DSC_3328I’ve been a little spoiled with the weather while out and about getting ready for and helping deliver Techdays. It was Sunny, warm and quite nice – except for the departure day, little more rain and cold. Central Ontario was getting a nice warm spell as well – can’t complain for November weather for sure. On the closing evening, after the boxes were packed, the truck loaded and celebratory drinks were hoisted – Damir reminded me that I’m heading to Saskatoon for the first time and he hoped I had brought a warm Jacket.

Nope. I forgot to check the weather forecast. Oh well – can’t be that cold YET – it’s still mid November, right?

I took the train up to the airport, boarded a flight to Calgary, then to Saskatoon. I was heading out to the local Infrastructure User Group to talk about Virtualization skills, iSCSI and how to create Clustered Shared Volumes. The decent down was a little rough and when they cracked the door – a “cool breeze” entered the plane.

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I am sure I could hear Daniel and Kevin were laughing when I tweeted the photo of my first de-icer of the season outside the window of the gangway. None the less – I clutched my coat a little tighter around me as I made my way to the UserGroup meeting that night.

After the meeting I was approached by a member who wanted said: “Rick – thanks for coming out. I wanted to ask if you could elaborate on HOW TO GET STARTED with certification”. I mentioned certification and it’s importance to have as a measure of competence in certain technologies. Experience is definitely valid and equally important, but the proof to the pudin’ is a measure of the skills you possess. he continued to explain he’d been out to research how to get started – but was a little overwhelmed with all the information and just wanted to get started down the path with a little bit of guidance.

My suggestion to him, and to everyone here is to start of by choosing a technology that you are interested in and have a passion for. I’m a core services and infrastructure kind of guy – I’ve done Exchange / Sharepoint / System Center (since before it was called system center) but I always seem to come back to core infrastructure as my center. Once you’ve identified your target – start by heading down to www.microsoft.com/learning to see what options are for certification that align to your center. Then it’s a matter of making some choices with HOW you plan on attacking this certification piece.  I’ve got a friend over on the Developer side of our team (Susan Ibach) who has agreed to pass on along a series of posts on HOW to study for certification exams – that’s going to be coming up next week.  Before you even jump down that way – I have some suggestions on priming the pump.

  • Get the software.  You NEED hands on experience and a study / eval LAB setup to do stuff and use the products.  A Microsoft TechNet subscription is a fantastic resource to get this setup and it’s a very affordable way to get access to all the software – but you can get what you need FOR FREE from our Evaluation Center. Everything you need is at www.microsoft.ca/evalcenter.  It has eval copies of Win7, Server 2008 R2, SystemCenter and more. Go Get Them and plan out a mini lab.
  • Get some orientation on topics from our FREE ONLINE TRAINING site called www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com – Sign Up – IT’S FREE. Consumable 20 minute chunks of courses organized into modules. It’s not certification practice tests – but it’s a starting point to see what areas interest you and gives you a certain measure you can use to validate where you need to spend some more time gaining that experience and knowledge.
  • Get involved with UserGroups / local Community.  In each city where I’ve spoken over the last couple of months – there is interest in organizing a local study group of people who want to pass certification exams. Mostly the one I’ve been speaking about – 70-659 - If you’re of this mindset and a study group is of interest – but you are looking for more support – email me (rick.claus@microsoft.com) and I will do my damned-nest (is that even a word?) to connect you with others locally  OR heck – maybe we should just make a big A** national study group if enough people are interested. Virtualization is a hot topic these days and even if you already have certifications from other vendors – one that includes Hyper-V is definitely worthwhile to complement your certifications in a multi-hypervisor world.

I’ve got some more resources to post here over the next little while to help you down this path… I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on the virtual national study group.

What do you think… Are you game for it?

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