A storm is brewing over the recent articles and discussion related to Microsoft’s new Windows 2000 MCSE certification requirements. At the heart of this storm is the fact that current MCSEs tested on NT 4.0 will lose their MCSE status if they do not upgrade their certifications to Windows 2000 by Dec. 31, 2001. Current MCSEs are asking themselves, “Should I upgrade my certification to Windows 2000?” Results of a recent NetAdmin poll (Figure A) show that a significant number of IT pros are still undecided.

Figure A

While there is no clear-cut formula for determining whether you should upgrade your certification, considering four basic questions can simplify your decision-making process:

  • What is your company’s IT environment?
  • What is your company’s Windows 2000 migration plan?
  • What position do you hold?
  • What are your future plans within the IT industry?

The current environment
If you’ve been involved in the IT field for a while, you may recall the old Windows 3.11 era. Do you remember how some organization stayed on the Windows 3.11 platform years after many others had moved to Windows 95 and even Windows 98? One of the main reasons these companies kept with the older technology was simply that it served their needs.

According to recent poll results published in TechProGuild’s Windows 2000 Administrator Report (June 2001), more than half of you have not even deployed Windows 2000. It appears that many organizations are sticking with NT 4.0 for the same reason companies kept running Windows 3.11.

Chances are you may work for one of these organizations as an IT professional hired to maintain and enhance these NT 4.0 systems on a day-to-day basis. These organizations demand seasoned professionals who not only have years of experience working with NT, but who are committed to helping realize the full return on investment that NT promised.

Thus, your concern regarding Microsoft’s latest certification requirements is a low priority when compared to the demands of your company to keep the current NT systems running smoothly. It is highly likely that you have already proven your knowledge and experience with the systems that run their day-to-day operations. In this scenario there will be no one pushing you to obtain or maintain a certification that will not immediately benefit you or your current employer.

The migration plan
What if Windows 2000 is in the process of being introduced into your company’s IT environment? Well, Windows 2000 is a complex network operating system that will probably not just slip in the back door. In a medium to large enterprise, it usually takes months of planning and testing before Win2K is introduced into a production environment.

If you find that you are being asked to install and support more and more systems based on the Windows 2000 platform, it is definitely time to start thinking about training (and certification). You should view training as a chance to get your feet wet with the new platform without the risk of jumping in headfirst.

You should also start seriously thinking about training and eventually certification if your company is contemplating moving to Windows 2000 or has already started developing a migration plan. Certification here is an excellent way to prove your knowledge of Windows 2000 to your employer. Obviously this is a catch-22 since Microsoft clearly expects candidates taking the Windows 2000 exams to have several months’ worth of real-world experience working with the technology.

Keep in mind, however, that it also takes most IT professionals months of studying and preparing to successfully sit and pass Microsoft’s new MCSE requirements. So here, your choice is a simple one. If your company has a Windows 2000 migration plan, you should probably have a Windows 2000 certification plan.

What position do you hold?
Many of the first waves of MCSEs certified in Windows 2000 were consultants and IT professionals working for technology solution providers. These individuals were required to learn this new technology early, and they quickly realized that for them, certification was a way to stay competitive and prove their skills to their companies and clients.

This illustrates the third factor to consider when deciding whether you should upgrade your MCSE certification. Your job has a lot to do with your certification plans. Take a look at your current position, paying close attention to the tasks you are expected to perform on a daily basis. If you find yourself specializing in Cisco internetworking technologies or maybe doing more and more software development work, you might find that upgrading your current NT MCSE certifications could be a waste of both time and money for you and/or your employer.

You might be better served pursuing a CCNA, MCSD, or another certification and letting your years of experience working with the NT platform serve as a substitute for any MCSE status you may lose. But if your job is like that of the aforementioned consultants, the time for Windows 2000 certification is now.

Planning for tomorrow
One of the great things about technology is how fast it changes. This swiftly evolving environment makes working in the IT field one of the most dynamic professions there is. Technologies today, along with the skill set to support them, can be obsolete tomorrow. You have to be cognizant of which skills the industry requires from the positions you want to fill now and in the near future.

Sometimes, this means that to stay ahead and compete in the technology field, you must maintain vendor-specific certification requirements. In that case, you can make three possible choices:

  • Fight to change what the industry requires.
  • Accept and follow where the industry is going.
  • Choose another profession.

The choice you make is yours, and no one can say which one is right or wrong. Certainly, the concept of staying on top of new technology is not something Microsoft introduced, but it is exemplified by their certification requirements. So before you ask yourself, “Should I upgrade my MCSE status?” figure out where you’re going and then develop the roadmap to get there. If that roadmap means maintaining your MCSE status, go out there and do what it is that makes you a highly skilled and qualified IT professional.

Answering these four questions alone will not lead you to the right decision regarding your certification plans. You also need to factor in other important issues, such as the money involved in paying for training and certification and the time available for preparing and taking the exams. However, by taking the time to sit down and answer these four key questions, the choice of whether to upgrade your MCSE to Windows 2000 may become a little clearer.

Are you going to upgrade your MCSE to Win2K?

We look forward to getting your input and hearing about your experiences regarding this topic. Join the discussion below or send the editor an e-mail.