Now that I’m an MCAD…

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!

17 thoughts on “Now that I’m an MCAD…”

  1. Well, there’s the MCSD for the pre-.NET platforms, which I have already from 2001 – that was 4 exams. The post-.NET MCSD seems to have 4 or 5 exams; the MCAD (only available for .NET) is only 3 exams. The 3 exams from the MCAD can be used for MCSD credit (the study guides are the same for both tracks) but the key difference is a) this 070-300 exam that is about architecture and b) there is mention of an elective required that’s for SQL Server, BizTalk or the Commerce server (which is why it’s hard to tell if it’s 4 or 5 exams – I can’t tell if it’s required or not).

    As far as what the different certifications mean, I’d say look at – it’s my understanding that an MCAD can build applications while an MCSD can plan an application and then build it.

    While I can do both, there’s a lot of back office stuff that I don’t get into very often (i.e. setting up SQL Server, BizTalk, Commerce Server) and if I do, there’s no guarantee that it’s cutting edge MS servers (i.e. SQL Server 2000 or 6.5 or 4.21a will not help out much)… the three parts of the MCAD I deal with almost daily but the fourth part to make it an MCSD would be all book time and not too practical, so I opted not to bother. I mean I can design applications galore, but to get the MCSD I’d have to be able run end to end with Microsoft parts and I haven’t had the luxury to do that in the professional world – so, basically, it saves me study time :)

  2. Hi Randy,

    Interesting article and funny too !

    I just failed a job interview myself and want to bolster my resume with a MCAD. I do have the MCAD certification books from Amit Kalani and a Master’s degree and about a years worth of C# programming experience. Unfortunately ,today people want specific skills and not the ability to think problems out (Sigh !)

    Could you please give me a ball park figure about how much effort is required for the study for each of the three exams ? Would three months be a sufficient time frame to pass all three

  3. Heya Paddy,

    I had been coding with C#/.NET for about 1.5 to 2 years before I decided to take the exams… for the most part I did the two C# within 5 days of each other, studying from the books about 3-4 days ahead of time… but I knew the language and the framework pretty well. The last one (the XML Services) I took a few weeks later, but mostly b/c I was working… I did the same amount of studying tho. Basically, I ran thru them in the month of April, more or less.

  4. Thanks a ton, Randy.

    Factoring in my lack of experience , I think the three month horizon sounds reasonable !!

    Currently I am pursuing CCNA and hope to get that done within this month. Then I will to start on MCAD.

    If that does not dazzle interviwers, I don’t know what will ;)


  5. I’ve yet to figure out what dazzles interviewers… honestly. When I started taking the MCSD (for VS 6) people in the tech world said “what ya wasting money on that for?” and no one in an interview seemed to care. When I was interviewing for tech companies in CT, they were all impressed that I had .NET experience yet none of them were working on .NET (and most, after they offered a position, mentioned that it would take 6-18 months to go there (which also shows how backwards the CT tech space can be)). When I started to interview at MS and take the MCAD tests at the same time, I was told “it wouldn’t matter” – not only did it come up as positive impressions on the face:face but a lot of the information I got from studying came up as questions in the phone screenings… I guess there’s no such thing as wasted knowledge after all :)

  6. Anybody want to give me some advice??

    I am looking into starting study for MCAD.NET. I am trying to decide if I need to do this through a school, or if I could buy some books and self train. I have self trained myself for RPG, ILE, CLP, some SQL. I have had one day in .NET and found it pretty easy to follow. Also done some VBA with MS Access. Any suggestions?


  7. I did self training, just because that’s how I picked up most of my Windows’ training, and how I studied for the MCSD (for version 6.0). However, having said that, I had already had over a year of experience in C# and about 10 years of work in coding, so a lot of what was in the book was review and lot of the time I spent studying was learning the particulars to the certification… Anyway, I used the box set that’s available for MCSD/MCAD training from MSPress. Good luck to ya!

  8. hi hi and hi!!!

    actually i need big advise,

    i really interested computer. i quit my pro job 1year ago and i started to study about computer i ve been studing computer by myself for one year about os,networking,(i made little bit base knowledge)…And finaly i start to study programming with .net 2monts ago and this is my first contact with programming i ve never studied programming before(except anotomia,surgery,viruses:)as you can guess my education background is medical doctor(7years school and 3years working as a MB and Genetic).

    i m thinking to become security administrator, and i saw that i need to know at least two programming language(included perl) and i started with .net with C# …here is the problem its so difficult to me…actually teorically i m ok about everythin but when i start to cod something its giving me hard time and i really get mad(like kicking keyboard and i already broke 2of them:) …

    now my question////

    ????is it normal for beginners and what do you thing how much time should i leave for study a day(i mean how many hours?),should i read more or code more? and in your opinion what way best to follow????…

    please i really need a help…..!!!!

    i have to be succesfull because my mom is angry with me because of leaving from my pro. job..

  9. Well, I am pursuing becoming a MS Certified Partner, and have the references I need, but am looking to find a couple of MCPD OR MCSD OR MCAD willing to associate with my company. So if you are interested let me know – I may be able to find some projects for you.

  10. Well MCPD’s are going to be hard to come by – very new certification. MCSD’s and MCAD’s should be around… I’m already spoken for, though :)

  11. Rand – How ya doin’? My background for the past 12 years or so has been that of an AS/400 Developer. All I really use is ILE RPG IV to write applications for the 400 or “iSeries” as they call it now. I need the lowdown on the throwdown on how to make the educational quantum leap into the realm of MS SQL Server. That is the Future. These “Self Paced Training Kits” for MCAD/MCSD that you see bundled into 4 or 5 books and maybe a CD at Border’s or B&N. What audience are they geared to. In other words, How do I get started (and I do mean from square one) to becoming a developer on MS SQL Server? Any help/comments/suggestions wold be most gratefully appreciated. Thanks, Tom Finn. Home Phone# 847-255-6249. Arlington Heights, Illinois.

  12. Well, I have no first hand knowledge of the AS/400 much less ILE RPG IV – RPG to me is Role Playing Game :)

    Having said that, the MCAD/MCSD are geared for Visual Studio 2003 type work – the MCPD series is geared for Visual Studio 2005. Within that they have tracks for Windows applications, Web applications and everything in between. ALL DB work at this level will be SQL Server based but it will focus on getting data in/out of SQL Server. There will be Engineering-centric certificates that deal with SQL Server setup and config – those I can’t speak to b/c I haven’t done anything with that for years.

    Any which way you look at it, pop over to for a complete description of MCSD, MCAD and the new certifications… you’ll be forced to learn something no matter which ya go for!

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