Letters to the Editor – February 2005

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Microsoft Certification: A Look Ahead

I appreciate Ed Tittel’s great articles in Certification Magazine. I am transitioning from the service after 20 years and have found the IT industry to be fun and interesting. I have worked IA with the military for the past three years and have enjoyed the pace of learning and challenge.

I have no certifications and have only attended schools via the military. My concern is that I never really have been a sysadmin type of person. Instead, I have worked with the sysadmins (the tech experts) to establish security policies and procedures, training users and patch management, etc. We work as a team, but they are the experts when it comes to sysadmin knowledge. I am the expert when it comes to regulations and policies.

My first questions is, should I pursue a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) 2003 certification so that I can beef up on sysadmin knowledge, or should I reinforce my security knowledge with a Security+ or a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). I only have about a year to get some training.

Ron Velasquez

Editor’s Note: We asked Ed Tittel, technology editor for CertMag and resident IT certification guru, to respond to Ron’s question:

“Given your experience with infosec, I think it makes a lot more sense for you to pursue that line of work—and that goes double if you already have a security clearance, as I suspect—than to switch hears and go after an MCSE on Windows 2003. That said, choosing between Security+ and CISSP is not an either-or proposition. In fact, many people (including myself) recommend Security+ as a stepping-stone to CISSP.

“If you can meet the experience requirements for CISSP (five years of on-the-job infosec experience if you don’t have a college degree; four years of experience if you do have a degree), you may want to think about attending a boot camp or other intensive training on that topic.

“I get security postings from several headhunters through the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA), a member-oriented professional infosec group, and opportunities are tremendous in this field, especially for those with experience and U.S. government security clearances. Given your background and interests, this sounds like a very good fit.”

More on Recovering Servers

Douglas Mechaber’s article in Certification Magazine on connectivity was great. I’m just breaking into the IT field (career change) and have the certifications but little training. With time being hard these days for getting a job, having these tools is a must. Do me a favor and send a list of all the utilities you know of and where to get them.

Also, I took A+, Network+, Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) and Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) courses at a technical college and finished up about two months ago. Did I go wrong by not getting my hands wet with Microsoft? I don’t want to go the full MCSE track. What would you suggest?

Tony Howell

Torrance, Calif.

Editor’s Note: We asked Douglas Mechaber, who writes CertMag’s Network Tools column, to respond to Tony’s question:

“It sounds like you have a great start! Obviously, the CCNP is a fairly advanced certification, so I’m not sure that anyone would think you lack training. What you need is a work history. There, Microsoft certifications would help, as many companies would be reluctant to hire a mid-level engineer with little real-world experience.

“There are a variety of ways to obtain experience while still preparing for the exams: work study or volunteer, if a paid gig doesn’t happen. That said, I don’t think you missed the boat by not including an MCSE. However, you might consider at least an MCP in Windows XP or Windows Server 2003. From there, a few more tests will earn you a Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA), which would cover all you need, as design would be superseded by your CCNP and electives would probably not be relevant for you.

“As far as utilities are concerned, I don’t have a formal list. Your favorite grab bag of utilities will be considerably different depending on your environment (whether small office or enterprise). What OS are you considering? It’s one version for Microsoft, usually another for NetWare and a third for Linux. In enterprise environments, you could be running others: Solaris, MVS, OS 10, etc. In other words, what are you doing? Helping users get their documents back? Repairing spyware damage? Setting up routers and switches? Enterprises have their own set of utilities based on the hardware they use. Otherwise, most IT consultants would use a few Web sites for DNS name lookup, or the standard universal utilities: ping, netstat, nslookup, traceroute, etc.

“You would do best to develop your own set of familiar tools. Try googling network utilities and some other qualifying words. Explore and personalize your own toolkit.”


Back to School?

I would like to see more articles and opinions on whether aspiring IT professionals should go to school. I have an associate’s degree in IST (networking) and have had a hard time finding a job. Many of my friends are getting bachelor’s degrees and cannot find IT work. I have been struggling with the idea of spending another $25,000-plus to earn my bachelor’s degree, but still being unemployed.

Douglas Heinack

Pittsburgh, Pa.

Editor’s Note: Do any readers have advice for Douglas? Send your responses to letters@certmag.com.


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