As has been blogged other places Microsoft announced they are ending the MCM program. This was the highest Microsoft Certification for SQL Server skills and was generally considered the one exam you could not cram for. That if you passed that exam set you had a demonstrable skill set. Unlike in the opinion of some, some of the other Microsoft Certifications that seems to demonstrate you can learn what you need to know to pass an exam.
Full disclosure: I think I may still be a Microsoft Certified Product specialist, I passed some NT exams and a couple of SQL Server exams many years ago (I think my certified professional number is below 30,000) and I passed my first exam the first year they offered exams at TechEd many years ago. However I have not sat for an exam in at least 10 years if not 15 or more.
The thing is, even though the MCM is rather impressive and I think demonstrated some real understanding, it is for most folks in a DBA role to some degree irrelevant. Why? Well in a nutshell, certification exams of any nature by their nature may cover a host of things that you may likely never need to know or deal with at least in your current role. For example, as I have mentioned before I worked for a software company for a long time (almost 8 years) during that time I never had a reason to do replication. It wasn’t something we supported with our product and it wasn’t something we wanted our customers to use. So the value to my employer of me learning about replication was next to nill… So if you are looking to consult an MCM would have put a ‘stamp’ on you that indicated you knew what you were doing. There is a lot to be said for the value of one of those stamps. But if you were a staff DBA I suspect much of what you would have to learn would quickly become stuff you never, ever had to use.
Having been in the ‘industry’ for over 20 years now and doing SQL Server for the last 18 years or so if I had list the biggest change, fundamentally, in the industry from a professional standpoint it has been the availability of quality information on the Internet. I still remember the days of manuals being your primary source for information about something you didn’t understand and your secondary source being the vendor and a support call. There wasn’t a search engine where you could type in your error message and get 10 different examples of folks who had solved that problem. The ability to combine your own experience with the ability to figure out what the best answer the hive mind produces is in some ways the most valuable skill a DBA (or anyone who deals with issues) can have.
So, after kind of raining on the certification parade a bit, why I think ending the MCM program is a bad idea (even for those of us who likely would never try for the certification). The answer is simple, it shows Microsoft doesn’t care enough to create a ‘hard’ certification, it doesn’t see the value in it apparently. That’s the problem, that Microsoft is taking away the one tool they gave to identify who they felt really knew SQL Server…
But wait, they have the MVP program. Yeah, but that is driven in part by community involvement not so much pure skill set. Nothing wrong with community involvement, it is a good thing. But there are a host of smart SQL Server folks who for whatever reason be it time, employer rules or whatever who can not or chose not to be that active in the community. It doesn’t mean they don’t know SQL Server like a skilled guru, just they didn’t hit some undefined definition. Think of the folks who don’t get renewed as MVPs, did they get dummer? Did they lose knowledge of the product? Unlikely.
So why should you care, because when it comes down to it, it appears Microsoft doesn’t.