Experience Getting Experience

In my last column, I asked for suggestions about how MCSEs can gain the experience they need to upgrade their certifications if their employers don't plan to upgrade their in-house OSs to Windows 2000. I received quite a few suggestions, but none of them turned out to be a magic formula. (In addition, many wrote to say just what Microsoft should do with its expired exams, and some of you said that obtaining and maintaining certifications is becoming too expensive and that you will look at other vendors' certification options.)

Your suggestions fell into three general categories:

  • Ways to convince management to start planning for a Win2K migration
  • Ways to cost-effectively set up a private Win2K network so that you could gain experience on your own
  • Other ways to keep the MCT certification current

The first category's suggestions are really only relevant if you work in a corporate environment or are a regular consultant in one. Here's an excerpt from one of the best replies:

"I \[suggest\] that anyone working in the MIS/IT industry sit down with management and work out not only a budget for the required hardware and software but also a schedule with dedicated research time for working in a lab environment constructed for the sole purpose of learning the concepts and technologies that are the core of Win2K. Whether or not the company believes it will be migrating to Win2K, it should begin evaluating the positives and negatives of this strategic decision. I believe total cost of ownership (TCO) and Return On Investment (ROI) issues will shortly become too obvious to ignore. The corporate lab—not a dusty garage with two old PCs and a crossover cable—is where current and future MCSEs should be honing the skills that will take them on the career path they have chosen or will choose and, along the way, provide them with the knowledge and hands-on experience necessary to become Win2K MCSEs."

The second category's suggestions, which were typically briefer, include the proposal that you enlist family members and their computers to create a Win2K network in your home. However, I—for one—wouldn't grant my 12- and 13-year-old budding hackers access to any machine that I need to get my day-to-day work done! But here's another suggestion that might work for some of you:

"\[Establish\] study groups of peers willing to open a test machine up to others that they don't really know. If groups could get together, over the Internet, all running Win2K, much could be accomplished in preparation for Win2K certification. Of course there are drawbacks to not having the luxury of a LAN, and trusting others into your machine. With the number of people with 'scrap' machines laying around, I would have to believe that the groups could at least get up and running."

Finally, the third category's suggestions focus on other certifications that MCTs can pursue instead of the MCSE. For example, MCTs can earn an MCSD certification to maintain their status (for the full requirements, check out the Microsoft Training and Certification Web site. For some people, the MCSD might be a relatively straightforward solution. For others with little or no development experience, that might prove more daunting than the problem we're trying to solve here. For those of you who would consider MCSD, and for those of you who are developers and are already pursuing this certification, this week's Certifiable column focuses on questions for two development exams.

Send me any other suggestions you have about how MCSEs should go about gaining the experience they need for upgrading their certifications ( [email protected] ). We're not done with this topic yet—we still have 17 months to go!

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