What do I do with it? Well, aside from updating my resume, of course. I guess I could make my email signatures read MCAD.NET, MCSD, MCP but I really hate that crap… so much so that I don’t even have an email signature in Outlook!
Back in 1999 my employer (at the time) decided that they wanted to be a Microsoft Certified Solutions Provider. To do they needed one employee to be an MCSE and another to be an MCSD. At the time, the MCSE track was all about machines, networks and configurations, while the MCSD was about designing solutions. I was flung into the certification pool and told to come up with an MCSD.
I passed the first exam (Desktop Applications with C++ (it was a gimmie)) – which granted me MCP status – and bombed the second one which was all about Microsoft-branded solutions like SQL Server, Exchange, Active Directory, etc. All the stuff that I’ve never had to work with on a daily basis. Also included in that exam were questions about the Microsoft methodology that companies were supposed to adopt to design database solutions. At the time I was designing and developing a real time stock application: the database was about nine layers away from me and running Oracle on Solaris/UNIX box.
Not only was the subject matter a bit off the mark, but the exams themselves were very odd. Wasn’t just multiple choice or select the best 2 out of 4 – it was “Here’s a bunch of items. Put them in this hierarchtical list and make sure they are grouped by topic and put in the order that they would be performed.” Or “put these objects into the correct logical flow, based off this four paragraph case study (without enough information) and get it right in 5 minutes.” Ugh.
Of course, as was typical, my employer had already forgotten about their Certification effort, after I passed the first exam: they never even heard (or cared, obviously) that I failed the second exam. And so I hung’m up.
For a while.
In typical Randy fashion, I can never leave something undone for very long. It’s a terrible character flaw – the same trait that makes me stay at a slot machine and keep playing until I run out of money, because that makes the gaming “done”. Although I also think that years of playing PacMan until there’s no change in my pocket also taints my slot-playing behavior. Anyway, I decided in the beginning of 2001 that I would finish the MCSD Certification.
At the time the MCSD involved 4 exams. My Desktop Apps C++ one still applied, so I took the Network
Apps using C++ and Desktop Applications using VB. Nailed both of them. Which sorta impressed me, seeing as I hadn’t used VB for a while… I did take a class with it while pursuing a master’s degree, but even that was about a year before this exam. Then I took the “Designing and Building a Solution” Exam (or whatever it was called) again. And failed it. Again.
Pissed me off, is what it did. Consequently I studied my ass off for it for about a week and drilled the MSF into my head before retesting. So I passed it, finally, on the third try, and was proclaimed an MCSD.
Less than two weeks after that, my certification was rendered “obsolete” by the MCSD.NET Certification. Since I still got my resume logo and lapel pin, I could live with it…
For a while.
About a month and a half ago, I applied for a front-end C# job for some random company in NYC. They called me for a phone screening and it went pretty well: just some very basic questions about what I’ve done and what my .NET/C# experience was. I was honest: I told them that I had done some work with my last full time place, but it was only exploratory, and that I have written a couple of freeware applications using it. When she asked me if I had done any database work, again I was honest: not for a lot of years and nothing with .NET. We ended the call with the intent that she would email me with a time for a technical phone screening.
Two days later, I found myself on the phone again with the same woman, who decided that it was time for C# Jeopardy, sponsored by her handy HR/Q&A script. I’m OK with that: after all they want to weed out as many non-hackers (in the Marine/Full Metal Jacket parlance) as they can, without wasting face time. She had ten questions for me; eight of them were specifically about databases and ADO.NET. I remember one specific question going like “What is the CurrencyManager?” Without knowing a thing about ADO.NET (and having seen ADO/DAO/RDO since the last MCSD exam) I responded with “the object that manages the display of currency values based off the current Thread’s CultureInfo”.
Hey, stop laughing at me! What would you think if you had no clue?
Know what pisses me off, more than failing certification exams? Being told I don’t know anything about a particular subject when I know I do. If they told me “You don’t know databases, sorry” I could live with that. Coming back and telling me I don’t know C# because I don’t know ADO.NET… that’s unacceptable.
A little while ago, I did a usability study with Microsoft and got the MCAD/MCSD Self-Paced Study guide as compensation. I had most of the books from MS Press already that I had wanted, I don’t have an XBox, and already bought Office 2003, so I bought a whole lotta dead trees in the hopes that I could use them as background when I had to teach my C# class. I read’m… good books, actually. I would have used them for text books if they weren’t sold as a bundle and didn’t assume that the reader was an accomplished coder already.
Then, on April 6th, 8th, and 23th, I took the three parts of the MCAD exam and passed them all. $300 later and I know that the CurrencyManager is part of the data viewing functions of ADO.NET in Windows Forms and that it has nothing to do with currency values or CultureInfo. And I’d love to get that NYC company back on the phone… If only because they asked “do you know this? No?” and then give you an exam on it… I hate that crap: in trying to save themselves time, they wasted my time. And now I know that I can smack them around with a SQLException if I had to.
Yay for me and my MS branded third lapel pin!