Free E-Books for your Technical Library

Every so often Microsoft releases a bunch of new books that they give away for free.  Most of the time they are for the latest and greatest software and systems, so they are worth checking out.  Currently they have books for:

Microsoft SQL Server 2016

Windows Server 2016

Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Power BI

Windows 10

Microsoft SharePoint Hybrid Capabilities

Mobile App Development

…and much more.  Check out the list here.

While it is nice to be able to download these as PDF files, I am really happy that I can also download all of these files as proper e-Books from www.kobobooks.com for my Kobo, and I assume from www.Amazon.ca for my Kindle (I don’t have a Kindle… but you know what I am saying).

Here is what I like to do to make sure I don’t miss a thing:

  1. I log on to my Kobo account.
  2. I enter the name of the product I am looking for in the Search bar (say, Windows 10).
  3. When the list comes up I change the Sort parameters to Sort By: Price: Low to High.  This ensures that the FREE books come up first.

image

Let me be clear though, there are some excellent books on all of these subjects that are not free, and are probably worth buying.  That is not the point of the article though Smile

Thanks Microsoft Virtual Academy!

Advertisements

Certification Exams: Is there a value to failing?

Although it is not something I am proud of, I have failed a number (the exact number is quite secret!) of certification exams.  I am not proud of this fact, but the reality is I have taken a number of exams that I have been unprepared for, and that is a sure-fire way to come up short.  I have always (not true… since becoming more enlightened, maybe!) felt that if I was going to shell out USD$125 to fail an exam (Actually, the first two were at USD$100) I should at least walk away with something… the consolation prize should not simply be a sheet of paper telling us that we failed.

So then what can we gain from failing?  We can learn what we need to concentrate on in order to actually pass the exam.  Let’s say you are a desktop deployment specialist for his company.  You are responsible for the deployment of systems across the country, which you do using the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2008 and System Center Configuration Manager 2007.  Your manager informs you that there is a new deployment exam available (70-635) and that the new department policy is that all deployment specialists must obtain the MCTS: Business Desktop Deployment to be eligible for promotions or bonuses.  You schedule the exam, and as you sit there taking the test you realize that you do not know a lot about Windows Deployment Services, managing images for multiple languages, driver groups, and MDOP.  Crud, that makes up about forty percent of the exam, and lo and behold you fail.

You could hang your head in shame as you walk away from the testing centre… or you can go back to your office and learn what you are missing; you can set up a lab environment to deploy images in French with Windows Deployment Services; you can implement driver groups, and learn everything you need to know about MDOP, and you can go back to the testing centre a few days or weeks later and retake the exam… and pass.

I am ashamed to say that there are a couple of exams that I have failed and have not yet gone back to rewrite… with an emphasis on the word yet.  Most of the titles I have failed I have gone home, brushed up, and retaken successfully a few days (or weeks) later.  They are all things that do not apply to what I have been doing… but don’t worry, I’ll get to them!

It is simply a matter of attitude… ‘Why the heck would I have to know that?’ is the wrong attitude; if for no other reason, then you have to know whatever that is in order to pass the exam.  I know someone who failed an exam by fewer than twenty points – often a sign that he missed it by a single question.  He came out and said ‘I know what I got wrong… I’ll just retake the exam tomorrow and change that one question that I got wrong!’  He did… and failed by fewer than forty points – probably two questions.

Don’t waste it… if you find an exam tough, then you should be taking notes on the sheet they give you.  1) Windows Deployment Services.  2) Multiple Languages… and so forth.  Of course you have to surrender that sheet when you are finished the exam… but if at the very end you reread your notes, you should remember a lot of what you are missing when it comes time to study.

With Microsoft’s Second Shot Free promotion you can actually fail the first time for free… though I do not recommend this as a goal.  When you are prepared for the exam, register for it using the promotion, and then do your best.  If you fail, it costs you nothing to go home and study some more, and then rewrite it.  If you pass, then you get a pleasant surprise, a new certification, and a discount on your next exam.

Thomas Edison was once interviewed about the electric light bulb.  He did not get it right on the first shot… in fact it took him over two thousand tries and when asked he said ‘I never failed… I just learned two thousand ways how not to make a light bulb!’  Use that attitude when taking your next test.

… and good luck!

The Harsh Realities of the Exam Room

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how tough I found Exam 74-409 was in my article Another Tough Exam.  I also mentioned that Microsoft exams were meant to be tough, and going into an exam unprepared can (and usually will) come back to bite you.

Last week I decided to bite the bullet and try to take home at least three certifications in a single marathon day of exams… I was hoping to achieve my MCSA: Windows 8, MCSA: Windows Server 2012, and my MCSE: Desktop Infrastructure in a single bound by passing three exams:

70-416: Implementing Desktop Application Environments
70-417: Upgrading Your Skills to MCSA Windows Server 2012
70-688: Managing and Maintaining Windows 8

The goal was lofty, but I felt I was up to the challenge.  I was wrong… but not terribly so.

Before going on I should mention that I am no dummy… I am just very busy, and taking the time to sit exams one at a time is a bit of a pain for me – I would rather, when I have to, simply write two or three in a single day.  Of course, this greatly reduces my chances of passing all of them, but because of the Microsoft and Prometric Second Shot Free offer for Microsoft Certified Trainers (see article) there is less of a risk – MCTs get a discount on the cost of exams, as well as a Second Shot.  My financial gamble on this day was minimal.  I have, by the by, passed three exams in a single day once… May 3, 2011 I passed three MCTS exams on Windows Server 2008.  If I could do it once, I could surely do it again.

Wrong.

Passing three exams in a single day was not easy, but they were all on the same general technology – Windows Server 2008.  On this silly day I went after three exams – one on Windows 8 (which I would have been surprised had I failed), one on Desktop Application environments (Windows 8 applications with a healthy dose of Windows Server, Remote Desktop Services, App-V, Group Policy, Microsoft Office, and several deployment tools), and one on Windows Server 2012…kinda.

Upgrade Exams

Thinking back to my early days of certification marathons, I remember hearing the horrors of Upgrade exams.  Essentially you are taking three exams in one.  The first Upgrade exam I sat was 70-292: Managing and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Environment for an MCSA Certified on Windows 2000.  My success with this exam could be summed up with the old adage: Third time’s a charm.  I passed it in June of 2006… over a year after my first attempt.

Although I did have success with the MCDST (Desktop Support Technician) upgrade exam 70-621: Upgrading your MCDST Certification to MCITP Enterprise Support I did not fare nearly as well on the server side – 70-648 TS: Transition from Windows Server 2003 MCSA to Windows Server 2008 and TS: Transition from Windows Server 2003 MCSE to Windows Server 2008 (both of which I sat as beta exams and, coincidentally, on the same day) were not my finest hours.  I decided instead to sit all of the exams for these certifications instead of going the upgrade path again.

In hindsight, had I thought of that when scheduling the exams, I would not have done it.  Three exams in one day is mentally tough enough… add to that one of them is actually three exams, and even I wouldn’t have done it.

I never got into a rhythm for the exam, and did not notice that it was not one exam as one block of time, it was actually three sections, each with their own sub-block of time.  Unfortunately I only realized this when, with ten unanswered questions on Section 1, a pop-up warned me that I had two minutes to complete the section.  Without reading anything I clicked through and selected an answer for as many as I could (four) before being forced to leave six questions unanswered.

Now that I knew this was the case, I managed my time for the remaining sections much better… but four blind darts and six blanks doomed me.

You did not pass the exam.

I do not remember the actual wording of it, but that’s what it said… I had felt pretty good going into that last ‘Are You Sure?! ‘ button, which is why I was heartbroken when it came up.  Damn damn damn.

Wait a minute… I did a double-take when I noticed that my score was below 600.  583?  No way, I know I did better than that, there MUST BE SOME MISTAKE!  I don’t know the procedures for challenging an exam result (nor do I know if there is such a procedure) but at the end of the day when I collected my score reports I was going to find out.

Okay, that was only one of the exams… the server exam, which I could re-sit next week sometime.  I got my mindset into the application environment.  It was a really tough exam, but I passed it with a pretty respectable score.  I then went on to the Managing Windows 8 exam, which after the ordeal of the two previous exams was like a walk in the park.  I am not saying that any end user – or an IT Pro who isn’t intimately familiar with Windows 8 – could pass without a lot of preparation, but I have lived Windows 8 every day of the last 2.5 years, and even though that last ‘Are You Sure?!button is always nerve wracking, I passed very respectably.

Okay, good.  At least I could hold my head high with the knowledge that I would walk away with two Windows certifications today… MCSA: Windows 8, and MCSE: Desktop Infrastructure.  Now I could go look at the score report and go give someone a piece of my mind!

Wrong.

First the good news… I am not as much of a Windows Server bonehead as I thought.  I did not realize that for the Upgrade exam each section is marked as a complete exam… the score report actually comes out like this:

70-410: Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012: 800
70-411: Administering Windows Server 2012: 583
70-412: Configuring Advanced Windows Server 2012 Services: 766

Aha… while the results of certification exams are really binary – Pass/Fail – I felt a lot better knowing that had they averaged out my score for the three exams I would have passed, and the abysmal score that displayed on screen was just that of the lowest section – quite obviously the section on which I only answered 2/3 of the questions.  Alright, I feel better about that, and now that I know, the next time I sit the exam I can manage my time properly (I’ll bet you if you scour my blog you will see that advice for exam takers) and pass with authority.

I was wrong about something else on this day though… Although I thought the prerequisites for the MCSE: Desktop Infrastructure were my MCSA Windows 8 and the 70-416 exam, it turns out that the first prerequisite is actually my MCSA Windows Server 2012… alas, I would only be walking away with one certification today, and not two as I was hoping and expecting.  With that said, if/when I do pass my 70-417 Upgrade exam I will with one pass earn two senior certifications… and that ain’t all bad as they say.

Conclusion

The old expression says that the shoemaker’s children go barefoot.  I got bit quite a bit by not following my own advice.  Fortunately Microsoft and Prometric have my back, and I can come back and re-sit the exam for free.  That is one piece of advice I did listen to – make sure you check for any offers such as the Second Shot before you register for your exam.  Although I have registered for several exams with previous similar offers, this is the first time I will need the safety net.  However just because you are confident does not mean you should be stupid… take any offer they will give you, and save your money.  I am glad I did!

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!

Does Microsoft Learning listen?

I often tell people who are worried about taking Microsoft exams for fear of failing that I have failed more exams than most people have ever taken – to date over twenty failures, including one miserable exam that I only passed on my fourth attempt.

Don’t worry, I do pass more than I fail.  Something else that I often tell people is that there is a lot that you can learn from failing a certification exam – if you are only willing to learn from it.  Every time I fail an exam I try to remember the questions that have me stymied, and as soon as I walk out of the exam room I write down whatever I can remember so that I can look them up later on.  That is how I learned the ocsetup command.  In fact, that is how I learned a lot of the PowerShell cmdlets and command-line switches that I use.

Every exam – in fact, every exam question – gives you the opportunity to comment.  Unfortunately I am always reticent; I know that I don’t know everything, and frankly I used to be worried that if I commented that I thought something was wrong, I would be showing my ignorance.  This phobia doubled as a ridiculous assumption that someone at Microsoft Learning cares how much Mitch Garvis knows or doesn’t know… beyond the obvious pass/fail requirement of the exam.

I have heard people tell me that they don’t leave comments because they don’t think that people actually read those comments.  I can tell you with absolute certainty that someone does… most of the time that someone is a wonderful woman named Liberty Munson.

I first met Liberty in 2006, and have often referred to her as a witch – not because she is anything other than kind and warm, but because I am reasonably sure she can sit an exam on any subject matter in the world with complete ignorance on the subject… and pass.  You see, Liberty is a Psychometrician – an expert in exams.  Although I still don’t like commenting on exams, occasionally I have a question or comment about something on an exam, and I ask Liberty.

I took issue with a particular question on exam 74-409 (Server Virtualization with Windows Server Hyper-V and System Center).  I walked out of the exam with a sigh of relief at 10:45am… and at 4:30 that issue was still nagging at me.  I sent an e-mail about it and made my point.

Within an hour I got a reply from Liberty – I had not actually taken my issue to her, but rather to a friend at Microsoft Learning, who passed it on for me.  Nonetheless Liberty replied directly.  In the hour since I had sent my ‘complaint’, she had tracked down the exact question I was referring to, figured out who had written it, and gotten a response from the item writer.  While I completely disagreed with the response (it was not a right/wrong argument, rather a in-scope/out-of-scope argument), I was thrilled that I got the response.

Now here’s the thing… we can’t all e-mail Liberty every time we disagree with a question on an exam.  That is simply not how it works.  The best way to contact her if you don’t agree with a question is to click that Comment button on your exams.  You may not (read: will not) get a direct reply, but is the best way for you to help the Learning Experiences team to maintain the highest level of quality in their exams.

By the way, while I do not know this for sure from personal experience, my best advice is to never play cards with a psychometrician for money… it will never end well Smile

Gee thanks…

This is one of those situations I laugh at… because even great organizations like Microsoft Learning Experience is going to make the occasional mistake.. especially when it’s systems are all automated and unmonitored.

I received the following e-mail today congratulating me on passing my exam yesterday:

image

I was reasonably sure that I already had that certification, but just in case I logged onto the MCP Portal to check my transcript.  Sure enough…

image

Now here’s the thing… the e-mail is right, I never passed 70-247… but I didn’t have to.  If you passed 70-659 before a certain date then it replaced the requirement for the 70-247 exam… but if the automated system checks people who have passed the requisite exams as of today (and not as of June, 2012) then it is right… I shouldn’t have the cert.

I’ll chalk this one up to a funny system glitch… no action required Smile

Certification Planning

I maintain a spreadsheet of every certification exam I take – pass or fail.  Excluding the title line it currently consists of seventy (70) rows, dating back to my first failed exam in December of 2001.  I don’t remember when I started maintaining it, but it goes back a while, and consists of the following cells:

DateExam
TitleExam CodeTesting CentreResultApplicable Cert

Yesterday morning (January 15) I was happy to pull it open because I had just passed exam 74-409 (See article).  It was a bit of a milestone because it was the seventieth exam I have written in a little over twelve years (I sat my first exam, 70-215, on December 11, 2001).  It includes three that I have re-sat after having passed, a lot of failures (including one exam that I failed three times before passing!) and overall the good, the bad, the ugly – the pride and the shame, all in one spreadsheet, which includes a rule to highlight the word PASS or FAIL appropriately so that I can see streaks and trends.

As I will often do when I open the spreadsheet, I took a couple of minutes to see if anything jumped out at me… and sure enough, there it was.  In 2013 I did not sit a single exam.  It is the first year since I failed that first exam that I did not even attempt an exam in a calendar year.  In fact, since the last exam I sat was August 12, 2012 (71-414 – Implementing an Advanced Server Infrastructure), meaning it was a full seventeen months between exams – the longest gap/draught ever for me.

Does this mean I have been negligent in my career planning?  Not at all.  IT Professionals do not have to take exams on a set schedule in order to properly maintain their career paths.  However it is important that we make sure that our certifications remain relevant, and that will mean different things to different people.

Some IT Pros are content to ride their Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) on Windows 2000 (or NT!) all the way into the next decade.  Others want to earn every certification as soon as they can and remain at the head of the pack.  Somewhere between these two camps sit the moderate camp of people who get certified on every second version of a software or solution.

Is one of these positions right or wrong?  While I certainly feel that certifications become stale and irrelevant, how often you recertify depends on your career goals and needs.  I am glad that the new generation of Microsoft certifications actually do have retirement dates – IT Pros will have to recertify every few years or they will lose their credentials.  Microsoft tried several years ago to retire the MCSEs on Windows NT, but because they had not planned for this scenario from the outset they were unable to do so legally.  Simply put, people invested in their certifications and were not told up front that they would have an expiry date.  Now when you take a certification exam you know up front that your credentials will be retired unless you maintain them.

My first certifications were on Windows Server 2000, and while some of the information I learned back then is still relevant, most of what we do today is completely new – IPv6 did not exist, nor did x86 server virtualization.  There were questions on my exam yesterday that included several aspects of System Center, IPv6, Hyper-V, Active Directory Recycle Bin, Live Migration, Virtual Machine exports, Volume Shadow Copy, Virtual Hard Disks, Fibre Channel, QoS, and NIC Teaming… none of which existed in any form when Windows Server 2000 was current.  Sure, I am still an MCSA on Windows Server 2000 (I only earned my MCSE with Windows Server 2003), but it is completely irrelevant… and nobody would hire me based on my complete understanding of a fourteen year old operating system.

On the other side of the scale, I am also a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE): Private Cloud.  I earned that credential in June of 2012 – three months before the release of Windows Server 2012.  I earned it based on my proficiency in Windows Server 2008 R2 and the then newly released System Center 2012.  Is that certification still relevant?  Sure… both Windows Server 2008 R2 and System Center 2012 are prevalent in production IT environments around the world.  Even if they weren’t, as they are essentially only one generation removed from the current ‘latest and greatest’ and while there are certainly huge improvements in the newer versions, they are still familiar enough that the one-generation-off is still recognizable and familiar.

Yesterday’s exam was only the third Windows Server 2012 exam that I have written, and because of the new certification model I do not actually have any Windows Server 2012 certs.  In order to become an MCSA: Windows Server 2012 I am missing the exam 417 (Upgrading Your Skills to MCSA Windows Server 2012).  Then to earn my MCSE: Server Infrastructure I will need to pass exam 413 (Designing and Implementing a Server Infrastructure).

image

In order to close all of these out, I seem to be four exams short.  While I am not sure I will be able to complete them all before I go back to Japan, I will be trying to do at least a couple of them.  Unlike yesterday’s exam though I plan to prepare for them.  While I consider myself strong in both Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8, none of us know everything that they are likely to test us on.  I will try my best to not go into another exam unprepared.

imageAs usual, I will be taking you all along for the ride.  While I cannot take you into the exam centre (I don’t think we would all fit, and that would be illegal) but I will tell you about my experiences in each exam.  Hopefully it will help to give you the impetus to take your next exams.  Are you missing some?  Are you just starting out, or thinking of going down a new certification path?

If you aren’t sure where you stand, the Microsoft Learning Members Page has a new Certification Planner tool that can guide you toward success.  Since most of us don’t know off the top of our heads what exams are needed for what certifications, this handy tool will let you know how many exams (or other prerequisites) you are missing for each credential.  If you have even one prerequisite for a credential it will be listed there, and you can see what you are missing.  Check it out – you may be closer than you thought!

Of course, most IT Pros won’t need all of the certifications available… and chasing them is both time consuming and costly.  Trainers are usually going to have more certifications because they need the credentials in order to teach the courses.  That is why I started chasing them… and while I am no longer a full-time trainer, until I decide what I want to be when I grow up I am going to keep chasing them… you never know when someone is going to call on you to teach a class after all, and I like to keep my options open!

Check out the certification planner, and go schedule that next exam… yes, I am talking to you, Mr.Legacy MCSE, Mr. One-Exam Short!  Good luck!

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.

Free Books from MS Press

My office is NEVER this neat...

As many people know I covet books, and have been collecting (hoarding?) technical books since I got back into IT.  So when Eric Ligman  pings me an entire list of free eBooks available from Microsoft Press for download, I was thrilled… as you should be!

Now here is my dirty little secret that will get me banned by most environmentally-friendly organizations: I still prefer to have the physical books on my shelf.  I like sitting down and reading books, I like being able to pull them from my shelf for reference, put sticky-notes in and even mark them up when needed. 

Don’t get me wrong… I love eBooks too.  I have a whole collection of them, not to mention the plethora of eBooks that I have on my Kindle app (and hopefully soon my Kobo).  It is great to have access to an entire library at your fingertips and take it wherever you go.  Unfortunately these devices require batteries, cannot be used during takeoff and landing, and have been known to break.  These are just some of the reasons why I have always been happy with technical reference books that come with the electronic version included on CD, or were available for download with proof of purchase.

Alas, I know I am a dying breed.  Most of us (you?) prefer eBooks and the simplicity, cleanliness, and ease of access.  You know that I am lagging behind when even my mother and my father have Kindles and take them everywhere they go.  My father, who used to love shopping for books and would actually visit bookstores in every city he went to, has jumped on the eBook bandwagon.  When they moved recently from their apartment of twenty-eight years they gave away hundreds of books, claiming to be happy to free up the space.

However there is a flip-side to that.  last month when my mother came to visit she complained that her Kindle was broken; I don’t remember what the problem was, only that I saw her reading several of our actual books during her stay.  They may tear, but they never break down.

Here is a list of books that Microsoft Press has made available to you for free… I have them sorted by topic but, just like my bookshelves, you can opt to rearrange them however you like!

Windows Server

A Guide to Claims-Based Identity and Access Control, Second Edition
Introducing Windows Server 2008 R2
Introducing Windows Server 2012
Understanding Microsoft Virtualization Solutions: From the Desktop to the Datacenter, Second Edition
TCP/IP Fundamentals for Microsoft Windows

System Center

Cmdlet Reference for App Controller in System Center 2012 SP1
Technical Documentation for System Center 2012 – Virtual Machine Manager

Windows

Administrator’s Guide for Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V) 5.0
Administrator’s Guide for Microsoft BitLocker Administration and Monitoring 1.0
Administrator’s Guide for Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DaRT) 7
Administrator’s Guide for Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DaRT) 8.0
Administrator’s Guide for Microsoft User Experience Virtualization (UE-V) 1.0
Deploying Windows 7: Essential Guidance
Developing an end-to-end Windows Store app using C++ and XAML: Hilo
Developing an end-to-end Windows Store app using JavaScript: Hilo
Prism for the Windows Runtime: Developing a Windows Store business app using C#, XAML, and Prism
Programming Windows 8 Apps with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript

Lync

Microsoft Lync Server 2013 Step by Step for Anyone 

Office

Deployment guide for Office 2013
First Look: Microsoft Office 2010
Microsoft Office 365: Connect and Collaborate Virtually Anywhere, Anytime
Microsoft Office 365 for professionals and small businesses: Help and How To
Security and Privacy for Microsoft Office 2010 Users

SharePoint

Explore SharePoint 2013
Deployment guide for SharePoint 2013
Test Lab Guide: eBook for SharePoint Server 2013 Intranet and Team Sites
Create a Balanced Scorecard
Configure Kerberos Authentication for SharePoint 2010 Products
SharePoint Server for Business Intelligence
Get started with SharePoint Server 2010
Deployment guide for SharePoint Server 2010
Upgrading to SharePoint Server 2010
Profile synchronization guide for SharePoint Server 2010
Remote BLOB storage for Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
Governance guide for Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
Business continuity management for SharePoint Server 2010
Technical reference for Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010

SQL Server

5 Tips for a Smooth SSIS Upgrade to SQL Server 2012
A Hitchiker’s Guide to Microsoft StreamInsight Queries
Books Online: Backup and Restore of SQL Server Databases
Books Online: Data Analysis Expressions (DAX) Reference
Books Online: Data Mining Extensions (DMX) Reference
Books Online: Data Quality Services
Books Online: High Availability Solutions
Books Online: Master Data Services
Books Online: Monitor and Tune for Performance
Books Online: Multidimensional Expressions (MDX) Reference
Books Online: SQL Server Distributed Replay
Books Online: Transact-SQL Data Definition Language (DDL) Reference
Books Online: Transact-SQL Data Manipulation Language (DML) Reference
Books Online: XQuery Language Reference
Extracting and Loading SharePoint Data in SQL Server Integration Services
Integration Services: Extending Packages with Scripting
Introducing Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2
Introducing Microsoft SQL Server 2012
Master Data Services Capacity Guidelines
Microsoft SQL Server AlwaysOn Solutions Guide for High Availability and Disaster Recovery
Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services Multidimensional Performance and Operations Guide
Multidimensional Model Programming
Optimized Bulk Loading of Data into Oracle
Planning Disaster Recovery for Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services in SharePoint Integrated Mode
QuickStart: Learn DAX Basics in 30 Minutes
SQL Server 2012 Tutorials: Analysis Services – Data Mining
SQL Server 2012 Tutorials: Analysis Services – Multidimensional Modeling
SQL Server 2012 Tutorials: Analysis Services – Tabular Modeling
SQL Server 2012 Tutorials: Reporting Services
SQL Server 2012 Tutorials: Writing Transact-SQL Statements
SQL Server 2012 Upgrade Technical Guide
SQL Server Community FAQs Manual

Visual Studio

Better Unit Testing with Microsoft Fakes
Dependency Injection with Unity
Developer’s Guide to Microsoft Enterprise Library
Moving to Microsoft Visual Studio 2010
Testing for Continuous Delivery with Visual Studio 2012
Upgrade Team Foundation Server 2012: the ultimate upgrade guide

Web Development


ASP.NET Multi-Tier Windows Azure Application Using Storage Tables, Queues, and Blobs
ASP.NET Web Deployment using Visual Studio
ASP.NET Web Deployment with SQL Server Compact using Visual Studio 2010
Developing Modern Mobile Web Apps
The Entity Framework 4.0 and ASP.NET Web Forms – Getting Started
Getting Started with ASP.NET 4.5 Web Forms (Beta)
Getting Started with the Entity Framework 4.1 using ASP.NET MVC
Intro to ASP.NET MVC 4 with Visual Studio (Beta)
Introducing ASP.NET Web Pages 2
Project Silk: Client-Side Web Development for Modern Browsers

Windows Azure

Autoscaling Application Block and Transient Fault Handling Application Block Reference
Building Elastic and Resilient Cloud Applications – Developer’s Guide to the Enterprise Library 5.0 Integration Pack for Windows Azure
Building Hybrid Applications in the Cloud on Windows Azure
Create Your First Application – Node.js and Windows Azure
Developing Multi-tenant Applications for the Cloud on Windows Azure (3rd Edition)
Drupal on Windows Azure
Exploring CQRS and Event Sourcing: A journey into high scalability, availability, and maintainability with Windows Azure
Migrating Data-Centric Applications to Windows Azure
Moving Applications to the Cloud, 2nd Edition
Moving Applications to the Cloud on Windows Azure (3rd Edition)
Using Windows Azure Mobile Services to Cloud-Enable your iOS Apps
Using Windows Azure Mobile Services to Cloud-Enable Your Windows Phone 8 Apps
Using Windows Azure Mobile Services to Cloud-Enable your Windows Store Apps in C#
Using Windows Azure Mobile Services to Cloud-Enable Your Windows Store Apps in JavaScript
Windows Azure and SQL Database Tutorials
Windows Azure Prescriptive Guidance
Windows Azure Service Bus Reference

Windows Phone

Developing an Advanced Windows Phone 7.5 App that Connects to the Cloud
Programming Windows Phone 7

**To read Eric’s original blog post about this click here.

Microsoft Virtual Academy: Live Q&A!

The IT Pro Evangelism team, Microsoft Learning and the Microsoft Virtual Academy are pleased to announce the next FREE & PUBLIC event Live Q&A: Introduction to Hyper-V on Wednesday April 3rd, from 8:30 am – 10:30am PST with virtualization experts Jeff Woolsey & Symon Perriman.

Ask your customers to join this live online event designed for IT professionals that have questions about Microsoft virtualization and want to learn about Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V.  Register here: http://aka.ms/MVAf-HyperV.  If you cannot make the live event, sign up anyway so you can receive a notification when the recording is published on the Microsoft Virtual Academy.

Topics and demos may include:

· Introduction to Microsoft Virtualization

· Hyper-V Infrastructure

· Hyper-V Networking

· Hyper-V Storage

· Hyper-V Management

· Hyper-V High Availability and Live Migration

· Integration with System Center 2012 Virtual Machine Manager

· Integration with Other System Center 2012 Components

Tweet: Ask us your questions about #Windows #Sever 2012 #HyperV! Register for this live free public Q&A event on April 3rd: http://aka.ms/MVAf-HyperV

Also check out our recent full day training Microsoft Virtualization for VMware Professionals Jump Start which is now available on the Microsoft Virtual Academy.

Microsoft Certified Career Day!

Our industry moves fast! There was a time when if you learned a system you e set for a long time.  Now Microsoft is releasing operating systems every three years (client AND server), and the management tools are constantly evolving.  A carpenter who takes a year off work may be out of practice, but will remember his way pretty quick.  An IT Pro who is out of the loop for that long has a steep learning curve to step to… just to get back to where he was.  Automation with PowerShell and System Center Orchestrator is increasing the ratio of servers to administrators, and that means that people who once thought they had a secure position may be fighting for their jobs, or even find themselves looking for a new one in a market where there are hundreds of others in the same boat, fighting for the same jobs.

In a world of ones and zeros, how can we stand out from the crowd?  What can we do to make ourselves worth more to a IT potential employer than the rest of the pack?  Experience is great, but once you are out of work it is hard to build while pounding the pavement.  What can we do to increase our value and marketability?

GET CERTIFIED!  Certifications demonstrate not only that you have the respect for your profession to learn to do things right, they also give you the chance to show that you are up to speed on the latest technologies… even when the company you were working for wasn’t.  Are you an MCSE? Great! But hiring managers now understand the difference between an MCSE on Windows Server 2003 (2000? NT4??) and an MCSE: Private Cloud.  If they are looking for someone to lead them into the future they are not looking for someone who only knows the past.  That is why we as IT Pros are constantly updating our certs, even at a cost of $150 per shot.  It is not usually for our current company, but rather for our next one.

Microsoft Learning is hosting an on-line certified career day on March 12, 2013.  The day will begin with a live, interactive panel discussion with IT managers and industry experts who will discuss how the cloud is redefining IT recruitment and the growing need for up-to-date certifications. 

The panel will be followed by an exclusive interview with special guest Mark Russinovich, Microsoft Technical Fellow. Next, attend the technology focused sessions with Windows Server 2012 and SQL Server 2012 product group experts.

Attendees of Certified Career Day are eligible to win an Acer tablet with full Windows 8. Event capacity is limited so register now!  Click here and you are on your way!

msl

Want to be an MCT? Start Here!

I had a conversation this week with someone who was asking me about becoming an MCT.

I know I am a good presenter, and I know my stuff… what do I need to do to become a Microsoft Certified Trainer?

Becoming a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) was, for me, a turning point in my career.  It opened a lot of doors, and made a lot of things possible for me.  I remember hesitating for several months, because I did not think that my most advanced certification at the time (MCSA) was sufficient… and there was no clear guideline that I could find to confirm it.

I spoke with several MCTs, including some who worked for Microsoft Learning.  The clearest guidance they could give me was that you needed ‘a senior certification’ in order to qualify.  However nobody could confirm what that consisted of.  I later surmised that it meant any cert on supported technology that was higher than a simple Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP)

Today there is a list of requirements listed on the Microsoft Learning website (http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/mct-certification.aspx), along with a list of benefits, and a link to the program guide and application process.  However I noticed that the list seems to be short… it has not been updated with the latest certifications.  So to help out, I am going to add a few certs to this list, and if anyone at Microsoft Learning gives you guff about it, just tell them I said it was okay Winking smile -M

  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Master

  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert

  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate

  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer

  • Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer

  • Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator

  • Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator: Security

  • Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician

  • Microsoft Certified Microsoft Certified IT Professional

  • Microsoft Certified Professional Developer

  • Microsoft Office 2007 Specialist

  • Microsoft Office 2010 Specialist

  • Microsoft Certified Business Management Solutions Specialist

  • Microsoft Certified Business Management Solutions Professional

  • Microsoft Certified Master

  • Microsoft Office 2007 Master

  • Microsoft Certified Architect

  • Please Note: The Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA) is not on this list.  I do not know if that is by design or by error, but I hope one of my DBA friends out there can help to clarify for us!

Clarity: MCSA vs. MCSE: the what and why

This article was originally published in June, 2012. Due to the relevance and current interest in certifications I decided to republish. -MDG

When I found out that Microsoft Learning was (again!) revamping the certification stack, I thought to myself that after all these years it might be time to stop chasing certifications.  After all, when they created the MCTS/MCITP model I had to essentially start from scratch, and if they were doing that again it might not be worth the effort.

Let me clarify that statement… Certifications are extremely valuable and necessary to an IT Pro, but at a certain point you have proven yourself… I have by now passed over 35 Microsoft exams, and expect that by now people know that I am established.

I stated in an article earlier this month that certifications are not for our current job, they are for your next job.  Unfortunately, as a contract worker, I am always working for my next job.  That means that I always have to maintain my certifications current, or at least I cannot let them get stale… Once I became an MCITP: Enterprise Admin on Server 2008 I might have gotten away with not taking my exams for Windows Server 2012… but because the new generation revolves around solutions rather than products I expected I would need at least my MCSE: Private Cloud… then people looking at my credentials would know I knew at least Windows Server 2008 R2 and System Center 2012.

Cert StackI like the way the new certification ‘pyramid’ is designed.  The ‘junior certification’ is the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate, which is product-focused.

As I stated earlier, the requirements for an MCSA: Windows Sever 2008 are the same requirements you previously needed for the legacy MCITP: Server Administrator.  It is three exams, and you are certified.  I assume that when Windows Server 2012 comes out there will be a new MCSA for that platform, and I have no early insight into what that will look like, nor how many exams will be required.

My point is this though.  Now that the junior certification is now three exams deep, it is going to be harder for people to claim the title.  When I first got certified any exam you took earned you the title Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP).  I knew people who passed one exam, and coasted on that certification for years.  Heck, I was one of them for about a year… at least the first exam that I took was for Windows 2000 Professional, and not a sales-related exam, which gave you the same MCP title.

That problem was supposed to be resolved in the next generation, the MCTS/MCITP era.  At the beginning there was talk that not every exam would earn you that MCTS certification, and I believe that on the dev side there were a couple of those.  However on the IT Pro side there was never an exam that did not give you a cert… so when I passed three exams to get my MCITP: Virtualization Administrator cred, I had three certs, including two MCTS and the one MCITP.

I was asked this morning by Veronica Sopher of Microsoft Learning what I thought of the 70-246 exam, and my first response was it was ugly.  However that was my way of saying that it was tough, and that it tested your knowledge of a lot of different products in a relatively small number of questions.  In truth I am glad that it was as tough as it was (now that I have passed) because it means that Microsoft is trying to make earning your senior certifications more difficult, which means that you will really need to know your stuff.  A step in the right direction, no doubt!

As for the Master level – the Microsoft Certified Solutions Master – I assume this is still going to be out of my grasp, until I decide to take a job running the infrastructure for a major international company.  I like what I do, so I don’t know that is in the cards.  However If you are an MCSM (equivalent to the former Microsoft Certified Master / MCM) then you are certainly recognized as a very top expert in the technology.

If the MCSM is anything like the old MCM then you not only have to know the technology, you then have to spend several weeks in Redmond on the Microsoft Campus learning from the product team, and then have to pass a series of exams and boards.  There is a reason they are called Masters… it is not for the faint of heart!

I appreciate Microsoft Learning’s revamped certification plan.  It makes it harder to ‘just get by’ and easier to distinguish IT pros by the exams they have passed.  I think it’s a step in the right direction, and look forward to seeing what other MCSE tracks will be revealed as the next generation of Windows operating systems launch later this year!