In the early days of my career, I was on a help desk when I was in the office, and would travel to set up small doctor’s offices with PCs and networking. I call it “paying my dues”. One nice thing was that my coworkers and I got a deal from our employer: each certification exam passed was a $1000 raise and the company paid for the exams. The Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) cert at the time required passing 6 exams, and I was pretty knowledgeable on Windows NT 4.0. Windows 2000 was around the corner, and everyone knew Microsoft was going to force expiration of the MCSE, so we all were working hard to pass the tests.
In the matter of a year, I earned the MCSE, plus my Cisco Certified Network Associate certificate. The $7000 raise wasn’t enough to keep me, since other companies were knocking down my door. Overall, I was able to use those certifications to my fiscal advantage, jumping jobs until I over doubled my original salary within 3 years.
I then got tired of cert chasing and decided to go get a Master’s degree. No one would ever expire my degree and my company at the time paid for the education. It took about 3 years attending part-time, but I completed that degree and figured I was finished with my education.
My MCSE was completed in 2002. I know that because, today, I passed a new Microsoft examination (70-533 Implementing Azure Infrastructure Solutions.) I logged into my profile and, sure enough, the old certs are listed there as “Legacy” with a completion date on them. 15 years. Holy crap….feels like yesterday.
Anyway, this isn’t about ruminating on old times. You’re probably wondering why I would dip my toe back into this world. Well, I think it’s pretty clear that I have at least another 15 years to go in my career (probably 20), and my previous certifications certainly helped me. I’m not trying to job jump anymore and not worried about building a resume. I do, however, need to protect myself in the event that something happens. I just feel like it’s a good time to get some creds under my belt again, and hopefully they will carry me the rest of my career.
70-533 was tougher than I imagined, and covered the broadest set of material I’ve ever tried to master. 43 questions. I swear 50% of them were were either using the Azure Command Line Interface, PowerShell, or JSON templates. There were even Linux questions, and I mean literally things like, “What file on a Linux server needs to be modified for N to work?” There were IP address questions regarding virtual networks. DNS questions, Azure Active Directory, Web Apps, too. Ooh, there was one regarding troubleshooting a Windows web server running in IaaS in Azure….I think I got it right in that the IIS logs were needed to find the problem, but I’m not sure.
I said it a few months ago, but I don’t know how someone could get into this field of work these days. I just don’t think there’s the time in the day to learn all the stuff you need to learn to get your certifications, unless you go through a boot camp kind of “cheating” thing. The breadth of knowledge is just too big. Windows Server alone can do so much out-of-the-box that you could take any included service with it and make a specialist’s career. You can spend years becoming an expert at configuration management alone, using Chef, PowerShell DSC, or Puppet. (Yeah, there were questions on these on my test, too.)
Anyway, now I’m on to my next exam, 70-473 Designing and Implementing Cloud Data Platform Solutions. Yes, it’s all SQL all the time. Azure SQL, SQL Server migrations, security and HA for databases, etc. Again, more breadth of knowledge. Good thing I have that 15 years of experience under my belt….