All is Quiet on the Cert Front

All is Quiet on the Cert Front

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Too quiet actually.

I know a lot of people are waiting to see what the new cert plan will be for Visual Studio 2010 and .NET 4.0.  I can’t tell you yet because we are working on it now.

The main reason for this post and the title is more related to a SQL Server exam, 70-433.  I know it is no longer in beta which means it’s no longer free but…….

If you know of Database Developers who are thinking of certification, give them a little shove that way if you would please.  We are looking at seeding new content into the exam and our psychometrician is looking for more exam takes to validate the question performance etc.

Besides, I was told by your peers when we split this out seperately, as compared to the SQL 2005 story, that there are thousands and thousands of Database Developers out there who wanted their own exam and didn’t want to take 70-431 because it covered some of that “administrative” stuff.

Well, here it is so let’s see how many of those thousands and thousands want to take it.

BTW, I’ll also be going back to the exam results and ensuring that all your peers who told me this have actually taken the exam too.  :-)

 

Gerry

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  • I wonder how much of the "quiet" is due to the fact that many developers don't live near a testing center anymore thanks to you guys giving Vue the heave ho?

  • For the record, we didn't give Vue the heave ho.

    I can't go into the details of the decision to move to a single provider either, but your comment is incorrect and it needs to be rectified.

    Now, I will concur that if Prometric has not set up a testing center in your area, it would mean you may not take an exam due to difficulties in getting to a testing center.

    Gerry

  • Fair enough but from the press releases from both companies it "appeared" as though you guys gave them the heave ho.

    I actually called up the Vue center that I used to test at (I've got all the SS 2005 and .NET 2.0 certs) to ask them if they were going to be a Prometric testing center as well.  He said that he had talked to Prometric but it would end up being a money loser for the testing center.  That was a bit of a surprise to me.

    Anywho, I know I heard from someone in Microsoft that after the switch to only Prometric that you guys would be working with Prometric to get more testing centers opened up.  Vue had a ton more testing centers than Prometric.  Well, I can only speak for California, but I haven't seen a new Prometric site in 2+ years.

    Alright, I'm done griping.  Just thought you should know that there are devs out there wanting to take exams (4 to 6 at my company alone) but Prometric is not meeting the need.

  • I can believe that the press would cause confusion.  I'm also a pilot and the latest round of aircraft accidents are yet proof again that news agencies report in a manner that makes the news "interesting" with a spin on the truth.   So, I can understand perfectly how you could have gotten that impression.

    Most of my own testing was done through a Vue testing center as well.  Being an employee of Microsoft I obviously have to be impartial in my judgements and comments but I had good experiences with Vue and our own testing center in Redmond was Vue.  They have since switched to Prometric however.

    Now, if you're telling me that I'm missing out on having devs getting certified because there are a lack of testing centers in your area, I'd like to know the locations so I can have our account manager work with Prometric to see about getting testing centers in those locations.

    Please send the areas to me if you would please.  I have enabled the Contact Me option on this blog so you can forward to me that way.  I will reply to directly so you also have my work email and we can see about getting some centers out your way.

    Gerry

  • Hi Gerry, coming to the current exams (VS2008 and. .NET 3.5), when will the exams 70-568 and 70-569 will be available? Do you know something about that?

  • Hi Ariel,

    I know all there is to know.  :-)

    The current dates I have for the release of these two exams is March 26, 2009.

    Gerry

  • I am sure I am not alone in being a .Net and SQL developer.  I will do the .Net exams first (five done so far, two to go ADO.NET and WCF) then the SQL exams.  So this could be why there is a delay in SQL 2008 developer takeup.

    As am already an MCITP SQL developer I am considering not doing the SQL 2008 exams, not sure how much added value they will have for me.

  • Good feedback Geoff, thanks.

    I also agree that if you are not working in SQL 2008 or need to prove 2008 specific skills, then MCITP on SQL 2005 is likely good enough.

    Gerry

  • I'm waiting for the release of exam 70-566. It's scheduled for today. Where can i find preperation material and such stuff?

    Thanks,

    Peter

  • Much the same. I picked up MCPD: Windows through the betas, and I've long held MCDBA. There are several things stopping me from upgrading and/or adding new SQL Certs.

    1) We had major issues upgrading the DB for several current applications to SQL 2005. Sudden port saturation (ADO quirk with multiple server-side cursors), queries needing a rewrite due to stricter standard compliance, and a couple of cases where the query optimizer "rewrote the semantics of the query", which some MS rep says is perfectly OK, since "99% of queries will work fine". Parentheses couldn't possibly be there for a reason, and this way is faster. It's wrong, and causes a runtime error, but I'll admit it would be faster if it didn't.

    We're trying SQL 2008, which in my opinion is the Service Pack to 2005 that finally more or less works. But adoption is slow.

    So I haven't had much experience with the new "features" to be sure I'll pass an exam, the exams won't cover the definite bugs, and SQL 2000 certification shows I know Transact-SQL well enough.

    2) The programming world is mostly moving on from data-driven design. I started in Classic ASP. There were times when I sent data to SQL just to have it do string concatenation for me, because it was so much faster than the VBScript interpreter, and I didn't want to write a COM DLL. So for anything complicated, all business logic went in stored procs. Knowing SQL meant the difference between O(n^6) nested array loops and a near-instantaneous set of joins. Stored procs at least allowed syntax checking and code highlighting in Query Analyzer, instead of embedded strings in code.

    Now nobody wants to hand-write select statements, since NHibernate, Entity Framework, Linq, and other frameworks do all the grunt work for you, with the possibility of lazy-loading as needed. Why waste most of your time writing and debugging brittle queries when the framework can do it for you in a testable fashion?

    SQL stored procs may be useful in some Insert/Update/Delete circumstances, to enforce validation rules that can't be modeled by built-in constraints. And my plan is to use views, mapped to a new entity, for slow subqueries or aggregates with a having clause. This saves the O(n^m) looping in memory, or multiple lazy-loading round trips. It also allows the DBA to schemabind and index the view if the subquery becomes a performance bottleneck, or to just rewrite the implementation of the view for performance, so long as the data (interface/contract) returns as expected.

    But no more wholesale "stored procs for everything". And the views or custom constraints are on a case-by-case basis. The default is to just use the DAL, and only to use database features when necessary for consistency or performance.

    3) Related to 2, being a DBA is starting to get boring. If you use NHibernate or just manual Domain-Driven Design, you're going to define classes first. NHibernate will auto-generate the schema, and with DDD, it's a fairly mechanical process to do manually. The DBA handles optimization (index tuning, perf counters), and schema migration scripts ("We added a non-nullable column in dev, and it works great with no pre-existing rows. Convert all our prod data so it works too.") He or she may not even be consulted in the data modeling phase, which to me is the "fun" part of the job.

  • Hi Peter,

    The prep guide for 70-566 can be found here,

    http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/exams/70-566.aspx

    Gerry

  • Chris I agree with your comments, when problems arise it is useful to have the SQL knowledge but database centric development is definitely declining with ORM taking over.

  • Hey Gerry!

    I asked a few folks internally about the SQL Admin vs Developer thing and whether that is impacting them going after the 2008 track.

    Most of the responses I got back here at work seemed to indicate that there is a general slowdown in certification investment from regional levels.  

    As a result, my feedback to you is that you may want to consider the macroeconomic situation in your judgement of the uptake of the new track and realize that differences in approach arent neccessarily as heavy a factor as companies scaling back thier training budgets.

    Also, if I may be allowed to comment on the back and forth you were talking about earlier, I would like to express my view that regardless of how we got here, the experience prometric remains abysmal.  There are glaring scheduling issues and availability issues that have not been addressed in 2 years.

    I was talking to an associate in florida just 10 minutes ago and he said something to the effect of "going with Prometric was the single biggest mistake the MCP program has made since its inception".  Given that he has a 4 digit MCP number and lots of experience with CompTIA, Novell, Cisco, and a few other providers as well as Microsoft, I might indicate that its probably fairly accurate feedback.

    I would certainly single this out as my biggest personal challenge right now in completing certifications.

    Forgive my ramble here.

    I believe strongly in the MCP program and tried to help george where I could with feedback and maintain that same relationship with the current generation of folks over there.

    At the same time, the stats speak for themselves:

    2006 - 11 exams

    2007 - 8 exams (5 before mid year)

    2008 - 6 exams

    2009 - I havent done a single one yet but have 4 I want to do based on my recent field work

    In looking at my challenges right now dealing with prometric, here they are:

    1) All of the test centers near me in the denver area have closed down.  In speaking with two of them, they indicated that it simply wasnt profitable to take up the squarefootage for prometric/MSFT testing.

    My nearest test center is now an hour and a half away.  Which means that when i go take a test, work pays me mileage.  And the tolls on the road to get there.

    Which makes my test attempt more expensive.  Which means I only go when im ready to do multiple exams on the same day.

    2) The prometric website was recently AJAX'd but nothing actually changed.  There was no account unification and it still takes 5-7 minutes to register for an exam.

    Further, when you try to get a time slot, the website has a bug.  It treats an entire test center as a single seat.  There may be 20 computers available but you can only get those time slots if you call them up on the phone.  See a slot available?  Register for it and then try and have a friend do a registration.  They will see that your slot and the next X hours worth of slots are now gone, irrespective of how many other test seats there may be.

    So you have to call prometric most of the time to actually get a seat at the centers that are available OR wait 2 weeks for the next available "visible" time slot.

    3) When you actually do call prometric, it takes FOREVER.  You sit through 3 minutes of automated recitals which are all stuff you already know if you have already taken an exam and you have no way to opt out of them.  ONLY THEN are you are placed on hold waiting for someone.

    Then you have to walk through your vitals.  All of your vitals.  Who cares that you already provided your MCP ID, name, and email, or some other combination of identifiers for them to verify you are who you say you are.  I still had to spell and say my street address, city, state, zip, email, and 2 phone numbers.

    Only then could we start the dance of exam numbers, test center selection, and voucher/payment information.

    And then you end the call with another minute of recitals from the tech support rep.

    Gerry - i didnt mean to ramble on about this when i started writing but it was broken 2 years ago.  The same things are still broken now.  

    I hope you guys realize that the community quieting a little bit also indicates some folks just not caring anymore because there is the perception by some in the community that at the same time that the process is getting less efficient, slower, and harder to navigate, the perception of the value the MCP program provides back to the candidate also seems to be going down.

    Im still here and will be continuing to get certified and encouraging the folks I work with to do the same and integrating the value of the MCP program in the columns and blogs I write, but sometimes I feel like I am speaking to a wall for all the response, acknowledgement, and actual change that seems to come back from you guys.

  • Hi Wayne,

    Perfectly good rant.  Thank you very much for the detail.  I have forwarded this on to internal stakeholders as well so they can get some visibility into how the decisions are impacting our community.

    Gerry

  • Thanks Gerry for at least acknowledging the points, thats all I can really ask :)

    On a more positive note, I recently held a developer study group and the overwhelimg feedback was positive about the .NET 3.5 track compared to the 2.0 track.  A common point was they liked the way that the exams were focused around identified technology platforms from Microsoft and that the MSDN material was really relevant to both real life implementation of the material and to the way the exams tested it.

    There was one bit of feedback for future exams, though and not being a developer I can only echo what I was told (echo without knowing, that is):  There were some questions that gave an application scenario and asked which of the 4 functions would be most appropriate for the situation.  I was told that in the real world they use intellisense or something like that to help them better make those kind of determinations for the app.

    Other than that (and I really cant speak to that one anyway) the feedback was the upgrade paths made sense and they liked that the general .NET concepts exam was kept for the new track even if some of the material "feels" a little dated now.

    Definitely a win for Microsoft!

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