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Thoughts on the Microsoft Certified Master for SharePoint 2010

Print | posted on Thursday, July 08, 2010 8:14 PM

It’s been a bit quiet here recently, one of the reasons for that is I recently attended the first rotation of the Microsoft Certified Master for SharePoint 2010. A number of people have requested that I post my thoughts on this and address some common questions about the certification.

Before I get started, I must include another Thrilleresque disclaimer. I am part of the team that produced the MCM for SharePoint 2010. I am an instructor and content owner for six modules. Therefore I have an obvious vested interest in the program. However, this doesn’t change the fact that I look at the program as an independent, with a non Microsoft view, both in terms of what I post here, but also my ongoing feedback on the program to the rest of the team. This I hope means you won’t discount my opinions completely, but that’s of course, up to you.

Secondly, I can’t and won’t post personal details of candidates without their consent nor details of the exams. That would be breaking all manner of agreements, but more importantly it would be really very silly.


OK, so with that out of the way lets cover some basics. The first rotation was an upgrade rotation, this was attended by 22 (yup, count em) candidates, all of whom were MCMs for 2007. We had a very good mix of people from Microsoft and Partners, and from across the world. I knew all of the candidates either from work, or the 2007 rotation I attended or those I taught subsequently. I was great to meet again for the first time some of my R2 cohorts. Whilst it was a big class, it was a very good group. An Upgrade will always be very different because of this familiarity amongst the students. A number of instructors were also students in this rotation, which for me was a very interesting experience – the pressure of teaching at this level is considerable even if it doesn't show, and adding to that the actual work you have to do as a student made for a very demanding time.

The upgrade rotation was over two weeks. This is shortened from a full rotation, but it still includes the majority of the material and hands on exercises. Time is certainly compressed in an upgrade rotation, and I know that some found this difficult, but it is simply the nature of the beast. The upgrade rotation also includes written exams (which were split up into “mini” exams over the two weeks), and on the final day an all day qualification lab (aka the reckoning!) more on that later.

One of the most common questions I get is, “isn’t it too early to have a MCM for SharePoint 2010?”. Whilst there is some obvious merit to this question, for example there are many things we simply just don’t know yet about such a new product, especially with regards to enterprise deployment and “best practices”. However, my answer to that question is a categorical “NO!”. It’s not too early. We need the MCM, the field needs it and one could argue how can you ship the product without it. One of the biggest investments with the 2010 release has been the vastly improved field readiness, and MCM is part of that investment.

The material of course needs work. It always does, especially with a product like SharePoint. The MCM team is firmly committed to continually improving the material. Of course some areas were more refined than others, and as a team have been working on revs for the first full rotation which starts on Monday next week. Another thing to note is that many areas remain constant from the 2007 MCM, just as valid and in some cases even more important. Many of the lessons from the 2007 rotations have been applied in the production of the 2010 MCM. Of course some areas are totally new, and the level of these was impressive so soon after the RTM of the product. There can be no student who didn’t learn a lot of stuff during this rotation. It’s that simple.

Will things change over the shelf life of the product? Absolutely, where they need to they will. As was the case with the 2007 MCM.

Another thing to bear in mind is just how vast the additions to the product are this time around. MOSS was a monster, SPS is another scale of feature explosion altogether. How we deal with this going forward will be interesting, but they key thing here is that is terribly important that you have extensive experience with the product before the MCM.

Just like my R2 experience the human dynamics are pretty interesting, especially with such a diverse group. As I mentioned this being an upgrade changed things considerably, and overall it was a very enjoyable experience, if exhausting and demanding.

Which brings us to the Qualification Lab. An all day hands on exam where you prove your chops with the product as opposed to on paper. Wow! To state this was “hard” would be rather silly. The 2010 qual lab is a definite step up, and is a rigorous test of your ability hands on with the product in a pressure situation. Whilst I wasn’t too keen on it immediately afterwards :), on reflection I have to say this is probably the best thing about the entire certification. This is a real exam.

The thing that impressed me most about the overall thing is how well it was run. There were of course a number of things that need improvement, and there were the usual problems during the two weeks. Overall this being the first rotation things went very well, and we are in a great position for the upcoming full rotations. Many of the problems were on the logistical side (aka the little things). These are terribly important of course and the feedback from the 22 candidates is being used to improve things going forward. I was nervous before it started about how well things may or may not go, and I think it’s fair to say it was a success.

If you are serious about validating your skills with SharePoint 2010, the MCM is still the way to do it – literally miles ahead (no pun intended) than anything else. It’s definitely harder than the 2007 MCM, and that’s a good thing.

One of the other common questions I get of course is, “did you pass?”. This is interesting, whilst I did pass the MCM exam and the lab, right now I am not an MCM for 2010. Nobody is. Just like with 2007, in order to be certified one must pass all four of the regular SharePoint exams and as these are only just out of beta (next week) no one is currently an MCM. I’ve actually two of these still to do, so assuming I don’t flunk those… :) Fingers crossed.

The first full (non upgrade) rotation starts next week, and it will be another fun experience to be out in Redmond teaching some of the best of the best SharePoint talent. It will certainly be much more fun to just teach and not have to be a student at the same time!

Hopefully this post gives you some impression of the 2010 MCM. I may post more in the future, but I think I will return to the overflowing “hopper” of technical posts I have waiting for publication first!