Why I certify...

In a nutshell:

  • Drives my learning by setting a goal
  • Shows base-level competency
  • Demonstrates I can follow-through
  • Allows others to see...I know some stuff

I'm a big fan of Microsoft certifications. Yet, in the end, it's what you do for your team and your project that shows true skills. Don't get me wrong, certifications are nice, yet project experiences will always trump the certificate. So, why even take the tests and why certify?

Marty McFly Are You Chicken

For me, it all started with a dare. Do you remember the movie, Back To The Future, where Marty McFly wouldn't back down when being called "chicken"? That was me...and the beginning of my certification path.

I was challenged by a colleague that I wasn't worthy since I didn't have the level of Microsoft certifications that he had accomplished. At the time, I felt as if certifications weren't necessary in my career, given the number of projects that I'd successfully delivered. Sure, I'd delivered more Lotus Notes, Novell and FoxPro projects than I cared to admit. I delivered while being a Certified Novell Administration, a Certified Lotus Notes/Domino developer...as well as a Certified Weblogic Administrator. All useless certifications now, yet at the time, I was certified in the right technologies necessary to solve the business issue at hand (yes, debatable...but stick with me). So, certifications to me, at that time, were simply pieces of paper that were in the past. Sure...I'd taken a Microsoft certification for Visual InterDev before, yet I wasn't all that interested. Then, I was essentially called "chicken".

I immediately signed up for a certification area I knew well, Microsoft's BizTalk. I'd been on a multitude of BizTalk projects and knew the product like the back of my hand. I marched down to the testing center, ran through the multiple choice exam...and passed. And when I say I passed, I aced the exam. I was actually upset at the exam for being ridiculous. Blindly choosing between A or B or C or D was the dumbest determination of skill in my mind. It showed me that I could dump my knowledge into an exam. Whoop-dee-doo! I knew that I had skills in BizTalk...and could show the world through several working systems across Health Care, Agriculture and the Entertainment industries. Yet, to my colleague, I was officially in the club. I was a Microsoft certified individual.

So, from that first exam, I was disgusted by the exam simplicity and multiple choice format. I complained, verbally, to several colleagues. Eventually, they finally called me out and told me to try and fix the issue. I wanted to write, or at least help, to refine the exam process and make it meaningful. I want to make the exams difficult-enough to prove something more. Prove more to the world that the title achieved means more...in the successful end. I searched the Web for how I could assist...and stumbled across the Microsoft Learning Subject Matter Expert profile (MSL SME). Microsoft Learning is a division of Microsoft that focuses on certifications, courses and online learning to help with their products and technologies. Born To Learn is also a great, official resource for the Training and Certification Community of Microsoft.

Now...to set the record...I'm absolutely NO "expert" on anything. The ONLY expert, say, on C# is Anders Hejlsberg, in my mind. Sure, there are others that have learned the language and are VERY proficient, yet are not MY level of an "expert". EVERYONE has room to grow and learn, unless you were the originator. Yet, I signed up anyways, hoping to be selected to help out on exams. So, just like the lottery, I was randomly selected to help out on an exam as a SME. Since then, I've been assisting Microsoft Learning, writing, reviewing, refining, and otherwise helping to make the exam process much more worthy in terms of exam item types and content.

Along my path, I have encountered MANY smart and wonderful people that have taught me so much. One of those people, also threw down the challenge of becoming a Microsoft Certified Trainer. He was a multi-year trainer in the northeast that recognized all of my certifications I'd obtained...and showed me how to capitalize on them. Not only can I now teach courses, I can make decent money doing so (supporting my gadget and gaming habits). From there, I attended the MCT Summit in Washington, where they hold a class to become an MCT. Essentially, it's public speaking and facilitation combined in a single bootcamp-style course. It was challenging, yet I obtained my MCT and have trained well over 12 courses for various organizations to date.

Now, getting the MCT is easy, it's keeping it that is the challenge. Sure, have a few Microsoft certifications and take a public speaking/facilitation course...yet that certification doesn't simply renew year after year. You must not only teach a course (now it's 3 courses), you must also maintain a certain level of quality rating, as given by your students through anonymous surveys. Sure, one student giving a bad rating won't kill your teaching certification...yet a bad course could ruin your future potential of teaching.

So, at this point in my career, I have a multitude of certifications and can teach courses pertaining to those achieved certifications. I'll continue down the certification path, learning more and more as I go. As we all know, if you stop learning in this industry, you are slowly becoming obsolete.