MCSD: Who Needs IT?

Some ways to separate you from other developers in the pack


If my demographics are correct, you’re either an MCSE, an MCSE+Espresso, an MCSE+LargeFriesAndCoke, or some other flavor of MCSE. Notice I didn’t say MCSD? That’s because, at last count, there were more than 400 million MCSEs worldwide, but only six MCSDs. In fact, it was recently reported that 117 percent of the U.S. population now holds an MCSE. While these numbers are no doubt apocryphal, it’s unquestionably true that there is a great disparity between the number of MCSEs and the number of MCSDs.

Without knowing the true reasons for this difference, I can only speculate inaccurately about what all the potential MCSDs are doing while everybody else is waiting in line to take the MCSE exams. Just please remember as you read this list that these items are fictional and have nothing whatsoever to do with anybody’s reality but my own.

Top 7 Things That Keep Developers from Getting Certified

  1. Answering requests for information about Y2K compliance.
  2. Installing Visual Studio 6.0.
  3. Learning SQL Server 7.0, Visual J++ 6.0, IE 5.0, DHTML, Transaction Server, RDO, and the CryptoAPI to write secure, scalable, load-balanced, fail-safe, multi-tier, sockets-based database apps.
  4. Promising the marketing department they’ll have the app done in “two weeks.”
  5. Trolling MSDN, Microsoft Support Online, and Usenet for an explanation of the most recent cryptic error message or obscure problem.
  6. Arguing the merits of Pizza Hut vs. Domino’s.
  7. Making so much money that it all seems strangely worthwhile.

Any one of these items is enough to keep a developer much too busy to study for the MCP exams. But MCSEs are busy people too, and somehow they still find time to study for and take their exams. So perhaps there is something more to it than just sheer exhaustion and overwork? Could it be that developers are actually avoiding certification?

We Don’t Need No Stinking Certifications!
I surveyed a statistically invalid sampling of one programmer(s) to see what I could find out. On the basis of this research and other equally spurious anecdotal observations, I’ve concluded that Microsoft certification simply isn’t as important to code monkeys as it is to server jockeys.

Here’s why: Arguably, the most important value of a Microsoft certification is its ability to get you a higher paying job. If those MCSE initials aren’t on their cards, network admins and hardware gurus have nothing concrete to point to that proves their skill. Developers, on the other hand, can say things like “I invented the World Wide Web,” or “I wrote Myst,” and people immediately understand that the person they’re dealing with is no mere mortal. I’m told that Gavin Bell, one of the originators of VRML, had a T-shirt that read (on the front) “VRML” and (on the back) “Wrote It.”

Even less glamorous applications, such as reservation systems for leper colonies and presidential slush fund tracking programs, still command attention. If you can hand a potential client or employer a program you wrote or were involved in developing, chances are that may be all the “certification” you need.

The last part of my theory is this: Because demand for skilled programmers is at an all-time high, with companies luring programmers with extravagant signing bonuses, lucrative stock option programs, and salaries that would make most people get their hearing checked, good programmers have developed a “You need me more than I need you” attitude.

If my theory is anywhere close to correct, I propose that developers begin to rethink that attitude. Certification is more than just a label, and it’s useful for more than just a new job with a bigger paycheck. When going through the certification process, you almost certainly learn new things about the technologies you use every day. In short, certification can actually make you a better developer. Unless, of course, you invented the World Wide Web or wrote Myst, in which case you have my permission to be excused.

About the Author

Em C. Pea, MCP, is a technology consultant, writer and now budding nanotechnologist who you can expect to turn up somewhere writing about technology once again.

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