2002: The Ugly
I recently heard the phrase "if it bleeds, it leads" in the press, meaning that what everyone wants to hear is the worst possible news. When it comes to my livelihood, the last thing I want to hear is the worst possible news. Alhough I would rather ignore these types of indicators, I can't when it pertains to IT certification. For purposes of this article, the worst indicators that came out of 2002 were "ugly." Some of them gave me reasons to wonder why I would remain in IT as a certified professional. Though they have discouraged me, they have not yet convinced me to consider a career change. I will continue to advocate for IT certification despite these "ugly" indicators. Here are two of the offenders.
Microsoft's MCSE 2000 program and the confusion it has brought to the whole certification market has been, without a doubt, the ugliest indicator to come out of 2002. The root cause of this is Microsoft's inconsistency. This inexcusable trait is reflected in a number of Microsoft gaffes, which include the following: its October 11, 2001 decision to reconsider the MCSE NT 4.0 certification after dictating up to that date that the NT 4.0 certification was a dead man walking; its revisions to the MCT program without considering the negative impact they would have on the quality of instruction; and the confusion that it has nurtured in the proposed changes that were recently released concerning the .NET/Server 2003 MCSE program. These decisions have done nothing but wreak havoc. Why? Currently and over the past few years, Microsoft has been, without a doubt the biggest player in the IT certification market. Because so many look to Microsoft for all the answers, this lack of consistency has generated uncertainty in the certification world. Microsoft wants everyone to jump on its bus, but it keeps moving the bus. Thus, no one really knows what to recommend to interested candidates or whether the program is valuable. What Microsoft has set up with its certification program reminds me of the Three Card Monte dealers on the streets of New York. Every time you think you know what the certification requirements are, they move them. They just keep moving them around so that no matter what you do you lose. It is ridiculous.
In early 2001, Microsoft's push was that everyone who was an MCSE in NT 4.0 had to upgrade or else lose the certification. If you wanted to be "special," you were encouraged to upgrade by June 30, 2001whether you needed to or not. So many of us upgraded to MCSE 2000 by June 2001 to maintain the MCSE. What was the result? For me, and many that I know, the ROI on the MCSE 2000 in 2002 was zero. I continued to earn on my NT 4.0 skills because most companies that I worked with were hesitant to upgrade to 2000 from NT 4.0. The demand for 2000 MCSEs declined. Two years ago, there were plenty of jobs looking for NT 4.0 MCSEs. Last year, there was only a small percentage of jobs specifying the MCSE 2000. What will be the result for 2003? It is anyone's guess.
Microsoft needs to get its act together; the way it has developed its training and certification program has been a disaster. Microsoft has treated MCTs like second-class citizens and training providers as a product that can be easily replaced, whereas MCSEs are merely instructed to follow the whims of the Redmond hierarchy. Publishers have also been treated as a marketing puppet for the Redmond Machine. The result is confusion, reluctance, suspicion, and anger. In short, it has been ugly. Microsoft needs to rethink the value of certification, along with the value of the IT professionals that have marketed and maintained its product line. If they continue to take advantage of this group, I think there will be a major backlash, and the Microsoft certification program will become a distant memory. If Microsoft takes a step back and rethinks its strategy, its certification program might be trusted again and the product line might be embraced and not looked at with hesitancy and contempt.
The second ugly indicator in 2002 is really an extension of the layoff indicator that I mentioned earlier. Employers and brokers have treated IT job seekers with disdain. They have lost their heart and soul. Without a heart and soul, the employers and brokers have treated certified employees as disposable. This has left IT professionals wondering what their value and the value of their certifications are. This lack of heart in the job market has cascaded into the certification and training market, in which fewer have sought out IT training and fewer are taking certification exams. Many are flat-out leaving IT for other more stable fields.
If the industry only returned to its ways of a few years ago, when IT-certified professionals were valued, the result would be that the training and certification business would again grow exponentially. The truth is that the industry in 2002 was absorbed with the bottom line, not in the certified professionals who make up IT. As a result, much of the IT infrastructure in major companies was ignored last year. How long can an IT infrastructure survive without constant care and upgrade? You all know the answer already. The commercial saying "You either pay me now or you pay me later" will come to fruition. Last year, much was ignored. Hopefully, this trend will turn around in 2003. If not, IT will be a field many will flee from and that would be ugly