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 http://www.microsoft.com/learning/mcpexams/status/examstoretire.mspx) 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!