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Nov. 19th, 2002

The MCSE classes I'm taking were supposed to be split into two sections. The first, which I believe ends on Saturday, is essentially the theory of network administration and design. Understanding the building blocks, and why Windows 2000 in particular is set up the way it is. We crammed two years worth of material into seven weeks, but walk away with no practical application of this knowledge.

So, if that was theory, the second class was supposed to be practice. Solving real-world problems and cleaning up after our mistakes on live networks. The combined experience was designed to make us extraordinarily competent, but still not hirable. You see, the skills necessary to do well in this field are not the skills needed to pass certification exams.

This realization was not terribly encouraging. So a third class was offered, between the other two. This one is a straightforward MCSE bootcamp. It's only focus is to make everyone pass the exams. If we actually learn something useful, that's a happy side effect.

Currently, the schedule appears to be as follows:
(actual times may vary)
    Monday 12/2 - Friday 12/6
      4:30-10:00 extensive study for first two MCSE exams.
    Saturday 12/7
      8:00am - 12:00pm Review for test #1.
      2:00pm - 5:00pm Take test #1.
    Sunday 12/8
      8:00am - 12:00pm Review for test #2.
      2:00pm - 5:00pm Take test #2.

    Monday 12/9 - Friday 12/13
      4:30-10:00 extensive study for next two MCSE exams.
    Saturday 12/7
      8:00am - 12:00pm Review for test #3.
      2:00pm - 5:00pm Take test #3.
    Sunday 12/8
      8:00am - 12:00pm Review for test #4.
      2:00pm - 5:00pm Take test #4.

    Two weeks off.
    New Years Resolution to drag myself back in there...

    Monday 1/6 - Friday 1/10
      4:30-10:00 extensive study for exams 5 and 6.
    Saturday 1/11
      8:00am - 12:00pm Review for test #5.
      2:00pm - 5:00pm Take test #5.
    Sunday 1/12
      8:00am - 12:00pm Review for test #6.
      2:00pm - 5:00pm Take test #6.

    Monday 1/13 - Friday 1/17
      4:30-10:00 extensive study for final MCSE exam. Also, focused meditations on the concept of overkill.
    Saturday 1/18
      8:00am - 12:00pm Review for test #7.
      2:00pm - 5:00pm Take test #7.
      8pm-2am: Celebrate completion of MCSE certification.
    Sunday 1/19
      8:00am - 5:00pm Nurse hangover in classroom, extremely confused as to why we were scheduled to come in in the first place.

    Monday 1/20
      Remember none of this.
Going back for the third session after all of that is going to take all of my willpower, but I'm convinced it's necessary for the work I'm looking at.

'cause, getting the job is one thing.
Not demolishing someone's network is another matter entirely.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 19th, 2002 01:14 am (UTC)
nasty side effect #1:
The first class alternated one-week-on, one-week-off. This gave me a little more leeway to work with the Rotaract Club of Ventura, which has in turn been very accomodating. But this new schedule of two-weeks-on, two-weeks-off is an unavoidable conflict. We can't shift the meeting times so erratically and expect to retain members. So, two of these dates are going to have to be meetings without me.

At least they're not in a row. And I can still help with the planning and stuff behind the scenes. But, getting more people to those particular meetings is going to be imperative. Our numbers are low enough, any absence is a hit to morale.


(Oh, hey. That website's completely out of date again...)
Nov. 19th, 2002 08:16 am (UTC)
Re: nasty side effect #1:
Perhaps the ad that VC owes us can be about our meetings or possibly another informational meeting, but this time with the TIME of the event? I guess we'll figure that out... Leo seems to be a member now; Amber, like a guest star on our Rotaract show.

Anyway, good luck with getting your training accomplished! Wow, just reading about your schedule makes me feel exhausted!
Nov. 20th, 2002 05:59 pm (UTC)
MCSE... No
You know it, I know it, the world knows it - certifications mean absolutely nothing to the people in the business... We've had em @ MJP... We've gotten rid of em... I thought about it years ago (in fact, I would have been the youngest, according to Microsoft), but it was a waste of time since nothing learned to gain Microsoft certification will hold true in practice - NOTHING.
Nov. 21st, 2002 12:57 am (UTC)
If we both know it, why argue?
  1. I did mention that the certification class will be only about that piece of paper. No practical knowledge will be gained from it - we all understand that up front, and are okay with it, because...

  2. The other two classes have nothing to do with certification. One grants an understanding of how things are supposed to work, and the other has you designing and troubleshooting in practical environments. They build on each other, and should prove a nice suppliment (note that I didn't say replacement) for real-world experience.

  3. I haven't had a whole lot of time at work to apply things I've learned, but thus far it's all held true in practice. (You gotta watch those sweeping generalizations - it only takes one counter-example to knock you off the limb you climbed out on...)

  4. Can I ask why you believe Microsoft would spread falsehoods about their infrastructure to those charged with maintaining it out in the field?

  5. Being certified does not make a person inherently less knowledgable. It's no less foolish to assume an MCSE has no skills than it is to assume they're a god.

  6. An employer who looks no further than a person's degree or certification in any field deserves the employees they end up with.

  7. Formal training in the arts won't help at auditions, but that doesn't make it any less valuable or worthwhile to the artist.

  8. The tests have changed quite a bit in recent years. Where it used to be useless memorization of trivia, it's now more inferring configuration data from a given scenario and picking the best course of action.

  9. I'll grant you, this doesn't change the negative reputation MCSE's have earned in the past - by using the same title, they've seen to it we all get lumped together, qualified or not. But...

  10. Nobody cares.

I don't know. I've had another friend tell me just as strongly to drop all of this and go for Linux certification instead, because that's going to knock Microsoft off it's high horse any minute now and put a whole lot of people out of business.

Thing is, he's wrong.

You have to realize, I did think this all through before investing myself - it's not like me (lazy bastard that I am) to make so many sacrifices without good cause.

    I'm a writer, an artist and musician. I'm going to launch a successful animation and game design studio in the next year or two. And I'm going to do so on my own terms, without sleazy investors holding all the intellectual property rights.

    Everything I do to reach that point is strictly temporary.
Nov. 22nd, 2002 01:46 am (UTC)
Re: If we both know it, why argue?
Response to number 3:
You guys must have a weird setup if something from the MCSE course has applied to you. I've been through them all (I look at the tests and the materials for laughs). I am not talking about the standard knowledge that all professionals should have... I am talking about the real-world situations, and it seems if one of those goofy cases apply to you, something isn't setup right.

Response to number 4:
Microsoft doesn't spread falsehoods... They market ideas. Is there a difference? Keep in mind that the books aren't written by your everyday technician, and are highly focused on odd situations that happen so that you can be prepared. But, in general, the MCSE is supposed to be achieved by those that are already knowledgable in the computer field - not those that can memorize. So, I don't believe Microsoft spreads falsehoods, it's that they haven't put a clamp on who can and can not take the tests.

Response to number 5:
If someone is good at memorizing, i.e. an actor, and they play the part of a murderer, does it make them a murderer? No. I hope not. So for someone that just has an MCSE or any other certification, and no real-world experience to back them, then it's easy as hell to assume they know nothing.

Response to number 6:
Degrees are icing on the cake... No cake and just filling is bad. We look at the whole piece of cake, and sure, icing makes it better, but we don't even care about the icing.

Response to number 7:
If someone feels it will help them, then that's what they feel. It's an opinion, just like my thoughts on this.

Response to number 8:
It's the same... We get the course materials every time they issue new ones. Memorizing contradicting information and spitting it out for the test. If anything new is actually learned in the material, then maybe you haven't been working long in the field.

As far as the linux - I agree... Remember, I too have certifications up the wazoo... More than you could possibly know (I've never let people know, until now). Do they help - no. Does it look good - yes.

And the ultimate:
Does anyone care?

No one.
Nov. 22nd, 2002 07:49 am (UTC)
Different perspectives
Degrees are icing on the cake... No cake and just filling is bad. We look at the whole piece of cake, and sure, icing makes it better, but we don't even care about the icing.
You ever buy a cake without frosting?

Me neither.

One job interview I'll never forget..
    The company rents out high-end video-editing computers, and is very successful at it because I guess the same tax benefits that cause movie studios to fire their in-house post-production staff and farm out jobs applies to equipment as well. So, you've just finished filming something in another country, and maybe want to edit it there to facilitate reshoots. One phone call, and your editing computers are on an airplane. And flying along with the computers would have been a technician trained in the use of all the installed software. He sets everything up, shows you how to do your job, and gives you a pager number that will bring him back to your site the moment you have a problem.

    To review, the job would have started with six months of paid training on machines that, at the time, cost half a million dollars. (a joke, I know. today, you could probably put them together for less than a thousand) When there's no work, the applicant is encouraged to bring in my own projects to edit. And when there is a job, it's mostly downtime to explore someplace new (though, if you want to hang out and help on the movie, they won't turn you down). Husbands and fathers need not apply - they only want loners who are ready to drop everything at a moment's notice. And because they understand how rare this is, they're willing to pay the successful applicant quite a lot of money.

    I was the perfect match on every level. My resume, devided equally between creative and technical skills, had the president of the company drop everything to personally call me in for an interview, which he assured me was only a formality at this point.

    ...which is about where everything went wrong. I don't know what happened between that call and the interview, but I was met with great hostility upon entering the building, and the same man who told me a day ago that this job was mine now glanced over my resume, saw no degrees or certification, and suddenly couldn't remember why he bothered to call me. He looked me in the eye and told me I'm a flake who never finishes anything, that it would be a great waste of company resources to hire me, and that I had wasted his valuable time by bothering to show up when we both knew he could never consider hiring me. I suggested we could put his mind at ease by getting their desired term of service in writing, and establishing heavy financial penalties if I should go through their training but not fulfil my end of this contract. He had security escort me out of the building.

I've had artistic jobs slip out of my grasp like that more times than I can count, as well. They loved my work, and would have hired me in a second, but for the degree or certification requirement. You must be as tall as this sign to get on the ride. It needn't be in a related field. It just needs to be there on paper.

So... If everything else you say is true, the only thing I accomplish is to make potential employers finally judge me on my own merits.

I'm okay with that.
Nov. 22nd, 2002 08:39 am (UTC)
Re: Different perspectives
Actually - a pound cake is great without frosting...

And yes, the only thing the certifications and degrees will do is let the potential employer see that you have dedication to complete something. Whether or not they care about what you have is a different story, but from what I've seen - they almost never do.

It's the same old story - do you have a high school diploma, or a bachelors? Will you be asking 'would you like fries with that?' or '_fill in the blank_?'
Even if the high school guy has more knowledge than the guy with the bachelor's, until you get the employer that looks beyond the degrees and certifications and give both of them an equal chance, you'll be screwed...

"The fault, my dear self, is not in our certifications and degrees, but in the employers that we need them" - Cassius to Brutus, Jas Shakespeare Batra's "Julio Caesar," Act I, Scene ii.
Nov. 22nd, 2002 11:48 am (UTC)
extremely cynical dating theory applied to the job market
Still not disagreein' with you. But here's the thing:
    The employers who need them are predictable, easily manipulated, and pop up all in a row with one four-letter keyword search.

    To put it bluntly, they're easy.
When you're building a career with a company, it's important to earn their respect, and that they earn yours. That's a long-term relationship, and you don't want to waste your time with the wrong people.

But if that's not your goal; if you only want one thing out of them and then you're gone, the stupid ones become far more attractive. And you become a more attractive prospect by virtue of the other applicants at this level wanting no part of them.
    In our Star Trek society, no one will ever have reason to think that way.

    But I can't do much to help bring that about without playing the game a while first.

    There is a plan, though.

    And if I walk away with nothing but hatred and contempt for everyone I've ever worked for, so much the better - it only gives me more incentive to keep going.
Nov. 27th, 2002 03:12 pm (UTC)
School and the sacrifice for it
*sniff* I miss you...
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


self portrait (escher)
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