Over the past few weeks there has been a lot of talk about the benefits that MCTs receive from Microsoft. This conversation comes up every now and again, often because changes are being made or Microsoft Learning is reevaluating the benefits. The most recent flare in the discussion was caused by the July 1st announcement that the TechNet Subscription program is being discontinued; it is not that Microsoft Learning is taking away the benefit, it is that the entire program is being retired
Right away the blogosphere, Twitter, and every other communication portal started blazing with conversations like ‘What will replace the TechNet benefit?’ and ‘Why are we no longer valued as _______’ (fill in the blank with the appropriate word/phrase).
This reaction to TechNet started me thinking about what I value being a MCT and what I see as benefits of being a MCT. Is it about stuff? No.
With that being said, while I understand that MCTs (Microsoft Certified Trainers) are only human, and as such they are inclined to take what they can and even try to get more, I also think that some of us are missing the point.
Once upon a time there were prerequisites to become a MCT, and once you had met these requirements you paid your yearly dues (currently $400/year) and BAM – you are a MCT… they would send you a certificate and a wallet card (I think they may have sent you a pin in the early years), and that was it.
A few years ago there was a big discussion group convened by Microsoft Learning on how they could add value to the MCT Program for the MCTs. One of the big requests was either a TechNet Subscription, or some other way to access the software/systems on which they were expecting to train. From that conversation the TechNet Subscription benefit (to MCTs) was born. GREAT! We were all happy.
Now Microsoft has eliminated the TechNet Subscription program. To be fair, it has actually been tomb-stoned and not actually eliminated. That means that anyone who has one will be able to use it until their yearly subscription expires – for MCTs who get the subscription as a benefit of their membership in the program that means it will end in March of 2014. Is Microsoft Learning scrambling to fill the void left now that this benefit will no longer be available? While I have no inside knowledge, I suspect the answer is No. This is not a criticism of Microsoft Learning, it is just an acceptance of the realities.
So does this mean that the MCT credential is diminished in value? No. No way, no how. We have to understand the difference between the value of the program/credential and what Microsoft Learning gives us for being part of the program. Believe me, these are two very different categories.
What ARE the benefits of being a MCT? Well, for one thing you have the respect of your peers and customers. You have the right to teach Microsoft Official Curriculum (MOC) courses, as well as to download these from the appropriate portal. You are given access to forums (there are private MCT forums within Born To Learn). There are conferences, there is early access to material and exams. You have access to a MCT Regional Lead in your geographic region who is responsible for voicing your concerns to Microsoft Learning.
While I do not often work for Learning Partners, when I did it was easy for me to earn the yearly dues back in a single day – I do not know any MCT who charges less than $400/day, and many of us command quite a bit more than that. For any given week I can peruse a dozen emails from training brokers, as well as contract offers in the private forums, and find a gig that suits me and earn a good living doing so. Ask any unionized worker if he (or she) can say that…
Even when I am not teaching, my consulting clients know before they hire me that because I am a MCT I am very well qualified in the technologies that I work with. I may have several dozen certifications to my name, but the only one that appears on my business card is MCT. Of course it doesn’t mean that I know every technology that any MCT might know, but it is a good indicator that when I do speak I know what I am talking about.
Don’t get me wrong… I like the ‘stuff we all get’ too. However any MCT who says that ‘we need the software to know the technology that Microsoft Learning wants us to teach’ I will flip it on its head… MSL needs you to know the software, yes… but it is your responsibility to know that software, and it is not MSL’s responsibility to provide it to you in order to learn it so that you can teach it.
I have said for years that the best trainers are consultants and IT Pros who implement and use the technologies that they teach. Anyone can read slides, it is the real-world knowledge and understanding of the solutions that make good MCTs as valuable as they are. I know that my audiences almost always appreciate hearing my real-world stories, knowing that they can read the book on their own. They don’t need me to teach the words on paper because they already have the words in their books.
It is time for MCTs (and Microsoft Learning for that matter) to realize that we are not staff teachers for them whereas it would be incumbent on them to give us the technologies that we need to know. It is time for all of us to accept that if we do not already know the technologies then we probably should not be teaching them. I am not saying that this is always the case.
There will be MCTs who are career trainers and who do need to learn it outside of a corporate environment. Those trainers will still have complete access to evaluation copies of the software that are completely functional and not at all hobbled… and they expire after 60- 120- or 180 days. If you want to have a permanent infrastructure based on the operating systems and other software that you train then you should be willing to pay for it – after all, just like your MCT enrollment fee it is an investment in your career.
I am not saying (to paraphrase JFK) ‘Don’t ask what Microsoft Learning can do for you, ask what YOU can do for Microsoft Learning.’ Far from it. The relationship between MSL and MCTs is a symbiotic one where neither can really exist without the others. Our reliance on each other has nothing to do with gifts, it has to do with services. We should be asking more of Microsoft Learning, but that should not be in the form of gifts, rather in better courseware.
In return I think it is fair for Microsoft to ask us to be better MCTs. We should always aspire to raise the bar, and in order for that to happen we as MCTs should demand that they (MSL) raise the bar and set higher standards so that even MCTs who meet the minimum requirements will be better than ‘just okay’. We should demand that public speaking skills (and proof of same) be requirements for joining (and staying in) the program.
If MSL is going to require us to pay every year then isn’t that a good opportunity for them to review that we have met and continue to meet minimum standards? I know MCTs who have not been in front of a class in five years, and yet they still retain their status and their privileges.
Also what about real-world experience? How many MCTs have not touched any environment outside of their classroom in years? If we are going to tell our students that they should have a minimum of two years of experience on the product before taking our classes is it unreasonable to ask our MCTs have the same, or at least a minimum amount of ongoing real-world work? The biggest complaint I get from people when it comes to MOC classes is not about the courseware (those complaints come most often from MCTs) but that their instructors understood the book better than the real world. In fact one of the greatest compliments I receive on a regular basis is that I understand my students because I also consult.
By setting a higher bar for the MCT qualification we become more valuable, more in demand, and worth more in the market. The value add is worth more than the benefits that people are asking for. While I understand it is not a tangible that we can actually put our hands on, in the end it will mean fewer people who maybe shouldn’t be MCTs (for whatever reason) and therefore more demand for the people who should be.
So in short if you want Microsoft Learning to improve our benefits stop asking them for stuff… demand that they raise the bar for MCTs so that we are worth more, so that our credentials are worth more. Tell them you want it to be harder to become a MCT so that being a MCT is more valuable.
“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow” –Thomas Paine
What does this quote mean? Make it harder to get, and we will value it more. More importantly our audience, our Learning Partners, and even Microsoft will value us more. Frankly I would imagine that if there were fewer of us we might start seeing the return of some of those ‘tangibles’ because it would cost MSL less.