A week or so ago, Microsoft announced that it was retiring the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) program, the granddaddy of all certifications offered by Microsoft, and it's caused a predictable stir in the community, with many having spent money working toward a certification they will no longer be able to take, or complete.
I have nothing but admiration for my friends who have managed to pass this MCM exam, but more about them in a moment. Let's talk certification for a minute. First, I should make it clear that I have a jaundiced view of most certifications. I am not Microsoft certified. I've never taken a single Microsoft certification test, including the sample tests, so I don't even know if I could achieve certification.
In theory, holding a certification proves a level of knowledge. It should show a potential employer that you, the certificate holder, retain a level of skill and understanding of a topic that you will apply to their business, as a more valued employee than the person who does not have that certificate. In practice though, I'm not so sure.
I used to interview people a lot. We went through hundreds of resumes (CVs) trying to find qualified candidates. It's actually shocking the numbers of people, who have 3-5 years of experience with databases, yet don't know the difference between a clustered and non-clustered index, or can't tell me about Recovery Models in SQL Server. Even more shocking is the number of people who have passed multiple certifications, and don't know those things either.
As a result, I never saw the need for, or benefit of, certifications. My experiences interviewing people who absolutely failed to demonstrate even the most basic knowledge of SQL Server but who nonetheless were certified to the hilt, made my already small respect dwindle to nothing.
Look up the word 'dump' associated with most of these Microsoft certifications. It is so easy to cheat your way through these exams that it almost feels intentional. The MCM program was different, though. It was rigorous, it was hard, it wasn't just a multiple-choice test, it had a full on lab where you had to solve real problems. The people who started getting their MCM, I already knew were the best. Many of them wrote books and presented their knowledge; I knew they had a firm grasp on SQL Server. The MCM just confirmed and acknowledged their abilities.
Now, sadly, the MCM program is gone. However, those who passed the exam remain, and they remain Masters of SQL Server. No cancelled program can take that from them. So long live the MCMs!
Grant Fritchey (Guest Editor)