How to have relevant and current skills in ’cloudy’ times?

imageThis year Microsoft Certification celebrates 20th birthday! It is an important birthday as this year is THE year of important changes. But, a bit more about that later.

What was going on twenty years ago, what happened around year 1992?

Microsoft Windows 3.0 was introduced in 1990; Windows 3.1 two years later, Microsoft Windows NT shipped in July 1993, Windows 95 and Microsoft Office 95 saw the daylight in 1995.

Do you remember what the typical internet connection speed was back then? It is funny and interesting to remember speeds in Kbps and acronyms such as BBS and Gopher. I remember turning off loading pictures in Netscape Navigator (!) to speed up page loading because the text was what we were looking for and pictures were (un)necessary evil. I started surfing the Internet with speeds of 9600 Kbps and couple of years later I bought a US Robotics 56K modem for a price that was between today’s prices of a 128MB and 256MB SSD drive.

Today, people talk about clouds and cloud computing almost everywhere as if the terminology has been always with us. Speed is measured in tens of Megabits per second (Mbps), video is streaming in HD resolution on our 42’ LCD screens, cell (mobile) phones are useless without an internet connection.

Take a look at this infographic to see the history of Internet usage and speeds:

From Horseback To Bullet Train: The History Of Internet Usage And Speeds

Infographic: From Horseback To Bullet Train: The History Of Internet Usage And Speeds by WebHostingBuzz

Typical computing environment today is light years away from what it was 20 years ago. Not only software and hardware has evolved but also has administration, engineering, deployment and maintenance. Our workplaces evolved too and the way we work has changed significantly. We can work everywhere: on a train, over the ocean, on mobile phones, very often keeping files stored centrally, ‘’in the cloud’’. This way files are synchronized and up-to-date all the time, accessible from virtually everywhere.

If you work in or around IT industry you probably have already witnessed the shift in the skills IT professionals need to have. As the technology has evolved so our skills need to evolve to be able to configure, manage, deploy, operate or design these cloud enabled environments.

Microsoft Learning and Microsoft certifications have always followed the technology and stayed current and aligned with the products: from Windows NT to the latest and greatest Windows Server 2008 R2; from Windows 95 to Windows 7. Microsoft certifications today validate skills on almost every Microsoft product or technology.

If you have taken Microsoft certification exams in the past, you certainly noticed how exams have changed. Microsoft Learning kept their exam development process relevant and changed the way exams are developed. The exam experience is now very different from what it was before. This is a good change for the mutual benefit.

Following table shows some big improvements in exam development process:

Today Back Then
External subject matter experts write items Product groups wrote items or hired contractors to write items
More interactive item types are being added to exams; in fact, most new exams will contain a minimum of 3 different item types We used mostly multiple choice items
You will not see true/false items on our exams (good T/F items are very difficult to write well and easy to guess) A few true/false questions were sprinkled through our first exams
We’re pilot testing a short answer “fill in the blank” code snippet item type on our code based exams Our very first exams had a few short answer “fill in the blank” types of questions but these were removed because of scoring was extremely complex
External subject matter experts review items Items were reviewed by internal Microsoft employees
Beta exams are free Beta exams cost $50
External subject matter experts set the cut score The cut score was set by internal Microsoft employees

(Table taken from Born To Learn post 20 Years of Certification: Exams Grow Up)

New technologies are “cloud enabled” and “cloud capable“; new technologies inevitably include cloud-related skills. IT Professionals and Developers need to validate new skills and Microsoft Private Cloud Certification is good example.

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Beta exams were available in April and they should be published by July. The private cloud certification builds upon the skills on Windows Server 2008 as the foundation and extends onto validating skills with deployment, operation and monitoring with System Center 2012 range of products.

It is not too late if you have not started yet. But do not delay, start planning and learning today by achieving MCITP Server Administrator certification!

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Good luck!

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