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The MCM Program is dead. Long live the MCMs! Expand / Collapse
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Posted Monday, September 16, 2013 1:22 PM


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Great editorial, Grant. Five stars from me, because the system won't let me give you six.

EDIT: spelling! !! !!! In something this short


Tom
Post #1495257
Posted Monday, September 16, 2013 3:41 PM


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L' Eomot Inversé (9/16/2013)
Great editorial, Grant. Five stars from me, because the system won't let me give you six.

EDIT: spelling! !! !!! In something this short


Thanks!


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Post #1495309
Posted Tuesday, September 17, 2013 8:10 AM
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TravisDBA (9/16/2013)
True story Grant. However, IMHO, the higher level certs are also somewhat diminished as well. Particularly, if MS is going to just give up on them because they are just not generating enough money for them (like MIcrosoft needs more money ). Talk about a slap in the face to all the people who were currently heavily invested in the process of acquiring the MCM? I wouldn't be surprised if most people never went for another cert from them. It puts a stain on the whole certification process IMHO. It really makes you wonder where/who this decision actually originated from?


Apparently the cert programs are paid for by the business product they support, so even if the cert program wants to offer the master's etc, they can only do so if the business product team will pay for it in their budget.

Here's a blog with a comment at the bottom from a guy who says he used to run the master cert program. He explains how it was paid for, etc. Really good comment to read.


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Post #1495520
Posted Tuesday, September 17, 2013 2:30 PM
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I worked with a guy who was certified with nearly every programming/network cert he could get. He studied for a week or so for each, at work and at home, passed the test, then went on to the next cert. Probably paid for the dumps too. Helped him get some good jobs and good money, and he even teaches others with cert classes, again for good money. But, I had an ASP.NET book on my desk one day and he asked me "Hmm, I didn't think you were using ASP?" I wasn't. I was using ASP.NET. He was completely honest in that he didn't know the latest programming languages and hasn't kept up on the programming side. But that programming cert didn't help him one bit. I thought it was funny that he didn't even know the different between ASP and ASP.NET. Brain dumps mean that you knew enough or memorized enough to pass the test on that day, then probably forgot it a week later. Just like that Physics II midterm or the Calculus IV final from umpteen years ago.

Speaking of that, to open up another can of worms, why are we even still using the university setting for learning anymore? I'm using less than 5 - 10% of what I've learned in college/grad school. I have a nice piece of paper that helps get a better job for some reason, but I'm not sure why. Can anyone answer that? It almost seems like a technical/focused program would be much better, but the culture seems to prefer the well-rounded/educated-in-college mindset. Every position I've been in has regarded college degrees much, much better than certs. I probably take for granted how much I learned in secondary school, but then again, I'm not so sure. If you can read, you self-educate yourself every time you take part in that activity. I think that's the true key to success - how much you're willing to work for it, regardless of whether you have a BS degree, MS (more of the same) or PhD (piled higher and deeper).

I feel that sometimes I get trapped in some jobs where you get stuck doing CR*P/maintenance work that you hate and that definitely doesn't help progress your career or your sanity/mental health, but hey, it's a job and it pays the bills. That's the kind of thing that hurts your interviewing capabilities. I could get easily stumped on some SQL Server basics because it's not something I used every day. I'd have to take a refresher without a doubt in order to get some jobs...
Post #1495676
Posted Tuesday, September 17, 2013 2:42 PM
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I think there's an understandable negative attitude towards MS certifications amongst a lot of experienced developers. That's probably better than taking an overly rosy view of what certification can achieve, but I don't fully agree.

I've been using SQL Server professionally for about four years now, and took my MCTS in SQL 2008 development about a year ago. I'm currently preparing to take the latest entry-level C# exam in a couple of months' time. The value of these is definitely in giving structure and motivation to round out your knowledge in areas you might not otherwise have considered. If you're cheating at the exams, or doing the bare minimum of cramming to get a passing grade, don't bother!

That said, I don't plan to take a load more Microsoft exams after my next one. I think once you've got a good sense of the fundamentals, it's best to learn organically based upon what interests you and what you need on-the-job. I also suspect there are diminishing career returns unless you plan to really dig in and bet the farm on being a Microsoft specialist. My best guess is that improving my skills on something completely different (possibly Python, which I already know a bit of) will ultimately contribute more to making me a skilled developer than learning how to build Windows 8 Store apps, and ditto (e.g.) PostgreSQL or Neo4j on the database side of things.
Post #1495683
Posted Tuesday, September 17, 2013 3:09 PM
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alex.d.garland (9/17/2013)
...The value of these is definitely in giving structure and motivation to round out your knowledge in areas you might not otherwise have considered. If you're cheating at the exams, or doing the bare minimum of cramming to get a passing grade, don't bother!...


Concur Alex. Not saying they're worthless - agreed that studying can really help to make sure you've covered all the bases. But I can also get that with my favorite book or Pluralsight course. I once took a MS programming exam without studying for it a few years ago to see what it was like. I *couldn't believe* all the silly IDE-related questions that I could easily answer with Visual Studio open. A lot of it is a memory quiz. I didn't even consider going back to retake the test. That's what intellisense is for - to help guide you to a given available method or property. But when they give you a test on something that is provided for free that I don't need to know, it's stupid IMO. And since when do I have to take a test while I'm at work? Without a book or the internet. What???!! Ha - I just can't see my boss coming up to me and asking me to create something for him and, oh, I have to use Notepad and no internet access. And he'll be timing me to make sure I get it done in 2.5 hours. Yeah, right.

Again, not trying to slam the cert test in and of itself, but it's the learning process that pays the dividends and how you then use/apply that knowledge. All I'm saying. It all has to carry over and be useful to you for it to have any value for you or your employer.

I interviewed for a job once where the manager gave me an assignment/task to accomplish in an hour and a half or so. He said you can use any source you want, and provided a computer with internet access, Visual Studio and - eek! - Microsoft Access for the data layer. I had trouble finding a working web.config-based connection string for Access and asked him who uses Access for an application anyway. Oh, and I was 30+ minutes late for that interview because I was working on a calendar solution to send to another manager where I had interviewed a few days prior. And I even got up in the middle of the interview to take a phone call from the other manager where I was offered the job. Hilarious. I didn't get an offer for the second job. I wonder why?
Post #1495695
Posted Tuesday, September 17, 2013 3:48 PM


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Alex, no question that the format and structure can be an aid to learning. But I remain unconvinced that most people view it that way or use it that way. I'm absolutely not knocking those who do. I'm just saying that the other people are radically reducing the worth of the cert, even though you did get great good out of it.

Steve, you're asking the wrong person. I'm a film school drop-out who is self-taught in computers. No certs. No degrees. On paper, I'm worthless. Ha!


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Post #1495706
Posted Tuesday, September 17, 2013 4:41 PM
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So I'm a little confused on what to do, there are good arguments for and against certs. I took a pay cut to get this job because I wanted the experience but I am not sure how much longer I can afford to stay. This is the only work experience I have in this field and I'm worried that it won't be enough. There was advice about saying what I have done, projects I've led and initiatives I've taken but will it be enough? Three years ago I was working in the body shop and I'd rather not go back.
Post #1495722
Posted Tuesday, September 17, 2013 6:45 PM
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lol Grant, you just cemented the reasoning behind my question. Very successful, no certifications, no college. A vote for the self-taught man. You'da known that if you went to college.
Post #1495734
Posted Tuesday, September 17, 2013 8:03 PM
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Hey carpainter, I think the answer is "it depends". You are required to have a "computer" degree (computer science, computer engineering, software development, computer information systems) to work as a programmer/software developer for some companies/institutions, while others are not so picky. I'll relay some first-hand experiences I've had to give you a feel for what to expect since my employment in development since 1997. I worked at Lexmark as a coop student, in their technical support center, then they hired me after I got my first degree in Physical Science. I dropped out of UK as a senior in electrical engineering unfortunately after my wife was expecting our first baby, but that first degree helped get me hired, so I didn't look back. My first manager there told me they were picky about who they hired to write their software (printer utilities and print drivers), but I was a special case on the build team. I only helped build the tools to build the software, not build the actual software going out the door on the CDs. It was a good learning experience when I eventually got to work on our C++ command line tools with PVCS APIs and helped me understand the need for a masters so I have a real "computer" degree. That manager told me they preferred University of Louisville or Purdue grads, but "would take" University of Kentucky people. That was a carry over from the old IBM days (Lexmark is a spin off from IBM and had a bunch of old IBMers when I joined them in 1992) where they were picky and demanded grads who went to good schools with good GPAs. One guy I knew worked for IBM in Lexington and worked on the old PC bios and he told me that he had trouble getting his wife into IBM because she only had a 3.14 GPA. That's IBM. I suspect Hewlett Packard may be somewhat the same, but they also know there's some guys that can code and not have a degree. I was also interviewing in Louisville for a job (maybe a bank, but I can't remember) several years ago and they had hired a guy because his skills were such a good fit for the job but then had to rescind the offer because he didn't have a degree. Folks without a college degree can lose out on some good (better?) jobs just because they don't have a piece of paper. They told me that HR found out he didn't have a degree when they reviewed his application and kicked him out.

That said, I also worked at a place called ELAN Home Systems in Lexington, KY and worked along with several high quality electrical and mechanical engineers and guys with degrees in computer science and software development from Purdue. One of the better guys had a degree in electrical engineering and another in computer science and was well-respected. My office mate had a masters in electrical engineering. This was my first job after I finished my masters and I got a 26% salary increase by leaving ACS (affiliated computer services) in 2006. They just weren't going to give me anything for that degree, so I was forced to leave if I wanted more cash. (Not bragging here, just relaying some of my experiences for you). Those degrees do help, bottom line. One of the four guys on our software team didn't have any college, and he did okay. He had navy electronics experience, but not sure of the details. He was impetuous and a little scary in the way that he refactored code, but he did fine. He later went to work for ACS and as far as I know is still there. He worked initially at ELAN in the technical support area and got into the back door doing software development because he worked hard at night learning on his own. I'm not sure he would have gotten in the door as a software developer off the street without a degree, because, as far as I know, no one else in engineering or the software team was without a degree.

ACS is a different story. After ELAN dissolved, we all got laid off. We helped get this guy on to ACS - without any college I believe, but it took at least two interviews. He wasn't strong at all with SQL Server and he essentially failed the technical interview when they asked him questions like "What would you do if you had an application that was running slow" and other SQL-related questions like "What's a primary key" and other basics like that. He told me that he said "I'm not sure" several times so it's pretty obvious he wasn't a good fit. But I gave him some primers and told him to bone up on his SQL skills and he could probably get in, and he did.

So, that long-winded discussion brings us to this point. Degrees help a lot. Certs can get you an interview, but you still have to know your stuff to get the job. The career lab for the Nashville .NET Users Group here - http://nashdotnet.org/2013/01/january-17th-career-lab/ has a lot of very good career/interviewing information that is critical to understanding how to get a job. It's an hour and a half recording of their career panel of hiring managers and recruiters and it's very eye-opening. They had so much good information that I took extensive notes and would be happy to PM/email that to you if you want it. They say they don't look at programming certifications much at all if I recall correctly. I don't have that in my notes that they said that, but I'm pretty sure they're where Grant is on that. IMO, it's generally known that the MS programming certifications are just memory work and they don't really prove a thing. And, definitely don't mean that you know how to program. I believe the networking/Cisco certifications are different. The two guys on our team here at work (not at ACS) have extensive certifications for servers and/or networking and are very skilled individuals. They back up their certs with bona fide skills. If you don't have a degree, some hiring managers will skip over your resume/cv very quickly if some accomplishments aren't apparent. It always helps to know people and network with those you know. Experience, know-how and good skills trumps everything most of the time.

Hope that helps. It sure took a long time to write. : )

--Steve
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