Six Reasons Why I Certify

Six Reasons Why I Certify

Veronica Sopher - Microsoft

Guest post by MCP community member Steven R. McEvoy, Systems Analyst @ Christie Digital Systems

I was recently asked why I keep my certifications up to date. I work for a company I love; I enjoy my job and my boss and up through the chain. I get to play with all sorts of technology and since 2007 I have written 39 certification exams. The breakdown is as follows:

  • 31 Microsoft Exams
  • 6 CompTIA Exams
  • 3 Apple Exams

Across those exams I now hold over 30 designations. So when a former professor and a few friends asked why I continue to update my credentials it got me thinking. Why do I write certification exams? And the more I thought about it the more I realized there is no easy answer, but there are a number of different reasons:

  1. I love to learn.
  2. To stay current.
  3. Because of new responsibilities at work.
  4. Because of new technologies I manage.
  5. Because if I do not plan on writing the exam I won’t get around to it.
  6. For fun.

I am going to expand upon each of those points and hope it will provide some insight into why I certify and why you should consider doing so also. I spent almost 20 years in university and college both full and part time. In fact, if I won the lottery I would go back to school full time. I love learning, reading and studying; in fact it is one of my favorite things to do.

The second reason is to stay current; I have been privileged to have been offered Beta exams from more than one organization. What I loved about those opportunities I have accepted is that you need to work hard from just the list of exam objectives and figure out the new generation of technology. Also outside of the beta exam option, the upgrade paths are always easier for me than waiting and starting over again. I know people who still proudly state that they are MCSE but what they do not say is that it was Windows NT or Windows 2000. What happens if for some reason their career path changes? Their designations are so out of date they cannot upgrade even if they want to. So it is always in your best interest to keep your credentials current.

The third and fourth reasons I pursue certification is new responsibilities at work. A good example is SQL Server, for both the 2005 and 2008 version of this technology.  I wrote the first exam and then because I did not directly manage any SQL servers, never went further. It was always on my ‘to do list’ to go back and finish my SQL certification but I never got around to it. Then after a change in roles last year I was all of a sudden managing 12 SQL servers across different tiers for staging, development and production for different technologies. I really wish I had stuck with the plan and spent more time on SQL before I was primary for supporting it!

For the fifth reason: ties back to the two above. I find that if I buy the voucher and have 1 year to write the exam or exams if a pack is bought, then it forces me to spend the time. If I do not use the voucher and it expires, it is wasted money. Spending the money will kick-start the studying and push the commitment.

Finally, I find studying fun. I like being in learning mode. I like playing with new technology. This past year I have loved playing with Windows 8 and Server 2012 and learning both. On a side note, one of my professors, Jason Eckert, wrote a sheet for Certification Exam Preparation. With his permission I posted it a few years back but I still post it near my desk when in Certification mode.

Now I am also blessed in that my last few employers have compensated for exams once passed. So staying up to date does not have a big out of pocket cost to me. It was the commitment to time and effort. And for the last few years, part of my annual performance review goals has been at least 1 certification exam relevant to my role and responsibilities.

So now you know why I study and certify. And hopefully it will spur your own thinking as to why you do also, or if you do not, why not? Would love your feedback either way!

In case you’re interested, the designations I currently hold are:

Microsoft

Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate

  • Windows Server 2012
  • Windows 8
  • Windows 7
  • Windows Server 2008

Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP)

  • Enterprise Desktop Administrator Windows 7
  • Server Administrator Windows Server 2008
  • Enterprise Administrator Windows Server 2008
  • Enterprise Desktop Support Technician Windows 7
  • Consumer Support Technician Windows Vista
  • Enterprise Support Technician Windows Vista

Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS)

  • Windows 7 Configuration
  • System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 Configuration
  • SQL Server 2005
  • Windows Server 2008 Active Directory Configuration
  • Windows Server 2008 Application Infrastructure Configuration
  • Windows Server 2008 Network Infrastructure Configuration
  • Business Desktop Deployment
  • Microsoft Windows Vista Configuration

Microsoft Office Certified Specialist

  • Word 2002
  • Excel 2002
  • PowerPoint 2002
  • Access 2002
  • Outlook 2002

Windows Server 2003

  • Microsoft Certified System Administrator: Security
  • Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer: Security
  • Microsoft Certified System Administrator: Messaging
  • Microsoft Certified System Engineer
  • Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator

Microsoft Certified Professional (Legacy) 

CompTIA

  • A+ IT Technician
  • A+ Depot Technical
  • A+ Remote Support Technician
  • Network+
  • Security+

Apple

  • Apple Certified Technical Coordinator 10.6
  • Apple Certified Support Professional 10.6
  • Apple Certified Associate Mac Integration 10.6

And if all goes well I will be adding 3 or 4 more before the end of the year. But you can read more about that in my last certification update - Inner Geek - Updated December 2012.

Peace and Strength!
Yours, learning to be
Steven R. McEvoy

Comments
  • St.Archie
    |

    Wow, I am an MCSA student and I'm holding a Network+ certificate(CompTIA). I'm also of the same view that learning does not stop, learn learn learn and feed that mind.

  • Marius Sandbu
    |

    And a valid point here is that an IT-person needs to be flexible and have a wide area of knowledge in order to be attractive to the marked.  

  • Brian Swiger
    |

    I agree with all of Steven's insights, yet would like to add that I contribute to the exam development process as well, yet do so because I felt the exams were lacking in various areas and I had something to contribute. I found many folks dismissing exams due to the high volume of cheaters, including easy access to files that provide answers. I'm excited and lucky to have worked with exam developers to deter cheating and provide a multitude of question types to further verify the candidates knowledge and skill on the topic being tested. I appreciate Microsoft Learning's agility in responding to attacks on the credibility of the exams and for Liberty (and her team's) continued analysis of the exam in flight. Keep certifying!

  • Florian Klaffenbach
    |

    I totally agree with you. If you love your job and IT you need to go on and study. I currently hold 5 CompTIA and 14 Microsoft now and I began in 2008. :)

  • Dancar
    |

    There is a lot of debate over the value of certification, so I'd like to add my 2 cents.

    Like many in this field, I became a de-facto DBA via support for end-user applications with SQL (and FoxPro) back ends. I found that with a good set of instructions and minimal knowledge, one can install SQL Server, a third party application that connects to a database, and -maybe- the whole system will run for years in manner that does allow users to get their jobs done. The problem is that performance issues might occur, or the system may crash for one reason or another, and the de-facto DBA needs to be able to do something other than reboot the server.

    And even then, once you get a good backup routine in place and you're learned the difference between inner & outer joins, your site probably STILL doesn't utilize all the features of SQL Server. If many SQL Server features are a mystery, your users may not be getting all the benefit the product may provide, may be suffering unnecessary performance issues, and may be at risk for security breeches. And if you find yourself job hunting, the company you want to work for may be looking for knowledge & experience in functions you know little about.

    In my case, I've found that studying for certification has exposed me to many more features of SQL, some of which I've started using to my employer's benefit without them asking me to do it (unless your bosses are DBAs, they wouldn't know to ask you to do them). And as for other features I've experimented with on my VM at home but are required or used in my work environment, these may be among the skills being sought at my next job interview.  

  • SRMcEvoy
    |

    Dancar some great points there.

  • christmajesty.hotmail.com
    |

    Thats great achievement..I just want to know it does not confuse you with all the certification.....

    I am want to be certify in  MCPD on web developper..could you please advise me some references books or links for that..

    thx

  • Jochen Kirst├Ątter
    |

    Hi Steven,

    I totally agree with your points of view on continuous learning. Especially in IT it's part of your daily or weekly routine. Personally, I book some time every week for lectures, and I'll stick to it. It's like setting up a meeting with myself in order to get the peace/calm to concentrate on learning material.

    Currently, I'm in the middle of my certification path as Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) for Windows 8. It's quite some fun and using online resources like Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) helps a lot these days!

    Good luck with your plans for this year!

    Regards, JoKi

  • SRMcEvoy
    |

    Thanks to second Shot Passed 70-414 today and now have MCSE Windows Server 2012 Server Infrastructure. Now back to SQL 2012 training.

  • Himachalam K
    |

    Hi Steven,

    I totally agree with you.Especially in IT Field it's part of your daliy or weekly work.There is a lot of value of certification.And I know you love your job and IT Field.all I can say to you keep learning & personal acquaintance.Currently,I'm in the middle of my certification path as Cisco Certified Network Associate for Routing & Switching from Cisco.It's quite some fun and helps a lot these days. I currently hold 7 Microsoft now and I began in 2010.

    I wish all the best with your plan for this year!!!

    Regards,

    HK