Episode 173: New Data Certifications

Episode 173: New Data Certifications

Episode 173: New Data Certifications 560 420 Carlos L Chacon

As the data platform continues to evolve, so do certifications. In this episode we chat with Rick Heiges about the new role-based certifications and how they fit into Microsoft’s cloud platform. We revisit how certifications still play a role in career development and how certifications have changed. Also, Kevin gives us his experience with taking an exam at home.

Episode Quotes

“One thing that they’ve shifted towards is more of a role-based certification than a product-based certification. If you go to Microsoft.com/learn, you can see more information about certifications.”

“It’s really understanding how the different services and Azure offerings complement each other and which ones are better suited for your task at hand.”

“To keep current on the current technology, there’s new offerings, there’s new features, there’s new approaches to things, and something that used to be something you wanted to know about, may be no longer applicable.”

Listen to Learn

00:38     Intro to the guest, team & topic
01:51     Compañero Shout-Outs
04:00     SQL Data Partners Podcast t-shirt giveaway
05:35     SQL Server in the News
07:15     Certifications are now role-based instead of product-based
10:17     Are there challenges with taking these new certifications?
12:43     Rick’s certifications status and a conversational tangent
14:00     If you’re new to the industry, is it worth getting certified?
16:06     Some reasons for the change in ways to certify
18:16     Why Rick won’t do the tests at home and what happened to Kevin when he did
20:37     Studying for role-based certifications
22:34     Where did the idea for learning paths come from?
25:56     In an on-prem only environment? Role-based exams are going to be a challenge
27:32     Rick’s recommendations for where to start in the exams
28:47     Maybe these changes will boost the credibility of certifications for doubters
30:02     Using retake offers is one strategy to learn your weak spots
32:31     Rick’s last thoughts on the new exam system
33:47     SQL Family Questions
35:50     Closing Thoughts

About Rick Heiges

Rick is a Former Data Platform MVP and Sr. Consultant (Data & AI) for Microsoft where he focuses on working with customers on their data estate. His career includes work as a DBA, University full-time faculty member, Systems Analyst, Project Leader, and Developer. He has found his passion in working with data and the community. Rick served nine years on the PASS Board of Directors and spearheaded the popular 24 Hours of PASS event. He also started his local User Group in 2002. Today, he spends much of his time with his head in the clouds.


Music for SQL Server in the News by Mansardian

*Untranscribed Introduction*

Carlos:             Compañeros, welcome to another edition of the SQL Data Partners Podcast. My name is Carlos L Chacon, your host. This is episode 173. Welcome everyone. We are joined today by Rick Heiges. How are you, sir?

Rick:                Just excellent and hope you are, too.

Carlos:             Yes, we are doing well, it’s good to have you on the program again. A little change of scenery for you since the last time we chatted.

Rick:                True, true, true, I now have a blue badge and went with the mothership of Microsoft and having a great time and we’re hiring.

Eugene:           I’ve decided it’s a verb like ‘punked’, like someone got blue-badged, because it’s been happening so much.

Carlos:             Yes, there you go.

Rick:                That’s right, it’s a great company to work for, having a great time so far. Working on my second project already. It’s a lot of fun.

Carlos:             Very good, very good. And we missed him a couple of episodes, but Kevin Feasel’s back with us.

Kevin:              Ahoy, ahoy.

Carlos:             And Eugene Meidinger, in the house.

Eugene:           Howdy, yes.

Carlos:             And ready to be blue-badged, apparently. No, just kidding.

Rick:                Rumor! Rumor!

Eugene:           I’ve had opportunities, certainly, to apply.

Carlos:             Yes, there you go. Well, we should kind of jump into this. So our conversation is on certifications, which obviously we’ll get to in a minute. But we do have a couple of shout-outs and we’re actually going to go ahead and let Eugene kick this one off.

Eugene:           Sure, sure I’ve got a shout-in, because Rick’s here.

Carlos:             A shout-in, there we go.

Eugene:           Every time I see him I thank him because it’s probably like 6 years ago, by now, yeah, I think it was 2013, somewhere around there. So it was 6 years ago, I made the mistake of first going to the SQL user group in Pittsburgh and Gina Walters was running that at the time. I was like, “oh, well, they do all this free training, this is great.” And then I found out that there was SQLSaturday, so I went to SQLSaturday and I was like, “oh, it’s a free day of training, this is awesome.” And then my error was going to the after party and I got cornered by Rick Heiges and Gina Walters and they’re like, “you should present.” I’m like, “I’ve been doing my job for a year, no.” Like, “you should present anyway. You could present on query tuning in Azure or something or whatever.” And I gave my first presentation at the user group and I’ve been addicted ever since, so that’s my shout-in to Rick.

Rick:                Alright, glad to hear it worked out.

Eugene:           Yeah!

Carlos:             There you go, that’s right. And doing great stuff, now being on podcasts and Pluralsight courses and the whole shebang.

Eugene:           It’s true.

Carlos:             Okay, so compañeros, I really enjoy when you guys connect with me. A lot more of you connecting with LinkedIn, I think it’s a social media platform that most people are on, and I don’t do a lot of work stuff on Facebook, that’s probably the other one. I know  a lot of us are on Twitter, but I would say there are still lots that aren’t. So, LinkedIn is kind of where it’s at, and one of the things, because of the connection idea, you can message back and forth. And you don’t have to necessarily put in a message. If you connect with me, I will try to respond with a message, asking a few questions, things like that. But hats off to Max, and I want to say Binet, like the donut, but I don’t know if it’s Binet. Anyway, Max Binet connected with me recently, talked to me a little bit and so I asked him, again, these questions, like ‘how’s it going’ and he actually responded to me a little bit about what he’s doing, and then said, “hey, I love the work you’re doing and appreciate the opportunity to connect with you”, and talked about the podcast, and so Max, I appreciate you connecting. So we enjoy doing the podcast, it’s always fun to connect with Rick and Eugene and Kevin, but I do appreciate you connecting and nice to know that people are still tuning in. On that note, we have a SQL Trail t-shirt to give away and I need a number. So Rick, I need you to give me a number between one and sixteen, today.

Kevin:              Before we do this, payment does not have any chance of changing your odds. If you want to send in a letter, you can send that in as well, to be included in this contest.

Carlos:             Oh, there we go. I like it.

Kevin:              The lawyer steps in.

Carlos:             As you’ve missed, one of the things we’re doing now, SQL Data Partners Podcast t-shirts. You can enter to win by using social media. Now I’m looking at Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, I haven’t gone to YouTube.

Kevin:              VChat, Instagram.

Carlos:             I guess I should look at Instagram, that’s another one I should look at.

Kevin:              Tinder.

Carlos:             Yeah, no, I’m not going to do that one. And if you use #sqltrail, now it doesn’t necessarily have to be about us, but #sqltrail, you can be entered in to win a t-shirt. Now, we are only giving away t-shirts, or I should say sending t-shirts in the United States at the moment, because it’s just the way that it is. As we kind of get this thing off the ground, we may go internationally later, but right now it’s only to the US. So having said all of that, Rick, I need a number between one and sixteen.

Rick:                Let’s go with number eight.

Carlos:             Number eight, he says. Number eight. Aaron Hayes. Aaron Hayes is the lucky winner of the SQL Data Partners Podcast t-shirt! So we’ll be sending one your way, compliments of Rick. Okay, and our last piece of business, a little SQL Server in the News. Now we’ve been talking about Managed Instance before, but now as we have a Blue Badge here, wanted to give him the opportunity to talk about what’s new in his world. And this was something that you’ve been impressed with, Rick, and wanted to talk a little bit about, here.

Rick:                Yeah, ever since Managed Instance was released last Fall I’ve been very involved with it and trying to keep up with the latest changes, because it’s changing all the time. And you know, just even from a few months back when I did a session on Managed Instance, they’ve knocked out some more road blocks that were up there. For example, you used to only be able to have one collation, which of course, especially if you’re international, it may be a problem for you, so now they have more choices of collation. And the other thing that was kind of a problem, at least in my mind, was that you could only have UTC, Universal Time Coordinate Time Zone for your database and of course, people all around the world are using it and sometimes local time zone is a very important thing to have, so they’ve corrected that as well. And they have a long list of things they still have to go through to, in my mind, to be totally compliant, but they’re making big time headway, and I’m a big fan.

Carlos:             Sure. All of this while still allowing 2008 compatibility, which being able to migrate up, which will be interesting once July finally comes around, what will happen there, but I think they’re trying to make that transition as easy as possible, which is nice to see.

Rick:                Yes, absolutely.

Carlos:             Okay, so the show notes for today’s episode will be at sqldatapartners.com/certification, or sqldatapartners.com/173. Okay, so ultimately, Rick, we wanted to talk a little bit about certifications. I think we’ve all gone through certification testing. Everybody’s taken a test, is that fair?

Kevin:              Yep.

Carlos:             Yeah. And now I have also had the, I don’t know if privilege is the word, the torture of being on a test writing process. And so I’ve seen it, I guess from those two sides, and I think when you think about certifications, everyone’s going to have an opinion on that. And we will probably get into our opinions, but let’s start off the conversation with saying– let’s talk about, and particularly Microsoft certifications, because obviously this is a Microsoft-centric show. So Rick, how have certifications started changing or evolving in the last couple of years?

Rick:                Yeah, and I’ve been taking certification exams. Actually I took a hiatus for a little while, but for over the past, let’s say 3 or 4 years, I’ve really started to get back into the certification groove. And one thing that they’ve shifted towards is more of a role-based certification than a product-based certification. And if you go to the website, it’s Microsoft.com/learn, and you can see more information about certifications and stuff. If you look at the data certification exams, you’ll notice that all the new ones are beginning with, well, first of all, letters instead of numbers, so it used to be 70-whatever. So any one you see with 70-whatever, you’ll see that it is really product-based, like it will be analyzing big data with HDInsight or with R or visualizing data with Power BI or visualizing data with Excel. It’s very product-based. So the new certifications, which will start with a two-letter designation, for data it’s going to be DP for data platform and also AI. But these certifications are more role-based in saying, well, if you’re an AI engineer or if you’re a data scientist or if you’re a data engineer-type of person, these are the type of activities that you will most likely be involved with and it can go across many different products, and not just a single product, so it’s more role-based than product-focused.

Carlos:             That is interesting. So I am here at the role-based certificates and it looks like there’s, oh, I don’t know, maybe 40 of them now, and their names are, for example, Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, Azure Security Engineer Associate, Azure Data Engineer Associate, things like that.

Rick:                Exactly, exactly. So they’re, again, trying to get away from the product-focus and be more role-based.

Carlos:             Sure, so does that mean that they’re, I don’t know, I guess more difficult? That’s an ambiguous question there, but now that we have to learn a couple different products, what are the challenges, potentially with taking these new certifications?

Rick:                Well, to me, it’s understanding the various different services or approaches that you would take to do something, for example, is Data Bricks a better approach for something rather than Azure SQL Data Warehouse or is HDInsight better for another type of engineering task that you might do? So it’s really understanding how the different services and Azure offerings complement each other and which ones are better suited for your task at hand.

Carlos:             Sure. So Eugene or Kevin, have you guys gotten in on these new role-based certifications?

Eugene:           Not me. I’ve heard about the Azure ones and found the idea to be very interesting. I didn’t realize that they had been expanding out to some other roles. I’d only heard about the AZ certs.

Kevin:              I am not positive if I have, cause I’ve taken a couple of the recent certifications, but they’ve been more in the just general SQL Server space, the MCSA and MCSE.

Carlos:             Right. I’ve kind of been waiting to see how those would get updated because they’re still basically on 2012.

Rick:                So yeah, that’s something else that you find out with these new certifications is that are set to expire in 2-3 years.

Carlos:             Right, I keep getting emails like, “hey, your certifications are going to expire.”

Rick:                Yeah, well, there’s a couple reasons for that, because to keep current on the current technology, there’s new offerings, there’s new features, there’s new approaches to things, and something that used to be something you wanted to know about, may be no longer applicable. Or something else may have just taken over the industry as kind of the standard, like Kubernetes, that has now been brought out, forefront. If you want to do containers, Kubernetes is the thing to do, right?

Kevin:              Wait, so you guys aren’t doing things exactly the same way as you did in 2005?

Rick:                Oddly, no. Yeah, it’s like we love Linux now.

Kevin:              I liked Linux back in 2005, so I don’t know, maybe that’s not the be–

Carlos:             Yeah, well, some people change a little faster than others, Kevin, right?

Kevin:              I never change.

Carlos:             There you go. Okay, so you talk about getting back into them and before we started recording, we talked a little bit about some of the projects you were working on. So at Microsoft, are you doing anything with certifications or is this a passion apart, if you will?

Rick:                So internally, we do have something we call the Technical Services Initiative, and basically, if you’re in a technical role of some sort, then you need to obtain a certification. Some of them are specific for specific roles, but even like my manager has to get certified on Azure Fundamentals, for example, which is a very basic certification on just learning about Azure, so that’s kind of interesting.

Carlos:             Okay, which makes sense. I know that the big push, internally, with Azure, that they’re kind of drinking the Kool-Aid, if you will or you know, not– that’s not the right phrase. The word is–

Eugene:           Dogfooding?

Carlos:             Yeah, there we go, eating their own dog food, in that sense.

Eugene:           Which is such a weird analogy, because–

Carlos:             It is a little weird. I don’t make dog food.

Eugene:           Right? And why would you eat your own– like– you’re not the– anyway.

Kevin:              Well, you feed it to your own dogs, you don’t actually eat the dog food yourself, usually.

Eugene:           So back to certifications.

Carlos:             Here we go.

Kevin:              All right, I’ll jump in with a real question, then.

Carlos:             Here we go.

Eugene:           Please.

Kevin:              So Rick, with certifications, if you’re new to the industry, say you’re just right out of college. I’ll throw out one of the classic certification debate questions. Is it worth getting certified?

Rick:                In my view, I think getting the Azure Fundamentals certification would probably be a no brainer to do and actually probably, if you’re familiar with the cloud concepts at all, it probably won’t be a hard exam for you to get and just get a base-level certification. But let’s say if you have passion of, say, data science and maybe you’re not in that role yet, but you want to be, that might be a certification you may want to pursue in order to show that “hey, I have an interest in this area. I want to expand my knowledge of it, and I’ve already proven that I’ve been interested enough to obtain this certification.” So, I kind of look at certifications as not necessarily a mastery of the information that you’re being tested on, but more of a “hey, I know something about this,” type of thing.

Carlos:             Yeah, so I think as we’ve talked about certifications before, trying to get your foot in the door, it’s definitely still a box that a lot of people want to check, and I’m not saying it will disqualify you, but it does mean that you have to then have other boxes to check. Particularly from an experience perspective, that it can be challenging to do that. You know, now, one of the interesting things, in looking over this Azure Fundamentals piece is that in the past, and again, SQL Server specific, I can’t speak to a lot of the other certifications, but have you ever felt like some of those questions were like so ticky-tack that you’re like, “huh?”

Kevin:              Choose the most correct of these four answers. All of them are wrong, but you choose the one that’s most correct.

Carlos:             Yeah, most correct. And you’re like, “okay.” Or I guess another example is like a pivot. Once you’ve gotten a pivot once, you don’t want to do that again, so you keep your copy, and then you just modify it and you’re like, “I’m not writing that stuff again.”

Eugene:           Yeah, I definitely get what you’re saying. It’s interesting because I haven’t looked at it too much, but my understanding is part of the change with these role-based certifications is a heavier leaning on labs or real-life exercises where you can’t just kind of cram or take a test dump and memorize everything for 24 hours. So I think they’re making changes to help deal with that particular issue, where it’s– multiple choice leans very heavily towards certain types of questions that aren’t always the best for learning and certifying.

Carlos:             Sure.

Rick:                True, and one thing that, I have not experienced in the beta exams that I’ve taken, but I remember last Fall, for one of the Azure certification tests that they had out, they had a performance-based testing module and you basically were given a browser window with a subscription to Azure and you had a set of tasks to do, such as you have two VNets and you need to pair them together. Now you could basically do that via the GUI or through CloudShell or PowerShell or whatever, however you knew how to do it, you could show in that browser window with a subscription of how you could do it. I haven’t experienced that in my exams yet, but I can see that type of thing being adapted for the data exams as well. For example, let’s say you have an Azure SQL Database and you want to maybe make it have geo-replication with read available access on a different region. I could see a scenario where, “okay, here’s your subscription, here’s your browser window, go do it,” and you do what you need to do in order to make that happen.

Carlos:             Right, right, interesting. So the infrastructure of the cloud, in a sense, is making these tests a big more approachable– well, I shouldn’t say approachable, but flexible. Because the technology, it can support them in a better way.

Kevin:              Right, between cloud and containers, absolutely.

Carlos:             Exactly, and so the ability to deliver those pieces at a cost that’s reasonable, both to Microsoft or the test giver, and then the test taker. It’s kind of cool.

Rick:                Yeah, and also, something else that’s been introduced over the past couple years, and I have not done this myself yet, but you can take a certification test from home.

Carlos:             Just turn on the camera.

Rick:                Exactly. So now, the reason why I will never do it is because I don’t have that much time to clean my desk off. Because what you have to do is you have to show that you’re in a nice, clean environment and you rotate your laptop camera around, so they can see that you don’t have any cheat sheets up on the walls and stuff like that.

Carlos:             Oh, gotcha.

Rick:                But you can take it from home. I always go to a test center, because like I said, my desk is too messy for me to take that much time to clean it.

Kevin:              Yeah, I did that once and promised myself I would never do it again, because in the middle of the test, some scheduled task ran on my laptop and then the process said, “oh, it looks like you’re trying to cheat. I’m going to stop the test right now.”

Carlos:             Oh, interesting. So yeah, it was almost a bit more work on your part.

Kevin:              Yeah, well, it was a background task. It wasn’t anything that I had any control over. They do force you to shut down all open applications, but some background task on Windows was running and if that triggers their alerting system, then you’re done.

Carlos:             Interesting, okay. Yeah, so there’s still some things to work out there. Well, and again, maybe that’s where the whole cloud piece, you can just connect somewhere and take the test there, perhaps make that a little bit easier. So I remember talking– so let’s see, gosh, oh my goodness, compañeros, my memory as a I get older, the days are long, but the years are very fast.

Kevin:              Twenty nine is such a rough age.

Eugene:           That’s funny.

Carlos:             All the way back in 2016, so Episode 64 and 66 we were talking with Patrick Thomas, who I believe is still leading the MCP and MCT programs, talking about certifications. And as I go back, and I think back to that conversation, laying some of the groundwork for some of the things that we’re talking about now, trying to make the tests more accessible to people. I don’t want to say easier, but again, more approachable, but still being tough enough to meet certification requirements. It’s interesting to see how this continues to evolve.

Kevin:              Yeah, so Rick, when you’re studying for a role-based cert, especially, how do you get started on that?

Rick:                So, on Microsoft.com/learn, there is something called Learning Paths and so basically you can say what role you want to look at and up pops these little modules and so you can start reading through them. They have some exercises for you to do. At the end of each little module, there might be a knowledge check of two to three questions and if you don’t get it right, you can just go back and re-take the question and keep going, so there’s a learning path set out on Microsoft.com website. Also, something else that you probably want to do is for the particular test that you’re studying for, if you go to that particular exam website on Microsoft.com, you’ll see a link for recent changes for the exam. They may rebalance what they are testing on and so, for example, they might say, “well, we don’t need you to know as much about security, that before we were 30% security, now we’re bumping it down to 15%,” or whatever it is. Or they might add some different features for you to know about or take away some things that maybe you don’t need to know about. I remember, a couple of years ago when I took the big data exam, they used to have a lot more machine learning stuff on that, but they kind of took it out before I took the test. so that’s a great resource to find that information about what to study and what is going to be on the test.

Carlos:             I should also chime in here and say on the site, in those courses, I should say it feels like the evolution of the Microsoft Academy.

Rick:                Yep, the Virtual Academy.

Carlos:             Virtual Academy, right. So it seems like there’s a– I’m not sure if evolution is the right word, but an enhancement of the Microsoft Virtual Academy, where they’re now taking all of these pieces and putting them into courses and structuring that content for you.

Eugene:           It’s interesting, in general, and I’m wondering, Rick, if you have any idea where some of this came from, but when we look at some other players in the field, it seems like a lot of people are kind of leaning on this role and learning path kind of idea. So, I know PASS Summit announced that they’re doing learning paths. With Pluralsight, they’ve been trying to do learning paths for a while, but they’d started leaning into something called skill IQ and role IQ last year where basically they’re trying to make it so if you’re a big organization and you have a large Pluralsight subscription, you can take different skills and learning paths and say, “okay, we’re going to have a data architect role,” or “we’re going to have a sysadmin role,” and be able to test people and create this role out of these different skills, instead of like we said here, specific products, per se. I’m curious if you have any ideas what was the driving factor for this? Because it’s interesting, because it seems like it’s not just Microsoft who’s leaning into this more kind of cohesive, kind of comprehensive kind of approach.

Rick:                I don’t know if this is the real answer or not, this is just kind of my thoughts on it. And that is, I think as we move more towards Azure and we’re not really focused on a particular product anymore and the funding for that particular certification, examination type of production probably is not as much product-focused, it’s more of a service-focused, which can go across many different tiers. And by the way, when you said Pluralsight, that just reminded me something else about Pluralsight and Microsoft and that is many of the learnings on Pluralsight that are Microsoft Azure focused are basically free for anyone to take.

Eugene:           Oh, nice.

Rick:                So, if you want to be an Azure administrator, you can go to Pluralsight, and I think if you have an MSDN subscription, you get a year’s worth of Microsoft Azure content for free.

Eugene:           I know for sure that they were doing a lot of collaboration and that was a big focus, because last year I presented at a conference called Pluralsight Live and one of their big keynote things was our starting off with this whole role IQ are these Azure roles, so I know they’ve been kind of working hand in glove. And it’s funny, too, because Microsoft bought LinkedIn, which bought Lynda, and yet they’ve been doing so much work with Pluralsight. Because there was a worry for a while, I’m an author, that Microsoft was going to be like, “yeah, we’ve got our own thing, so we don’t need you guys anymore,” but they’ve been going strong, so it’s interesting.

Carlos:             And that’s something I guess we should probably point out, for as much as we want to gripe sometimes about what Microsoft’s doing, they have a commitment to learning that probably exceeds any other company that I know of, anyway. I mean, I go back to a comment, I mean this was back when the 64-bit architecture was coming around and it was available and it was there but in talking with some of the other vendors, I was working at Sysco at the time and the comment was made, “yeah, we’re waiting for Microsoft to put all the training in place so we can start shipping this stuff out.” Because they were kind of the leaders in– I mean, they had to make their stuff available, too. Maybe there was some lag there in the product, but yeah, it is interesting, here.

Kevin:              Sure, so compare this to one of the classic SQL Server certs, like the old 461 or 761 for the modern one exam. If I’m taking a role-based cert, and let’s say I have roughly about the same level of experience in this role. Do you think it’s a shorter exam or about the same in terms of amount of study compared to 761, 762?

Rick:                I think the difficulty of the exam is probably about the same, from that point of view, but I think that one of the things that’s different about the new role-based exams is that they all are very Azure focused. What I mean by that is if you live and breathe in an on-prem only type of environment, these are going to be a stretch for you, definitely, because the only time they’ve really mentioned on-prem SQL Server is whenever they’re saying, “hey, how do you connect to your on-prem SQL Server, to suck the data out of that and bring it into Azure?” So, if you are a traditional DBA, these certifications are going to be more of a challenge for you, especially if you don’t have a path into Azure. There are free trials you can sign up for with Azure to get $150, I think, worth of credit or whatever. Or if you have an MSDN subscription, there’s a benefit there that you can start playing with Azure at that point. But if you don’t have that available to you, then this is going to be much more of a stretch, definitely.

Carlos:             Sure.

Kevin:              Okay, and are there any exams that you would highly recommend that the audience check out?

Rick:                I think especially if you’re new to the certification process, the AZ900 exam, which is the Azure Fundamentals exam is probably the best place to start. And essentially, the exam covers cloud concepts, core services, security, privacy, compliance and trust and a little bit of pricing and support-type of stuff, but it’s more from a– you know, it isn’t specific, it’s more of a general, ‘this is how Azure does it’ type of thing, more so than a specific, “hey, what does this cost per hour if you spin up a VM with this stuff on it?” That’s not the reason of that. I know people who have taken the AZ900 exam who work in Azure quite a bit and they took it and they were in and out of the test center in 15 minutes. So, for that type of person, that one’s going to be easy. If you’re not into Azure yet, this is a great way to get acclimated to it and there’s trainings out there on it for basically just the basics of Azure.

Carlos:             Yeah, spoiler alert, Azure is coming for you.

Eugene:           I’ve got just a comment. I’m excited about the direction they’re going in because I’ve written a blog post for about whether you should get certs and everything and I think because of the structure of the whole multiple choice and we talked about some of those things, I think certain people look down on certifications and I’m really hopeful that if they lean more into the labs piece, lean more into the flexibility piece, that it could help boost the credibility of, “okay, it means something that someone has this Azure cert, because there’s no good way to just brain-dump or fake your way through it.”

Kevin:              So if they try to make it more like the MCM was. Old wounds.

Eugene:           Without having to spend 10’s of thousands of dollars, yes.

Kevin:              Yeah, old wounds opening up, here.

Carlos:             And here I thought we were going to get through this episode without that coming up.

Kevin:              Nope. That’s my job on this podcast. To be the guy to bring up the old wounds.

Carlos:             There we go.

Rick:                Yeah, and I don’t know if any of you have gotten the NT4 MCSE from way back when, but that was notorious of being a paper MCSE. You could sign up for a bootcamp and for five days they’d just drill you with the questions and then you take the test and “oh, hey, you’re MCSE” and you really don’t know what the heck is going on. So I think they made a change so that this makes a lot of sense. The other thing I want to stress out to the audience is that if you go to the certification website on Microsoft, you’ll see that there are some retake offers and I think some of them are about to expire at the end of the fiscal year here, but there’s probably going to be a new set of retakes offers going on. Basically, you can say, “hey, instead of just signing up for one test for $165, I think it’s like $230, but I get two additional retakes. So if I don’t pass the first time, I get two more retakes.” And I know a lot of people who, they don’t really prepare for the test. They just go take the test and if they fail, they understand what they don’t know. They understand that, “I need to focus on these areas,” and that’s the purpose of these retakes, so that’s another strategy that a lot of people employ. So, I don’t know, have any of you taken that approach, on the podcast, here?

Eugene:           I guess it’s funny in the boring sense, not funny in the humorous sense, but I’ve taken advantage of that offer the once, and the one time I actually did, I didn’t need the retake, so I feel mixed on it. I think it’s great for people that stress about tests, but ideally, if you study well enough, you’re kind of throwing money out the window, so it’s weird.

Rick:                True, true, and I think they also have offered in the past, like in the exam pack, you get maybe like three tests for like $320 or something like that, with a cheaper amount, but you bought like a pack of tests and then you could, if you failed the first one, you could use one of your other two for a retake, or if you passed it, then you get two more chances at other tests. So that’s something else that they’ve done in the past, as well.

Carlos:             Oh, okay. I haven’t seen that. I’ve done the buy one get one free or whatever, the failsafe or whatever they call that, so I’ve done that before. I think one of the things that’s helpful there is that particularly if your employer is paying for it, and you’re not sure whether you’re going to pass it or they won’t reimburse you if you don’t pass it, you can take it that first time without telling anybody. And at least then you know and then you can actually just submit it or if you have to take it again, you’ll have that second chance before getting them, putting it out there as far as like a goal or something else that they’re then going to follow back up with you, things like that.

Rick:                Yeah, and one other thing I want to mention is that these data exams have just come out of beta, so there are no practice exams for these data certifications yet. I expect maybe by the Fall they should be out. That’s kind of what I’m hearing. So there’s no practice tests out there. And one other thing is that there may be other data exams coming out and when they first come out, whenever they’re in beta, there is a lower price for taking the beta exam. So the good thing is, it’s a lower price. The bad thing is, is that you don’t get a score report at the end of your exam. Basically, you have no idea if you passed or not. And I took all these tests in the beta period, so I didn’t know for like 6 weeks whether or not I passed. And it was kind of a pain, but the thing is, is that by taking the test, I kind of knew what I didn’t know very well, and so if I needed to take those exams again, I knew what to study on. So that’s kind of the thing I liked about the betas was that I could take it early and then figure out what I need to study on to take it again later.

Carlos:             Okay, shall we do SQL Family?

Rick:                Sure.

Kevin:              Yes, we should.

Carlos:             Your all-time favorite movie?

Rick:                I’ve thought about this, and I don’t have one, exactly, but I do have a movie that probably not many people have heard of that I really like.

Carlos:             Oh boy.

Rick:                And it is called Serial. It’s from the early 80’s, Martin Mull is the star of it and it’s kind of a ‘make fun of California life’ type of thing. So, I liked it a lot.

Carlos:             There you go. So I admit, I haven’t heard of that one, and I haven’t heard Kevin chime in, so I’m assuming that he hasn’t heard of it either.

Kevin:              That’s a fair assumption. I’m looking it up now.

Carlos:             Yeah, as am I. Yeah, 1980. We digress. Okay, so city or place you most want to visit?

Rick:                Antarctica.

Carlos:             Oh. There you go, is there a reason?

Rick:                My sister just went there at the end of last year. It was her last continent to visit. She loves to travel and she brought back some amazing pictures and amazing stories about stuff going on down there.

Carlos:             Very cool. So, a food that reminds you of your childhood?

Rick:                Ho-hos. My dad used to pack them in my lunch every day from elementary school.

Carlos:             There you go. Now, I have to ask, are these the chocolate kind, vanilla, did you have a flavor?

Rick:                No, they were chocolate, they were like the swiss cake rolls covered with chocolate.

Carlos:             Ta da, okay, very nice, very nice. Okay, our last question for you today, Rick, if you could have one superhero power what would it be and why do you want it?

Rick:                I would make the super power of mine being ‘make others see my point of view by just looking at them,’ because that way they would know that I’m right, and they would agree to whatever I was thinking, so yeah.

Kevin:              You’d wear a cape and be called Politics Man.

Rick:                Yes, true.

Carlos:             There we go. Well, Rick, thanks so much for being on the program today, we do appreciate it.

Rick:                Yeah, it was a blast. Thanks for having me, I really enjoyed it.

Carlos:             Okay, compañeros, that’s going to do it for today’s episode. As always, we’re interested in what you have to say. And don’t forget to use the hashtag sqltrail to enter for your chance to win a SQL Data Partners Podcast t-shirt, again, if you’re in the United States.

Kevin:              If you’re the 9th caller.

Carlos:             That’s right. If you want to reach out to us on social media, Rick, can folks reach out to you on social media?

Rick:                Absolutely. I’m not on Twitter as much as I used to be, but LinkedIn, they can look me up on LinkedIn and connect with me there.

Carlos:             Kevin?

Kevin:              You can find me on imdb trying to look up that Serial movie.

Carlos:             Eugene?

Eugene:           You can find me on Twitter at sqlgene.

Carlos: And I am on LinkedIn @Carlos L Chacon. Compañeros, that’s going to do it for today, thanks again for tuning in, and we’ll see you on the SQL Trail.

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