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June 24, 2002

Incidental Learning

The Windows 2000 MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) Certification requires successful completion of seven exams. There are a number of learning centers available, but the cost of the courses is pretty steep (about $1000 per class). Normally, if your company doesn’t provide the training to you at their expense, the only option you have is to self-study for the exams.

The MCSE Certification I currently hold (for NT4.0) was attained entirely by self-study. It required many hours of reading, studying and practicing on the systems being tested. For each of those six exams, I bought and read at least two books. The books cost around $50 and ran about 500 to 800 pages in length. Each of the tests cost $100, and (thankfully) I passed each test on the first attempt.

To keep current in my field, I now need to certify on Windows 2000. I am almost ready to challenge the first exam. I have been using my method of two books per exam. The first book I completed for this exam was Mastering Windows 2000 Server. I read all 1500 pages of this hardback book. [I think they make the books heavy on purpose so that you build muscle for the job.] I’m now almost all the way through the 700 pages of the Study Guide.

I’m not complaining. I enjoy learning about these systems and I enjoy being able to resolve problems as they arise on the network. I consider myself fortunate that I can afford the $125 that the exams now cost. And I do realize that in this field, you must keep your skills current and that takes a lot of time and effort.

I benefit because I am learning.

Meanwhile, I’m working on a network that has recently migrated to Windows 2000. Some of the users are not exactly happy about this. They’re put off by the fact that we took “their” Windows 98 from them. Now they’re going to have to figure everything out all over again. All the applications are exactly the same as they were on the previous Operating System. The only change is the underlying system – most of which they weren’t using in any way other than to run the applications. But, some of them are lost – because the desktop looks different and they have to press Alt+Ctl+Del to log in. Watch out for Big Changes in the Big City.

When their one little desktop changed, my whole skill set changed. Instead of Windows 98, I now have to install, manage and troubleshoot Windows 2000 Professional. All the servers were converted also – which means that Windows NT4.0 Servers are now Windows 2000 Servers. This also means that the network is now running Active Directory, Win2K DHCP, Win2K DNS, DFS, and Domain Controllers that can now be promoted and demoted using a new tool. I’m a little too busy to muster sympathy over their inability to figure out how to put a prettier background on their desktop.

I am busy learning. The MCSE path teaches much more than how to perform an unattended install of an Operating System. It teaches perseverance. One test would be a challenge. Seven tests are a rite of passage. You must stay the course all the way through. So, I press on…

I study hard – and I am not alone. The other administrators where I work also spend much of their off-duty time studying the test material. We work hard and then we go home so we can study hard. We are absorbing the material and the network is running without incident (at the moment). And then we get an urgent call from a panicked user – her “things” are gone in her mail. I go to the workstation and look at the Outlook client. Is it a toolbar that’s missing? No. There was “more stuff” over here (she points). Her finger lands in the general area of a collapsed mailbox. I click the + and the mailbox folders expand. She is amazed, and I spend the next few minutes teaching her how to expand and collapse a set of subfolders using the + and – icons. For this I read 1500 pages?

Posted by BlueWolf on June 24, 2002 11:43 PM