Category Archives: 15745

An Open Letter to Microsoft Learning

Yesterday I was notified of a new video touting how Microsoft Learning is revamping its Exchange 2013 exams and certification requirements for Exchange 2013 SP1. As someone who has worked with Microsoft to help rewrite exams for Exchange 2010 SP1, I was interested to see what @MSLearning had to say. I was met with great disappointment when I was greeted with the following video (since removed, but still found on YouTube).

In response I tweeted on Twitter, “One more reason that customers need the MCM program. I weep for our future.

As a Microsoft Certified Master and someone who takes great pride in the 77 Microsoft certifications I hold, I take Microsoft certifications seriously. As a Microsoft Gold Partner ExtraTeam does, as well, and makes its mark in the professional services industry by hiring the the most highly certified consultants and engineers in the industry.

Judging by the feedback I received to my tweet, I know that other IT Pros share my sense of frustration and dismay about the direction of Microsoft Learning.

Veronica Wei Sopher of Microsoft Learning responded to my tweet, genuinely asking for my feedback – so here it is:

  • Take yourself seriously. “Sesame Street” style videos have no place in a professional certification program. As one person wrote, “The costumes? No names? This needs to feel more work related if the sound is muted.” How do you think this looks to hiring managers? I can’t imagine anything like this coming from the Cisco or CCISP certification programs.
  • Be respectful and show ownership. Many IT Pros, such as myself, have invested significant amounts of time preparing for, taking exams, and maintaining their Microsoft certifications. Many do it on their own time and with their own money. It’s embarrassing and insulting to all IT Pros to be associated with a program that makes fun of certifications and the process.
  • Have integrity. Like other MCM candidates, I spent 21 days in Redmond learning 24×7 about Exchange in the MCM program and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. It was one of the best learning experiences of my life. That’s why it was so disappointing when Microsoft Learning canceled the MCM program without any notice, even to the Exchange product group. When Tim Sneath canceled the program in September 2013, he told us that Microsoft Learning was looking into ways to revamp the program. It’s been nearly a year later and we have heard absolutely nothing. At this time, the highest level of certification that IT Pros can achieve is an MCSE, which is pretty much worthless due to cheating and brain dumps. There has to be a better top-tier certification for Microsoft products than what is available now.

MEC 2014 is Right Around the Corner! Are You Registered?

I’m very much looking forward to the Microsoft Exchange Conference March 31-April 2 in Austin, TX. I hope you can join me there!

I’ll be moderating three MEC Unplugged interactive sessions this year and will be on the experts panel for the Exchange Deployment session.

Session Date/Time Room Speakers
Experts Unplugged: Architecture – Client Access and Connectivity  Tuesday, April 1 9:00AM – 10:15AM MR 17b Greg Taylor, Jeff Guillet, Jeff Mealiffe, Ross Smith IV, Venkat
Experts Unplugged: Architecture – Transport and Hygiene Tuesday, April 1 10:45AM – 12:00PM MR 17b Brian Reid, Jeff Guillet, Khushru Irani, Ross Smith IV, Scott Landry,
Wendy Wilkes
Unplugged: Architecture – Transport and Hygiene
(repeat session)
Wednesday, April 2 8:30AM – 9:45AM MR 13ab Brian Reid, Jeff Guillet, Khushru Irani, Ross Smith IV, Scott Landry,
Wendy Wilkes
Wednesday, April 2 8:30AM – 9:45AM MR 17b Brian Day, Greg Taylor, Jeff Guillet, Jeff Mealiffe, Ross Smith IV,
Scott Schnoll

Click the sessions above to add them to your MEC schedule. If you haven’t registered for MEC yet, it’s not too late.

There will be no paper copy of the schedule this year. The schedule will be available via an HTML5 app that should work on all platforms, but I suggest you print a copy of your schedule or add it to your calendar before you arrive. Technology sometimes has a nasty way of not working when you need it.

Here’s a breakdown of the current attendee profile, based on registered attendees so far.

With 87% of the attendees from the US, it looks like Europe would definitely be served well by having its own MEC. That would better align with the global deployment of Exchange Server. I’d say the chances of seeing MEC in Europe would be pretty slim, though.

Announcing the 7th Annual UC Roundtable at TechEd 2014, Houston!

I’m pleased to announce the 7th Annual UC Roundtable at Microsoft TechEd North America 2014 in Houston, TX!

The purpose of the UC Roundtable is to gather Exchange and Lync admins, MCMs, MVPs, Exchange product group members, architects, and experts for a free-flowing discussion about issues, questions, and experiences related to Exchange, Office 365, and Lync Server.  If you work with Exchange, Office 365, or Lync you need to be here!

The UC Roundtable will be held Wednesday, May 14, 2014 from 6:00-8:00PM CDT and will be within walking distance or a short cab ride from the TechEd hotels. A special thanks to my friends at F5 who will be hosting the event for the third year in a row!

Please RSVP to for event details and location. I will email you with the location details once they’re set.

Help spread the word and I hope you can join me!

Once an MCM always an MCM

I received the following email last night from the Advanced Certification group.  This saddens me in more ways than I can say.

We are contacting you to let you know we are making a change to the Microsoft Certified Master, Microsoft Certified Solutions Master, and Microsoft Certified Architect certifications. As technology changes so do Microsoft certifications and as such, we are continuing to evolve the Microsoft certification program. Microsoft will no longer offer Masters and Architect level training rotations and will be retiring the Masters level certification exams as of October 1, 2013. The IT industry is changing rapidly and we will continue to evaluate the certification and training needs of the industry to determine if there’s a different certification needed for the pinnacle of our program.

As a Microsoft Certified Master, Microsoft Certified Solutions Master, or Microsoft Certified Architect, you have earned one of the highest certifications available through the Microsoft Certification program. Although individuals will no longer be able to earn these certifications, you will continue to hold the credential and you will not be required to recertify your credential in the future. You will continue to have access to the logos through the MCP site, and your certifications will continue to show in the appropriate section of your transcript, according to Microsoft technology retirement dates. If you are a Charter Member, you will continue to hold the Charter Member designation on your transcript.

Also as a Microsoft Certified Master, Microsoft Certified Solutions Master, or Microsoft Certified Architect, you are a member of an exclusive, highly technical community and you’ve told us this community is one of the biggest benefits of your certification. We encourage you to stay connected with your peers through the main community distribution lists. Although we won’t be adding more people to this community, you continue to be a valued member of it. Over time, Microsoft plans to transition the distribution lists to the community, and, with your consent, will include your information so that it can continue to be a valuable resource for your ongoing technical discussions.

Within the coming weeks, you will receive invitations to an updated community site. This community site will require you to sign in with a Microsoft Account and will replace the need for a Microsoft Partner account as is required today. From this site, you will be able to manage service requests for the Masters and Architects communities – such as ordering welcome kits and managing your contact information for the distribution lists and directory – and accessing training rotation and other community content (if applicable).

If you have not ordered your Welcome Kit, the last day to do so is October 31, 2013. To order your Welcome Kit, please contact the Advanced Cert team at

We thank you for your commitment to Microsoft technologies.


Shelby Grieve

Director, Certification Product Management
Developer & Platform Evangelism

I have invested countless hours and untold effort into Microsoft certifications for my career.  It is very disheartening to see Microsoft discontinue this level of certification.

There are a lot of really smart folks out there with MCSE certifications, which is now the “top tier” certification available.  But there are also a lot of “paper” MCSEs who gained their certifications using “brain dumps”.  Those folks are easily weeded out when the rubber hits the road, but they still cheapen the certification.

One of the most important aspects of the MCM certification program is that we spent three weeks in Redmond training directly with the product group, 7 days a week, 12-20 hours a day.  This was followed by a grueling 3 hour written exam and an 8 hour qualification lab.  Even after all that training, the pass rate was less than 30%.

I will miss not having the opportunity to upgrade in the future, but at least we still have contact info for each other and we still have access to each other through the MCM DL.

And I can still say I’m a Microsoft Certified Master.

Announcing the Sixth Annual UC Roundtable at TechEd 2013!

I’m pleased to announce the Sixth Annual UC Roundtable at Microsoft TechEd North America 2013 in New Orleans, LA!

The purpose of the UC Roundtable is to gather Exchange and Lync MCMs, MVPs, Exchange product group members, admins, architects, and experts for a free-flowing discussion about issues, questions, and experiences related to Exchange and Lync Server.  If you work with Exchange or Lync you need to be here!

This will be an after hours event within walking distance of the TechEd hotels.  Location details and dates are in the works.

Please RSVP to for event details and location.  Spread the word and I hope you can make it!

Update for the UC Roundtable at TechEd Orlando

I’m very happy to announce that I’m joining forces again this year with the Microsoft Certified Master: Exchange Program and F5 for the 5th Annual UC Roundtable!

 This is a great opportunity to meet and greet the Exchange MCMs and the Microsoft Exchange Product Group at Micosoft TechEd in Orlando.  Appetizers and drinks will be served, compliments of our friends at F5!

Bring your Exchange and Lync questions for a fun evening of discussions around both products.  MCM Program Manager David Bjurman-Birr will be there to answer questions about the MCM:Exchange program, as will others, like me, who have gone through the program.
Please RSVP to  Formal registration details will be be going out soon to those who RSVP to me.
The location is not announced yet, but the date and time if the event will be
Wednesday, June 13, 2012.  6:00-8:00PM
RSVP now and mark your calendars!

New Microsoft Certifications Will Expire

In my earlier post today, I wrote that Microsoft’s certification program is being reinvented – Again.  One important fact was briefly mentioned in the video below, taken from the Microsoft News Center website: The new MCSE and MCSD certifications will expire.


At 1:07 the video explains, “Those holding an Expert certification are required to recertify every 2-3 years.”  The Expert tier is the new MCSE and MCSD certification.  This is supposed to ensure that their skills are always up to date.

It’s unclear whether “out-dated” certifications will simply expire or whether they will completely drop off the transcript altogether.  I hope it’s the former.  In my career as a consultant, I work with many customers with systems that are not “current” and are out of extended support.  It’s important for these customers to know that I’m certified on their old (and new) platform when performing a migration.

I can also imagine hiring managers for companies with older platforms would be interested in hiring IT Pros with certifications on what they run, not just the latest and greatest.

What do you think?  Leave a comment below.

Microsoft Reinvents Certifications – Again

Everything old is new again.  Today Microsoft announced that it has reinvented its certification program to directly address technology’s evolution to the cloud.  According to their surveys, “Top of mind for companies today is making sure they have the right skills and people in place to help them fully realize the benefits the cloud has to offer.”

To that end, Microsoft is reinventing their certification programs to help hiring managers find people who have the skills they expect in their IT environments, now and in the future.  The revamped program is a completely new approach to ensure certified individuals have the skills required to oversee an organization’s journey to the cloud.  Everyone wants to go to the almighty cloud, right?  Microsoft is betting on it.

According to Microsoft News Center:

The new certification framework has been streamlined to three skill levels to make it easier to navigate:
  • The Associate Level comprises the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) certification, which provides a clear starting point for job seekers early in their technology career. Candidates must prove they have the required skills to hit the ground running. This level represents a foundation and is the prerequisite certification necessary to earn an MCSE.
  • The Expert Level comprises the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) or its developer equivalent, Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD), and is Microsoft’s flagship certification for individuals who want to lead their organization’s transition to the cloud. These certifications recognize IT professionals and developers with broad and deep skill sets across Microsoft solutions.
  • The Master Level is the Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM) certification that differentiates the select few from their peers and represents the highest bar of knowledge and skills validation.
Microsoft is calling MCSE its flagship credential because it is the level that most people will aspire to, says Don Field, senior director of product management for Microsoft. It validates an individual’s ability to design and build solutions that may integrate multiple technologies, versions and products. These are the new kinds of skills that are needed for the cloud.

Microsoft had to ditch the MCSE (Microsoft Certified System Engineer) certification in 2009, due to several countries and municipalities having a problem with the term “Engineer”.  In some locations “Engineer” has a very distinct meaning and is regulated by their governments.  The MCSE certification was replaced with the MCITP (Microsoft Certified IT Professional) certification series and a plethora of very targeted certifications (MCTS).  
This added a ton of confusion, especially for those like me who invested for years in the MCSE certification.  Microsoft Learning went so far as to publish an article, “The MCSE is dead, its time to move on“.  Now that they’re bringing the MCSE back, I can imagine the new level of confusion this might bring, especially for all those hiring managers.  “Are you a new MCSE or an old MCSE?”

This will undoubtedly cause issues for those who are already on the MCITP track, which can be as many as 7 exams and take a long time to complete.  Microsoft hasn’t announced how that transition will happen, or how grandfathering might work.  There are other changes in the new certification tracks that I’m not at liberty to talk about.  Those details will be released by Micosoft later.

As an IT professional who made my career around Microsoft certifications, I have a vested interest in how this all works out.  I have been an MCSE since 1999 with Windows NT4 and followed every twist and turn that Microsoft Learning has thrown my way.  I upgraded all my MCSE and MCP certs to MCITP and MCTS over the years.  I became a Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) Exchange Server just last year.  Now I’m looking at re-branding myself all over.  Again.

What are your thoughts?  Stay tuned for more details…

Fifth Annual UC Roundtable at TechEd 2012 in Orlando

I’m pleased to announce the Fifth Annual UC Roundtable at Microsoft TechEd North America 2012 in Orlando, FL!

The purpose of the UC Roundtable is to gather Exchange and Lync MCMs, MVPs, product group members, admins, architects, and experts for a free-flowing discussion about issues, questions, and experiences related to Exchange and Lync Server.  If you work with Exchange or Lync you need to be here!

This will be an after hours event near the Orange County Conference Center.  Location details and dates are in the works.  And for those of you who attended the Fourth Annual UC Roundtable, I promise it won’t be here.  🙂

Please RSVP to for event details and location.  I hope you can make it!

MVP Global Summit 2012 and MEC is Back!

I returned from last week’s MVP Global Summit 2012 and had a blast.  Microsoft really knows how to treat its MVPs, and had a lot of content lined up for us – unfortunately, none it can be shared with you due to NDA constraints.  🙁

I can say that the Exchange team has been quite busy and was happy to share lots of new information with us.  I was pleased to attend breakout sessions with fellow MVPs and even a couple of fellow MCMs.  Tony Redmond, Paul Robichaux, Pat Richard, Jason Sherry, Mike Pfieffer and about 30 other MVPs were in attendance.  I’m happy to say that we all provided useful(?) feedback to the Exchange Team, who was also in attendance.

We also learned about a great surprise – MEC is Back!  Today we’re able to let everyone know.  The Microsoft Exchange Conference had its beginnings in the late 1990’s and ended in 2002.  It was THE Exchange conference and has deep roots in the community.   Michael Atalla, Director of Exchange Product Management, posted about the return of MEC over on the Exchange Team Blog.  Tony Redmond also wrote about missing MEC last year.  You can read his article on his blog, Thoughtsofanidlemind.

Be sure to visit MECisBack to register for more information!

Oh, and the coordinates on the MECisBack website?  They point to here.