Certification Lonely Hearts Club Band

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IT always has been known as a trade with varying amounts of work-life balance. Some techies work 40 hours a week, and it doesn’t take over their lives. Others have jobs that demand long hours. Truthfully, the industry needs both situations to sustain itself, and organizations generally are able to attract people who thrive on both arrangements and get them into the right positions.

Whichever side of this work-life dichotomy is chosen, however, seems to have an effect on an IT pro’s love life.

A couple months back, we had an intriguing question posted in our General Discussion forum by masterssullivan, a fixture on our CertMag.com discussion boards (although he seems to be MIA lately — where ya been buddy?). “This question is just for the men out there,” Masters wrote. “Have you found that getting certified increases your rate of being successful with women? I met my wife after I got certified, and I don’t know if it was the extra money or confidence that certification gave me, but I’m pretty sure they’re somehow related. Anyone else?” Two months later, we saw a response from Wagnerk, another CertMag.com forum regular.

“I met my wife before I got any certifications. However, I do believe that certification reinforces what you know, hence, increases confidence, which is good for both sexes.”

Newer member rexon replied, “Lucky. But, then, this comes from someone who is married to his career. I mostly do not have the time to find someone — no matter how much I try to make life easier for myself at work, I am working still more hours.”

It seems that feeling dually fulfilled in their personal lives and their paid occupations is something IT professionals struggle with (no surprise), as it’s a real issue in all industries.

Also in our General Discussion forum, new member meetme_sanju had a question on a SNIA certification. “I am planning to go for SAN certification. Could anyone please advise me on SNIA certification and the study guide that I can refer to?”

CertMag.com forum regular Wayne Anderson offered valuable advice.

“I assume first that you are referring to the Storage Networking Certification Program. There is the SNIA Certified Professional, the Certified Systems Engineer, the Certified Architect, as well as the expert-level certification. We can look at some of the things general to all the SNIA certs. The first thing you have to understand about the SNCP is that, for the most part, it is concentrated on the largely vendor-neutral aspects of storage. Accordingly, it is highly concept-oriented rather than oriented purely in the implementation aspects common to vendor certifications from storage providers like IBM and EMC, etc.

“Think of it like the GIAC, GSEC or the Security+. Instead of focusing on narrow technical platform items like the Cisco Certified Security Professional exam does, the vendor-neutral certifications look at the information behind how things work, how things connect and how data networks work — that sort of information.”

Career Development
Over in our Career Development discussion board, the dialogue continues on Anderson’s December post “Open Letter to the Certification Community.” Junior member rexon had some thoughts on Anderson’s point that “certifications are intended to provide a validation of knowledge AND experience.”

“I can understand the validation of knowledge, which is why I go for the certifications, but experience? This might depend on how much experience one has. When talking to another about certifications, [Anderson] states that the tests are how Microsoft wants you to do their technology. Some things done in the ‘real world’ are very different from the test answers. Here is the fine line where experience might not be good for taking tests.”

Anderson responded, “This is valid, to a point. When I talk about these certs with colleagues, we joke that there is a Microsoft bubble. Within this bubble, your experience does not exist. Still, I would like to point out that although Microsoft does prioritize emphasizing best practices in implementing technology over the ‘right way’ based on experience, by and large, the certification methodology is not intended to be an examination of your rote memorization of the Microsoft material but is further supposed to be an ongoing indicator that you have the practical experience to be able to apply that knowledge and complete a given scenario.

“I would also point out that I said ‘IT certification.’ Beyond the Microsoft world, there are a number of other relevant certification programs to discuss here. Some of them are more experience-centric, and some of them I would not recommend anyone take. I would be careful in making sweeping indictments of what certifications are and aren’t if all your experience is centered exclusively in the Microsoft realm.”

Rexon and Wayne continued their discussion in a thread posted by rexon titled, “Keeping Motivated.” Rexon first provided a little background on himself.

“I received my bachelor’s degree from the DeVry Institute of Technology back in 1999. Before that, I had received the CNA for both Novell v. 3.0 and 4.x. Then, I got my CCNA twice. I passed all but one test for the CCNP before the CCNA expired, and they made changes to the program. I received my MCP a few years ago. I have passed four of the required tests for MSCE 2000. I am studying to get the MCSA 2000, but with new technologies coming out soon, I don’t know if this would be good. How does one say motivated? How does one keep updated with all the distractions in life?”

Anderson answered this rather weighty question.

“First, to address a couple points, you note that you are still working on your 2000 path. I am unsure if it is worth the effort to continue down that road. If it were your MCSE 2003, sure, but 2000? The 2003 is about to be replaced yet again, according to the latest information coming out of Microsoft’s learning organization via the MCP Web site and MCP Flash. This month’s Flash indicated that next month, it will feature a series of webcasts on the Windows Longhorn product, which should be released shortly before the end of this year.

“When that happens, and the new certifications are released for Longhorn, I would be surprised if the 2000 certifications did not quickly go inactive. Further, I am unsure that it’s worth X number more tests, then two upgrade tests for the 2003 level, then two to three upgrade tests to achieve the new Longhorn certs for a total of five plus X (where X is however many you have to go for 2000 MCSE) for your cert. Instead, get your hands on a Longhorn beta and start training yourself up now.”

Anderson then addressed rexon’s motivation question.

“Personally, I am driven by technology — I like to certify. I am one of those people who would be doing this even if my actual job were an accountant. In my case, I had some people who recognized early on that this could be my meal ticket and helped me get positioned even during high school to make this my professional track. Technology and professional recognition are motivators for me. That having been said, it can be very daunting when you invest so much time and money in getting certain certifications and then the technologies change. I have the MCSE, MCSE Messaging and MCSE Security on the 2003 track. When Longhorn is released, my work will give us six to 12 months to get the upgrade certs. Because I work in the learning organization for my employer, I will be expected to certify much faster than that because I will be training other systems engineers on the new systems in Longhorn when it releases.

“If you aren’t driven by the technology, and if getting the professional recognition of the certifications isn’t as strong a motivator for you, I can see how that would be difficult. At any rate, for the present, I would achieve the next-possible phase of certification in the track

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