Microsoft Learning Roadmap Updated

4762.MSL_CertificationPathways_Commercial_2015.png-550x0Just in case you didn’t catch this notice on the Microsoft Learning blog, thought I’d post it up as a reminder (and so that I could find it more easily later on… :)) Microsoft Learning has updated their learning roadmap to show the MCSE and MCSD certification tracks to provide technology professionals and developers with a more concrete planning tool. It depicts the exams needed to get to the different designations and provides the framework to assist in figuring out what’s next and how things build upon one another.
It also includes some of the information pertaining to the three new Azure exams – note that they’re not a part of an MCSE / MCSD training path… yet. It wouldn’t surprise me to see that change in the next year or two based on the way that Microsoft seems to be going more toward services where Azure is the service delivery platform.

For more on the learning roadmap, check out the blog post from MSL here –

Best of all you can download the Learning Roadmap and print it off on a plotter and cover a wall with it, maybe make a game out of it with your colleagues to show where everyone is at and have a friendly competition. 🙂

Azure and Office 365 Certification Opportunities

For those of you that are looking to get certified on cloud based products in the Microsoft stack – well there’s a great opportunity for you to get certified – for free.

Microsoft Learning is giving away 10k vouchers for individuals to attempt to gain an MCTS between now and the end of the year for the newly released cloud certifications for Azure and MCSA for Office 365.

Update 3 – And Microsoft is out of certification vouchers. For those of you that were able to attain one – good luck in your studies!

Update 2 – MS Learning tweeted me to let me know that they still have exam vouchers, seems that the initial message was incorrect. Get’em while they’re hot!

Update – They’re fresh out of exam vouchers – they went pretty quickly it would seem, good luck to those of you that were able to snag one!!!

If you’re looking for studying materials – I’d recommend checking out the learning objectives for each of the exams, available on their exam pages listed here:

Azure Certifications:
Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions – 70-532 –
Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions – 70-533 –

Office 365 Certifications
Managing Office 365 Identities and Requirements – 70-346 –
Enabling Office 365 Services – 70-347 –

If you pass both Office 365 certifications, you’ll gain your Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) for Office 365 which can be counted toward the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) SharePoint 2013.

For more information about getting a free voucher though, check out the Microsoft Learning blog here:

Visual Studio 2010 Exam Retirement Dates

So you’re still catching up on getting certified on Microsoft technologies that your clients and customers are using … may want to consider either switching over to ludicrous speed or just skipping ahead to the next iteration of Visual Studio exams.

Why praytell? Well Microsoft is retiring the exams on 31 July 2013. They (Microsoft) may consider pushing the exam retirement date, but for now that’s when they’re going bye bye.

So what exams does this apply to?

  • 70-511: TS: Windows Applications Development with Microsoft .NET Framework 4
  • 70-513: TS: Windows Communication Foundation Development with Microsoft .NET Framework 4
  • 70-515: TS: Web Applications Development with Microsoft .NET Framework 4
  • 70-516: TS: Accessing Data with Microsoft .NET Framework 4
  • 70-518: Pro: Designing and Developing Windows Applications Using Microsoft .NET Framework 4
  • 70-519: Pro: Designing and Developing Web Applications Using Microsoft .NET Framework 4

For more information on this topic, check out the Born to Learn blog yonder at: Update on Visual Studio 2010 Exam Retirement Dates

Ahhh yes… E=MCt

After much chagrin and fun, I finally went ahead and completed the process to attain the title of “Microsoft Certified Trainer.” I can’t say that I feel all that different, but my students were ecstatic as can be seen here Winking smile.

If there’s anything to be said in attaining the professional certification, I’d definitely say that it’s the opportunities it opens up, the networking that it provides as well as the formalization of knowledge. Further, from what I’ve seen the MCT family is a fun one with some very smart and knowledgeable folks like Shannon Bray, Enrique Lima, and Becky Isserman to name a few.

So what does this mean? A few opportunities open up to participate in more events as well as to take on some new adventures through differing roles that hopefully allow me to do more technically inclined training that without the certification, well I’ll be honest, seems a little awkward without the professional credential. I won’t deny that there are trainers out there that are fantastic trainers that haven’t gone through the MCT process (conversely I can also argue that I’m sure that there are MCTs with room to improve). Bottom line, trainers aren’t perfect, we all have room for improvement – remember those feedback forms in those sessions and classes you attend – fill them out, we want the feedback to help us to continually improve. Anyway, for me I look forward to the fun that this community has as a part of it and who knows, perhaps you’re reading this blog article in the back of my class right now Winking smile

SharePoint Certifications and Expirations

So recently on the Twitter, the question appeared, “When do the SharePoint 2007 certifications expire.” My first thought was, “Well they don’t really expire, they’re just retired,” as I thought back to some of my Windows XP and Server 2003 certifications that were now lifted to the rafters of the Microsoft arena. After a little research it would appear that the SharePoint 2007 certifications expire on 30 September 2012 – the same time as mainstream support.

For more on this check out these couple of links out on the Microsoft Learning site:

Certifications you have earned remain valid even if qualifying exams have been retired. When an exam you passed is retired, your transcript retains the record of the exam and identifies the exam as retired.

Today, most of our Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS), Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP), and Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD) exams retire when Microsoft discontinues mainstream support for the related technology.

Thanks to Todd Klindt for the assist on the second piece of information regarding mainstream support timelines.

The value of SharePoint Certifications

In today’s world of SharePoint consulting and engineering, there are certain competencies and thresholds that need to be met prior to being able to enter into an engagement that is profitable to both the individual providing services and the organization receiving services. Similar to medicine, SharePoint engineers and consultants have practices and firms that they are a part of. They do not necessarily know all there is to know about SharePoint when they start off, nor do they have the same expertise in every area of the product but rather they have a foundation of knowledge that they all take on as a core foundation of knowledge.

The Problem – How do we truly measure an individual’s acumen in the SharePoint Products and Technologies landscape?

With the SharePoint Products and Technologies continuing to expand and absorb capabilities within the Microsoft stack, it is a bear to think that a certification can truly qualify an individual and provide depth and insight into what they truly know and how they would react when presented with a real world problem. The purpose of this article is to examine the Microsoft certification process in relation to SharePoint Server 2007 and SharePoint Server 2010.

The Current Certifications – There are five available for both SharePoint Server 2007 and SharePoint 2010. Two of these exams are for IT Professionals that deal more with the core infrastructure at the collaboration platform level of WSS and SPF; the other more at the application level of MOSS and SPS. Similar to the IT Pro exams there are two for Developers that are aimed at the individual code level solutions using WSS and SPF in addition to application server solutions leveraging the capabilities of MOSS and SPS. On top of these four exams there is the Microsoft Certified Master. Coming soon there will be a Microsoft SharePoint 2010 end user certification (Microsoft Office Specialist – 77-886).

Similar in opinion to Mark Rackley in his post “The Real Value of Microsoft Certification in SharePoint” at the regarding Microsoft certifications, it’s frustrating when reading someone’s bio and finding that they’ve been certified in several Microsoft technologies only to come to find that they’ve read every book that’s been written to learn the theory of the product and the how to from a distance. Further, knowing that there are certification question and answer dumps available further infuriates SharePoint professionals as their knowledge becomes devalued and treated like a cheapened commodity of knowledge.

So what’s the benefit of an MCTS or MCITP – As an individual that maintains proficiency in a technology, they have various options for how to formalize this body of knowledge. By going through the certification process, it further legitimizes their knowledge. Further, as an individual that possess certification, from a perspective as a business partner, it provides greater avenues and channels to pursue opportunities that may not otherwise be available.

What about those folks that are using the brain dumps – it only lessens their value to go through the certification process with information that they’ve memorized. While it might open up opportunities to them and their business, winning contracts away from more deserving groups of technologists that just have not formalized their certifications they are only hurting themselves. As organizations become entangled in engagements that they lack the expertise in performing the work required, they will either have to a) hire individuals that are not certified that have real world experience, b) start learning the actually competencies and objectives that were called out as a part of the certification, lowering their return to their customer and slowing down their delivery or c) turning to another organization to subcontract the work out. In a worst case scenario it would mean retracting their bid for the work after they had started the work and have it go back out for rebid by the customer that was looking for someone to provide services.

This not only diminishes the organizations competency in a particular area but when it comes time for the organization to hand out customer reviews to be sent back to Microsoft as a part of the partner program to validate their competencies they’ll be downgraded.

What about that MCM thing? Well it’s a tough program and as my esteemed friend Mark Rackley stated, it goes to the extreme of requiring an individual to attain certification in all four areas as well as go through a registration process. Going through the registration process does not automatically mean an individual is admitted though as the MCM program has apparently tuned into the fact that some individuals don’t quite have the real world training and wouldn’t be able to make it through the three weeks of deep exposure to SharePoint. Again, similar to going to medical school, the application process weeds out those that may not actually have the foundation of knowledge that is required to be successful in a training program that helps to push an individual toward mastery of a wide variety of skillsets.

So what’s the value? So if we look at certifications being attained by individuals that have real life, hands on experience in some capacity, then we can look at these exams as being a foundation of knowledge and vocabulary. During the interview process, leveraging the learning objectives that are related to an exam should provide a starting point for where a candidate may be coming from in their interview for a position. If the individual does not seem to have an idea of any of the underlying knowledge related to the learning objectives then either a) they’re having a bad day or b) they’ve moved out of the technical expertise into more of a technical manager role that is no longer hands on and have lost their ShareFoo or c) they went through and deceived themselves through the use of test aids.

This foundational knowledge presented by the certifications provides a basis that allows for further collaboration among SharePoint professionals and allows for a greater ability to work toward solutions. When a developer is speaking a different language or an administrator doesn’t understand a core concept then it slows down the solution development and implementation. Having a team work together and teach one another to get certified further helps the team to produce results.

Bottom Line – Encourage your team to get certified, have a common body of knowledge that leverages the learning objectives of the certification exams – teaching one another through hands on experience. Don’t deceive yourself and your customers by presenting yourself as someone that you’re not though – keep it real.

Bottom Bottom Line – Get it on like Donkey Kong. ‘nuff said.

I encourage you to read Mark Rackley’s post on this topic as well to get a well balanced view of the SharePoint world regarding how certifications are viewed.  Mark brings a different angle which I agree with on several levels –

Certification Links…

Yes, I realize that everyone and their brother probably has posted this to their blog, but I figured that I would be the N+1 instance.  So, just in case you’re searching around trying to find links for SharePoint 2010’s preliminary certifications…

For IT Pro:
70-667 – TS: Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Configuring –
70-668 – PRO: Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Administrator –

For Developer:
70-573 – TS: Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Application Development –
70-576 – PRO: Designing and Developing Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Applications –

Best of luck on the exams!