Tags: PMI, PMI study tips, PMP, PMP study tips
While I do manage projects in my daily work, I’d never thought of myself as an actual project manager. Being a take-action, Active Directory kind of guy, I primarily develop Microsoft practice exams and leave products like Project+ and CAPM to the professionals (aka Robin Abernathy). But last year several of my co-workers began suggesting that I take PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP) exam. Then my supervisor softly “suggested” that I take the PMP exam. Even my sister, a project manager, got in the game and encouraged me to take the exam. Furthermore, my sister said the exam was easy and did not take a whole lot of work to prepare for.
Well, she was wrong.
Since I am a veteran trainer, exam developer, and test-passer, my initial plan of attack was to fill out the application, take a practice test to identify gaps in my knowledge, do self-study to close those gaps, schedule the exam, take the exam, and pass it. BOOM! PMP-ville.
The Bad News
Not so fast. First, it took forever and a day to detail all of my project work experience for the application. Yes, you have to document 4,500 hours of project management experience (7,500 hours if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree). They also require 35 hours of formal project management training, which I didn’t have. The training materials was not actually a problem, as I was able to take a Skillsoft e-learning course that my company offers, but I did have to stop and find time for 35 hours of training in my schedule.
Once I finished the training and completed the application, back in June 2012, I got the go-ahead from PMI to schedule my exam. Next, I tested my existing knowledge by taking the Transcender PMP practice test. I failed that practice test miserably, and I emphasize: miserably.
I appealed to my friends and Dr. Internet for advice. One friend suggested a book that turned out to be a lifesaver: PMP Project Management Professional Exam Study Guide by Kim Heldman. Meanwhile, Dr. Internet suggested that I read the book chapter by chapter, then go through some practice tests after I’d finished the whole thing.
The More Bad News
Great plan, except for the part where it didn’t work. I would read one chapter, then another chapter, and then life would get in the way. I would put in one week of good study, then put the PMP info down for about 10 days. Unfortunately, a lot of the information that I’d studied seemed to float away. This process continued all the way through fall. By the time September rolled around, I was still not able to pass the practice tests that came with the book. Worse, the actual PMP exam is four hours long, but I had to take lots of breaks to finish each practice test. I just could not sit through all 200 questions. I felt like I was in high school taking the SAT test again. Augh!
I soon figured out what everybody and their mother has already posted on the Internet: you need to know every process, every input for that process, every tool and technique for that process, and every output for that process. By the way, there are a whole lot of processes. I tried to memorize them with repeated reading, but was never successful.
Finally, I tried using the audio CDs that came with Heldman’s book. Since my office recently relocated to East Tumbleweed, I had plenty of driving time to listen to someone else describe each process. Although this sounds like this would be outlawed by the Geneva Convention as torture, it actually helped a lot. I was able to memorize most of the processes and their information in this way. More importantly, I was able to do significantly better on the book’s practice tests, and started to make headway on the Transcender practice test as well.
The very last thing I did to prepare was to actually read the PMBOK guide. Not exactly a page turner, but it had to be done. I wasn’t too far into the PMBOK when I realized that Heldman’s book has done such a great job of explaining the abstract terminology with real-life examples, that I didn’t need to spend a lot of time with the PMBOK itself. I might owe dinner to the buddy that recommended Heldman’s book.
The Dire Warnings
Scheduling, or rather the impossibility of RE-scheduling the PMP exam, was no walk in the park. I strongly suggest that you do not schedule your exam too many months in advance. In fact, you might want to make sure your test date is carved in stone. If you need to reschedule your exam within 30 days of the exam date, you will have to pay a $70 fee. Worse, if you need to reschedule within 48 hours, you lose the entire testing fee ($405 for PMI members, $555 for non-PMI members). Ouch! Just be mindful, if you schedule the exam months in advance, life might get in the way, and you will risk losing your $70.
All warnings aside, I do recommend you set a goal date. I decided on the date that I wanted to take my exam and scheduled the exam only a few days out from that date. Set a target date for when you want to take the exam, and then try to schedule the exam two weeks out from the target date.
The test center where I took the exam reminded me of the gulag in the movie “Stripes” where the East Germans held John Candy, Judge Reinhold and the gang, before Bill Murray and Harold Ramis busted them out.
The lighting was so bad that I could barely see what I was writing on the scrap paper they gave me. As promised, the exam had 200 questions and blocked out four hours. My sister said that it would only take me two hours, tops. As I may have mentioned before, my sister was
wrong. It took nearly the whole four hours for me to finish. It was comprehensive and really a tough exam. After staring at a screen for four hours, I could barely see to drive home.
Finally, the Good Advice
The exam was not impossible. Looking back, there are some things that I would have done differently. For starters, former Transcender team member Jennifer Wagner gave some really good advice on the application process in her blog post from 2009. Like she mentions, you should start documenting your project hours as soon as you start thinking about the PMP exam to cut down on the time spent sorting out the application requirements.
After I finished the application process and got the approval to take the exam, I would have tried to take the test within 6 weeks. I would have taken several days off from work and buckled down to go through all the material and practice tests on a continual basis, instead of trying to dedicate 90 minutes to studying five days a week. PMI uses specific terminology to describe things that seem obvious or intuitive when you’re actually managing a project. If you do not know that terminology backwards and forwards, which I didn’t at first, it will be tough to pass the exam, even if you apply those principles every day at your job.
For me, the best way to get the knowledge about the processes was to go through as many practice test questions as I could to cement the information about the processes in my brain. There are about 800 practice test questions and over 1000 flash questions in the Trancender PMP practice test. I also went through the 400 practice test questions in the Kim Heldman’s book. With my work/life schedule, it took about two weeks to go through all those questions. Going through the questions highlighted my deficiencies. This was the key to the whole process, since after I identified the weak areas, I concentrated on the processes that I was weak on. I got better and better at the flash cards and practice questions until I felt ready to schedule my exam.
The more that you space the studying out, the less you’ll retain. Dedicate some time to the process and knock it out of the park while it’s still fresh. Hope this insight into my experience helps set your expectations & project management goals. Good luck!
Tags: resource review, SQL Server 2012, study resources, study tips
I am always trying to gain more knowledge that will advance my career. However, I’m finding that keeping up with the leading edge of technology can be a bit pricey. I don’t want to find myself looking for loose change in parking lots or scuba diving at night for quarters in the wishing fountain at the mall to pay for training and materials on SQL Server 2012. Thankfully, Microsoft offers a lot of FREE resources to help you learn SQL Server 2012.
I highly recommend the SQL Server 2012 virtual labs (http://www.microsoft.com/sqlserver/en/us/learning-center/virtual-labs.aspx). At the time of this post, there are 19 labs that are between 45 and 90 minutes each. They cover such topics as AlwaysOn Availability Groups and Upgrading to SQL Server 2012. Bang-for-the-buck-wise, this is the best way to gain experience with SQL Server 2012. With these virtual labs, you don’t have to invest money in SQL Server 2012 licenses or buy additional hardware to set up a multi-server configuration to prepare for certification; you just need a highspeed Internet connection and Internet Explorer. The labs consist of virtual machines running SQL Server 2012 with accompanying lab text in a sidebar. Not every feature of SQL Server 2012 is enabled in the VM, but there are enough features to play around with and get a feel for the controls.
The labs have step-by-step instructions. I actually recommend that you ignore them the first time around. The beauty of these VMs is that you do not have to perform the lab by the directions. You can use the lab to experiment with the software and test different features.
Free Books Online
The SQL Server 2012 Books Online resource contains everything that you wanted to know about SQL Server 2012 but were too clueless to ask. You can access it on the web at http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms130214.aspx. If you are in a firewall or proxy-restricted environment, you can download the information directly from http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/confirmation.aspx?id=347. The downloaded version is nice to have on your mobile device if you’re stuck in an airport with no Internet connection and the airline can’t locate the plane that is supposed to take you home…totally hypothetical situation of course.
Microsoft Books Online allows you to search on any topic. The search results are pulled from TechNet and other authoritative sources.
The information is FREE and is generally used by technical writers to put together materials for SQL Server.
Microsoft Prep Guides
These are the classic pre-certification resource: the objectives and sub-objectives that you must master to pass the test. For example, the prep guide for the 70-462 exam, Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases, can be located at http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/exam.aspx?id=70-462. Here’s a tip: you can change the last number in the URL to match, your specific Microsoft exam to find the prep guide for that exam.
The prep guide pages have four tabs: Overview, Skills Measured, Preparation Materials and Community. The Overview tab describes the audience profile for the exam and any certifications associated with the exam. The Skills Measured tab lists tasks that you must master to be successful on the exam. The tasks are broken down by objective and each objective’s weighting percentage for the exam. The Preparation Materials tab displays the officially Microsoft sanctioned training materials. By now you might be reading along and saying, “Gee, George, I already checked there, and it was a dead end!” I feel your pain. Generally, there is not a lot of preparation information listed for a relatively new exam, and what is listed usually isn’t free. So I encourage you to check out the Community tab which has links to newsgroups that can give you a better perspective on training and possible offer some reviews on just-released instructional materials, so I find them a better resource for new technologies.
The Skills Measured tab lists the tasks Microsoft recommends that you know for the exam. I would suggest that you don’t limit your knowledge or experience to the items on this list. In my recent experience with Microsoft exams, the Skills Measured tab contains about 95% of what you will be asked on the exam. The other 5% will be the kinds of questions you can only answer from experience (which is where the virtual labs come in handy). Remember, Microsoft is moving away from the standard fact-based multiple choice question types, and weighing their exams more heavily toward question types that emphasize hands-on knowledge — such as Build List and Reorder, Extended Matching, and Case Studies. This is why you need to have a lot of practical knowledge of SQL Server 2012 to pass the exam.
Despite what is listed, there probably is a Transcender practice test available or SOON TO BE AVAILABLE for most of these exams. Check the Transcender web site regularly over the next few months for the availability of the practice test.
Free e-book: Introducing Microsoft SQL Server 2012
You should definitely obtain the free e-book on Microsoft SQL Server 2012. This e-book is an overview of SQL Server 2012 and will introduce you to some new features in SQL Server 2012. You can download the e-book from the link for the 70-462 Microsoft Prep Guide, http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/exam.aspx?id=70-462#tab2.
Again, this is where those virtual labs come in handy. I guarantee that the certification exam will expect you to be familiar with the functionality changes between previous versions of SQL Server and SQL Server 2012. Go through the e-book chapter by chapter, and use the virtual lab to poke around every new feature introduced in the book.
To successfully pass a Microsoft exam and not spend a dime on additional training is possible, and I have done it, but you have to dedicate some time to it. You should go through each task in the prep guide for the exam. Learn all you can by searching for the task in the books online, and then perform the task in the virtual labs. This will enable you to update your existing knowledge of administering older versions of SQL Server and translate those concepts into 2012.
It is not hard or expensive to learn SQL Server 2012, but it is time consuming. Block out some time in your schedule and use the free resources that are available to master the skills required to gain your SQL Server 2012 certification.
Tags: exam tips, Performance-Based Testing, Study hints, test-taking tips
If you’ve taken a Microsoft test in the past, you’ve experienced the Single Answer Multiple Choice and Multiple Answer Multiple Choice questions. While this is a tried and true psychometric technique, a multiple choice question does not always fully test a candidate on his or her knowledge of the material. You may remember that a few years ago Microsoft launched performance-based testing (PBT) segments with their multiple choice questions. The 83-640 exam included a series of tasks that tested candidates’ abilities in a virtual environment. Although this exam and item type have since retired, most of us that had the chance to experience this item at a test center agreed it was the ultimate test of a candidate’s skill. And I, for one, very much doubt we’ve seen the end of the PBT item.
With a similar goal in mind, by which the certification exam truly separates the experienced IT professional from the pack, Microsoft has added several new item types to exams over the last few months. Well, I say new, but some of these item types are more like “vintage” and you just may have not seen them in a while. You can view the entire list here:
Active Screen – These questions are good at testing candidates’ knowledge because you see an actual screen. The downside is the candidate does not need to know where to go in the software to access the screen, the task is limited to the screen that’s provided.
Build List and Reorder – This is one you may recognize if you’ve taken Microsoft exams for as long as I have. This question type is used to test whether a candidate knows which steps are needed to perform a task and the order in which they should be performed.
Case Studies – Case studies allow a candidate to be tested based on different real-life business scenarios. Microsoft used case studies for the Windows 2000 Server and some Windows Server 2003 exams. If you do not have a high level of reading comprehension, you will find case studies to be time consuming. Several testing candidates who did not read rapidly enough struggled and ran out of time with this question type. Microsoft has addressed this issue by no longer timing each case study separately from the rest of the exam questions. While time management is still important, you get one clock for the whole exam, allowing you to spend a bit more time reading through the case study.
Create-a-tree – Similar to the Build List and Reorder question type, these questions test your knowledge on structures and organization. This question type first appeared in the NT 3.5 and NT 4.0 tests.
Drag and Drop – This is a basic matching question. This question type allows a candidate to be tested on multiple concepts. It also appears on exams from other vendors, such as CompTIA and Novell.
Hot Area – This question is similar to an Active Screen question. You have to click one or more places within a graphic to satisfy the question requirements.
Multiple choice – You have seen this question type zillions of times. I believe it was invented in 1,000,000 BC. This item type presents a scenario, a question, and a minimum of four answer options. A prompt within the item stem (or sometimes at the end of the question) will indicate the number of possible correct answers.
Repeated answer choices – These questions (which we called “extended matching” in our previous post, Multiple options beyond multiple choice) are presented in a series. Each question in the series has the exact same answer options. Each question is worded slightly differently, so the answer could be different for each question — or it could be the same correct answer across the questions in the series.
Simulations – These type of questions actually first appeared in Microsoft Vista exams. This question type does a good job of testing the candidate’s knowledge of navigating to the problem and choosing the correct answer. This type of question is better than an Active Screen or Hot Area because the candidate has to navigate the software or OS to find the screen or page that contains the correct choice, and is thus tested on his or her hands-on knowledge. If you do not know how to get to the right set of options, you will not be able to answer the question. The limitation to this type of question is that there may be more than one way to solve a problem. A simulation question may want you to fix a problem with a GUI tool, even though you could correctly solve the task with a PowerShell cmdlet or by running a command from the command prompt.
Short answer code – This type of question will force a candidate to actually type the correct answer into a text box or blank line. This type of question will test your knowledge of the correct code use, the proper order of the code and syntax of the code. We haven’t actually encountered this item type in the wild yet, but we’re keeping our eyes peeled.
Best answer – These type of questions appeared in the original NT 3.5 exams. It is a standard multiple choice question that may have one or more correct answers — you have to pick the BEST answer. People complained back in the day on the NT 3.5 exams as to what constitutes the BEST answer. I believe the debate will continue if Microsoft revives this item type on tests.
If you are planning to take a Microsoft exam in the near future, you may see several of the above question types – or none of them. If you have an issue with any of the types of questions on your Microsoft exam, please let Microsoft know in the comments section at the end of your exam. Also, if you liked a particular item type on an exam, please take a few seconds to let Microsoft know. And as always, we welcome any questions or comments you might have, and will do our best to reply or point you in the right direction.
Tags: free stuff, Windows Server 2012
What is truly free in this world? Well, there’s the air we breathe, but not the water we drink (it costs $1 in the vending machine), or a summer blockbuster (it costs $12, and they do not take free passes).
The sad truth is that most things in this world are not free. However, you can get actual free training on Microsoft Windows Server 2012.
Last month, Microsoft delivered a FREE Windows Server 2012 Jump Start virtual class that was presented by Microsoft Evangelist Rick Claus and President & Lead Architect for holSystems, Cory Hynes. The class covered an array of topics, and Rick and Cory did a great job of explaining each of them. If you missed this class, you can still watch the HD-quality video recordings on TechNet (links below).
If you do not have several straight hours to devote to watching these videos, don’t worry about it. Each module is broken down by topic and lasts for about an hour per module:
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (01): Core Hyper-V
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (02a): Virtualization Infrastructure, Part 1
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (02b): Virtualization Infrastructure, Part 2
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (03a): Storage Architecture, Part 1
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (03b): Storage Architecture, Part 2
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (04): Continuous Availability
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (05a): Multi-Server Management, Part 1
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (05b): Multi-Server Management, Part 2
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (06a): Security and Access, Part 1
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (06b): Security and Access, Part 2
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (07): Remote Connectivity and Networking
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (08): IIS, DHCP and IPAM
Each module is informative and does contain demonstrations of the topics. Most importantly, each module is engaging and not at all boring. Rick and Cory relate these topics to the real world environment. They also made a few jokes along the way which I very much appreciated. While Rick and Cory probably will not get their own special on Comedy Central, they did help make the time pass quickly.
If you’re curious about Windows Server 2012, if you plan to get certified in Windows Server 2012, or if you foresee having to install Windows Server 2012 at your office in the near future, I recommend that you check out these videos. I had the opportunity to take the 70-410 Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012 beta exam in early June, and I sincerely wish that I had watched these videos before attempting the exam.
Along with the 70-410 exam, Microsoft plans to release the 70-411 Administering Windows Server 2012 exam and the 70-412 Configuring Advanced Windows Server 2012 Services exams in the Fall. Before attempting any of these exams, I strongly recommend you take a few hours to check out the modules from this class. I’ll say it again: It’s FREE.
What’s better than free training? Okay, you could be watching “Live and Let Die” for the 25th time on the James Bond marathon. But you know how this one ends, James Bond gets the girl and defeats the bad guy. You can’t say you know how each of the Windows Server 2012 modules will end, so why not enjoy a marathon of Microsoft Jump Start virtual videos instead?
Until next time,
Tags: mcsa, mcse, TechEd, Windows 8
TechEd 2012 Orlando has come and gone. A great time was had by all. Now it’s time to go home and process the volumes of information, and hopefully share some of the highlights with you in the process. Windows 8 is the first one that comes to mind.
Microsoft featured Windows 8 in the keynote presentation. This operating system is a bit different from previous versions in that there is a heavily redesigned front-end, and it is designed with touch screens in mind. In fact, they had a DJ use a virtual mixing board using the Windows 8 platform to lay down a beat or two.
While the DJ demonstration did not really give me a clear sense of what Windows 8 can do beyond tablet integration, I will say the President of the Server Business at Microsoft gave a great overview of the future of Windows Server 2012. The keynote speeches gave attendees a quick look at the new operating systems and products and were a great kickoff to the week. You can view video recaps of the keynote speeches in the comfort of your own home: http://northamerica.msteched.com/#fbid=jT4iGRg006A
Another TechEd favorite are the hands-on labs. These labs are, hands down, the most popular part of the program. If you could find an empty seat, then you could play around with the latest technology. My technology of choice this year was Server 2012, Windows 8, and SQL Server 2012.
Microsoft offered discounts on existing exams and the opportunity to take beta exams for attendees. There was a Prometric test center where you could take your exams. According to Prometric, the 70-246: Monitoring and Operating a Private Cloud with System Center 2012 and 70-247: Configuring and Deploying a Private Cloud with System Center 2012 exams were the most popular exams taken at TechEd.
I took the 70-687 Configuring Windows 8 and the 70-410 Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012 beta exams. In past years, the test center was isolated and the whole exam process was effortless and very, very quiet. Not so much this year. The testing computers had some hardware issues, and the test center was about as quiet as a Widespread Panic concert on New Year’s Eve. Having said that, I’m sure the noise level was mostly due to the fact that people (read: fellow geeks) were very, very worked up about the new MCSE and MCSA certifications.
Which brings me to the newly announced certification tracks. Our good friends at TrainSignal Training filmed two great short clips of Don Field, Sr. Director of Product Management at Microsoft Learning, talking about the new MCSA and MCSE certifications as they relate to the new Windows Server 2012. Be sure to check these out if you missed the discussions at TechEd:
The workshop sessions for Server 2012 were also very popular. It seemed that every Server 2012 and System Center 2012 session that I attended jammed about 1,000 people into a space that should only hold 750. The SQL Server 2012 sessions were especially well attended, particularly those for the Business Intelligence tracks. Several of these great sessions are available online, so I recommend that you watch them while you can:
You can find the complete list of TechEd videos here on Channel 9.
Two years ago at TechEd 2010 in New Orleans, Microsoft made a big push for the Windows Phone. They gave out hats, shirts and had lots of presentations featuring the phone and its technology. Fast forward to TechEd 2012. I saw a lot of attendees carrying iPhones and I did not feel a lot of buzz for the Windows Phone. This year Microsoft gave out Windows Phone visors instead of hats. Where are all the Windows Phone fans?! I missed all that Windows Phone love!
There were a zillion (UN-official count by me as I walked the expo floor) people at TechEd this year. The show actually sold out which was surprising considering the stagnant economy. Here are some other interesting facts about TechEd:
- Breakfast is prepared by 90 chefs and they serve 40,000 slices of bacon.
- An attendee at TechEd will walk close to 30 miles over the duration of the conference. The Orlando Convention Center is a pretty big place.
- You need to visit a vendor’s booth and ask where the after-party is. Apparently there are after-parties that require an invitation from the vendor to get in to. They are for great for networking and meeting new contacts.
If you didn’t see me jammed into the last seat in the back row of that SQL Server 2012 session, maybe you caught me at the Transcender booth. I love working a trade show booth. You get to visit with customers and hear feedback about your product. I hope you had the chance to stop by and say Hello. We gave away lots of swag, talked to plenty of friendly faces, and noted every last one of your requests for the new Server 2012, SQL Server 2012, and Windows 8 practice tests. I can assure you: we are definitely working on this.
After a long, long, long week, the Transcender gang hit Universal Studios for a chance to mingle with the conference attendees and various other characters.
The week was a lot of fun, but now it’s back to work.
(Of course, even if you weren’t among the elite attendees of TechEd, you can still run a pre-release copy of the new operating systems from their Springboard series. You just have to do the hard work of installation yourself, and no one will serve you bacon while you do it.)
Until next time,
Tags: certification lifecycle, Certification Paths, cloud certification, mcsa, mcse, MCTS, zombie certifications
(ETA 10/01/12: Microsoft is still rolling out changes to these tracks. Be sure to check Microsoft Learning, Born To Learn, and our blog for the most current information on MCSA and MCSE.)
Yesterday a vendor called me on the phone and said that he had a great price on the latest MCSE classes. He went on to explain that these classes taught all the latest, hottest technologies. They were so virtualized, a team of physicists argued over their very existence. They were so far up in the cloud, you needed a telescope to find your exam. Once he’d wound down the hyperbole, I asked him what operating system that the classes covered. He told me, “Windows Server 2003.”
I have news for you, buddy: Windows Server 2003 is nine years old. The problem is that MCSE, as a certification, became both the gold standard for HR staff and a synonym for the “brand” of Microsoft certification. When Microsoft retired those certifications in favor of the MCITP and MCPD and MCTS in 2005, they had problems selling the switch to die-hard certification holders. More importantly, it faced uneven adoption in the business realm. No one really jumped on the bandwagon. Human Resource managers and hiring managers still referred to MCSA and MCSE in job listings. Vendors who called me on the phone only knew “MCSE” and “MCSA.” (Sales people in my own office still do not understand the differences between MCTS and MCTIP, but at least they realized the MCSE was gone.) I’ve had students tell me they’ve applied for recent jobs that cited a MCSE as a requirement. I guess Microsoft felt the time was right to reanimate the dead MCSA and MCSE certifications.
As I’m sure you’ve heard by now–that clueless vendor had it half-right. The MCSE and MCSA are back!
The new MCSE is not your Dad’s MCSE. First of all, MCSE now stands for Microsoft Certified SOLUTIONS EXPERT, not Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. If you attain the new and re-released MCSE, you are an expert in Microsoft solutions, not an engineer. (You are an engineer if you passed a lot of physics and calculus classes.) The new MCSA is now called Microsoft Certified SOLUTIONS ASSOCIATE, instead of Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator. That also makes more sense. If you attain the MCSA you are certified in various Microsoft solutions, but not necessarily a sysadmin.
The old MCSE made you pass several tests based on the Windows operating system plus an elective subject, like Exchange Server or SQL Server. The new MCSE currently offers certifications in MCSE – Private Cloud and MCSE SQL Server 2012. Going forward, Microsoft will offer more MCSE certifications as new versions of products are released. Look for the MCSE Data Platform certification to roll out tests in June 2012.
The new MCSA is similar the old MCSA. Microsoft currently offers certifications in MCSA Windows Server 2008 and MCSA SQL Server 2012, but will offer more MCSA certifications as new versions of products are released.
To get the MCSA: Windows Server 2008, you would have to pass the following:
- Exam 70-640 – windows Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuring
- Exam 70-642 – Windows Server 2008 Network Infrastructure, Configuring
- Exam 70-646 – Windows Server 2008, Server Administrator
Hey, wait a minute. Wasn’t there already a certification for someone who passed the above tests? Yeah, it was called the MCITP: Server Administrator on Windows Server 2008. The good news is that if you’ve been studying toward these exams, you haven’t wasted your precious certification time. The Private Cloud certification requires that you pass the following:
- Exam 70-640 – windows Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuring
- Exam 70-642 – Windows Server 2008 Network Infrastructure, Configuring
- Exam 70-646 – Windows Server 2008, Server Administrator
- Exam 70-247 – Configuring & Deploying a Private Cloud with System Center 2012 OR Exam 70-659 Windows Server 2008 R2 Virtualization
- Exam 70-246 – Configuring Monitoring and Operating a Private Cloud with System Center 2012
The 70-246 and 70-247 exams should be released this summer.
The SQL Server 2012 MCSE Server certification has two different platforms: Data Platform or Business Intelligence. To get the MCSE: Data Platform, you have to pass the following:
- Exam 70-461 – Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012
- Exam 70-462 – Administering a Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Database
- Exam 70-463 – Implementing Data Warehouses with Microsoft SQL Server 2012
- Exam 70-464 – Developing Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases
- Exam 70-465 – Designing Database Solutions for SQL Server 2012
If you have a MCTIP: Database Developer 2008 certification or MCTIP: Database Administrator 2008 certification on SQL Server 2008, you can upgrade to the MCSE: Data Platform by passing the following:
- Exam 70-457 – Transition your MCTS on SQL Server 2008 to MCSA: SQL Server 2012 Part 1
- Exam 70-458 – Transition your MCTS on SQL Server 2008 to MCSA: SQL Server 2012 Part 2
- Exam 70-459 – Transition your MCTIP to MCSE: Data Platform
To get the MCSE: Business Intelligence, you have to pass the following:
- Exam 70-461 – Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012
- Exam 70-462 – Administering a Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Database
- Exam 70-463 – Implementing Data Warehouses with Microsoft SQL Server 2012
- Exam 70-466 – Implementing Data Models and Reports with Microsoft SQL Server 2012
- Exam 70-467 – Designing Business Intelligence Solutions with Microsoft SQL Server 2012
If you have a MCTIP: Business Intelligence 2008 certification on SQL Server 2008, you can upgrade to the MCSE: Business Intelligence by passing the following:
- Exam 70-457 – Transition your MCTS on SQL Server 2008 to MCSA: SQL Server 2012 Part 1
- Exam 70-458 – Transition your MCTS on SQL Server 2008 to MCSA: SQL Server 2012 Part 2
- Exam 70-460 – Transition your MCTIP: Business Intelligence 2008 to MCSE: Business Intelligence.
These exams should be released later this year.
This would be an excellent time to answer some questions I’m sure you have.
What about your MCTS and MCTIP certifications?
Well, you will still have those, but as time goes by they will retire.
If I get a new MCSA or new MCSE certification, will I have to recertify?
You betcha, brothers and sisters. The MCSA and MCSE certification will probably last only about 3 years before you have to recertify. What constitutes recertifying? You will have to pass a test or series of tests. The MCTS and MCTIP will become like a Cisco CCNA certification, the CompTIA A+, and other certifications where you will have to recertify every three years. Microsoft wants to keep the MCSE and MCSA certifications relevant. You can read more about this policy on Microsoft’s site.
If you’re still confused, I recommend these informative videos from the Born To Learn blog:
In my next blog post, I’ll go over the new “extended matching” item types being rolled out in Microsoft’s exams. Until then, keep you nose clean and your acronyms straight.
Tags: cloud certification
The latest overused buzzword in our industry is ”cloud”. Microsoft has a Cloud. HP has a Cloud. Amazon has one. Apple has one, but they call it the iCloud (how i-riginal?).
The fundamental purpose of the cloud is to provide on-demand data and services via your network connection instead of providing (or sourcing) it locally via physical hardware. The cloud service provider determines what types of resources are available to you based on your user account type, permissions, and fees. You may be a cloud end user that’s focused on data storage, a business cloud user focused on providing services and data storage to employees, or a cloud engineer who needs to know the infrastructure behind building and maintaining a cloud.
Major cloud players
Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) allows you to launch instances on varieties of Linux or Windows operating systems loaded with your custom application environment for a specific fee structure. (In case you are wondering, it’s cheaper to use Linux than Windows in the EC2 cloud.)
Apple’s iCloud is your “magic hard drive”. It can store all your music, photos and other content from your PC, iPad, iPhone, iPod,or whatever iOS-based device you may have. Apple will keep all your email, contacts and calendars for all your devices without forced synchronization. According to Apple, they will store 20,000 of your songs for a year for only $25.00 so you don’t have to keep all those Widespread Panic or Black Crowes vinyl LPs in your basement. (Vinyl may sound a whole lot better than digital, but it’s tough to store without a cool dry place.)
Microsoft is not too interested in storing your vacation photos from Myrtle Beach or mp3s. Microsoft’s cloud strategy is to offer services like Exchange, Office, SharePoint, and Lync to integrate in a cloud environment. With Office 365, a user can have access to Office applications, like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, that are not installed locally on the user’s PC, but are downloaded and licensed from the cloud. Exchange Online is a hosted messaging solution based on Microsoft Exchange. SharePoint online centrally stores and allows you to share documents and information with your colleagues and customers. Lync is the next generation of Office Communications Server, which provides an infrastructure for enterprise instant messaging, presence, file transfer, peer-to-peer and multiparty voice and video calling, web conferencing and PSTN connectivity.
VMware, of course, was practically in the cloud already with its virtualization solutions. Instead of focusing on the end consumer, VMware products are aimed at the IT cloud architect who manages cloud infrastructure, public cloud services, hybrid cloud services, and private cloud services for organizations.
Certifying that your head is in the cloud(s)
So far, major cloud certification plans have been announced by CompTIA, Microsoft, VMware, and various smaller players. Some heavyweights, like Cisco and VMware, have incorporated strong cloud-based skills into new and existing certifications.
Here’s a quick overview of certifications from major vendors. Look for more information in the coming months as tests are rolled out.
Cloud Part One: Microsoft
These new Microsoft Cloud services will require new skills. According to the IDC, over 33% of software purchases will be delivered through the cloud. To survive in this new world, you will need to have cloud skills. Microsoft’s Cloud Services: Training and Certification Overview page covers exams in four functional areas:
- Infrastructure management – MCSE Private Cloud
- Software development - Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, Microsoft SharePoint 2010, and Microsoft Lync Server 2010
- Database management – Azure Developer
- Services management - MCSE: Data Platform
If you are a developing or building cloud-based applications using Windows Azure, you can achieve your MCPD: Windows Azure Developer certification by passing three tests:
- Exam 70-513 TS: Windows Communication Foundation Development with Microsoft .NET Framework 4
- Exam 70-516 TS: Accessing Data with Microsoft .NET Framework 4
- Exam 70-583 PRO: Designing and Developing Windows Azure Applications
If you are prepping for the MCITP: SharePoint Administrator 2010 certification, it consists of the following tests:
- Exam 70-667 TS: Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Configuring
- Exam 70-668 PRO: Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Administrator
The 70-667 and 70-668 SharePoint exams are being updated to include cloud-related skills. As per Microsoft, 70-667 and 70-667 was updated to cover SharePoint 2010 SP1 and Office 365 as of January, 2012.
If you are prepping for any of the Exchange 2010 certifications that include exams 70-662 or 70-663, we expect those exams will be updated to include cloud-related skills.
The problem with adding cloud-related skills to an existing exam is that a lot of the exam prep materials listed on the Preparation Materials tab of the prep guide for these exams have not been updated to include cloud related skills. A lot of the Microsoft Press and third-party materials have not been updated either. If you are prepping for an exam that you know or suspect might be impacted by Microsoft’s Cloud Services make sure that you thoroughly research your topics. Do not rely solely on the materials that you received from a training class or the prep guide that you bought from your book retailer. Look at the Skills Measured tab on the prep guide for the exam and use the Internet to research the latest on the topics that are being covered on the exam. TechNet is a great resource for the latest info that may be on an exam. If you are not familiar with the Skills Measured tab of the prep guide for a particular exam, it’s a smart place to start! Here is where you find what the heck is on the test. The manual you got from the Microsoft Official Curriculum training class or the 700-page book you bought from Amazon may or may not include this information.
Look for an overview of cloud-focused certifications from VMware, Cisco, and CompTIA part 2 of this post. Until then, happy cloud computing!
Tags: interviewing tips, Motley Crue, resume', tattoos and piercings
A while back one of our team members ran across this LifeHacker post on IT job interviewing, provocatively titled Why I Won’t Hire You. The post stirred some spirited debate with the Transcender Team. Some of us thought it was refreshingly honest and contained valuable insights for a potential job candidate. One of us thought the author deserved a punch in the nose (metaphorically only — we’re not violent people, except where fantasy football/basketball is concerned).
Joking aside, we then sat around and discussed whether people need specific advice on interviewing for an IT job versus a non-IT job. Then we sat around and exchanged stories about people we’d actually interviewed for jobs who had made strange common-sense errors. Turns out we’ve seen it all kinds of quirks, from the classic typos-on-the-resume errors to showing up with their portfolio in a paper grocery sack.
Assuming you are qualified for the job you are applying for, you will have to go through a series of interviews. First there’s typically a screening, usually over the telephone but it can be in person where the employers will evaluate your overall fitness as a candidate. If you make it beyond the screening interview, you may go on to a series of interviews with the people in the department that will hire you — and that’s just the beginning. You might be called to dozens of interviews. Conclusion? That’s a lot of face time. So we feel there can *never* be enough tips out there to help an inexperienced (or experienced) job seeker ace an interview.
Here are some tips that might help you land the job.
If you are on time, I consider that you’re late. Arriving late does not leave a good impression. I recommend that you show up at the interview site at least 30 minutes prior to schedule. This will give you a few moments for last-minute prep for the interview. However, make sure that you check in for your interview no earlier than 10 minutes prior to the actual appointment time, because arriving too early could backfire if that person thinks you don’t value their time. So kill those extra 20 minutes in the parking lot or the reception area. While you’re there, take a sneak peak at the office environment and get a glimpse of the office culture.
It’s easy to win friends by talking about other people rather than yourself. However in an interview you need to sell yourself. Take some time before the interview and study the company that you are interviewing. Learn about the company, but don’t regurgitate the company’s website or annual report. If possible, try to learn as much about the department that will be interviewing you. You can set yourself apart from other interviewees if you can highlight your assets in relation to their specific needs. For example, if you know the company will be installing several SQL server instances and will need support, you should highlight your previous experience of managing, maintaining, backing up, and restoring databases on a SQL server. Remember, though, that the person conducting the screening interview may not be technical, so keep your experience to what is advertised in the job posting.
The days of people wearing Brooks Brothers suits and 100% cotton starched shirts may be gone. People tend to dress business casual in the workplace, and go even more casual in the IT world. To stand apart from the herd of candidates, you need to be neat and clean. You don’t have to look like you are ready to pick up your prom date at your parent’s house, but in a way, an interview is like a speed date. You need to make a good impression fast. Your date is not going to appreciate an unclean, unkempt person, or the person who over-dresses. I try to know what their office dress code is and aim to go one step above it.
In my role as a trainer I’m frequently asked about tattoos and piercings on a job candidate. I do not have a tattoo or piercing and not going to get any, but they don’t bother me. If the person can do the job and gets along with other team members, why should I care? But – and this is a big but – the person conducting the interview may not share your same view on tattoos and piercing. Many companies ask employees to keep tattoos covered in the workplace. For an interview, I recommend you cover the body art and remove piercings. An HR employee at a large company once told me, “Tattoos and piercings are not professional and we only hire professionals.” Does having a tattoo or a piercing mean that you cannot do the job? Of course not; that’s ridiculous. Do employers hire people based on looks? Well, a company cannot discriminate against you based on sex, religion, race, age or reproductive status, but they can certainly choose to not hire you based on looks. If you look like you fell into a tackle box or you have tattoos like a member of the band Motley Crue, expect the hiring company to hold that against you. It may not be fair, but it is legal.
You should expect to have some skills test, written test or combination of both in order to gain employment. I am from the school of thought that people do not intentionally lie on a resume, but they may stretch the truth. A prospective employer has the right to call you on your skills and experience. The information that you put down on a resume should be corroborated by someone else at your current job or previous job. Do not expect an employer to accept the fact that you can do a particular task because a person you work with and a person they have never met says that you can.
When I interviewed for a LAN administrator’s job, I was called back to perform a series of tasks within a 30 minute time frame in a lab the company had set up. That was the fastest 30 minutes of my life. The company wanted a highly skilled candidate that worked quickly. This was their way of weeding out candidates.
As I said before, people tend to stretch the truth on a resume, but you should not out-and-out lie. If you lie about certifications, degrees, or other items that can be checked, you will get busted. Expect to give the prospective employer a copy of your certification transcript or your certification ID number. For example, if you are certified in a Microsoft product, you will get a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) number which can be used by a prospective employer to check your Microsoft transcript. CompTIA, Oracle, and Cisco also issue IDs for their certified professionals. If it can be checked, do not lie about it. Even little lies will get you in trouble.
Another true story – a hiring manager had to choose between two candidates. One candidate, who was only was a casual jogger, said that he ran in the 2008 Boston Marathon and placed in his age group. The hiring manager looked this information up on the Internet and found it to not be true. That candidate did not get the job. The hiring manager said if he lied about running in the Boston Marathon, he could have lied about anything else.
Oh yeah – and pictures say a thousand words. Start vetting your social profiles — Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and so on – before you apply for jobs. Those pictures you have on Facebook may not paint a very favorable picture of yourself. Any modern employer will do a quick background check on you. Expect them to look at your Facebook page. Make sure there is nothing there that will cost you a job.
Another true story. Former Georgia Tech football coach George O’Leary was named head football coach at Notre Dame in 2001, but had to resign a few days later for resume’ padding. Although the padding was on his resume for over twenty years, he had never rechecked and updated the information. Although Coach O’ Leary has bounced back at University of Central Florida, winning conference titles, winning bowl games, and being a positive influence in the lives of young athletes, he may be remembered by some as the guy who once lost a job for resume padding — and that truly is a shame.
The demand for IT professionals is increasing. There are many challenging opportunities opening up. With a little preparation, you too can present yourself as the top notch candidate who will be hard to pass up.
Tags: exchange 2010, exchange 2010 sp1, exchange 2010 sp2
Although it hasn’t been too long since Exchange 2010 SP1 was rolled out, Exchange 2010 SP2 was recently released. When reviewing the changes between service packs, you need to remember that changes are cumulative, and features introduced in SP1 will be rolled into SP2. I’ve prepared an overview of the enhancements featured in both service packs that you might find the most helpful in your daily work or in preparing for an exam.
We live our lives under the microscope. As an Exchange administrator, you will need to track changes made for regulatory compliance. Exchange 2010 SP1 allowed enhanced auditing ability. Audit logs are accessed using the Exchange Control Panel (ECP) Auditing Reports page or the Search-AdminAuditLog or New-AdminAuditLogSearch cmdlets. The new audit abilities of the Exchange service packs allow you to discover who logged into a mailbox and what actions were taken there. You can now track mailbox access by mailbox owners, delegates, and administrators, check whether a message was moved or deleted, and discover whether, when, and how a mailbox folder or message was accessed.
If you had to place a litigation hold on a mailbox, you could not remove the mailbox or disable the mailbox while the mailbox has a litigation hold. However, SP2 now allows you to bypass this restriction by using the IgnoreLegalHold switch parameter when removing or disabling the mailbox with the Disable-Mailbox or Remove-Mailbox cmdlets.
There are several enhancements to your ability to track messages with the latest Exchange 2010 service pack. There are new event log entries, alerts, and performance monitor alerts that can be used to monitor and troubleshoot message tracking. You can get logs of every operation that was executed by a Client Access server processing a delivery report request to ensure detailed tracking.
You can use the Exchange Control Panel (ECP) to manage Exchange ActiveSync devices. You can use the ECP to allow or block a specific mobile phone or device for a specific user. You can set up alerts when a mobile device is quarantined.
With SP2, a mini version of Outlook Web App has been rolled into the interface. It was designed to work with a mobile operating system so that users can perform most e-mail actions from a mobile device, and relies on Basic authentication. To access the mini version of Outlook Web App, append /oma to your Outlook Web App URL. For example, if your Outlook Web App URL is https://mail.nutex.com, the URL for the mini version of Outlook Web App would be something like https://mail.nutex.com/owa/oma.
You now have wizards to help streamline the process of configuring a hybrid deployment between an on-premises organization and Office 365 Exchange organization. The new Hybrid Configuration Wizard creates the foundation for the hybrid deployment. The Manage Hybrid Configuration wizard configures your Exchange organization for the hybrid deployment.
You should review the permission enhancements rolled out with Exchange 2010 SP1. With the new enhancements, you can limit which databases certain administrators can manage and control via database scopes. Unfortunately, this feature is not backwards compatible to Exchange 2010 RTM. Database scopes cannot be viewed, modified or deleted from Exchange 2010 RTM servers.
Exchange administrators and Active Directory administrators have separate duties. Continue Reading What’s new in Exchange 2010 with the latest Service Packs?…
Tags: AT&T, Charlotte, crisis, iPad, iPhone, NC, Netflix, piano cat
When I was a kid, the interstate that traveled through downtown Atlanta called the “connector” had only three lanes in each direction. The Department of Transportation (DOT) spent years expanding it. When I graduated college it had so many lanes that traffic was not going to be a problem. I moved away to Charlotte and came back a few years later. All the lanes that were added to the downtown connector did not matter. There were too many cars and not enough lanes. The same problem is happening with our wireless networks.
The Internet was called the informational super highway. This new highway could educate millions all you needed was modem. The modem went by the way side a long time ago because we needed more bandwidth for downloading and watching video. Now we can surf the Internet with our wireless networks and those airwaves are getting very crowded. If you thought that the problem was caused by people looking a Piano cat videos on YouTube, think again. Now with the surge in smart phones and other mobile devices the crunch on Internet bandwidth is greater than ever before. Those cool iPhones consume 24 times as much data as traditional cell phones. Tablets like the iPad consume 122 times more data than a traditional cell phone. As more people use smart phones and tablets, there will be a 35 fold increase in mobile traffic. The experts say that we will run out of bandwidth in a few years. Can anything be done to stop this catastrophe?
The spectrum is getting thin. Spectrum is used to refer to public airwaves that radios, broadcast television and mobile phones use. These airwaves are overseen by the federal government. Since the public airwaves are getting thin, the Obama administration wants to double the space that serves broadcasters and cell phones in the next decade. Federal government use 18% of all bandwidth in the US exclusively and shares 52% of the US bandwidth with the private sector. 6% of the all bandwidth in the US is for TV broadcasters. The government would like to take back some of the bandwidth spectrum and auction it off and give the current spectrum holders a cut of the profits. The General Accounting Office said that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) the agency that oversees the 60+ federal agencies does not know which agencies are fully using or under utilizing their allocated bandwidth spectrum. It could take the government years to reallocate their bandwidth spectrum. Each of the 60+ agencies is probably not going give up their bandwidth spectrum allocation without a fight, because they may feel that they want to use that bandwidth one day. Some private companies such as TV broadcasters may have some of the bandwidth spectrum but are not fully using it. However, private companies are not going to want to hand back precious bandwidth spectrum to the government. This is America, no one wants to hand back to the government something so the government can re-allocated it out.
Once there was a world with plentiful and low cost bandwidth, those days are coming to an end. Several providers are moving to bandwidth caps on their service. AT&T recently imposed a 250GB data cap for users of its DSL service. What does this do to my Netflix account? Well if you want to watch a lot of HD movies in 1080p, you will probably hit that cap. AT&T will sell you additional bandwidth at a nice premium. This will take a bigger bite out of your wallet. Seven years ago, people who were illegally downloading stuff might reach that 250 GB cap. Now you could probably reach that cap while watching a lot of movies on Netflix. Yikes!
The law of supply and demand has kicked in. Now that bandwidth has become a precious commodity, the provider can ration it and charge more for it. Will the bandwidth run out? No, but it is going to cost you. Will the bandwidth crisis affect the economy? More than likely because it will limit communication and therefore limit growth. I hope that we will not see government campaigns for rationing.
I so love to look at dancing cat videos on my phone.