Update on my 60 Days to MCSE

Wow, I have not posted on this topic for a very, very long time. I am writing an update around my path towards MCSE: Private Cloud and the mis-steps I took on the way. As it stands, I am way past 60 days from my start and I haven't even gotten out of the blocks.

Back in April 2012, a group of IT Professionals started our way to the new Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert for Private Cloud (MCSE:PC). It was Microsoft's return of the MCSE certification after it was stopped at one point with the move to Microsoft Certified Information Technology Professional (MCITP) with the Windows Server 2008 certifications. The old Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer is now the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert, removing the word "Engineer" from the title in speculation to remove problems with governments or licensing boards around the world around the use of the title Engineer.1 Many of us that had some or none of the certificates needed to get this new MSCE:PC were going to set ourselves up to get this new certificate by MS TechEd in Orlando in June.

In my case, my eyes were a lot bigger than my "stomach" for this process. Early on, I had many impacts on my time cause by my job. One thing to understand is that I work in IT Management and not in a technical position per se. This means my time is spent in meetings, maintaining projects and working through administrative items. As such, technical certifications is something done on my own time, not a direct responsibility of my job. As my time was burned by work and other projects I work on outside of work, it did not leave me much time to work on my certification.

The next big impact on me not furthering myself down the certification path is the complexity of the certifications. An example is a friend of mine, Peter Gray, who is an Active Directory engineer as his day job. This should make the 70-640, Windows Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuring, a slam dunk for him. Come to find out, he did not pass his 70-640 test. He explains all that he learned in his testing preparation and taking on his own blog but it made me think this specifically:

He does this as a daily job and did not pass. I am out of the technical aspects most of the time because my role is more administrative. I can't just jump in and pass the test.

Microsoft has done a lot of changes to its certification testing to remove the possibility of "paper experts" that can pass the tests but can't apply that directly in real life. This is what I felt I was up against early in my career where I had practical, hands-on understanding while paper experts were getting hired because they had initials and I did not.

WP_000377Given these things, I focused on three tests in particular, the 70-640, 70-246, and 70-247, and my plan was to take all three at MS TechEd. I worked through the great TrainSignal training provided to the 60Days2MCSE group around the 70-640 test and built more on my home Windows 2008 R2 AD infrastructure. On top of that planning, I tried to setup some labs around the SCCM environment to prepare for the 246 and 247 tests. It was difficult to get through but I did get through one minor pass. Lastly, I sat in on a 70-640 test prep session at MS TechEd before I took the test and went into the lab provided to do practice tests.

After all of that preparation, I took the 70-246 and 70-247 free exams and the 70-640 that I paid for. In all three cases, I did not attain the proper scores to pass the exams. While not passing the free exams was a bit of a blow, failing the 70-640 was a tougher one to go through. I had hoped with the prep work I had done that I would have passed.

Now I find myself in September, work has taken over much of my time again and I find myself returning to my personal projects such as my blog and certifications. I have reflected on the process and will be looking at getting my certifications still. I will work through them differently than before and not think that I will just get them immediately as I thought I was before.

What sort of certification stories do you have? Have you worked through certifications but not passed like I did? If so, what did you do to get yourself situation to pass?



1 - The editorial at http://certcities.com/editorial/news/story.asp?EditorialsID=132&page=2 discusses the change of the title to remove Engineer in an effort to appease licensing boards in Canada. This has been speculated in conversations with folks. At this time, I do not know if it was ever confirmed by Microsoft.

Initial Take on “60 days to MCSE”

I started a journey recently. How many times have we said that to ourselves and others? Life is full of many journeys and side trips.

As a bit of a background, I currently do not have any certifications. For many years, I never went out and got certifications for my chosen profession, Information Technology. Most of the time, it was due to lack of finances but later on, it was due to lack of desire. I did not feel their value was a good investment of my time to get them. This was the biggest blunder I could have done. Especially since most of my background is Microsoft systems and I worked there a little over 4.5 years, I never went and got my Microsoft certifications. Needless to say, my outlook on this has changed.

This journey was thanks to some friends in The Krewe of MSTechEd, a large group of IT professionals that attend Microsoft's North America TechEd. My first taste of this great conference was June of 2011 in Atlanta, GA. That is where I met a few members of The Krewe and my friendship with them grew. Over time and thanks to online resources like Twitter and Facebook, I feel akin to all of them and hope they to me. On top of finding a good network of similar minded professionals, I attended many sessions about products, services and how to use them. Many of them spoke of certifications and the tests that were available at TechEd. Again, I did not take advantage of this opportunity.

Fast forward to April of 2012. Microsoft announces changes to their certifications for the new Private Cloud and other solutions. At the same time, Michael Bender (one of the leaders of The Krewe) announced a great idea, have a way for professionals to get their MCSE:PC in 60 days. This was a difficult thing to do but could be attainable. Many other members of The Krewe jumped on board including myself. I started to pull my resources together but ran into time and resource roadblocks. My journey has been delayed … but not stopped.

After starting to work on a plan to take all 5 tests needed for the MCSE:PC, I also started coming up with plans to get MCITP in other technologies I know, understand and support. Some will be tougher than others but I really can start showing my experience and knowledge to other professionals. On top of Microsoft certifications, I am also reviewing a few Cisco and security/auditing certifications. This will show the full capabilities that I am able to offer.

While this is an initial post, I plan to talk about my journey down this path, how I feel about events along the way, and the final outcome of getting these certifications. I would like to thank the following people directly:

  • Michael Bender - He came up with the idea for this so I blame him for all of this. *grins*
  • Veronica Sopher and MS Learning - They have latched onto this idea and given us a place to share knowledge with others on this journey. This is one of the best resources that could have been made available.
  • Gary Eimerman and TrainSignal - They have offered to the "60 days to MCSE" team access to their online learning videos. This is a huge thing and I can't thank them enough.
  • Prometric and North America TechEd - They are offering the two new tests for the private cloud portion for free to attendees of both the North American and Europe TechEds.
  • The Krewe (Peter Gray, Matt Griffin, Fredrik Nilsson, Claudia Perez, Scott Ladewig, Jeff Guillet) - I know I might be missing folks but these are the people that are my support network through this effort. I know they will celebrate with me on the victories and console me on the setbacks.

Keep checking back on my blog for my progress.