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Breaking Into IT - What can I do after my certification?

    Question

  • Hello all,

    I've been browsing the forum today and spending time reading similar threads especially;
    http://social.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/CertGeneral/thread/4cecd8c8-d791-4e3f-951b-a15575712769/
    And I realise that I have done things the wrong way round.

    Earlier this year I took and passed the exam for the 70-290 MCP "Managing & Maintaining a Windows Server 2003 Environment".
    This exam I prepared for by saving and putting myself through the 5 day instructor led training course and then completing the home study section of the training until I was confident I could pass the exam.

    I have used computers outside a business environment since I was 6 years old, thus I have experience using Microsoft Operating Systems from windows 3.1 and DOS 6 all the way to Vista ultimate.
    In a business environment I’ve only ever had experience using Windows 2000, This was during a position in a financial Advisors office place where I did mail administration.
    It was during my time with that company that I finalised my goal of working within a company with a Microsoft Server Environment as an I.T administrator.

    IT was my experiences being called up daily by the staff for advice and guidance on fixing there problems with computers.

    (For the 40 or so people on my floor I was usually the first port of call rather than the I.T support telephone hotline. I would like to believe that was due to my proficiency and helpfulness rather than the long hold times…)

    These experiences and those of helping my colleagues learn more about the office applications they were using on a day to day basis, really helped me decide in my mind that I wanted to work with I.T. Specifically NOT with an I.T. company, but just a business that uses I.T. as an enabler.

    The problem I am facing is even with the MCP I was told would be like gold dust, I am not even getting interviews with my lack of experience.


    (I realise this post is quite long so I will omit what I believe could be relevant computer experience until somebody asks for it, I will then include it in this thread.)

    My question is what can I do now, to gain experience working in a Microsoft Server 2003 environment when nobody will employ me into a Windows Server 2003 environment without any experience...

    My apologies for the length of this post, and my thanks in advance for any advice this forum can provide.

    Monday, September 29, 2008 4:12 PM

Answers

  • You issue is, unfortunately, more common than you think. One major issue is that your experience doesn't match your credential. Microsoft clearly lists what this exam covers: http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/exams/70-290.aspx. Employers are smart enough to look at your resume (C.V.) and see that nothing on it matches the covered objectives on the exam. You admitted yourself that your skills were limited when dealing with Whingate. However the exam you passed says you are a Microsoft Certified Professional in Managing and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Environment. See the contradiction?
    Michael D. Alligood,
    MCITP, MCTS, MCSA, MCDST, MCP, A+, Network+

    The I.T. Classroom Blog
    Start. Research. Plan. Perform. End. Test. Evaluate.
    Tuesday, October 14, 2008 12:07 AM

All replies

  • Duncan,
        
        Not all experience is in the form of "On-the-Job" training. Meaning if you have any hands-on time with the product, that's experience. Granted it might not be enough, but it is something to build on. That 5 days in ILT: experience. Labs at home while studying: experience. Yes, "real-world" experience is highly sought after; but work with what you have and build upon what you already possess. Setup a network at home. If you do not have the resources, use Virtual PC and install Windows Server 2003 on a PC. Get your hands dirty with the technology. That's what it's all about. With the added experience and the knowledge you already possess; you will become proficent in the product and doors will open easier.
    Michael D. Alligood,
    MCITP, MCTS, MCSA, MCDST, MCP, A+, Network+

    The I.T. Classroom Blog
    Start. Research. Plan. Perform. End. Test. Evaluate.
    Monday, September 29, 2008 10:02 PM
  • I agree with Michael .
    I had been working on PC's for 5 years before I finally got my foot in the door in the IT department of an insurance company. When I was hired I was only A+ and MCP in XP 70-270 now I have MCSA, MCTS, MCITP, MCDST, MCP, A+, Network+  and am working on my MCSE. Find 3 or more small computers to set up a small network with a router. To me, a physical network is better then the virtual one. You do not need big machines. 1 Ghz CPU's with 1 gig ram for the server or servers and any other PC's with XP installed on them will do for the clients. Set up a domain. A local domain. Set up users. Change settings. Brake it, then fix it. Pick your next test to study for. I would go with the 70-270 then you are half way to an MCSA with your 70-290. All you would need after that is the 70-291 and an elective. Don't get frustrated. Move foreward.


    Tim
    Wednesday, October 01, 2008 6:40 PM
  • Complete agreement - a friend of mine just finished getting his network  (and Cisco) certification after 20 years in finance, and although it took him a bit of time (no *paid* computer experience), he did land an entry-level job as the graveyard shift helpdesk at a local casino.  When an employer is looking for a Server 2003 admin, they want some experience.  You may have to get into an entry level position and work your way up, particularly given the current economic climate.  Tim's advice is good - get some cheap machines and set up a network, play with it, break it, repair it...  "I designed, set up and am the sysadmin for a small network with AD, DHCP, DNS, Print servers, etc., etc. since earning my MCP..." will get your resume some attention.  Then dazzle them with your skills, knowledge and thirst for more experience.  Meanwhile, get more exams under your belt.

    -The Other Tim
    Friday, October 10, 2008 6:50 PM
  • TimLa said:

     Then dazzle them with your skills, knowledge and thirst for more experience.  Meanwhile, get more exams under your belt.

    -The Other Tim


    Replace "Meanwhile" with "And then" and I will endorse your post! :)
     
    Michael D. Alligood,
    MCITP, MCTS, MCSA, MCDST, MCP, A+, Network+

    The I.T. Classroom Blog
    Start. Research. Plan. Perform. End. Test. Evaluate.
    Friday, October 10, 2008 8:52 PM
  •  Certs get you noticed but without solid experience to back them up, it's gonna be a tough sell getting hired by most companies. Nonetheless, if you show enough enthusiasm to learn, pair that with a "can do" attitude and a penchant for improving your knowledge and skillset (by going through more certifications/exams), some of these companies may just take a gamble and hire you. If possible, start with whatever support position you can get and move towards a more sysadmin-like role, if that is what you prefer.

    Like what the other gentlemen suggested, get your hands dirty on the technology; setup, break, re-setup your test infrastructure. Join SIGs and User Groups to interact with people sharing similar interests. Broaden your network. Contribute in the forums. Learning is a two-way street; you learn from others, others learn from you.

    Regards,

    Salvador Manaois III
    MCSE MCSA CEH MCITP | Enterprise/Server Admin
    Bytes & Badz : http://badzmanaois.blogspot.com

    Saturday, October 11, 2008 7:07 AM
  • I like to thank all those who have replied to this thread, so far you've all imparted what seems like VERY good sound advice.
    At this point I’m going to detail the Technical Projects I’ve accomplished over the last 2 years.

    Bear in mind I’ve had a Home computer network with a modem/router using DHCP with upwards of 4 machines and laptops since 2001.
    And for my 70-290 exam practice and for exams for friends I have built a replica virtual environment of the one used in the 5 day classroom event, Domain controller 2 member servers and an XP client, all then fully populated with the relevant users, groups and permissions where necessary.


    These projects range from June 2005 through to September 2008 and during this time I was NOT employed as an IT employee I was either a store supervisor or store manager of something the size of a Tesco Express of a large 7-11.


    June Broadband install
    ----------------------------------
    My boss wanted to upgrade from dialup to broadband he ordered the Broadband from BT and when the kit arrived I set up the modem, installed network cards on the 3 machines she wanted to use the internet on and configured the modem for DHCP

    August 2005 CCTV system build
    ----------------------------------
    my boss wanted to take there old CCTV system running on tapes and use a computer instead, I sourced the capture cards, and the software, purchased the computer hardware and HDD's and built the system. It records CCTV data to HDD's and is more usable than a tape system.

    October 2005 Remote software
    ----------------------------------
    Boss wanted to get access to her computers while abroad, so I set up port forwards in the modem and installed and trainer her in the usage of a popular VNC remoter control software.

    January 2006 Tablet PC
    ----------------------------------
    Boss's friend wanted a better way of taking and storing notes than paper-based notebooks. I helped her find and learn to use a Tablet PC and built for her several word templates to use with digital ink handwriting.

    March 2006 EPOS Install
    ----------------------------------
    Helped advise the boss on an EPOS (Electronic Point Of Sale) system for the business and then helped with the network install and system install of 3 IBM SurePos 500 till units and a BackOffice database system for the EPOS solution. I was then tasked with training all the other members of staff within the business on the usage of the new till system.

    April 2006 EPOS Extension
    ----------------------------------
    Was tasked by the Boss with finding a way to copy the software from our current backoffice database machine so we could have a second one to help speed up the process of booking in new stock for the business.

    December 2006 EPOS Maint
    ----------------------------------
    I was tasked by the boss with finding spare parts for the tills to make sure if any of them went down we wouldn’t have to pay the out-of-this-world repair fee's the original company we bought the hardware from were trying to charge us. This included finding IBM second hand kit and then installing windows XP on them, copying the till software to them and finding receipt printers and till drawers to work with them.


    March 2007 - April 2007 Second Store Build
    ----------------------------------
    The boss was opening a second store and along with appropriating me to help out as a 2 man team to install ALL the electrical circuits in the building, sockets, lighting, air con ect. I was tasked with building and installed from scratch a 16 camera CCTV system based upon the previous one. A 2 till IBM SurePos system, the Ethernet patch cables to support all this and the telecoms systems and to have everything accessible via remote access VNC software as well.

    May 2007 Wired Network Install
    ----------------------------------
    The boss had been to an exhibition and seen a small office comm's box 5U and bought it so that we could get all the network equipment up off the shelf in the office, At this time we also purchased a 24port GB Switch and the boss told me everywhere in the business she wanted patch cables for VOIP integration later down the line. I then set about installing endpoints for all 48 patch panel connections in the locations she had specified.. 24 of them to be CAT5E for the network 24 to be CAT5E for VOIP down the line.

    July 2007 BackOffice Expansion
    ----------------------------------
    I was tasked with setting up a second booking in system for stock so that stock could be booked out of one location and into another location before transit, This used a VPN so that each machine could be at the same location but work with stock databases at geographically separated locations.

    After this my IT work within the company slides off to doing things like retirement of tills and office computers and the subsequent backing up and restoring of data. I build a few websites in HTML and PHP for another business and installed small office networks for them also. I even consulted for them and wrote a brief for a programmer on the necessary functions of a barcode based resource tracking system.

    (I think now I’m glad I didn’t include this into my original post other wise nobody would have read it due to its length...)

    I'm currently trying to find the best way of conveying all this information to employers.... I realise that it’s a lot of information to burden a C.V. with.

    Do any of you have any good tips from your own experience about how to include completed projects on a C.V. for employers?

    I mean should I be writing the successfully completed project timeline on my C.V. RATHER than a history of employers and positions? (Considering I have completed quite a few I.T related projects but NEVER held an actual I.T position?)


    A Big thanks again to anyone who has already replied to this thread and to anyone who replied to this new information.

    Sunday, October 12, 2008 3:03 PM
  • Maybe I read through this too quickly, but I did not see once where you mentioned Windows Server 2003 - deploying, administrating or troubleshooting... Very little you listed corresponds with the objectives list at: http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/exams/70-290.aspx

    You're on the right track in build a Windows Server 2003 infrastructure (virtual or non). Now what is your plan for studying? What is your next course of action? What tools and material will you use to utilize the infrastructure for your studies?
    Michael D. Alligood,
    MCITP, MCTS, MCSA, MCDST, MCP, A+, Network+

    The I.T. Classroom Blog
    Start. Research. Plan. Perform. End. Test. Evaluate.
    Sunday, October 12, 2008 6:48 PM
  •  
    Duncan Mulholland said:

    for my 70-290 exam practice and for exams for friends I have built a replica virtual environment of the one used in the 5 day classroom event, Domain controller 2 member servers and an XP client, all then fully populated with the relevant users, groups and permissions where necessary.


    I tried time and time again to get the Business "Whingate Ltd" to allow me to install for them a Windows Server 2003 Structure to handle security and print server functions and File server stuff, but once I told them that if anything went wrong with it, it would NOT be something they themselves could easily fix they became dead set against it.
    I wasn’t going to lie to them, if the server for some reason went down after I had tied things into it and I was no-longer working for them, the shop floors would effectively stop trading because the staff couldn’t use the tills AND have then have to shell out money for somebody qualified and experience to come fix the problem.. All the While the stores would be haemorrhaging money...

    Point being... I've never WORKED in a domain environment before... During my first ever job where I was an office worker I was using windows 2000 on a  domain but I never did technical things to do with the servers because I wasn’t part of the I.T. staff.

    So apart from building the virtual Server network to train myself through the 70-290 exam (This network I played and worked with for 2 months almost 9-5, 7 days a week) and then repeating the process of building the virtual network and training 2 of my friends through the 70-290 exam I’ve spent very little time inside a windows server 2003 environment.

    To make clear my learning experience with Windows Server 2003…..

    I took the 5 day instructor lead course in July LAST year.
    I then studied on and off (mostly off) from the books and a virtual network for maybe 4-5 months, most nights I was exhausted from a 12 hour shift at Whingate so no study happened.
    I left Whingate at the end of January this year believing fully that if I did not commit myself fully to passing this exam and gaining employment in I.T. I never would,
    I passed the exam after 2 months of INTENSIVE 9-5 study with my virtual network 7 days a week.

    Ever since then (April 14) I’ve been trying to get any company with an I.T. department to look at me, I’m lucky if I send out 30 C.V’s and get 1 reply.

    Hence I have now started listing my successful I.T. related projects on my C.V. rather than my working history as this may represent my enthusiasm and abilities with I.T. better.

    Monday, October 13, 2008 12:00 AM
  • You issue is, unfortunately, more common than you think. One major issue is that your experience doesn't match your credential. Microsoft clearly lists what this exam covers: http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/exams/70-290.aspx. Employers are smart enough to look at your resume (C.V.) and see that nothing on it matches the covered objectives on the exam. You admitted yourself that your skills were limited when dealing with Whingate. However the exam you passed says you are a Microsoft Certified Professional in Managing and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Environment. See the contradiction?
    Michael D. Alligood,
    MCITP, MCTS, MCSA, MCDST, MCP, A+, Network+

    The I.T. Classroom Blog
    Start. Research. Plan. Perform. End. Test. Evaluate.
    Tuesday, October 14, 2008 12:07 AM
  • Michael D. Alligood said:

    However the exam you passed says you are a Microsoft Certified Professional in Managing and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Environment. See the contradiction?

    Yes, the exam I passed. I Have a certificate on my wall that certifies me as "A Microsoft Certified Professional In Managing and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Environment.
    I may have no experience with it, but that does not decry the fact that I passed the exam. There’s nothing on the "Skills Measured" section of http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/exams/70-290.aspx that I do not understand how to accomplish.

    When applying for positions I'm not aiming for the moon, I know that my lack of Experience IS holding me back... I'm not applying for senior positions or even midway positions, I have no minimum salary idea's of grandeur... The only thing I hold firm with each and every application is that they are all working within Windows Server 2003 environments. I Know I'll have to start at the bottom of the department and work my way up slowly, I'm even looking forward to this because it’s the best way to learn.

    Back to my Original question.

    What can I do if anything to gain more experience? As it’s almost catch 22, employers won't employ me without working experience, and I can’t get working experience without an employer employing me within the environment.
    (I’m currently laughing now looking back to my decision to take the 5 day course I never imagined I’d have a hard time being employed as the “IT Flunkey” or “the assistant Boy” with this certification.)

    So the golden question is.... What can I do, outside of a working environment to gain creditable experience with server 2003?


    (One idea a family member has given me was to approach local charities and offer to provide free technical support if they are using Windows technologies I am competent with. Although how exactly I would go about that I haven’t though about...)

    (My apologies if the first part of this post may sound aggressive, upon reading it I see how it may come across that way, but I do not mean to sound aggressive in any way. I just will not admit defeat; I will not stop trying to attain employment with this certification until I’ve found it. Any I.T. employment thats is.)

    Tuesday, October 14, 2008 3:44 AM
  •  

    Hello Duncan,

    Keep in mind we are here to help, we are not trying to belittle you or your accomplishments.

    You are right, it is a catch 22, you will not get hired without experience but how are you supposed to get the experience if you can't get hired. Certifications are not a substitute for experience, they are meant to showcase your experience and knowledge. That is why Microsoft states that you should have 6-12 months experience before you take the exam. Just because you have passed the exam and understand how to accomplish something does not mean you will be able to do it in a live production environment where there are many more variables (once again not trying to belittle you or discourage you, just stating why the experience is so important). Most employeers will pass you over if you don't have any experience regardless of what certifications you hold.

    One way to get experience is to set up a lab, virtual or physical machines.  Set up an Active Directory domain, DCHP, DNS, Print and File servers etc....Play around with them, break them and fix them. Providing free technical support would also be another good idea like you mentioned.

    Another thing, which may not be as glamorous (you may have tried applying for these types of jobs already) is to get a job at a help desk/desktop support first. You would typically not be doing anything related to Server 2003 but it gets your foot in the door with an IT company. I believe this is where most everybody starts out. I worked at a help desk for 2 different companies for 2 years before I got a job as a systems administrator.

    I know it can be discouraging sending out so many resumes and not getting anything back. Most of us have probably been there before (I know I have). But hang in there, you will find something.


    Eric
    • Edited by Eric Stauss Tuesday, October 14, 2008 5:41 AM
    Tuesday, October 14, 2008 5:15 AM
  •  
    Eric Stauss said:

    One way to get experience is to set up a lab, virtual or physical machines.  Set up an Active Directory domain, DCHP, DNS, Print and File servers etc....Play around with them, break them and fix them.


    Eric, All of this I have done already in preparation for my 70-290 exam. But I can see what you are getting at. Are you suggesting that While working in a Technical support role / IT Helpdesk role I should just continue to repeatedly go over and over the exam study material for the 70-290 exam in a virtual or physical Lab enviroment at home so as to keep compounding what I have already learned?
    IF so I can see no problem with that, I might even start speeding up my study for the 70-270 exam alongside it.

    I am however having similar luck trying to get responses from employers when applying for Helpdesk positions (Which is to say no luck at all), Although with my C.V. changed to reflect Accomplished Tech projects rather than employment history I might catch peoples eyes more.



    A big Thank you too


    flcpl

    Tuesday, October 14, 2008 8:51 AM
  • Yes I would recommend continuing to go over everything while you are working in another role. You do not have to limit yourself to the 70-290 material though, try set up a network that matches the company’s network, start studying for the 70-270. The 70-270 exam focuses on XP in a domain environment, so if you have an Active Directory setup it will help your studying and your experience. There is no need to rush though, take your time and become familiar with everything, it will make the test that much easier and add more experience to your resume.

    Adding your accomplishments should help you catch employer’s eyes, you want to showcase your accomplishments and experience. You are on the right track just hang in there.


    Eric
    Tuesday, October 14, 2008 4:19 PM