imagePaul Sanders was the very first person in the EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) region to pass his Private Cloud MCSE and we thought it would be good to track him down and find out a bit about how he prepared for the exams and the work environment that supported him in his learning and certification.  Feel Free to follow Paul on Twitter or follow his blog.

What’s your name and where do you come from?

Hi, I’m Paul Sanders and I’m a Technical Consultant for ANS Group, a leading technology solutions, managed services and cloud provider based in Manchester UK.

Congratulations on becoming the very first Private Cloud MCSE in the EMEA region including the UK!!!

Thank you, I’m incredibly pleased and proud to be the first in the UK and that all my hard work paid off.

Who do you work for and what do they do?

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I work for the award-winning cloud expert ANS Group in their Manchester head office. Since joining the company they have given me a platform and great level of support to build my skills. It’s an exciting and fast paced environment and ANS Group has experienced 80% year-on-year growth since 2009, currently turning over £45m we are on course for continued growth.  We specialise in providing managed compute, storage and network infrastructures that can either be built on-premise or as a cloud-based solution.

With over 16 years’ experience in building, installing and managing complex technologies, ANS Group are considered as experts in the data centre and the provision of managed services.  Our fully managed services are in addition to our substantial enhanced services and mean that we control and manage our client’s infrastructure, providing enterprise class SLAs ensuring our client’s infrastructure is safe and secure.  By selecting ANS Group our customers are accessing our wealth of experience, freeing them from the hassle of having to maintain and update their infrastructures, giving them time to focus on and grow their businesses.

As part of our significant planned growth we are building and investing massively in Microsoft as part of our cloud and we have an amazing team of consultants that work with all the leading edge technology.  I’d urge any strong Microsoft guys looking to work with the best, to come and apply for a job at ANS it’s always exciting and they let talent flourish. 

Ps. You can follow ANS Group on Twitter and Facebook.

How did ANS Group support you in getting your certification?

ANS Group deals with all the Bleeding edge technology and I have been given the ability to work with all the newest Microsoft products in conjunction with ANS Group’s i3.0 (FlexPod) infrastructure.  Not many people get this level of exposure and support, and working in the team that I do means failure is not an option!

How does your certification benefit ANS Group as a whole and more specifically help you with your day to day work?

ANS Group is at the absolute forefront of Private and Public cloud, so being the first MCSE in Private Cloud means we continue to have the edge on design and delivery of our cloud solutions.

What does your certification mean to you?

With the IT landscape constantly changing, together with the significant growth and awareness around the ‘Cloud’ buzz, it’s vital to adapt my skillset both on a personal level and as an ANS employee, in order to meet the current and future needs of business’s IT systems.  I have found the new MCSE path offers a greater outlook on hybrid systems that other certifications do not offer.

Both certifications and hands on experience go hand in hand in today’s industry. The MCSE certification guarantees both employers and customers that I am an expert in my field, with an extensive background for the key technologies required to successfully deploy and consult on the cloud.

The big question really is how did you do it?  Let’s break that down into some bite sized chunks…

Where did you go to find the key information for learning the right things for the exams?

There is a considerable amount of information out there on the internet to help understand the subject and prepare for the exams. The first port of call will always be the Microsoft Learning & Certification pages. I spent a lot of time reviewing the ‘Skills Measured’ for the individual exams, focusing my efforts on the sections I hadn’t had the greatest exposure too. This made life considerably easier when writing my training plan as I knew exactly what to focus on and for how long.

I also found an online challenge called 60days2mcse which was a valuable resource. It has been set up by a number of Microsoft enthusiasts called ‘The Krewe’ who set a 60 day challenge to pass all 5 exams. The community started blogging about their experiences, giving each other a helping hand and pointing people to useful blogs and material. It’s a really great community and definitely worth joining in :)

Did you get any specific training? If so from where?

With the certification being so new, there weren’t many official courses. However, I did manage to get useful workshops from our ANS Group Microsoft Partner manager that went into great depth of System Centre and related technologies, which was a real help.

What books helped you out?

As the exam was new, training books were hard to come by. As most of the theory behind the products remain the same, I used the previous version material (SCOM 2007 R2 for example).

Did you use forums, Twitter, Facebook or other social networking sites such as Quora?  If yes how did you use them?

I’m amazed how people used to pass exams before the world of social media! It is all about setting up the searching for the right #tags. My twitter client is currently setup to search for #sysctr, #60Days2MCSE, #opsmgr, #scom, #sccm etc. These give you quick access to the latest information as soon as it is released. You find key members of the community will blog about the latest technology the moment it happens.

During my preparation, I also spent a lot of time on both System Center Central and the Microsoft Community Forums. Any issues or questions I had were answered quickly.

What key tips do you have for someone studying for their Private Cloud MCSE at the moment? (no giving out exam questions :P )

Hands on experience is key! There is only so much you can learn from a book. I would recommend setting yourself a mock business scenario (bring on contoso.com ;) ) and go through the building motions for building a full private cloud. As the certification requires 5 exams (3 of which revolve around core technologies) building from scratch will give you the exposure.  My home lab is pretty complex, with 2 AD forests, a hyper-v and VMware clusters with System Centre on top.

What three hashtags would you use to describe yourself?

#coolgeek

            #cloudpuppet

            #nextnextfinish

Anything else you’d like to say?

The Microsoft certification landscape is changing dramatically. The exams are becoming more relevant with an emphasis on key skills. I now hope to pass my MCSE Server Infrastructure and get myself onto one of the new Microsoft Certified Solution Master rotations when they become available.

    I realise this is shameless promotion… but check out the new ANS Group website www.ansgroup.co.uk  You’ll see we’re a rapidly growing company and an amazing place to work, and we’re always looking for and passionate, energetic, self-motivated and driven people to join our team.

    We also asked Paul’s boss about the experience and here’s what he had to say!

    “Quote from Paul’s boss” – Paul Shannon – Head of Technical Services

    Having the best quality consultants in the Managed Services team is absolutely essential for ANS.  Running entire customer infrastructures within an ANS platform means that it has to be extremely robust, scalable and resilient. It’s only possible to ensure this if the best people are designing and implementing the foundations.  Paul is an invaluable asset along with his colleagues in the Managed Services design team at ANS.  Paul’s dedication is what ensured he was the first in EMEA to achieve the MCSE Private Cloud and ensures that ANS continues to be at the forefront of Managed Services solutions.

    If you would like to know more about Certification and Training make sure you are subscribed to the TechNet Newsletter as the end of September edition is all about this subject!

    In the meantime why not pop over to our learning pages to find out more.