Amazon Widget

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Thoughts on Microsoft Certification

This could be somewhat of a controversial post.  It deals with certification and braindumps and "cheating".  You have been warned. :)

First off, I hold several Microsoft certifications.  Second, I have seen some of the offerings of TestKing, Pass4Sure, ActualTests, and RealExams for myself.  There are dozens of others, I'm sure, but quite frankly I don't have the time nor the desire to search them out.  That's what is for.  

The observations in this post are strictly my own, and are based on my perusal of some of the aforementioned braindumps, which is the basis for my opinion, and thus this blog entry.  If you stumbled across this blog entry as a result of searching for such materials, you won't find any here, but I would ask that you read the entire post before continuing on in your search.

A braindump, such as one listed above, is cheating.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Knowing the answers to an exam before taking it cannot be called anything less.
You cannot, I repeat, CANNOT, justify the use of braindumps to me.  Don't even waste the energy even thinking about trying to justify it to me.  If you know the questions before you take test, and can do a decent job of memorizing the answers, what have you learned?  How to memorize answers, that's it.  You haven't learned the material, you haven't spent hours and hours in some kind of lab environment learning about the product, how it works, how to configure it, what x and y and z can do. 

What can or should you do?  This is simply my opinion, take it with as many grains of salt as you like.  Turn in cheaters.  If you see people asking for braindump materials, get their name and/or e-mail address, plus the site where you saw the post, and report them to the appropriate certification source (Microsoft, Cisco, Red Hat, etc.).  It may not be the same e-mail address they have on file somewhere for their certification, it could be (and probably is) a fake name, but at least you're alerting companies to the cheaters and where they like to lurk.  If companies like Microsoft can take down these braindump sites, it raises the value of their certifications because there is no more "easy" avenue.  Granted, if someone wants to cheat, they'll find a way.  And taking these sites down will simply push them into the deep, dark corners of the interwebs.  But that's fine with me.
In the end, if you use TestKing, ActualTests, et al., as your "prep" material prior to an exam, then your certification is worth exactly what you paid for those materials.  You've learned nothing of value, and in any real world environment you will be exposed as a fraud, if you even make it past a good interviewer.  You have nothing to be proud of, no reason to show off the letters you can put behind your name.  For those who do not go that route, and learned on the job, in a lab, while pouring hours and hours of their own time and hundreds, if not thousands, of their own dollars into lab equipment, books, software, etc., your certification is priceless.  You can be proud of your achievement.

In the end, I'd rather have something I can hang my hat on and be proud of than have something that I don't deserve.

Maturing on the job

I was exchanging e-mails with an old friend today, and started talking about my experiences and how I've changed since I started working where I am now.  Hey, no better time to make a blog entry! :)

I'll be the first to admit that I've spent way too much time coasting and resting on my laurels the last few years, and I seriously regret it now.  Hindsight, right?  If I had a nickel for every time I've thought, "If only I had learned about this a few years ago", or "If only I had read up on that", I'd be, well, maybe not rich, but I'd have quite a bit more money than I do now. ;)  The difference between today and a year ago, or 2 years ago, or.... is that I've realized that if I want to get where I want to go, I have to get there myself, that I can't rely on others to help me get there, and I have to be able to show beyond a shadow of a doubt why I'm better than everyone else. I had often said in interviews that my goal was to be "one of the best".  I think I've finally figured out how to actually get there instead of just talk about it and think that what I've done in the past will help me achieve that goal.

The company I'm at right now is the first place in a long time where I don't want to screw off rather than work, or give a half-hearted effort, or openly question my manager and/or upper management and their decisions.  I've been given challenging work, have been learning more than I ever thought I would about Active Directory and all sorts of related things, and have been able to take pride in my work. Also, to get not only private but public kudos from my supervisor and manager (who then relay those up the management chain, where my contract extensions are approved :D ) has really driven me.

I really think I've matured professionally since starting here, but I know I have a ways to go still.  No longer am I the cowboy who goes off and just does things or makes changes because I think they're a good idea.  I'm the one now who tries to reign in the cowboys.  Now, instead of briefly reading about something and going off half-cocked trying to use it, I research.  I learn.  I plan.  I learn.  I test.  I learn some more.  I look at new technologies with an eye towards how they can improve what is in place in production, not just as something I can say I've learned about and used in a lab.  I've found sources of information that just overwhelm me with how much sheer knowledge can be obtained by digging into and reading them.

Now, I just need to maintain this momentum and keep moving forward.  My goals remain the same - to be one of the best, and to work for Microsoft.  Now, hopefully, I have the tools to make it happen.