Retiring? Say it ain’t so!?

I have spent quite a bit of time in the past two years writing and speaking about IT certifications.  It is hard to believe that my path to certifications started about six years ago, and that I passed my first certification exam just over four years ago.  It feels like yesterday that I first walked into a training centre to ask about classes.


A friend sent me a list of exams that are slated to be discontinued on March 31, 2008, precisely five years to the day after I passed my first certification exam… and wouldn’t you know it, that exam – as well as five others on my transcript – are on the list.


On the one hand it seems like yesterday but also it is a lifetime ago that I first stepped into a training centre and inquired about certifications – courses and exams.  I thought they would be easy as pie and even bragged once or twice that I could be an MCSE without much trouble if I took the time to do it.  Neither one of those statements proved true; I remember the two exact moments when I realized how wrong they were. 


The first was when my friend and I – two very smart people with a combined twenty-odd years of experience in computers – sat down and collaborated on a practice exam.  We read through and discussed every question diligently and three hours later found out we scored about twenty-one percent.


The second moment of realization hit home when after studying the MOC and working and practicing I failed my first exam.  It was December 11, 2001 at a training and testing centre that closed shortly thereafter, and I realized that this journey would not be as easy as I had thought.


There are many reasons that IT people pursue certifications; often it is their employers who require them for advancement; some people are told by potential employers that their chances of getting certain coveted positions would improve with certifications.  Others get them because as professionals they feel they need to demonstrate that they are proficient in the latest technologies to keep up with (or ahead of) the pack.


To curb the mounting costs associated with courses and exams there are some professionals who allow their employers to cover those costs, and frankly there was a time when that was offered to me.  I decided against it because the offer came with a contract extension that was longer than I wanted to commit to for less than favorable terms.  I found it was (in the long run) a better decision to pay my own way and own my own destiny; it was a decision that employer probably regretted when I resigned the day I passed my first exam.


So as I look at the list of exams slated to be discontinued next March (for a complete list visit I am tempted to take a few of them before the retirement date, just to achieve a couple of certifications that I have missed out on along the way.  Frankly the only reason to take these exams would be for self-satisfaction because I am pretty sure that people have long since stopped being impressed by new Windows 2000 certifications.  I am sure I could dig up a few exam vouchers to mitigate the cost of them, but I would have to take some time to study for them – and as it has been some years since I have gotten my paws dirty on a Windows 2000 Server I would have to study.


A friend of mine recently called me a certification junkie; as soon as there is a new exam I generally pounce on it.  If we are going to stick with that analogy it is the fleeting satisfaction of passing exams that is my drug, along with the letters after my name.  It is not an inexpensive habit but to be fair it is slightly more beneficial than many; the certifications I hold have given me credibility with employers, clients, other professionals, and hopefully with people who read my articles.


So all of the Windows 2000 exams that I have taken are being retired, including the upgrade exams FROM 2000 to 2003.  There are a number of exams for Longhorn Server (stay tuned for the actual name!) that will be in beta release in time for TechEd, but don’t expect them to go live too quickly after that.  So in the absence of new exams I suppose in the next few months I’ll fill in a few gaps in my 2000 and 2003 transcripts… just to feed the habit until my pushers release new product!

A clarification on certifications

I wrote this as a reply to a reply in the CanITPro blog, and thought it would be good to repost it here.  -M

I have said time and again that certifications are a path to follow, not a destination to arrive at.  I remember when I passed my first exam how excited I was to achieve my first cert… not knowing where that one would lead to. 

Though I cannot speak authoritatively on .NET certifications I can certainly do so on the IT Pro side of things, and can tell you that Microsoft is working hard to make the new generations of certifications relevent to both us as professionals and to companies and hiring managers looking to hire us. 

The new certifications are going to be task-specific in the case of the MCTS certs, and job-specific for MCITP certs.  So:

– Someone who holds the MCTS – Microsoft Windows Vista: Configuration will be certified in that specifically… It is a task that will be part of a job but will not be the job; and

– Someone who holds the MCITP – Microsoft Desktop Support – ENTERPRISE will be certified in that job role.

Notice that in the MCTS cert title there is a product name and version; this means that the cert expires when that product is retired by Microsoft.  In the MCITP there is no product name, but that job role certification will need to be renewed every three years.

I hope this clarifies a few things for you!

A truly complete set of learning material for 70-282.

Many people have complained that there was never a proper study guide for the exam 70-282: Planning, Deploying, and Managing a Network Solution for the Small and Medium-Sized Business, a requirement for achieving the Microsoft Small Business Specialist designation.  So when Microsoft invited a company that I work with to design a comprehensive set of e-learning courses specifically geared at the small business consultant, I was very excited by the opportunity.


Because so much of the material is so varied we decided to design seven two-hour courses to achieve two results: to prepare the consultant for the 70-282 certification exam, but also to prepare him or her for the real-world of SBS consulting.  The 5974 Collection is the result of weeks of discussions and months of writing, editing, correcting, and rewriting.  It is seven 2-hour courses that we believe will prepare you for the exam like no other collection.

Check it out at and let me know what you think!



The #1 enemy of Montreal Baseball

I am in South Florida tearing up the golf courses this week, and though I have not watched a lot of television while I have been down here I did catch one interview on Marlins Baseball.

Jeffrey Luria; So many Montrealers hate this man for what he did to baseball in Montreal.  If you don’t know, he and his partner-in-crime David Samson bought the Montreal Expos, then systematically destroyed them.  Many (myself included) honestly believe that they wanted to either move or destroy the Expos, and then abandoned them when the opportunity to buy the Florida Marlins arose.

Anyhow he was on TV before the Marlins’ home opener the other day from Dolphin Stadium, yapping about needing a new ballpark.  He insisted that the land near the Orange Bowl (University of Miami, formerly home to the Dolphins’) was not good enough, that they needed a new downtown ballpark, and if they couldn’t get one then they might have to consider moving the franchise out of Miami.

Sound familiar?

A downtown ballpark.  The words make me cringe.  They evoke memories of the CN yards on St-Jacques towards which hundreds if not thousands of Montreal baseball fans bought bricks (bloody expensive ones!) in vain hopes of restoring the glory to the once great Expos.  They remind me of the threats and promises and then systematic destruction of my favorite team by two men who were originally the saviours in the wake of the ownership consortium that made firesales fashionable again.

And now they are doing it again.  Luria and Samson are following exactly the same pattern in Miami as they did in Montreal.

Well… almost.  At least Florida fans got a World Series title out of those two before the threats began.  All we got were hopes and dreams, shattered like every promise they made.  The sad part is Florida will probably end up giving them their new stadium because they have already delivered one championship, and everyone loves a winner.

No wonder I took up golf.