Monday 25 March 2013

Why I Certify?

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, a few friends and someone on the Microsoft forums 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 than waiting and starting over again. I know people who still proudly state that they are MCS 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 Their designations are so out of date they cannot upgrade even if they want to.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 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 Certified System Administrator: Security
    Windows Server 2003
Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer: Security
Windows Server 2003
Microsoft Certified System Administrator: Messaging
    Windows Server 2003
Microsoft Certified System Engineer
    Windows Server 2003
Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator
    Windows Server 2003
Microsoft Certified Professional (Legacy)

Microsoft Office Certified Specialist
    Word 2002
    Excel 2002
    PowerPoint 2002
    Access 2002
    Outlook 2002


A+ IT Technician
A+ Depot Technical
A+ Remote Support Technician


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   My Homepage  My Blog LinkedIN Twitter

CompTIA IT PRO, A+ ITT, A+ DT, A+ RST, Network+, Security+

"Now we can travel with more books stored in our telephones than the ancient Egyptians kept in their vast library at Alexandria."
           Mike Aquilina

"No tea cup is big enough nor book long enough for me to be satisfied."
           C.S. Lewis

"When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left over I buy food and clothes!"


Gerry said...

Great Post!!

How much time do you typically spend preparing for each exam ?

Given the commitments of a full time job, a growing family, reviewing books, etc how do you find time for anything else ?

Steven R. McEvoy said...

Gerry great questions. I usually spend 2 months per exam. If it is available I do training via Train Signal I have a corporate account and access to every course. I also tend to go through the Microsoft Press books Microsoft Self-Paced Training Kits, again if they are available. I have done a number of exams prior to books being available or in beta. For those exams I take the list of exam objectives and try and work through them all until I know them pat. It is hard to find balance. I find when I am in Certification mode, I skimp on working out and study more. It is very hard to find balance across all areas of life but it is something I strive for. I often spend my lunch at work training. I have used a few books lately from Manning Publications Learn … in a month of lunches and they are great resources. But I am luck that my kids are early to bed early to rise. Often they are in bed by 8-830pm and then I head to the basement and study until midnight. But sometimes it just comes down to choice and commitment. I often set goals and do not meet them or not meet them on time, sometimes they get flipped around. This year I was hoping to do SQL 2012 first then Server 2012, because of need at work I switched the order. The big thing for me is no matter how far I get behind, or filed to start, … I get I can just start today and begin again.