."
David Trestor, MCP

I’d hardly consider a certificate, access to a logo, or access to a Web site that has no content a benefit.
Name Withheld by Request

Anything that helps us make Microsoft look good is a useful benefit: [My] certificate is still in its envelope.
Garrett Fitzgerald, MCP

Let's remember that the "dumbed down" MCP program is no longer a certification program for computer professionals, but one for end users. Therefore, Microsoft is entirely correct in scaling down benefits to match what the program now is: a marketing gimmick.
Gene Simpson, MCSE + I

All Microsoft professionals should deserve more than just the five benefits [listed in your survey]. I’m an MCSE, and I suggest a lot of Microsoft solutions to my client (a Fortune 50 company) and, thus, I bring Microsoft hundreds of thousands in profit.
M. Lee, MCSE

The current benefits package is a joke.
Lauren Daly, MCSE

Hey! Don’t mess with the bennies…

Microsoft is doing a great job of keeping people like me informed about the latest developments.
Paddy Verberne, MCP

I have no problems with the current benefits. They’re adequate and should stay with just the addition of the single TechNet CD.
Dave Pedler, MCP

All of these benefits are trivial compared to the career enhancement certification provides. No one says "Hey, I'd like Technet, I'll go get MCSE so I can get it for free!"
Craig Frey, MCSE

Microsoft's benefits package rates #1 in certification benefits packages. Compared to other companies (like Novell) claiming the same perks, there’s no comparison!
Doug Sudar, MCP

It isn’t necessary that Microsoft provide more than it already does. The certification itself benefits the individuals the most.
Otto Goencz, MCP

I enjoy the respect of others knowing that you have proved your knowledge in this area.
Douglas Leavitt, MCP

What I don't understand is the way people really expect to get something for nothing. We are undertaking certification to advance ourselves and, in the process, advance Microsoft products.
Bill Hammen, MCP

The best benefit is being recognized as a Microsoft Professional and the value I can bring to the table. My employer has acknowledged this through compensation.
Peter Christy, MCSE

In my work and with friends I’m treated with respect more than before, and I’m considered eligible for more responsibility in my job. All this and lots more I feel only have after becoming an MCSE and MCP+Internet.
Shiekh Bashir Abdul Rahiman, MCSE, MCP+I

About that Microsoft MCP Web site…

One of the current benefits for MCPs includes access to private Web Site resources, but the resources themselves are quite limited. If this is going to stay as a benefit, I would love to see the site expanded.
Gleb Evfarestov, MCP

For a corporation as big and as into the Internet as Microsoft, the MCP secure Web site is a pretty weak offering.
Bruce Kirkpatrick, MCSE

I’m an MCP with one exam left for MCSE. The private Web site is a good resource, but is yet to be utilized by Microsoft. There is no content there.
Howard Moon, MCP

I’d like to see Microsoft promote a job search engine/listing in the MCP secured Web site. Employers might appreciate the focused audience, and they’d have confidence that anybody responding to those ads has the credentials they require.
William Thompson, MCSE

Conferences…

I feel that people who have qualified for a premium certification should be given free invitations to Microsoft technical conferences. After all, we've earned it. We have proven our technical competence.
Madhu Menon, MCSE

I think only MCPs, MCSEs, MCSDs, and MCSPs should be able to attend TechEd. Also, there should be a toll-free line for employers to verify if a potential employee is certified.
Jason Staker, MCP

I’d like to see more MCSE/MCP conferences in areas not so expensive and time-consuming to get to.
James Crimens, MCP+I

Access to betas…

The access to the beta program should be available as long as we keep the title, not just for one year (as it is now). It’s especially important for MCSDs, since we develop applications on the latest Microsoft technology.
Yining Zhang, MCSD

Easier access to the beta evaluation program for MCPs.
Les Blunden, MCP

The TechMentor conference said it all: We are the ones who "push" Microsoft products and we should have free or discounted support and betas from Microsoft.
Wes Snyder, MCP 

What’s with the certificate?

Can't they improve on that cheesy certificate?
Martin Jackson, MCSE

Who cares how many times Bill has to sign his name? If I work that hard to pass those exams, he should at least break out the bottle of ink, pull a feather from his hat and sign it.
Rovan Hill, MCSE

The certificate for premium titleholders is not very impressive. Considering the extra work involved, it should be.
Joel Lundi, MCSE

Discounts on Software, Books, Resources

MCPs should receive a free copy of the product they're certified in (for example, an MCP who passed an NT Server 4.0 exam should be given NT Server 4.0). MCSEs should get copies of all Microsoft operating systems software, even if it’s a not-for-resale version. I know this is close to the MSDN Library benefits, but it makes sense.
Philip Lembo, MCSE

I’d like to see similar discounts on software, such as is extended to Microsoft Solution Providers. The discounts to MCPs on Microsoft Press training materials need to be better than what is offered on the open market by others, such as Bookpool or Amazon.
Mario Noe, MCSE

Not a free MSN e-mail address—I can get a free Hot-mail account! How about free MSN access so I can RAS in from around the country?
Ron Burkett, MCSE

Show me the discount! Training materials and software can be quite an expense.
Warren Holzem, MCP

It’s nice that Microsoft has certain perks for certified people, but I'd like to see some of the fluff (such as lapel pins) eliminated and have that money go to more important items, such as reducing costs on resources that we rely on.
Dave Gammage, MCP

Even if we don’t get loads of benefits as a result of certification, we should have the opportunity to obtain some of the items—membership cards, extra certificates, etc.—by purchasing them from Microsoft.
David Pellot, MCSE

There should be incentives to pass more exams once one has achieved one title, say, 50 percent of the fee for one attempt only
Rao Dandangi, MCSE

Don’t forget us…

Microsoft should help MCP Magazine to distribute their magazine around the world, especially Asia.
Danilo Dy, MCP

While people in "developed countries" get their welcome kits on time, we unfortunate people in countries such as India have to put up with long waiting periods before our Welcome kits arrive.
Madhu Menon, MCSE

There are fewer benefits for MCPs outside the U.S. I hope Microsoft will consider offering the same benefits for all MCP worldwide.
Robert Hu, MCSE

Keep us better informed…

I wasn’t aware of all of the benefits. Did I miss getting a package? How do you get these things?
Sharon Cravotta, MCP

It would help if Microsoft simply provided clearer definition of certification information. I recently moved and have yet to get any of my benefits continued here. In addition, when the MCSE+Internet certificate was announced, we had questions about specifics.
Kerry Sutton, MCSE+I 

Make the exams tougher…

The exams should be harder and the benefits greater. I look forward to the new exam structure and hope this prevents all but the most qualified from earning the certification.
Michael Vrabel, MCP+I

It would be nice to see Microsoft implement a Master MCSE and Master MCSD program, where candidates have to prove themselves, much like the Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert certification.
Name withheld by request

Microsoft stock…

It would be nice if Microsoft offered a few shares of stock to MCSE or MCP or at least stock at a discounted rate.
Jeff Steadman, MCP

I’d like to be able to invest in Microsoft stock through direct purchases. Allowing us to dollar cost average stock purchases in the company would be a great benefit and make us "owners."
Dick Lane, MCP

Tech support calls…

When you’re in the field, it’d be nice to know that Microsoft backs you. They should think about giving 10 free calls a year. It would help out their MCSEs and make the support program better.
James Oryszczyn, MCSE

How can Microsoft stand behind their MCSEs and not give some sort of technical phone support? Microsoft's reputation is on the line as well.
Ben Brumley, MCSE

I’d like private and direct access to Microsoft staff who can resolve MCPs’ problems. I haven’t received any beta CDs for months, and my e-mails to their support address go unanswered…. MCSDs should be offered development and support tools (e.g. MSDN Universal) at a grossly discounted rate. After all, we indirectly promote and sell Microsoft’s products.
Mark Worrall, MCSD

The 10 free priority tech support calls was the most valuable benefit of all.
Scott Burch, MCSE

The 10 free priority technical support calls were invaluable to me as a new MCSE.
Tom Smith, MCSE

It’s important that Microsoft consider us their eyes and ears in the field. We should be made to feel like a team member. Don’t take Tech support away from your MCPs and MCSEs (this includes TechNet and calls).
Ed Stachyra, MCP + I

Microsoft has taken away some key materials needed for new engineers to survive in the fast-paced world of computers. When I started my program, I called Microsoft to get a list of benefits, and now the best benefit—the 10 free tech support calls—is gone.
Jonathan Quint, MCSE

TechNet CD…

Realistically, MCSEs are Microsoft's main sales people on the front lines. MCSEs should never have to pay anything for TechNet as long as [our] certifications are kept current.
Brad Halsey, MCSE

While I understand that costs need to be controlled, I was disappointed when Microsoft discontinued the one year free TechNet subscription for MCPs. Much of the material we have to study in order to achieve MCSE status can be found in TechNet.
James A. Lopresto, MCSE

Maybe Microsoft could offer an additional second year free TechNet subscription if MCSE holders pass two additional electives in the next year.
Ryan Tan, MCSE + I

Without sucking up, I think the MCP Magazine is one of the better perks. There is no better place to get up-to-date information on moving ahead with certification. TechNet would be a great help in that area also.
J.D. Wire, MCP 

What we *really* want is…

How about a nice shirt with MCP logo that we can wear to our customer sites? We certified people definitely want to show off our MCP status.
Kevin Lee, MCSE + I

Microsoft gives so much now, it's hard to ask for more. But, the pin would be nice.
Charles Gogolin, MCSE

Some type of wearable would be nice.
Patrick Donlan, MCP

A membership card should be a given. How else can you easily demonstrate that you’re an MCP? It’s too impractical to carry around your certificates.
Royal Stacey, MCP

I suggest acknowledgment [from Microsoft] of receipt of certifications within 10 business days of receiving it.
Marsha Maines, MCP

The greatest benefit is the advertising that Microsoft puts behind the certifications.
James Chason, MCP

[As MCSEs, we should have the] ability to provide serious input to the development process.
Bert Bruner, MCSE

Microsoft claims that this program doesn't make money, but surely the intangible benefits in having all these MCP/MCSEs trained and certified in using Microsoft products must be substantial. So, why not invest more into the program?
Greg Neilson, MCSE+I

While most of the benefits listed are important, I think the greatest "benefit" could be if Microsoft would take steps to keep the certifications valuable and meaningful.
Patrick Honny, MCSE

Microsoft needs to do a better job of informing employers about the benefits of having certified staff.
Chad Smalley, MCSE

Microsoft needs to work more directly with their MCSEs and MCSDs. We’re out there on the front lines everyday with their biggest customers.
Roger Russell, MCSE

The greatest benefit should be real value of the certifications in the industry. The certifications are disappointing in general. As of yet, they’re of minor importance when finding work. I know the companies (MCP Magazine and Microsoft) are making good money marketing the certifications; I only wish a portion of the operating budget was towards putting real value and meaning into the certifications to keep them from becoming an embarrassment.
Gerry Hulme, MCSE

One-year subscription to MCP Magazine’s Resource Central.
Gleb Evfarestov, MCP

A database of MCPs listed by country, region, area, etc, which can be used as a contact and/ or referral list when prospective clients require solutions.
Kishore Singh, MCSE + I

Dinner with Bill.
Michael Lane Thomas, MCSE+I

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