Technology Adoption Time Frame and the Relation to Certification

Technology Adoption Time Frame and the Relation to Certification

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So, as I dig deeper into this whole Visual Studio 2008 story, seeking alignment with products and industry use, one thought continues to occur to me.  This thought leads me down a path that in my mind makes sense but may not resonate well with all.

How long does it take you to fully implement or utilize new technologies into your projects and gain a clear understanding of how this technology feeds into your applications and infrastructure?

Here is where this thought comes from.  In the IT industry in general, makes no difference if we talk about developers or IT pros, there are always early adopters and then those who are not.  Early adopters have access to the new tools and technologies by virtue of who they are or what they do.  These organizations and individuals are typically Microsoft partners, MVPs, MCTs etc.   But, what about the rest of you, those who only see glimpses of the products in public betas and CTP releases, or perhaps MSDN subscribers?  You make up the majority of the users and you get a small window of opportunity become familiar with the new stuff.

Here is where I start to think out loud.  Don't take this as an indication of what will happen, just take it as someone who is talking out loud to himself, trying to justify his thoughts.

For those of you who are certified, how much weight to you place on the Pro level certification as compared to the TS level certification?  Remember that the TS level is designed to be the certification that proves skills in the "how to" arena.  That is, you know how to implement specific features of the .NET framework.  The Pro level is where you step away from the "how to" and more into the why, when and where of technology choices in the tools you use.  In other words, you are given a somewhat high level application design from perhaps an architect.  You are the one responsible for choosing the technolgies that will be used to implement the architecture, ie SqlClient compared to ODBC, Generic Collections in lieu of standard collections etc.  This spec is passed to the TS who is responsible for implementing the functionality by writing the code.

So, for new technologies, how would you feel if the TS was the only certification released at product launch with the Pro certification delayed by 6 months to a year?  This would allow ample time for adoption of the new technologies by a wider audience, yielding much better understanding of the usage of the technologies and thereby providing a much larger and more precise set of criteria by which to create the Pro level exams.

It is my opnion that this will create a much more relevant and accurate certification for the Pro level.

Again, these are just random thoughts as I work through the certification picture for VS2008.  They may be like a single firework in the 4th of July celebrations.  A bright spark but for a moment in time that if not captured in some form, will be certain to die out and fade with the next one that follows.

 As usual, your thoughts and comments are welcome.

 

Gerry

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  • My gut instinct?  I like the idea of the PRO level exams being delayed somewhat to allow increased familiarity with the technology before they're available.  I think the reasoning you've given is a fairly common-sense approach to it, and I can't imagine anyone would really complain about the lag between the two...

  • Gerry, Holding off on releasing the new MCPD certs make sense for the reasons you outlined, as long as the wait isn't too long. Six months seems acceptable, but waiting an entire year would seem excessive given that a new framework will probably be out in a 2-3 years along with new tests, etc.

    If you don't mind, I have a question regarding the 3.5 framework's implications on the current MCPD track. I'm actively working towards obtaining my MCPD in Web Development and will be taking the first test (70-536) next week. However I'm curious as to whether or not I should continue taking any other tests until the 3.5 certifications come out. It will probably realistically take me 5-6 months to reach MCPD and I'm afraid that the requirements will change on me. Meaning that I would obtain MCTS Web Developer ASP.Net 2.0  and begin studying for the 70-547 and the requirements change to TS ASP.Net 3.5 + ADO.Net 3.5 + whatever test will be required for MCPD status. Or will there be a path for MCPD 2.0 and a separate path for MCPD 3.5?

    Curious to get your thoughts!

    Hope you and your family have a great Thanksgiving!

    John

  • Thanks to both for your comments and support on the Pro story.  It has turned heads internally as well with similar feedback.

    As for your question John around the current vs waiting certification story, here is where we are currently at.

    The TS story for 3.5 makes the pro story somewhat complex from the standpoint of mapping the technologies correctly.  The good news is that ASP.NET doesn't really change a whole lot.  There have been numerous discussions internally around version agnostic pro level exams but I can tell you that at this point, I am against them for a few reasons.

    Having said that, 3.5 brings some new technologies that will be front and center when it comes to decisions on technologies to implement in your application design.  This is but one of the reasons I use to argue against verions agnostic.

    So, will we create new Pro level exams for 3.5?  I am about 95% certain we will at this point.  They will obviously be delayed somewhat as they have not been designed yet.

    Because 70-536 will now carry over to the TS track for 3.5, you already have met one exam requirement for ASP.NET 3.5 TS.  Taking exam 70-562 will get you MCTS: ASP.NET 3.5 Developer, or whatever official title we give it.

    My plan is to allow for an easier upgrade path for those certified on 2.0 already.  This is shaping up to be an MCPD 2.0 to MCPD 3.5 upgrade path.  The ideal story is an upgrade exam that covers the deltas between 2.0 and 3.5 while giving you the necessary knowledge of the TS ASP.NET developer.  Does that make sense?

    We are trying to keep similar pillars as those in 2.0 so that we don't create mass confusion in the certification market place while still remaining relevant to the technology and how it plays out in the industry.

    So, if you continue down the 2.0 MCPD path, you will be in a much better position to acquire the upgrade to 3.5 when it becomes available.  You can also decide to hold off, but at this point, it is looking like you will be required to complete the TS ASP.NET exam and the Pro ASP.NET exam.

    3 total form going from scratch on 3.5 as compared to 3 for 2.0 plus one for the upgrade to 3.5.

    Actually, if you already have 70-536, then your count would only be two if you wait for the 3.5 pro exam.

    Hopefully this makes some sort of sense to you.  And once again remember that these plans are not locked or written in stone yet for the Pro story on 3.5.

    I can't wait for 4.0 :-)

    Gerry

  • Hi Gerry,

    To answer your question: "For those of you who are certified, how much weight to you place on the Pro level certification as compared to the TS level certification?"

    Personally I put much more weight on my MCPD than my MCTS, simply because it defines my current job role and is focused on my job responsibilities.

    You can't have a MCPD without the MCTS and this reflects the real world.

    You need to know your tools (MCTS), then know how to best use them to get the desired outcome (MCPD).

    In regards to the MCPD upgrade you mentioned;

    Yes there should be a delay; it makes sense for the release to follow the pathway.

    Also how does this upgrade coincide with the "exam refresh" Trika mentioned on her blog a while ago (http://blogs.msdn.com/trika/archive/2007/07/03/lifecycle-of-new-generation-certifications.aspx).

    From my understanding of this if you currently hold an MCPD (Web Dev), to update it you would need to refresh the underling TS exam (ASP.Net 3.5 etc.) rather than recover some of the higher level concepts in the MCPD (Testing, Determining requirements, POFs etc.).

    Also on the upgrade exams...

    From my understanding the upgrade exams for MCAD/MCSD  to MCPD where just the new MCTS exams + MCPD exam joined together (please tell me if this is incorrect).

    I think in the case of a potential MCPD upgrade a more specialized "upgrade" exam would be require. This exam could be focused on the difference between the previous MCPD and the new version.

    I know I would benefit more from an exam focusing on the new stuff rather than consisting of 80% of things of was tested on last year that remain unchanged.

    Thanks for your time!

    Cheers,

    -Iain

  • Thanks Iain, for your comments.

    In Trika's blog you linked to, the though process on that was around the concept of having the MCPD exams be version agnostic.  By having the questions focus on design decisions etc, or more job role focused, it was thought that all you would require would be to update your TS skills and the same decisions etc would remain valid.

    I don't agree with that concept and I am moving away from that way of thinking.  The decisions you make, hence the questions ask will depend heavily on new technologies that can and do change the way we create applications.  For this reason, I do not want to follow that path in my certification planning.

    I firmly believe that by refreshing the Pro exams on a delayed schedule with the TS exams and product launches, we provide a better story and cleaner upgrade path.

    As for the MCAD/MCSD upgrade exams, here is what was and will be.

    We had exams 551 and 552 which were the upgrade exams for MCAD to MCPD.  I wasn't involved in that original plan but I have issue with that because I don't think that MCAD is at the level they need to be to take a Pro level exam.  The scoring of these two exams clearly shows a high failure rate.

    You are correct that these exams consisted of components from the TS and Pro exams.  The reason was to test the MCAD on the TS items as well as the Pro items.  As if they took the path to MCPD from scratch.

    We are releasing two new exams, 558 and 559 that will replace 551 and 552 for the MCAD upgrade.  These will only take the MCAD to an MCTS level on .NET 2.0.

    I want to leave 551 and 552 in the channel but change the requirement where you must be an MCSD to take that upgrade.  Of course we can't enforce that but it will be the recommended starting point.  I believe that MCSD candidates are better suited to take the MCPD upgrade.

    Also, moving forward, I would like to see the upgrade exams test on the deltas between your current cert and the new technologies.  This will not only cover the MCTS requirements as indicated in Trika's blog, but will also cover the new requirements at the Pro level.

    Note, there will be no MCAD or MCSD upgrade to the 3.5 certifications.

    Hopefully this answers some of your questions.

    Gerry

  • Thanks for the great response Gerry.

    Yes, my questions are well answered! :-)

    All very valid points too.

    I don't think anyone could dispute that technology advancements/ editions to .NET such as LINQ, LINQ to SQL, WCF, AJAX etc. would change the way we choose to design/ develop systems and therefore requiring an updated MCPD exam.

    I may be getting ahead of things with this next question but...

    Would I be right to assume then, that future MCPD (Web Dev) exams will then require knowledge on WCF, WPF and WF as well as core ASP.NET technologies?  

    Thanks again for your time!

    -Iain

  • Thanks Iain.

    Initial thoughts on the MCPD (Web) are this;

    1) The name will change to reflect MCPD: ASP.NET instead of Web for the reasons outlined in my post on "What's in a Name".

    2) The exact requirements are not completely sorted out yet but I suspect there will be components of ASP.NET and WCF.  The jury is still out on WPF and WF.

    Again, these are only early thoughts but we want to make a proper story for the cert, ensuring it covers the necessary technologies without requiring a huge upgrade path or dilution of a single exam with multiple technologies included.

    Gerry

  • I think the training material & certification should be released soon after the product is released.  That way, developers will have training material & available exams to get certified. Waiting 6 to 12 months before something is released means by that time CTPs for the next version are starting to be avialble & then Catch22, do you wait for the next version & continue & find that when you are closer to completing all the exams, a new version is almost around the corner.  This will be a never ending circle.

    My suggestions & preference is for training material & certification soon after the product is released

  • I think you may be missing the whole story.

    My suggestion is for the Pro level only.  I still want to see the exams and training material available at launch of product for the MCTS focused area.  This allows you prepare for the certifications when the technology is brand new.

    The delay of the Pro level is the recommended path.  When the product releases with new technology, at RTM, you are not at a Pro level with that new technology, unless you are an early adopter.

    Gerry

  • I think the ideas of the 558 and 559 exams are excellent. Also the idea of waiting 6 months for the PRO exam is also quite good. You can always take the beta if you want to get certified earlier

    As for the whole upgrade exam process, I hold all 3 MCPDs so I will be really interested to see what I have to do to keep them

  • I like the delay before the pro exams come out. Makes sense to my way of thinking.

    As for the future paths, I personally don't see much point in doing an entirely new set of 3.5 certifications. IMHO, 3.5 is 2.0 with add-ons. So it would make more sense to look forward to 4.0 for the next iteration of certifications and just provide a few extra TS level exams on the 3.0 and 3.5 enhancements. Completing those exams could then easily become your upgrade path from the 2.0 MCPD's to the 4.0 versions.

  • Just to leave my two cents: I agree on the PRO exams being delayed.

  • Thanks everyone for your comments.  It's nice to see that I may not be as completely cracked up as I thought.  :-)

    We are building into our Pro story for 3.5, the upgrade paths so stay tuned Niall for what it will take to keep MCPD.  Nothing drastic, I promise.  Right now, I am envisioning exams that test the deltas only for upgrading.

    I also agree with your assessment Brent, in regards to 3.5 and 4.0.  I want to take a look at the whole cert story for developers from the perspective of the current 3 pillars of Web, Windows and Distributed and determine if they make sense in the 4.0 world.

    Of course that means I have to see what the product group is up to with Visual Studio and the languages around 4.0 to get an early start on their story and our alignment with that.

    Gerry

  • Would be possible to maybe make the MCPDs version specific.. rather than agnostic. By next year I will probably have 3 MCITPs and with 3 MCPDs as well, its a lot of upgrade exams :(

    The MCTS is tech specific, while the Pros arent..

  • Hi Niall,

    We took a look at making the Pro level exams version agnostic but at this point, it's looking like a very difficult task indeed.

    My thoughts are this;

    As technology changes, so do your decisions on how to use the products or technology in your day-to-day job tasks.  As a result, the decisions you make today, will likely change tomorrow if the technology changes sufficiently.

    As an example, look at rich client development.  Prior to WPF, you had Windows Forms.  Now you have another option.  This will impact your decision and is something that may not be taken into consideration with a version agnostic exam.

    As a result, I am looking seriously into making the Pro level exams version specific as well.

    Gerry

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