Walk, Don’t Run
In answer to Dian Schaffhauser’s
April “Editor’s Desk” column, “Walk, Don’t Run,” I’m going to be upgrading
my NT 4.0 domain to Windows Server 2003 as soon as it becomes available.
The driving reason I’m skipping Windows 2000 is that I believe the upgrade-in-place
is more graceful with Windows 2003. I’ve been reading as much as I can
about it on Microsoft’s sites and have been preparing my LAN.
—Bill Lambert, MCSE
Buffalo Grove, Illinois
We plan to migrate from Novell NetWare to Windows 2003 within months after
the release. We’ve had technical reps come in to show us the tools and toys
of Windows 2003, and we were very impressed. The migration tools are also
very impressive: Users and their files can be migrated from one directory
services structure to another with their rights following.
—Dave Maller, MCSE, CNE
My company is mid-sized, and we’re just about stabilized on Win2K Server
and Win2K Professional. We won’t move to Windows 2003 for a long while.
There probably are a few benefits in 2003 but at what cost? Like many other
companies, we’re carefully considering alternatives to Microsoft. A proper
job of upgrading takes accurate planning and execution, which takes time
and costs money. We want the decision on when and how to upgrade to be ours—not
Microsoft’s— because it’s our business that’s at stake. With Microsoft’s
current licensing policies, I see several cost-effective alternatives to
—Mike Robins, MCSE
I’m the head of a small training, consulting and systems integration firm,
and I meet a lot of diverse clients. The overall sense I get from my clients
is that people are tired of constant upgrades. They’re struggling just to
keep the status quo. They’ve already spent tons of money upgrading to Win2K.
They’re finally catching up with that migration and just now getting their
employees trained. Even “walking slowly” we’re seeing many clients who are
choosing to sit down and relax for a while!
—Darshan Arya, MCSE, MCT
I’m Worth Hiring!
I read Em C. Pea’s April
“Call Me Certifiable” column, “Hire the Imperfect,” and while I do agree
with the interview questioning, she should also take note that the so-called
paper MCSEs probably apply to larger companies. If these folks work at a
small company (like I do), they’d be quickly discovered as unqualified.
I’m the only IT person in my company, and I support about 40 onsite workers,
as well as 40 more in different locations. You’d be hard-pressed to find
a paper MCSE who could handle the administrative duties and burdens of managing
a wide-ranging network.
When I was interviewed for the job, two people responsible for maintaining
the network gave me a hands-on test. These scenarios don’t seem too friendly
to paper certification holders, in my opinion.
—Mike Mattes, MCSA, MCSE
Usually I smile or nod in agreement after reading Em C. Pea’s column—not this time.
I may be in the minority, but I did pass all the tests for my MCSE on the first attempt and take great pride in that. I
didn’t go through a boot camp or rely on braindumps. Nor did I have the luxury of having years of practical experience under my belt—I’d just changed careers. I signed up for a 14-month evening program with the now-defunct Computer Learning Center, read the Microsoft Press textbooks, practiced loading and tweaking every variety of Windows and studied my butt off for the exams.
Now that I’ve been around the block, would I hire someone with my credentials
when I started out? Definitely…but I’m a little biased.
I think hiring those who have failed a test or two is something to consider.
For one, Microsoft’s tests aren’t real easy. (Maybe this is one reason for
the existence of more braindumps for Microsoft exams than others?) Many
scenarios make you dizzy before you go searching for the correct answer.
Even worse, your English must be above average to understand the questions.
As for me, I failed my first Microsoft test, 70-215. I tried to take
it in a hurry because of a 50-percent discount at that time. When I found
out my score was one point shy of passing, I reviewed those questions
I didn’t know and passed my retake within a couple of days. That was the
thrill of getting my first MCP! Failing a test is really part of the game.
It’s not the failing that counts, but the getting up after every fall.
—Gerard Ravasco, MCSA
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
I’ve not yet tried Windows 2003, but the biggest problem most companies
face is another migration. We just migrated from NT and Novell to Win2K,
so we don’t want to throw anther wrench into the mix by upgrading to 2003.
I suggested we wait at least a year after release. Windows isn’t that stable
until the first or second server patch, as we know from previous OSs. But
even with the added functionality, we aren’t using Win2K Server to the extreme;
we’re using it for a file and print server. And with Service Pack 3, it’s
a stable and secure operating system. There’s going to be a cut-off point
for most organizations to say, enough is enough!
—Carlo Finotti, MCSE, A+, Network+
I went to a boot camp for NT and passed six exams over 14 days, but I’d
been an NT admin for a couple years already and wouldn’t classify myself
as a paper MCSE by any means. With Win2K, I studied the Microsoft Press
books, used the product at my company in a test environment and paid for
some practice exams, which allowed me to hone my skills. I passed the five
exams I needed to become an MCSE on Win2K and took the MCSA exam sans practice
tests. To date, that’s 12 exams taken, no fails. My employer doesn’t require
certification, but I do for my own satisfaction.
Still, I find myself imperfect. I find the exams strenuous, even the
ones that are considered easy. Because I work for a small company, I don’t
use many of the technologies on which I’ve been tested. I’ve been with
the same employer for 10 years; however, if I move to a different company,
I hope the new employer doesn’t expect me to know everything. Instead,
I hope they look at what I’ve done over the long haul and realize I’m
one who can accomplish things when given an opportunity.
—David Fosbenner, MCSE, MCSA
Maybrook, New York
I had to giggle about the reference to paper MCSEs. My associates and I
call them popcorn MCSEs, as the boot camps were popping them out in NT 4.0.
I worked hard for my MCSE and did fail one exam. I studied day and night
and basically disowned my family for months to pass these tests. I also
have more than eight years of experience and a networking degree. I failed
Networking Essentials twice for NT! What an embarrassment. I look forward
to taking only a couple of tests for Windows 2003 and will still study just
as hard for those.
—Jeffrey Sturm, MCSE
In my opinion, the way in which employers should find employees is simple.
If certifications matter to the employers, they should indicate which
certifications are required for a position and filter based on it. Then,
they should do all the hard work involved in any hiring process to scrutinize
the candidates left standing. Of course, maybe it is cheaper to simply
take the first step, skimp on the second and repeat the process if the
resulting hire proves to be worthless.
—Joseph Egan, MCP, Linux+, Network+
San Diego, California
How can you fault someone for striving for excellence? Assuming a person
would not be suited for an IT job based on passing their exams may have
a hiring manager pass up someone who would make a great employee.
I decided to enter the exciting world of IT and obtain my MCSE certification
after a twenty-year career in the military. I studied very hard to pass
each exam and grasp the concepts at the same time. My specialty in the
military wasn't technical, but I was fortunate enough to work with technology
in the job thereby gaining some experience. My limited experience was
nothing compared to folks working full-time in the IT field.
My first IT job was a contracting position as an NT Systems Administrator
in a medium-size enterprise environment. Although the hiring manager was
nervous about my limited experience, he decided to take a chance on me.
During one discussion with the manager, I told him I hadn't built any great
enterprises, but I thought by passing the exams on the first go around I
certainly understood the material enough that I could learn as I gained
experience. During my time with that company I was even called on to teach
the full time administrators NT skills. The manager later told me he knew
he made a wise decision to keep me on, in spite of my limited experience.
The company later hired me as a full-time employee.
Maybe we are sometimes too quick to label someone as a paper MCSE. Just
as there are people who pass certification exams and aren't suited for
the IT field, there are those in IT who don't want to learn new skills
and are just as unsuited. A wise hiring manager can recognize potential.
—Shawn Garmer, MCSE, CTT
Enough on the paper MCSEs gripe. Not everybody can just work two or three
years and take those precious Microsoft exams. I worked for a church for
15 years doing accounting and maintenance. After that, I went part-time
and started attending a technical college. In two years, I became A+,
Network+, MCSE and CCNA certified. I carried a 4.0 grade point average
throughout my courses. I used anything and everything I could to pass
all the exams for my certifications, and I never failed one exam. I got
a job three months ago as a Computer Systems Analyst. The company I work
for has a couple of servers, about 50 computers and two offices with a
router at each office. I confess the real world is not the same as the
classroom, and I spend a lot of time researching different resources for
the problems I run into—but I'm learning and having fun.
People are trying to make a living and sometimes need to be given the
benefit of the doubt. The ability to get the job done really has nothing
to do with whether you pass or fail certification exams. But without the
credentials, I never would have gotten my foot in the door.
—Kim Judd, A+,Network+,CCNA,MCSE
I appreciate all the feedback from people about their
own experiences with the MCSE exams. As we all might have predicted, no
one wrote in to claim to be one of those paper MCSEs that we hear so much
about. Who knows, perhaps there aren’t any after all. Oh, and a personal
note to those of you who wrote in high dudgeon to defend your own perfect
record on the exams: A careful reading will reveal that Auntie nowhere claimed
all perfect records belonged to paper MCSEs. Watch out for that sort of
thing; careful reading is a skill you’ll need to pass on your next Microsoft
—Em C. Pea