Advice on becoming a true professional.
Can a Classroom Produce a Solid MCSE?
Advice on becoming a true professional.
I’m considering starting training for an
MCSE. My computer experience is limited to what I’ve done
at home on my PC. I’m considering a Microsoft CTEC because
they promise a hands-on approach. My question is, will
this approach give me any more hands-on training than
a self-study course or will I be using the same CDs, books,
and so forth, only with an instructor in front of me?
My second question: Why become certified
with NT 4.0 when Windows 2000 will be replacing it shortly?
All the reviews I’ve read for Windows 2000 promise that
NT 4.0 will be obsolete by the end of the year. Microsoft
itself has announced it will be retiring some of the NT
4.0 tests later this year.
I don’t want to be just another guy with
a piece of paper that says I passed a multiple-choice
Great River, New York
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Let me start, Daren, by applauding
your wisdom, your enthusiasm, and your determination.
As all of our readers know, becoming an MCSE is the sure-fire
way to achieve a meaningful, satisfying career and get
rich at the same time. (Ouch! Bit my tongue again! It’s
so hard to write when it’s planted firmly in my cheek…)
Seriously, as a firm believer in the Socratic method,
I need to ask a few questions—rhetorically, of course.
First, why do you want to become an MCSE? Yes, “computers
are the wave of the future” and there’s a high demand
for skilled, talented people, but is “a fascination with
your home computer” going to carry you through not only
the training but also the apprenticeship you’ll be facing?
In my other line of work, history, there’s a long tradition
of “gentlemen historians,” people who dabbled in history
because it fascinated them. Luckily, they were usually
independently wealthy and could afford to indulge their
interests. Not to be discouraging, but I’d like to ask
you again about your dedication after you’ve assembled
and loaded your hundredth system.
Second, what do you do to support yourself now? I understand
you want to “get into computers,” but where are you starting
from? This isn’t meant to discourage anyone from a career
change, but you need to start thinking now about how you
can leverage your previous experience in your new chosen
field. For example, if you’re an accountant, there are
lots of accounting firms with their own computer consulting
division. Are you a teacher? A company that has its own
custom or off-the-shelf training division might be a good
prospect. A plumber? How about a systems integration firm?
After all, parts are parts, and you already understand
All right, enough of my questions—let’s get to yours.
I must say that for the most part I agree with Greg, especially
the part advising you to check out the instructor. One
way to do this is to participate in a local PC user group.
Most of them have general meetings and also Special Interest
Group (SIG) meetings that concentrate on one aspect of
the technology, like dBASE or Multiplan or wire-wrap bootstrap
programming (just kidding!). If the group is active, chances
are you’ll find people who have taken classes from every
one of the training organizations in your area. Ask them
not only about companies but also about specific instructors—if
you find an instructor that everyone raves about, sign
up for the class, but only on the condition that that
instructor teach the class. I remember some of my employees
getting burned when the desired instructor injured his
leg over the weekend, and a (poor) substitute took over.
The instruction was so bad that at the end of the week,
the training company offered them a free retake of the
class when the other instructor returned, but by that
time, they’d already wasted a week.
I’m ambivalent on the NT 4.0 vs. Windows 2000 issue,
at least for someone like you who is just starting out.
Normally, I’d agree with Greg—companies will want Win2K
knowledge and experience, but right now they need help
with their current technology. Don’t believe the hype
you read in the trade press—remember, those are news organizations,
and NT isn’t news, but Win2K is. So, as Greg indicates,
the decision depends partly on your timeframe. There will
be companies running NT 4.0 for a while to come—heck,
there are companies still running VAX VMS, for heaven’s
sake! But a Win2K background might be attractive, especially
to larger firms that already have a stable of NT experts.
Finally, as our readers can tell you, these aren’t just
any old multiple-choice tests you’ll be preparing for.
Microsoft has worked hard to maintain both the validity
and integrity of the MCP exams. Of course, to become a
valued professional in this business you’ll need lots
of experience, but tackling the MCSE exams shows a prospective
employer not only that you have a base level of technical
knowledge, but also that you have the determination to
succeed. When you walk into that interview, you can hand
the employer your MCP credentials, instead of a line like,
“You know, I’ve always had a fascination with computers…”
Steve Crandall, MCSE, is a principal of ChangeOverTime, a technology consulting firm in Cleveland, Ohio, that specializes in small business and non-profit organizations. He's also assistant professor of Information Technology
at Myers College and a contributing writer for Microsoft Certified Professional Magazine.