Certification: Raising Your Stock as an Employee

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Whether working in a weak or solid economy, employees need to differentiate themselves from their competition—prospective employees from within and outside the organization. Some employees choose M.B.A.s and Ph.D.s to set themselves apart, while others, particularly new-economy employees, choose certifications in new technical areas, such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

Why is this type of technical certification important and what role does it play in raising an individual’s value as an employee? Certifications are important because they allow employees to assess and implement mission-critical business solutions that ultimately improve productivity, customer relations and loyalty and the bottom line. For example, with certified engineers who can cost-effectively deliver a converged voice and data platform, the deployment will proceed smoothly, saving companies IT costs and deployment time. In addition, employees who earn the highest certification in a particular area also typically earn the highest salary.

Earning certification also validates an individual’s skills, knowledge and mastery of technical products. Certified employees typically deliver higher levels of service and technical expertise than non-certified individuals. Certified individuals also typically earn top dollar, according to the 2002 Annual Certification Salary Survey conducted by Certification Magazine. Professionals certified by Nortel Networks can earn an average annual salary of $80,403—the second highest in the industry.

Why Is Certification Critical for Effective VoIP Deployments?
Historically, companies have focused on either voice or data products and services since the market has historically been segmented that way. As a result, most employees are voice-proficient or data-proficient, but they are not highly skilled in both technologies. In today’s new environment where companies need to offer and use converged solutions, organizations need employees who possess a complete set of skills that include voice, data and convergence.

In addition, these employees can utilize their newly acquired technology and product skills training and expertise to elevate their roles within their organizations. Specifically, employees with these new convergence skills can assist their organizations by helping them cost-effectively deliver a converged voice and data platform, lower VoIP deployment costs, smoother VoIP implementations and consistent quality of service (QoS) levels. Recognizing that there is an industry-wide skills gap between the skills needed for self-sufficiency on VoIP and convergence knowledge and the voice and data technology skills professionals have today, Nortel Networks has developed a comprehensive Enterprise VoIP certification program that bridges this gap.

The Nortel Networks Enterprise VoIP Certification Program
Nortel Networks’ unique certification portfolio is the first to cover both core VoIP technology and VoIP products and solutions. This industry-leading program helps employees gain self-sufficiency in designing, planning and implementing Enterprise VoIP solutions by helping them develop a strong understanding of leading VoIP and convergence technologies and the skill sets required to design and support these solutions. Nortel Networks solutions are a key element of the certification program, but not the singular focus. Competing programs promote single-vendor solutions, which are not practical in true deployment scenarios due to integration issues with legacy systems. Nortel Networks, however, enables professionals to overcome these deployment challenges by giving interested professionals an overview of each major solution and then offering certification in its own products and technology line.

Two levels of certifications are available in the Nortel Networks VoIP portfolio: Specialist and Expert. These levels are further refined into subgroups. For example, Design Specialist, Field Specialist and Support Specialist certifications focus on the core functionality of product and solutions, while Design Expert and Support Expert certifications address the internetworking of products and solutions. All Expert certifications require the associated Specialist certification as a prerequisite.

The Enterprise VoIP certification portfolio includes certifications for the following Nortel products: Succession CSE 1000, which is a pure-IP private branch exchange (PBX); Meridian 1 IP Enabled 25.40, a PBX with a smooth migration to VoIP; CallPilot 2.0, a Unified Messaging solution; BCM 3.0 a converged “Office in a Box” solution; and Succession CSE MX, a multimedia collaborative communications environment including real-time call control. Several of these certifications are available now, and others will be available throughout the year.

Each certification requires the successful completion of two or three exams. All VoIP Specialist certifications require Nortel’s VoIP Technology exam (#920-801). This proctored exam, currently available and delivered by Prometric, covers general packet telephony knowledge, packet telephony design issues, traffic convergence issues, VoIP standardization efforts and network assessment methodologies.

All VoIP Specialist certifications, except BCM 3.0, also require the completion of Nortel’s Meridian 1 Database exam. Beginning in April 2003, you will select from two versions of this exam. Meridian 1 Database – Design Specialist (#920-319) is required for VoIP Design Specialist certifications, while Meridian 1 Database – Support Specialist (#920-320) is required for VoIP Support Specialist certifications.

In addition to these two exam requirements, each certification requires the successful completion of a product/solution exam.

Specific training courses are strongly recommended to help prepare for taking the exams. Professionals interested in taking these exams can access complete details, including all certification requirements, exam objectives, recommended training and online registration at Nortel Networks Certification Web site, www.nortelnetworks.com/certification.

One of the key benefits to the design of Nortel’s Enterprise VoIP certification program is the ability to apply an exam requirement to more than one certification. For example, at first glance, it may appear that an employee seeking Design Specialist certification in both Succession CSE 1000 Release 2.0 and Meridian 1 IP Enabled 25.40 would have to take a total of six exams, since each certification requires three exams. However, both certifications require the foundation VoIP Technology and Meridian 1 Database exams. Once a candidate has successfully completed both exams, he has met the foundation exam requirements for any VoIP Specialist certification. Therefore, earning these two Design Specialist certifications takes four exams, not six. Using this building-block approach, employees can minimize their time to full proficiency.

Raising an Employee’s Stock Value at Minimal Cost
Employees seeking Enterprise VoIP certifications can reduce their total certification costs by participating in beta tests. For example, with each new certification exam, Nortel Networks conducts beta testing. The first 50 candidates registered can take the exam at no monetary cost, in exchange for their time evaluating and providing feedback on the exam. (Note that the requirement for certification is only met if the exam passes beta and the candidate achieves a passing score.)

Maximizing Your Value with Expert Certification
Achieving Expert VoIP certification from Nortel Networks comes with another benefit—experts have the skill set to assess a network for VoIP readiness. One of the biggest drawbacks to successfully deploying VoIP is that the actual deployment is more difficult than originally anticipate

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