A Feather in Your MCAP
Comparing the MCAP to a PhD is a bit lofty, and, well, wrong.
So, apparently Microsoft has finally gotten the message that MCSEs are
tired of having CCIEs kick sand in their faces at the beach. At least,
that's one possible explanation for the coming Microsoft Certified Architect
Program (MCAP) which was pre-announced at the TechMentor conference in
Orlando back in April.
Details are sketchy, but it's clear that this will be the most rigorous
and difficult to obtain certification that Microsoft has ever offered.
It will include some sort of training and experience prerequisites, and
will require project management and communication skills in addition to
technical ones. It will require a written submission (though what form
that will take remains to be announced) and vetting by a peer review board.
The Microsoft Program Manager who announced the program said that only
about a quarter of the emphasis would be on Microsoft technologies, with
the rest being general architecture and non-Windows technologies. The
program will take six to 12 months to complete and will require a substantial
expense. All in all, the message that Microsoft sent in the early discussion
was "this is big medicine."
Of course, it's the rare Microsoft announcement that gets made without
the hyperbole meter getting pegged, and this was no exception. There's
just something about new products and programs that forces those folks
to flights of exaggeration. Along with the details (such as they were)
came the positioning. This is going to be a "board-level" certification
and the process will be comparable to getting your PhD by defending a
Um, yeah, sure.
Here's some free advice for the Microsoft Learning team: launch the program
and let people evaluate it, and then let's see where it stacks up compared
to board certifications and doctoral programs. Because frankly, based
on the ten-plus year history of Microsoft certifications to date, those
are simply ludicrous comparisons on their face. Allow me to elaborate.
Board certifications, for those who aren't immediately familiar with
the term, are those things you see hanging on the wall of professionals
like doctors and architects. (No, not the illustrated charts of the interior
of your small intestine; the fancy certificates that say your doc really
is qualified to poke cold instruments into your most intimate orifices.)They
come from groups like the American Board of Pediatricians or the Alabama
Board of Architects. Notice something there? Those are not vendors. They
are industry-wide groups and independent non-profit organizations, often
with a governmental mandate to keep watch over professionals in a particular
industry and geographic area.
Now, Microsoft may well be able to put together a program that would
be just as tough as one that a hypothetical American Board of Software
Architects would administer. But no program spearheaded by a single vendor
is going to have the same acceptance and independence as one supervised
by, well, an independent group.
As for comparing MCAP to a PhD…c'mon. I've been in a PhD program
as have, I know, many people at Microsoft. Obtaining a PhD sucks down
years of your life and requires performing original research. And granting
the PhD is a privilege that is rather jealously guarded by the institutions
that already do it; you can't just announce that you're granting doctoral
degrees and get away with it. There's a whole, tough, accreditation process
Comparing the MCAP process to the PhD process is like saying that the
gal who runs the corner grocery in my little one-horse town has the same
job as Steve Ballmer. After all, they're both CEOs of their own firms.
Now, don't get me wrong. I think the MCAP is a great idea. I've been
one of those folks clamoring for years for Microsoft to add a certification
that can't be easily obtained by spending a few thousand bucks on a bootcamp
course or by spending an afternoon typing "braindump" into the
search engine of your choice. But would there be anything wrong with calling
the MCAP a rigorous, challenging certification that requires industry
experience and a broad range of knowledge, rather than insisting on misleading
and ultimately empty comparisons like "board-level" and "PhD-like"?
Let's hope that Microsoft delivers a certification that can be a source
of pride for the elite few who obtain it. That will come from a serious
attempt to set and maintain high standards, not from cheerleading and
Paying any attention to Longhorn yet? Or are you ready to close your
eyes and just hope the whole thing goes away? Would you rather Auntie
just came back? Brickbats and praise alike are welcome at [email protected].
Mike Gunderloy, MCSE, MCSD, MCDBA, is a former MCP columnist and the author of numerous development books.