IT Certification and Training

June 9, 2011

Job Changes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim Henderson @ 12:29

Another few months have passed, and things have changed pretty dramatically for me.  Novell was acquired by Attachmate Group in late April, and in early May, I was one of the people who was made redundant.

So I’m now in the market for a new job.  I’ve spent the last month taking some online classes and looking at different opportunities.  I’ve also been thinking back on my time at Novell and the things I learned about certification, testing, and training.  Turns out I’ve learned a lot of new things, and have  an appreciation for certification that I didn’t have when I started.

Nothing brought that to the forefront more than an “Ask Slashdot” posting about which certifications are best.

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September 21, 2010

Certification and Elements from “Drive” by Daniel H. Pink

Filed under: certification, education — Jim Henderson @ 17:03

In my last post, I had said that I’d next be writing about the delivery elements in the learner-centric model.  I’ve actually been working on identifying those for several months (much longer than I had anticipated), and I’ll return to that topic when I’m understanding better how those things all come together in the learner-centric model.

As I’ve been working through that topic, I’ve also been reading books on a wide variety of topics that all loosely tie in to learning and education.  Today, as I was reading Daniel H. Pink’s book Drive:  The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, I got to the section on mastery, and I got to thinking as I was reading the section about how that idea fits in with technical certification and even how it helps me understand what, in my one of first posts in this blog, I described as my skepticism about technical certification.

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April 8, 2010

The Learner-Centric Training Model

Filed under: certification, education — Jim Henderson @ 18:14

In yesterday’s post, I talked a bit about what I’ve been up to for the past year (or so) – and how that has led me to participate in an investigation of the next iteration of training and learning.  Today I’d like to explore a little bit and expand on the idea of a learner-centric training model.

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April 7, 2010

Returning From an Extended Absence

Filed under: certification, education, Novell — Jim Henderson @ 20:34

As I indicated in my last post, I had been transitioned to be the testing program manager, with responsibility over Novell’s practicum exams.  In the time between the last post and this, we’ve released some new exams, created some new certification paths, and my role has started to again transform within the organization.

So what have I been up to the last 14 months?

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January 11, 2009

A Change in Responsibilities

Filed under: Novell — Jim Henderson @ 23:18

It’s been a little while since my last post – 2008 was a crazy busy year for me, and it culminated in a change in my job responsibilities.  The change started in September after a couple members of my team were laid off and I was asked to take up handling Novell’s practicum exam registrations.

In November, I was asked to take over our testing programs, so I’ve been working on learning an entirely new aspect of the training business.

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May 31, 2008

A little more about the Certified Linux Administrator certification

Filed under: certification, education, Novell — Jim Henderson @ 11:28

In reading Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols’ recent article based on my last posting, it occurred to me that I had left one fairly important thing out regarding the Certified Linux Administrator: The Novell CLA is a stepping-stone to the Novell Certified Linux Professional 10 (CLP10) certification.

The Novell CLA is based on the content from two of the courses in the CLP10 track; courses 3071 and 3072 (SLES 10 Fundamentals and SLES 10 Administration); the third course (course 3073, SLES 10 Advanced Administration) is not part of the CLA certification. Think of the CLA as a “checkpoint” on your way to the CLP10. The CLP10 exam (as well as the more advanced Certified Linux Engineer 10) is a practical examination, and as such, it focuses on proving your skills.

Many candidates have a degree of apprehension when being asked to prove that they can do something; being able to do is dependent on knowledge, so if a candidate is uncertain about their knowledge, there is an increased fear of failing at the practical examination. The creation of the CLA was done in part to help remove some of that fear. As I said in my previous post, Linux isn’t hard, just different. I would add to that statement that because it’s different, candidates need to have some comfort in their knowledge. A knowledge-based examination and certification gives candidates increased confidence when going in to take the CLP10 practical examination.

My thanks to Mr. Vaughan-Nichols for the article and the chance to clarify my thinking on this certification.

April 15, 2008

New Certifications from Novell

Filed under: certification, Novell — Jim Henderson @ 14:37

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a month since BrainShare 2008 – and yet, here we are, in the middle of April.

At BrainShare, we offered exams for a total of four new certifications – the CLA,, the CLDA, the NCA, and the NCE-ES. In this post, I want to give you my (unofficial) perspective on these four certifications.

The first certification – the Certified Linux Administrator (CLA) – is an entry-level Linux certification based on Novell courses 3071 and 3072. The exam is what we call a “traditional” or “forms-based” exam.

(As an aside: Forms-based exams are useful for determining what a cert candidate knows, but not necessarily what they can do. The way I see it, there is a distinction between knowing and doing (and I think most would agree with that), but there is value in testing both capabilities when it comes to certifications. If you can do something but it takes a while for you to figure out what it is you need to do, or if you need to reference a book in order to do a task properly, that shows a lack of knowledge. Yes, you eventually will get there, but if you know the information you can perform the task more quickly. Testing for knowledge is an extremely valuable tool.

At the same time, knowledge alone isn’t sufficient in the real world – if you know the command-line parameters for the find command in Linux but can’t effectively use the tool to accomplish a task, you’ve demonstrated that you can successfully memorize facts, but there’s no test for applying the knowledge to the real world.)

The CLA is a test designed to let the candidate demonstrate knowledge, not skills. The primary focus is to let people know that Linux isn’t hard – that’s a myth. It’s just different than what they may be used to (NetWare, Windows, Mac, etc).

The Novell Certified LInux Desktop Administrator (CLDA) is based on a single course – course 3086 – and is intended to be taken by candidates looking to learn how to administer Linux desktops. It focuses on the sorts of things that users find important – software management, printer configuration, desktop configuration, and usage. The exam for the CLDA is also a traditional forms-based exam.

The Novell Certified Administrator (NCA) is an introduction to Novell services. Some who have looked at this want to equate it to the Certified Novell Administrator (or Certified NetWare Administrator, for those who have been around Novell long enough), but the goals of the NCA are quite different than the goals of the CNA. The CNA focused on administration tasks around the NetWare operating system – use of the management tools for NetWare to manage the platform.

The NCA is quite a bit broader, as Novell’s product portfolio has expanded since the CNA was developed. The NCA thus focuses on a wider range of products, but with fairly shallow knowledge in each (after all, it is a 5-day course; how much depth can get for 4 or 5 complex products in that time period?). The idea of course 2000 (and the NCA) is to give candidates a taste for what Novell’s product line consists of and the sorts of things the products can do. As with the other’s we have discussed so far, this is also a forms-based exam.

Lastly, we have the Novell Certified Engineer – Enterprise Services (NCE-ES). This is the first of the NCE certifications, and is based around Novell Open Enterprise Server 2, with a particular focus on the Linux version of the product. This certification focuses on doing rather than on knowing, so the exam is a practical examination delivered using Novell’s practicum technology.

NCE-ES is a logical progression for traditional CNE candidates coming from a CNE6 or CNE-OES background, Stay tuned for information about other NCE tracks that are being developed.

March 1, 2008

Social and Business Networking – A good thing?

Filed under: jobhunt — Jim Henderson @ 13:00

Over the last few days, I’ve been playing around again with LinkedIn and also joined Facebook. I’ve been a LinkedIn member for some time now, and also have had people invite me to Plaxo, Spock, and even got an invitation to participate in a beta for something called “NotchUp”.

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August 24, 2007

Lost Art: Root Cause Analysis

Filed under: education, lostart — Jim Henderson @ 21:43

One of the things I see as a lost art is identifying the root cause of a problem in an IT infrastructure. In fact, this is becoming a lost art in more than just IT – the medical field (in my limited experience) also suffers from this.

A few years back, I decided I needed to do something about what appeared to me to be an allergy problem. So, we went to our local medical center, and the answer I was given by the doctor was “here, try these pills, if they don’t work, try these pills, and if they don’t work, try these pills and this nasal spray together. Good luck!” I didn’t even get a referral to someone more qualified to perform a root cause analysis to determine why I felt so miserable.

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July 12, 2007

The Job Hunt: Things to Think About

Filed under: jobhunt — Jim Henderson @ 16:45

Over the last few months, I’ve had an ongoing discussion with an acquaintance  about his  job and where he wants to go.  For purposes of this post, I’m going to call him “John”, though that’s not his real name.  He is based somewhere in the UK, currently working for a small company as their sole IT resource.

John is a fairly quiet guy; he’s got a degree in computer science, and interests in math and music.  Like a lot of people starting in IT, he’s not sure exactly where he wants to go or how to sell his skills to potential employers.  Part of the reason for this is that he doesn’t believe he knows anything special that would merit him getting a new job.

One of the things to keep in mind when looking for a job in IT is that all companies need IT infrastructure people these days.  Because of this, you don’t want to limit your options to just, for example, software companies (because that’s where you think of the technology being) or even companies that are in the high-tech industry.  Your local grocery store has some IT infrastructure, and they need someone to manage it, design it, and maintain it.

One thing that surprised me a little during the discussion with John about some of the larger employers in his area was that one of them – a large consulting firm – is something he ruled out because he doesn’t see himself as a good fit for doing consulting work; he doesn’t like working with people, and doesn’t want to be caught between unreasonable customer expectations and sales promises.  Those of us with some experience in the field will have seen the cases where sales says a product can do anything you want, and the consultant coming in and providing a much more limited – and realistic – picture of what it is that a product can do.  John doesn’t want to be the one stuck having to explain that sales oversold the product, and for some people, that’s a reasonable thing to want.

But ruling out any job at the company because they were a consulting company struck me as a little odd.  It turns out that John had learned that one of the things they do is provide outsourced systems management to large clients, so he assumed that they would use those same people to manage their own systems.  He was very surprised to learn that this is likely not the case, as a few of us pointed out to him.

Billable resources (which is what consultants are) are the product that a consulting company sells.  A consultant being billed out at, say, $100/hour to do systems management for a Fortune 50 company is going to be more valuable to the company as a billable resource (that is, a resource that is essentially a consumable product – ie, the consultant’s time) than managing the infrastructure used to run the business.  To run the business, the company might hire a $30-$40 per hour worker.  The revenue generated from the billable resources in the field (ie, the consultants) is going to be what pays both for the consultant and for the non-billable resources that run the company.

Taking a $100/hour resource and dedicating them to several hours a week of managing the systems for the consultancy results in a loss of income that would be used to both pay the consultant and to pay for the IT worker – it’s a double hit for the company to use the resource in that way.

The bottom line is this:  Never assume what a prospective employer’s needs are – that’s up to them to decide.  If your skills are “programming in any number of languages, but not C” (as John’s are), don’t assume that as a programmer you’re worthless to them because “any real software shop is going to require coding in C”.  Fill out the job application, send in a resume/CV, and see what sticks.  Part of the process of getting a job is to put feelers out in as many places as possible and see who bites – it’s kind of like fishing:  Some days you’ll get a nibble, and some days you won’t.  But if you don’t even cast a line into the water, you’re guaranteed never to catch a fish.

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