Certified or Certifiable?
- Editor's Corner
- Guest Editorial
- Certified or Certifiable?
- Send Us Feedback
- Tip of the Week
- Recommended for Learning
- Quote of the Week
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- Admin Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without
- Webinars & Seminars
- Conferences, Expos and Other Events
- Upcoming Microsoft Webcasts
- Upcoming O'Reilly Webcasts
- VMware Webcasts
- Cisco Events
- Oracle Events
- Tech Briefing
- Cloud technologies create new opportunities and job roles
- Featured Wiki Article: Microsoft Training and Certifications - MCDP, MCITP, MTA, MCTS
- Want to get certified in Office 365?
- I am now a VMware Certified Professional!
- Windows Server News
- FAQ: Creating a VMware disaster recovery plan
- Top 10 Microsoft Hyper-V tools to consider
- Windows 8 FAQ: Windows 8 features, news and more
- BYOD security: How application streaming and VDI can help
- WServerNews FAVE Links
- This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff.
- WServerNews - Product of the Week
- Free TFTP Server: Easily Upload & Download Executable Images and Configs to Routers & Switches
Do IT certifications still have value in today's workplace? Will they help you get a better job or advance in your present one? This week I've asked Jason Miller to provide us with a guest editorial on this topic. Jason is an IT Professional based in Winnipeg, Canada, where he works as a team leader in the Managed Services department at EPIC Information Solutions:
Jason holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree, he is a Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP), and he is a recognized Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP). His current certification track includes vendor certifications related to virtualization technologies. You can follow Jason on Twitter at:
But before we listen to Jason's thoughts on this topic, here's a question for you to consider: Years from now when your hard-earned paper-MCSE will be just a fond but distant memory, what will YOU BE DREAMING?
Certified or Certifiable?
By Jason Miller, MVP
I find that there are a lot of different reasons why people employed in Information Technology work at earning vendor certifications. In recent years there has been an explosion of vendor certifications! And there’s a lot of variety in the level of effort exerted between individuals – some people work really hard in order to earn certifications, while others rely more upon ‘street smarts’ or practical experience with technology components to get them through their technical hurdles. Some people value certifications a lot, while others place little merit in the process. One observation though – folks who are certified tend to place higher merit in the benefits of certification.
As a bit of background info, I work for a larger firm that resells hardware and software solutions and provides IT Services and human resources to our customers. Our customers call on us, at least in part, due to the competencies that our teams maintain. Vendors allow us to sell their solutions because we can demonstrate that we can sell, deploy, and maintain their products. Measurement of how well we can achieve this is invariably linked to the number of certified staff and/or the depth of certification in the vendor’s products. Today, even consumer product lines have started to develop and present certification paths for their solutions. The symbiotic relationship between vendors and resellers is pretty obvious.
In the enterprise engine at my work, I manage a smaller team that maintains desktop and server platforms for a variety of clients in several different business verticals. Our team strives to maintain likeness between our customer sites, but in reality every client is at least a little bit different from all the rest. This is an important note; if all of our clients were exactly identical we might not need deep skills in a broad range of IT products and solutions, and in fact, often they vary a lot from site to site. So we end up with a common core set of products that extend across most customers, but then we have these unique elements that are introduced occasionally. We don’t get enough hands on experience with these individual items so having certified staff available to design and support them makes a huge difference. Even the common products tend to become fractured over time as they evolve and age.
So vendors present certification tracks for nearly everything now, and reseller organizations are motivated to gain the accreditation in order to sell product to clients throughout the life cycle of an IT solution. But what about the individual?What’s in it for you?
Well, it kind of depends on where you are at in the IT universe – if you are a member of an IT department you can see that practical experience is often recognized as a way of demonstrating you have the skills it takes to do the job. Or if you are a self-employed IT technician who picks and chooses your engagements based on interest or proven history of work, certifications might not mean a great deal to you personally. But what if you are an IT consultant or a technician who is expected to work in a wide variety of environments with a broad spectrum of products? How do you demonstrate proficiency and professional growth? It’s in these latter cases where certification really starts to edge out experience as a means of proving competency.
Don’t get me wrong, I think experience is important as you move into increasingly senior roles. But certification offers some advantages as you decide to climb the tech ladder and grow as an IT professional. In my experience managing a technical team, I endorse certification for some of the following reasons:
- Certification is instant credibility! From the moment you earn the certification you have evidence that you can be effective in designing and/or supporting the particular product.
- Certification is effective – certified technicians know how to do the jobs in the core areas of their certification tracks, and can adapt better to new scenarios.
- Certification is an almost risk-free proving grounds – a mistake in an exam doesn’t impact a customer or the production network!
- Certification is reproducible – a corporate plan for developing certified staff can become a process, producing more and deeper educated team members through coaching and mentoring.
- Certification is impartial for the hiring team or manager – all other things being equal, certification can help measure relative performance.
- It pays to learn! Many companies tie compensation programs to certification.
- Validate your claims of competency or knowledge – I’ve been surprised in the past with exam results, to learn that what I thought I knew, I actually didn’t really know all that well. Oops!
- Protect your career! Clients pay higher rates for certified technicians; employers pay certified staff more than on experience alone. If you had to make a choice, who would you hire?
So if you are in agreement, how do you get your certification track started or back into focus? My advice to team members has been pretty simple; you have to get started anytime, set your goals based on your technical interests, and then set out a phased approach in order of ascending difficulty. The first step of any journey is the hardest – set your direction and then get started! Working with a mentor is often helpful, but more commonly, building a study group of like-minded IT professionals will help the most with developing a pattern of action that will keep you on track. Maybe staff at your work will share your learning interests or if that fails, look for help within a local IT Professional User Group or professionals association. You might be surprised how easy it is to find help in your area of interest geographic location.
Good luck to readers who are working on their certification path!
Send Us Feedback
What are your own thoughts concerning the value of IT certifications in today's job market? Has achieving certifications helped you advance in your own career? Do you think getting more certifications will bring you additional career benefits? Send us your feedback on this topic at [email protected]
Tip of the Week
By default clicking the Windows Explorer shortcut on the taskbar in Windows 7 displays your libraries. How can you configure this taskbar shortcut so that it opens Explorer at the root of your user profile instead?
- Right-click on the Explorer shortcut on your taskbar to display the jump list.
- Then right-click on the Windows Explorer item in your jump list and select Properties.
- In the Windows Explorer Properties dialog, on the Shortcuts tab, in the Target field, change %windir%\explorer.exe to %windir%\explorer.exe %userprofile% and click OK.
Now click on the Explorer shortcut on your taskbar and Windows Explorer should open to display the root folder of your user profile.
Recommended for Learning
PKI Uncovered: Certificate-Based Security Solutions for Next-Generation Networks from Cisco Press is basically a step-by-step how-to book about designing, implementing and troubleshooting public key infrastructure (PKI) authentication solutions using Cisco technologies. The book begins with a clear and concise review of basic PKI concepts and standards. Then it goes on to describe the building blocks of PKI such as certificates, keys and different types of CAs. PKI processes are covered next including enrollment, certificate verification and renewal/expiration, and so on. The focus quickly drops to the command shell using Cisco IOS commands to configure these things. The chapter on troubleshooting is probably worth the price of the book as far as your Cisco support staff are concerned.
Quote of the Week
"When we have lived long enough, watched ourselves carefully enough, and learned from our mistakes, eventually we stop panicking and chasing after every "good" opportunity." --Chin-Ning Chu in "Do Less, Achieve More"
Chin-Ning Chu is one of my favorite authors of "business self-help" books, and lately I've been reading her book "Do Less, Achieve More" and finding lots of helpful advice. What I found illuminating about her quote above is that it sheds some light on my own entrepreneurial experiences. When I started my own business well over a decade ago, I initially found myself panicking a lot as I tried to nail down lots of deals to try and increase my cash flow. Unfortunately people don't like to be nailed down, and I soon learned that business is all about people and if you want to get good at making deals you've got to learn a lot about people, how they think and why they say and do the things they do. And as a nerd, I found learning this kind of stuff very challenging...
Fast-forward to my life today. I'm busier than ever, sometimes too busy, but I've learned to stop panicking. Why don't I panic anymore? Because I've learned that there are some things in life you can control and other things you can't control, and that the key to happiness (and to surviving in the business world) is to focus on the things you can control (for example your work habits and how you communicate) and not get too worried about things you can't control (such as what other people think of you or whether they will come through on what they promised).
Here are a couple of other good books by Chin-Ning Chu:
More wisdom from this author in the next issue of this newsletter.
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Admin Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without
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Need a FIPS 140-2 Level 3 encryption device that looks like a USB thumb drive and boots to Windows 7 Embedded?
Webinars & Seminars
Conferences, Expos and Other Events
April 16-20, 2012 - Microsoft Management Summit 2012 is where skilled IT professionals can meet to increase their technical expertise through hands-on training, breakout sessions and interacting with industry leaders in desktop and device management, datacenter, and cloud technologies:
July 8-12, 2012 - Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto, Canada is the premier event for Microsoft partners to spark connections, deliver insight, and build business. Learn about the latest Microsoft programs, strategies, and cutting-edge technologies, while meeting Microsoft staff and other partners from around the world:
Upcoming Microsoft Events and Webcasts
- April 11, 2012 - Microsoft Office System Webcast: Microsoft Office Tips and Tricks: Outlook 2010: Customize Your Outlook Environment, and Work with Options for Email, Calendar, Tasks, and More (Level 200)
- April 11, 2012 - Business Insights Webcast: Office 365: Business Utilization of SharePoint Online (Level 200)
- April 11, 2012 - Microsoft Office System Webcast: Microsoft Office Tips and Tricks: Excel 2010: Control Data Entry, Secure Your Workbooks, and Do More with Excel 2010 (Level 200)
- April 12, 2012 - Business Insights Webcast: You Can't Hack Yourself Secure (Level 100)
- April 13, 2012 - TechNet Webcast: The Baker's Dozen: What's New in SQL Server 2012 (Part 4 of 13): New Capabilities in SQL Server 2012 Integration Services (Level 200)
Sign up for these and other Microsoft events and webcasts at:
Upcoming O'Reilly Webcasts
- May 3, 2012 - Building and Upgrading a PC
- June 6, 2012 - IPv6 Address Autoconfiguration and DHCPv6
Sign up these and other O'Reilly webcasts at:
Browse for VMware webcasts at:
Browse the Cisco Corporate Events Calendar to find Cisco at events, trade shows and conferences around the world:
Browse the Oracle Events page to find in-person events and live webcasts for your location:
Would you like to list your IT event, webcast, or seminar in this section? Contact Michael Vella, the WSN Account Manager at [email protected]
Cloud technologies create new opportunities and job roles
Learn more about Microsoft's cloud certification programs:
Featured Wiki Article: Microsoft Training and Certifications - MCDP, MCITP, MTA, MCTS
Wiki: Training and Certification Portal (en-US)
Helps you find available trainings and certifications from Microsoft and provides information about exams and how to prepare for them:
Want to get certified in Office 365?
Information about upcoming exams for certifying your Office 365 skills:
I am now a VMware Certified Professional!
Harold Wong, a Senior IT Pro Evangelist with Microsoft, shares why he pursued his VMware VCP5 certification:
Windows Server News
FAQ: Creating a VMware disaster recovery plan
Having an effective VMware disaster recovery plan is crucial to protecting your organization’s data and business operations. Take a look at these frequently asked questions regarding VMware disaster recovery planning by using Site Recovery Manager and third-party DR tools to help you further protect your organization in the event of an outage.
Top 10 Microsoft Hyper-V tools to consider
Check out the top ten must-know Hyper-V tools, including the HVRemote, Hardware-Assisted Virtualization Detection Tool, and more.
Windows 8 FAQ: Windows 8 features, news and more
With the release of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, Microsoft is revealing more details about its next operating system. But many enterprises are just adopting Windows 7, so is there good reason to get excited yet? This Windows 8 FAQ looks at what we know so far.
BYOD security: How application streaming and VDI can help
If you're worried about BYOD security, never fear: Desktop virtualization and application streaming are here to help -- as long as you're willing to put in a little extra work. Gain insight into some of the main concerns around BYOD and how you can address its major security challenges.
WServerNews FAVE Links
This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
You can buy an entire house at IKEA now:
75-year-old Gennai Yanagisawa has created a 75kg (165-pound) one-man aircraft which sets the world record for the smallest helicopter:
The official NASA Space Shuttle has finally been retired. In honor of the great achievements that came from the shuttle, German space enthusiasts launched a weather balloon into space carrying a Lego model of the space shuttle:
Mercedes has built a car that uses LED lights to make itself "invisible" to attract the attention of consumers to cars that don't significantly impact the environment:
WServerNews - Product of the Week
WServerNews - Editors
Mitch Tulloch is Senior Editor of WServerNews and is a widely recognized expert on Windows administration, deployment and virtualization. Mitch was lead author of the bestselling Windows 7 Resource Kit from Microsoft Press and has published hundreds of articles for IT pros. Mitch is also a seven-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award for his outstanding contributions in support of the global IT pro community. Mitch owns and runs an information technology content development business based in Winnipeg, Canada. For more information see www.mtit.com
Ingrid Tulloch is Associate Editor of WServerNews and was co-author of the Microsoft Encyclopedia of Networking from Microsoft Press. Ingrid is also Head of Research for our content development business and has co-developed university-level courses in Information Security Management for a Masters of Business Administration program.