Call me unusual, but I like doing the MS Certification exams. First, some history.
My first exam was way back in 1999, when I participated in the beta program for the (then) new Visual FoxPro exams, 70-155 (Designing and Implementing Distributed Applications with Microsoft® Visual FoxPro® 6.0) and 70-156 (Designing and Implementing Desktop Applications with Microsoft® Visual FoxPro® 6.0). These were awarded when the beta program for those exams finished on 09 Feb 2000. All of a sudden I was an MCP.
I was hooked. Soon afterwards I followed up with the compulsory 70-100 (Analyzing Requirements and Defining Solution Architectures) and the optional 70-029 (Designing and Implementing Databases with Microsoft® SQL Server 7.0) exams and by April 12 that year I was an MCSD (although not MCSD.NET - this was in the Win32 timeframe).
I haven't hyperlinked any of the exams above, because they've since been retired and are no longer listed on the MCP exam site. Some time passed after this as I hadn't moved to .NET (I was still working a lot with VFP), and there were no new exams that seemed relevant.
That changed in 2004 when I accepted this role at MS, and in August 2005 I passed my first .NET exam: 70-305 (Developing and Implementing Web Applications with Microsoft® Visual Basic® .NET and Microsoft® Visual Studio® .NET). I sat the exam at our internal technical conference, TechReady and I found that sitting exams at a conference made a lot of sense. It was time that was already out of band for me, I was half-way across the world, immersed in the technology and I wasn't likely to get distracted by the day-to-day events that seem to sap your time for doing "optional" things.
The next year (2006) at TechReady, I really went for it. I sat and passed 4 exams in a week (in chronological order) - 70-431 (TS: Microsoft® SQL Server™ 2005 - Implementation and Maintenance), the foundation 70-536 (TS: Microsoft® .NET Framework 2.0 - Application Development Foundation), 70-528 (TS: Microsoft® .NET Framework 2.0 - Web-based Client Development) and 70-526 (TS: Microsoft® .NET Framework 2.0 - Windows®-based Client Development). This gave me a new certification in the new generation of certifications. I was now a MCTS three times over (2 in .NET and one in SQL 2005).
This year I took the same approach. I sat and passed another 4 exams in a week: one TS; 70-529 (TS: Microsoft® .NET Framework 2.0 - Distributed Application Development) and three PRO; 70-547 (PRO: Designing and Developing Web-based Applications by Using the Microsoft® .NET Framework), 70-548 (PRO: Designing and Developing Windows®-based Applications by Using the Microsoft® .NET Framework) and 70-549 (PRO: Designing and Developing Enterprise Applications by Using the Microsoft® .NET Framework). This gave me an additional MCTS (.Net Framework 2.0: Distributed Applications) and also certified me as a MCPD three times over (Web Developer, Windows Developer and Enterprise Application Developer)
My impression of the certification program and the exams is very positive. Each time I study for and sit an exam I feel that I learn more and more about the breadth and capability of the product or technology I'm studying. Being forced to explore all of the parts means that I discover areas I may never have come across day-to-day, but that prove useful as I go about my job. It also helps me build an overall picture of (in this case) the framework and how its parts fit together. Finally, it gives me a tangible set of achievements to which I can point my manager (or a potential employer). Having passed these exams demonstrates a base level of knowledge and at least some interest in furthering my understanding of the tools I'm using. Note that I'm not saying that this is the only way to further one's understanding, indeed it's not the only way I use, but it is something that is easily demonstrated. I only need to point interested parties at the Transcript Sharing Page and tell them to use TranscriptID 735419 and Access Code AndrewCoates.
If you've got to the end of this rather long post and you want more information about Microsoft Certifications, there's the official site, but you can do a lot worse than to subscribe to Trika Harms zum Spreckel's entertaining blog (although, if you get a chance to meet Trika in person as I just have at TechEd, you won't be at all surprised that her blog is so entertaining). Local MVP and certification junkie Rob Farley also often posts great information.
It's that time again, our current TechTalkBlogs editors Bronwen, Lorraine and Elaine have been going now for exactly 2 months and focused their posts generally on TechEd. I'm not so sure that Frank's characterization of them is entirely accurate, but they definitely did a super job.
Some posting stats from their time at the wheel:
So the big question is, who's next? I'll announce the next editors in a future post, but in the mean time, here are some hints:
This just in:
Learn how to leave complex and costly integration behind, and turn IT into a truly strategic asset. Register your place at "Extending the Connected Enterprise" now, and discover how BizTalk Server 2006 R2 allows diverse systems inside and outside businesses to talk to each other – enabling a true Service Oriented Architecture. Find out how BizTalk is relevant to your particular industry, with examples from the financial services, government, health, manufacturing and retail sectors. Event registration link is http://www.microsoft.com/australia/servers/biztalk/event/default.mspx
Learn how to leave complex and costly integration behind, and turn IT into a truly strategic asset. Register your place at "Extending the Connected Enterprise" now, and discover how BizTalk Server 2006 R2 allows diverse systems inside and outside businesses to talk to each other – enabling a true Service Oriented Architecture. Find out how BizTalk is relevant to your particular industry, with examples from the financial services, government, health, manufacturing and retail sectors.
Event registration link is http://www.microsoft.com/australia/servers/biztalk/event/default.mspx
We’d like to advise that the session titles, recordings and PPTs are correct on the DVD you have in your delegate bag, however the session descriptions do not align to the sessions. A corrected online version is being posted to CommNet and will be available from Thursday morning. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.
My OPML is full of many of Australia's top technical people, but there are also a few non-technical people that I love reading (Dilbert's Scott Adams is always great value for example). Here are a couple of new ones I've added:
Michele Connolly's How To Be Happy blog (as pointed out by Craig Bailey) is a wonderful read. Subscribed.
Update - Michele's moved her blog. It's now at http://www.happinessstrategies.com/blog. Subscribe at http://feeds.feedburner.com/HowToBeHappy.
Steve Herzberg (consultant and ex-First Class cricketer) has just started a promising blog with tips on how to sell, both yourself and your product. Subscribed.
I've been talking about VSTO v3 and OBA in my TechEd sessions in Australia and New Zealand, but there have also been lots of questions about OpenXML. Wouter Van Vugt has written a great book called OpenXML Explained and I've been giving out copies in my session and in the TechEd Australia Expo Hall (thanks Doug). I've got a box full left, so while stocks last, if you drop me a mail (via this blog's contact page) I'll ship you one (Australian and NZ addresses only).
If you're happy with a soft copy, I've been waiting for Doug to host it on www.OpenXMLDeveloper.org, but I can wait no longer. I've attached it to this article uploaded it here and I'll take it down from here when it goes up there.
Update - Doug's just announced that it's now up on www.OpenXMLDeveloper.org, see http://openxmldeveloper.org/articles/1970.aspx and it has all of the sample docs available for download too. I've still got a few hard copies left.
Long-time MVP Graham Seach is organising an Office CodeCamp-style DevCon to be held here at the MS Offices in Sydney over the weekend of November 3-4 (that's closer than you think!). It will most likely be a free event and Graham is looking for expressions of interest from:
If you're interested in being involved in this great community opportunity, please contact Graham (gseach at accessmvp dot com) ASAP. He's also after suggestions for content, so please inundate him with your thoughts and get behind this initiative.
One of the great features of the New OpenXML file formats used by Office 2007 is their server-side programmability (creation, interrogation, updating etc). Erika Ehrli has a great post on Building Server-Side Document Generation Solutions. Check it out!
Tired of squiggly lines under correctly spelt words like colour and flavour (not to mention anything ending in -ise)? Here's a tip for updating your dictionary in Live Writer.
This came through on an internal list today. The author, Asli Bilgin, warns that this is "BY NO MEANS a comprehensive list", so if you've got more, leave them in the comments here.
VSTO Resources bits & bytes Get Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 Tools for the 2007 Microsoft Office System Visit the Visual Studio Tools for Office Forum Visit the VSTO Developer Center Get the OBA/VSTO Starter Kit v. 1.0 Try the O2 OBA Challenge Visit OBA Central Webcasts MSDN Webcast: Visual Studio Tools for Office Straight from the Experts: Ken Getz (Level 200) MSDN Webcast: Visual Studio Tools for Office Straight from the Experts: Robert Green (Level 200) MSDN Webcast: Visual Studio Tools for Office Straight from the Experts: Tim Huckaby (Level 200) MSDN Webcast: Visual Studio Tools for Office Straight from the Experts: Paul Ballard (Level 200) Blogs The nicest man at MSFT (and he plays a mean guitar too): Mike Hernandez Blog Paul Stubbs – Senior Program Manager VSTO2 blog Best of VSTO blogs Brian Goldfarb, Group Product Manager – he can demo a fetching VSTO Chris Castillo's WebLog John Durant Tim Huckaby Ken Getz blog Kathleen McGrath Paul Ballard Tech talks VSTO and security – Eric Lippert, VSTO team, senior software dev engineer Scope of VSTO Martin Sawicki, program manager VSTO Why a VSTO Runtime? Thomas “TQ” Quinn – Principal Architect & Christin Boyd – Customer Program Manager (she KNOWS things, just ask her) demos Video Demo: VSTO and VBA Interop How Do I Videos VSTO demo Catherine Heller, Technical Evangelist – Windows Live Extend VBA with .NET Eric Schnepp, Principal Program Manager in the VSTO team labs MSDN Virtual Lab: Building Custom Office Applications Using Microsoft Visual Studio Tools for Office Part 1 - Data Binding with Word Content Controls MSDN Virtual Lab: Building Custom Office Applications Using Microsoft Visual Studio Tools for Office Part 2 - Create an Outlook Add-in with a Form Region MSDN Virtual Lab: Building Custom Office Applications Using Microsoft Visual Studio Tools for Office Part 3 - Build an Excel Add-in with Ribbon and Custom Task Pane Integration MSDN Virtual Lab: Building Custom Office Applications Using Microsoft Visual Studio Tools for Office Part 4 - Create a SharePoint Workflow