Now with the Microsoft Certified Master course two and a half weeks behind me and the great news that I accomplished all the exams, and might call myself a Microsoft Certified Master for SharePoint 2010, only a few days old I thought I should write something about the program, experience and value of it. Recent blog posts about the Microsoft certification programs also put some extra fuel onto the urge of writing about it.

About the Microsoft Certified Master Program

The Microsoft Certified Master Program is a high-end and exclusive training available for SQL Server, Active Directory, Lync Server, Exchange Server and SharePoint Server. The training is normally a three week course, held on site at the mothership in Redmond, tutored by the most skilled people on the respective product. It’s the best training you can get! But it’s not for everyone; first of all you need to pass several steps to even get into the program, then you need to pay the huge fee and then finally get out of the classroom with three exams and a qualification lab alive. If you need more information about the program, head on over to the MCM/MCA site.

My rotation

Ever since I first heard about the MCM program for SharePoint it has been a dream going over to Redmond and endure the pain. Last fall me and my company decided that I should go for it. So in December I started the application for the MCM training. The application is done in several steps. Before even starting it you have to pay the non-refundable application fee of about $1.000. Once this is cleared the application process starts; you need to send in samples of what you have done with the SharePoint products like specifications and designs and then you will be scheduled for an interview. The interview was horrible and at the same time fantastic. I had three people, current masters, interview me trying to find all my gaps and pain points. Once you couldn’t answer properly or directly the drilled even further  until you almost had no idea what they were talking about. I was really impressed by the interview and the background research the interviewer had made - they even questioned me on details in my presentations that I had posted on my blog.

Lab time in B40About a week after the interview I had a phone call where I was told that I was allowed into the program and schedule a rotation, after paying the huge fee. I also received very good feedback on what I needed to read up on and practice on. This was in January and I scheduled the next upcoming full rotation, which was in April/May. And now the hard work started. The pre-reading list is quite extensive and covers most of TechNet and MSDN and I finished that a couple of weeks prior to the rotation. I also did a lot of practice on my own using CloudShare where I could build me some virtual farms and experiment with different scenarios.

When the actual rotation started I thought I was well prepared! But, the depth and level of details was far more than I expected. Each and every session had so much information that needed to be placed somewhere in your head and I found myself sometimes not finding room for it. I especially remember the Search session and the Upgrades sessions! During these three weeks every weekday had scheduled sessions daytime and evening/nights were spent on reading and doing hand-on-labs. A huge credit to the MCM team with Brett leading the crew, for all the labs and the amazing lab environment! The weekends were spent on reading, reading, reading and doing labs to prepare for the weekly exams. These are Prometric like exams but where almost any answer could be the correct one - extremely hard.

The Qualification Lab

The grand final of the MCM is the Qualification Lab. It’s an 8 hour long lab where you get a number of tasks, ranging from IT-pro to dev stuff to governance and architecture. I was quite nervous about this one, but as soon as it started I enjoyed every single minute of it. I usually drink quite a lot of coffee - but I forgot about that and I almost skipped eating my lunch to try to get as much as possibly done. After the qual lab I was completely drained, and I guess most of my R8 mates was as well.

MCM Summary

After coming home I was so tired, should have taken vacation! Not only the jet lag but in fact that you have been receiving so much information and learnt so much over the past few weeks. A week and a half after getting home I got the fantastic news that I passed all written exams and the qualification lab. On my first attempt - hell yeah I’m proud!

The network you build during the rotation with the class mates, tutors and product group are invaluable. I’ve already after a few days seen the benefit of this!

MCM tips and tricks

Here are some tips and tricks for you already scheduled for a rotation or planning on diving into the MCM:

  • Prepare and prepare well
  • Plan your rotation - plan the pre-reading and practice on the different topics
  • Read the pre-read list
  • Exercise before and during your rotation - sitting in those chairs for three weeks really takes its toll
  • If your used to a non-American keyboard - bring your own since you’re going to write a lot of PowerShell and stuff and you don’t want to waste time on mistyping for the qual lab. (I actually bought an American keyboard over there instead)
  • Enjoy!
  • It depends!

So what about the other SharePoint certifications…

I’m not talking about the MCA, that’s for just a few brave ones. I’m talking about the four MCP exams. I’ve done them all, since it’s a pre-requisite for MCM, and I’ve done the four for 2007 and one for 2003. I’ve previously wrote about them and I still stand by my post from last year. I do not think the exams are actually good - they have huge improvement potential.

But I’m not, like some others, that refuses to take them just to stand out and look cool. They provide value for businesses that are Microsoft Partners and if you’re a MCT. Also the clients are actually aware of these exams, compared to other non-Microsoft sanctioned exams, and they sometimes request that you have them. Also they can be of real value when your learning SharePoint - you can see what areas you need to improve on etc. So I do recommend you to go and get them!

The problem with MCM though is that very few clients are aware of this certification. And that’s what we/I are trying to change. And in fact I think this is changing right now, even before attending the training, I saw an increase in attention in my and my companies services.

Now I’m going to enjoy this and soon have a nice vacation to catch up with lost time with the family.