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Changes for MCTs

You may not have heard the complaints about the Microsoft Certified Trainer program… you may not be involved or interested in the program, or you may live on Mars.  However if you are an MCT, you have heard a lot of complaints over the past few years.  I have done my best to keep my issues with the program private, but I know that many of my MCT peers are much more vocal than I.

As the MCT Regional Lead for Canada last year I spent a lot of time speaking with the people responsible for the program, especially as they made efforts to revamp the program – certainly the first time they have done so since I joined it in 2006.  A lot of the changes that we (MCTs) have been asking for have been introduced recently… not all, but many will be widely welcome by the wide community of active MCTs.

Alumni Program

You may notice that I referred to active MCTs.  That is because a lot of MCTs do not train anymore, and many more exclusively train non-official courseware.  That may be for many reasons and I will not judge them.  However if they are not active trainers, they do not need to be active MCTs.  Because of that, Microsoft Learning Experiences have introduced a new program: MCT Alumni.  This is for people who were MCTs, but no longer teach official courseware. 

How does Microsoft Learning Experiences (MS Lex) determine if you are active or Alumni?  It’s simple… if you don’t teach any Microsoft Official Curriculum (MOC) courses in a program year, you become Alumni.  While you must still pay dues to remain an MCT Alumni, it is about 1/8th the cost of the annual MCT dues (for IT professionals & Developers) – $49 for those who join the ‘Charter Class’ of MCT Alumnis – on or before June 30th, 2014, and $99 per year for those joining after that date.

The advantage to the MCT Alumni program is two-fold.  For inactive MCTs they can remain connected to the program for a much lower annual fee, while still retaining many of the benefits.  For active MCTs they can differentiate themselves – I teach current technology and am current in my skills.  Both sides benefit.

MCT Fees

Incidentally, for the first time that I know of, the yearly dues for MCTs will also be going up.  Starting July 1st, the New MCT Fee(for IT Pro & Dev) will be $1,000, and then $800 per year.  This is new in two ways – there was never a ‘new MCT’ fee before, you simply paid your dues, which were $400/year (and have been since I joined the program).

Software Benefits

For the last few years MCTs have been given a free TechNet Plus subscription.  Unfortunately the TechNet team ended that program (we will still have our software rights from the last year through September, 2014).  There was a huge uproar from the MCTs, and while Microsoft MS Lex told the MCT Regional Leads that they were working on a replacement for that program, it was not announced until very recently.

Going forward, depending on the type of MCT you are, you will get one of the following:

MCT Software & Services MCT Developer Software & Services
Software downloads through MSDN Software downloads through MSDN
Office 365 Visual Studio Ultimate
$100 Windows Azure credit per month Office 365 Developer Subscription
  Visual Studio Online Advanced
  $150 Windows Azure credit per month
  Windows and Windows Phone developer accounts

As far as I am concerned as an IT Pro Trainer, I expect I will have everything that I need with that level of benefits… and much more.  A couple of the Dev MCTs I have spoken to are jumping for joy that they will be getting Visual Studio Ultimate and Online Advanced.

Exams

One of my favorite MCT benefits has always been the exam discounts.  I have, to date, written 68 Microsoft exams.  Let’s say that twenty of them were beta exams and maybe another eight were from vouchers I got for whatever reason, that means I have still paid for forty exams.  Although it has changed over that time – the original exams were $100 then $125 and now $150 – let’s say the majority of them cost $125.  That makes $5,000 worth of exams.  The 50% discount we get as MCTs makes a huge difference!  Unfortunately the down side to that is that you had to call in and speak to a rep, rather than simply registering on-line.

That, I discovered yesterday, has changed.  Woohoo!  I called to register a bunch of exams, and instead of him looking up the MCT discount code, I was told to go on-line and request one (per exam).  In fairness to MS Lex, this change was made nine months ago, but as I mentioned in a recent post I did not write any certification exams in 2013.  So as I sat on the line with the rep from Prometric, I dug on Born to Learn and found the link: http://bsf01.com/microsoft_vouchers/mct_portal.aspx.  I registered for and received four codes within seconds.  All you have to do is provide your name, e-mail address, and MCP ID – and yes, it does check to see if you are an MCT or not, so don’t try this if you are not Smile

Incidentally, an added benefit of these vouchers that nobody had told me about – the voucher is also good for a free re-take if you fail your first exam, (second shot).  Having failed a ridiculous number of exams (albeit many of those were beta exams) I am glad to have this safety net.

Conclusion

It is now 2014 and I am no longer a MCT Regional Lead – spending most of my time outside of my region made that decision necessary.  However I still care about MCTs and the program, and am glad to see that Microsoft has evolved the program – the first time in over twenty years that I know of.  It may not be perfect, but it is certainly a very good start, and you can’t please everyone.  I for one am satisfied, and I suspect the majority of MCTs will be too.

If you are dropping from the program this year I hope you stay as an MCT Alumni… I am looking forward to speaking with some of them and hearing their thoughts on the program!

MCT Regional Lead

It was a great honour to be selected as the MCT Regional Lead for Canada for the inaugural year of that program (See article).  I like to say that the MCT Regional Lead program spent the first year figuring out what it was going to be.  I was thrilled to be a part of that.

MCT(rgb)The year was a tumultuous one for MCTs… the retirement of the TechNet Subscription program (article), the retirement of the Microsoft Certified Masters (MCM) program, and all along people learning the ropes of the new certifications (article 1, article 2).  It was a thrilling ride, and I am glad that I was able to answer so many questions.

As the term came to a close, I was asked to stay on for the next year but I declined.  I did not decline to shirk the community, but rather because I have accepted a long term contract overseas, and am now spending most of my time in Tokyo, Japan.

As such I am happy to announce that Microsoft Learning Experiences (MS LEX) has opted this year to have five MCT Regional Leads for Canada.  Myungjin Jeong, Steve Jones, Benjamin Niaulin, Marcos Nogueira, and Paul Twigg will be the RLs this year.  For Benjamin and Paul it will be their second year; for Marcos as well, although only in Canada – he was the RL for Portugal last year.  I want to welcome Myungjin and Steve to the team – know the five of you will all do a great job.

I want to thank you all for your support over the past year, and look forward to working with you again sometime soon.

I also want to thank Veronica Sopher and Melissa Bathum for the year, and wish Karen Juhl all the best in the new hot seat 🙂

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TechNet Subscription for MCTs: Extended!

As you know on July 1st Microsoft announced that it would be ending the TechNet Subscriptions (TNS) that so many of us rely on.  As the MCT Regional Lead I have fielded several complaints about this issue.  Last week I reminded you all that August 31, 2013 would be the last day that MCTs would be able to activate the TNS that they are entitled to from their benefits, and that these subscriptions would expire at the end of the MCT Year (see article).

This morning Microsoft Learning announced that eligible subscribers with active accounts will receive a free, one-time, 90 day subscription extension. This adjusts the date of the MCT TechNet subscription deactivating to June 29, 2014.

Of course, if you have another subscription from a different source, I assume that date will be extended too!

You can read the release by clicking here.

While I am not prepared at this time to share any other news with you, MCTs who are paying attention will have heard rumours about something else going on for them.  Watch for an announcement soon!

MCT Regional Lead: Step Up!

This is a message direct from Veronica Sopher, the MCT Community Manager.  If you are an MCT who is interested in becoming more involved you should read it and click to apply! I have done it for the past year, and would love to see some fresh faces! –MDG

Call for Applications: MCT Regional Leads, Round 2

Veronica SopherHi everyone! Can you believe it’s been a year since Melissa Bathum and I started the MCT Regional Lead program? We have been honored to work with all the current Regional Leads (RLs), and thrilled to see so many more applications pouring in from all over the world. This program is working and growing because of your active participation, whether you’re serving as RLs or rallying around them.

For those new to this, the MCT Regional Lead program was created to identify community members in each major marketplace worldwide to serve as a representative in their regions, a point of contact for other MCTs, and act as a liaison with Microsoft Learning and various Microsoft business groups. Our goal is to develop a team of global leaders who can drive stronger connections within their local community. We are interested in hearing from any current MCT located anywhere in the world, focusing on any technology, new or old (in tenure), who is both passionate about being an MCT, and interested in working within their region to get their communities active in training and events. For more details, please read Melissa’s call-for-application post last year.

Want to get involved? Now is the time to act. While the application form on MCT Central is open all year, the cut-off date for the next round of selection is coming up soon! We will review this batch of applications with a focus on expanding the program to ensure representation from all over the world. See a country or state without a Regional Lead? Know a fellow MCT who would be a good fit? Tell them about this!

Here are the key dates:

  • 2013 MCT RL application deadline: September 7, 2013
  • Application Reviews: beginning September 9, 2013
  • Notifications of selection: via emails by September 30, 2013
  • Official welcome of the new RLs: October 4, 2013 (during our Quarterly Update!)

Submit your application via MCT Central by September 6, 2013. Get more details here.

Questions? Please feel free to comment under this post on MCT Central, or via email if you prefer. Thanks in advance!

Veronica Sopher
Community Manager

How Do I Become an MCT?

Recently I wrote a piece on the Benefits of Being a MCT.  I got an interesting comment from one reader that they keep moving the bar.  I know that I have spoken with this reader before, and she lamented the extreme costs associated with becoming certified, especially in North America.  She also asked if it was still the case that you have to be certified for at least a year before applying for the MCT.  Although I had never heard of this requirement it did sound plausible, and I decided to investigate.

I’m afraid that she is right… the requirements have been changed a few times in the years since I became an MCT.  Unfortunately (from my standpoint) they have become far too lenient… but that is a conversation for another day.

Of course it makes sense that the requirements change – certifications change as the products and solutions evolve.  When I became an MCT I did so on the basis of being a Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) on Windows Server 2003.  As that is no longer current technology I assume it would not qualify me for the program… or would it?  I don’t know; as I stated, the requirements keep changing, and the bar has been set pretty low of late.

For a complete list of requirements (and benefits) you can visit the page on Microsoft Learning’s website.  This page outlines the benefits, requirements, and the application process.  I remember going through the process in August of 2006, wondering if I was going to be accepted, and thrilled when I was.  In fact I am still thrilled… the MCT designation has done wonders for my career, and it can do the same for yours!  Go ahead and apply… it will be the best Four Hundred Dollars you spend this year! 🙂

Benefits of Being a MCT

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.

TechEd 2013: Call For MCTs!

Are you a current MCT? TechEd wants you!  The Call For Staff for TechEd, including Hands On Labs, MCT Ambassadors, and Certification Prep is open, and I am hoping to see a few Canadian MCTs throw their name into the Goblet of Fire!  Ok, it’s not a goblet, there’s no fire… but you do get your show pass paid for TechEd along with a cool shirt Winking smile 

If you would like to go to TechEd but think the price is out of reach, here is a great compromise… you work a few hours a day and your ticket is paid for!  Yes, you still have to pay your own travel and expenses, but that is a small price to pay compared to all of the learning and networking opportunities that await!

If you are interested in going please let me know as well, and continue to conversation on Twitter… we will be using the hashtag #CdnAtTechEd (as we did last year).  And stay tuned… the DPE Team just may have something in store for you down in New Orleans (and Madrid for TechEd Europe)!

 

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