Good Work! 8 Great Companies for MCPs

Like your job? Here's your chance to compare your company with eight of the best—at least in how they treat their Microsoft Certified Professionals.

When you perform a heroic feat of technology, do you get acknowledgement from managers and co-workers? When you became a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, did your firm pick up the training and exam tab? Did you get time off for classes without having to dip into your vacation days? Did your boss encourage you to order new business cards to show off your new MCSE logo? If you’re snorting at these questions, maybe it’s time to seriously evaluate the company where you work. Conversely, if you’ve felt the glow of at least some of these niceties, pat yourself on the back: You’ve chosen wisely among employers.

This Year’s Best Companies!

Compaq Computer Corp. One of the largest sellers of PC desktops and servers
Nominated: Colorado Springs OMC Facility; 50 employees Colorado Springs, Colorado

EWA Services Worldwide training and consulting company
Nominated: Killeen, Texas office; 25 trainers; headquarters in Herndon, Virginia

>Gateway, Inc. Worldwide PC manufacturer
Nominated: Product Development Services department in North Sioux Sioux City, South Dakota; 170 employees

ICL European-based systems and services company; 22,500 employees
Nominated: Slough, Berkshire UK office
+44 (0) 1753 532323

LAMTEC Corp. Manufacturer of vapor retarder materials for insulation; about 30 employees
Nominated: Flanders, New Jersey
800-852-6832, 973-584-5500

Online Consulting Microsoft CTEC; about 50 employees
Nominated: Wilmington, Delaware
800-288-8221, 302-658-3018

Paladin Data Systems Professional services firm specializing in Microsoft and Oracle-based solutions, and training; about 75 people
Nominated: Poulsbo, Washington
800-532-8448, 360-779-2400

Randolph-Macon Woman’s College All-female liberal arts college; 700 students
Nominated: Lynchburg, Virginia
804-947-8000, 804-947-8103.

The way companies treat their technical employees often goes a long toward explaining how successful those companies are at attracting and retaining skilled staff. Last month, we ran our fifth annual salary survey. By now, the editorial mailbox contains the usual letters from employers complaining about the yearly disservice we perform by perpetuating myths about the (over)valued nature of technical services. And yet money’s really just part of the retention equation, as you’ll shortly read.

The organizations we profile here recognize this: The expense of spending $10,000 in a year on training, bonuses, and special perks for top technical performers is considerably less than paying $20,000 or more to a headhunter yearly to replace yet another member of the moral-sapped technical crew.

In this article, we’ll share secrets from some terrific companies to work for as an MCP. Although the firms we profile will probably experience a bump in the number of resumes they receive over the next month, our bigger hope is that other companies will learn from these stars and adopt some of the ideas we share here to keep you happy.

How We Chose the Best Companies

How did we make our choices? Actually, you helped make them for us. Several months ago we invited readers to nominate their firms as a great place to work as a Microsoft Certified Professional. Our questions ranged from the expected—Does your company pay for exams and training? Does it offer extra compensation based on certification?—to questions about benefits, working hours, vacation time, public recognition for newly earned certifications, and even the sorts of high-tech toys a company supplies. In answer after answer you told us your company was a great place to work—and shared why. More than a hundred of you came through with details about just what it is you like about where you work. We filtered that list by confirming that all winning companies could answer yes to these questions:

  • Does your company pay for certification training?
  • Does it pay for travel related to that training?
  • Does it cover the expense of your exams?
  • Does it pay for self-study and test preparation software and books?
  • Does it give you paid time off for training?
  • Does certification play a role in your compensation?
  • Does certification play a role in the promotional opportunities at your company?
Three of the Worst

Not all of you are happy with the way you’re treated. Several people stepped up to nominate a current or past employer as “one of the worst places to work.” We’ve removed the names of the submitters to protect the disgruntled, but if you think you recognize your firm or its habits, try leaving a copy of this article in the IT hiring manager’s mailbox to send a wake-up call.

“My company was among the top five companies in 1999 to spend money on technology. I would imagine they are among the top three companies who don’t know how to use it. I’m here to get my Windows NT Server and Exchange Server certifications and my stock options at the end of the year, then I’m a ghost!”
From an MCP at a company providing financial solutions

“The company has no formal process for an annual review (or any other review) of technical employees. Once hired, an employee’s salary remains fixed. Management thinks the company is shrinking because of [the end of] Y2K. It’s really shrinking because Human Resources can no longer (with a straight face) tell prospective hires that there’s a career path here. Somehow the doors stay open. That’s the miracle.”
From an MCP at a small consulting firm

“This place is a sweatshop! [For three months,] I worked 60-80 hours for 40-hour exempt pay in a crisis-management-driven sweatshop. The CIO, my boss, was fired during his probation period. I left this $300-plus million company for an IT shop with 20 people that pays nearly twice the salary, clearly stipulates a 40-hour week, and compensates double-time for the four-hour Saturday that’s required once per month. I think [that sort of] trend will continue.”
From an MCSE at a British publisher of educational books and software

From there, we whittled down the list to about 20 companies that deserved extra scrutiny, contacted them to confirm our information, and selected the winners. If you don’t find your firm listed, maybe it’s time to start on that personal evaluation. Can you effect change in your organization? If so, no time like the present to start—share this article with the people in charge of hiring at your company; highlight important points and stash a copy in the lunchroom suggestion box.

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