The value of an MCSE (4.71 / 21) (#28)
by tlloh on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 05:06:44 AM EST
I'm a Windows / Linux Network Administrator. I look after my company headquarters network - we have about 60 clients running off 2 servers, and a firewall. Win2K runs our file and print services, with Linux / FreeBSD doing email, DHCP and DNS. And firewall for our dial-up (we're not a rich company).
I am an IT department of one. I look after <u>everything</u>, and also provide first-level support. Hell, you think? Sometimes - but if you do your job well, then everything runs itself. Plus, the huge bonus about this job is that my boss gives me <i>complete</i> freedom to do whatever I want with the network, so long as there's zero downtime. I haven't disappointed him so far.
On to certification:
I have my MCP and my MCSE, as well as my LPIC. I'm probably going to look at doing a CCDA in the near future. But I'm leaving my company for further studies, and we had to hire a replacement.
So we put out a job ad (two actually, response first round didn't turn out any suitable candidates). <b>I sat in on all the interviews</b>.
Our job ad basically stated we wanted "an MCSE with 1-2 years experience", "good knowledge of TCP/IP", "bright and willing to learn", "opportunity for picking up valuable skills". Now I'm more than well aware that there exist MCSEs who are complete idiots, but at the same time, I'm equally aware that there exist a truckload of Linux zealots (read idiots) who are using Linux only because it is "cool", who think that logging in as "root" gives them godly "leet" powers (sorry I don't do haxorspeak), that ping -t makes them a uberDOS "hacker", and who couldn't route their way through a subnet given the opportunity.
Point here is, it's not what you use, it's who you are. You look at the experience of the person when doing the hiring, what they've done, what were their responsibilities and <i>you grill them during the interview process</i>. If it's going to be a technical IT job like system administration, you don't allow your PHB or clueless HR staff to do the interviewing, ideally you get someone clueful, who's able to spot BS (resume padders) from a mile away, and properly assess whether the candidate has the right skills for the job or not.
Anyway, the plan here was to get a bright clueful, Windows admin with the aim of teaching him how to run our Linux services. We use Webmin, so the idea was that this couldn't possibly be too hard. S/he'd learn as s/he went along, under my supervision.
So here's a rundown of the people we interviewed (over 2 rounds):
1 HP/UX sysadmin who liked Windows
15 people with more than 2 years "NT4 experience" but no certification
The CNAs / CNE while fairly clueful as far as NDS is concerned, had no idea what a private Class C address was. Sigh. And the amazing thing here was that the CNE did not know (obvious from my quizzing) how to install an NT4 server - pressed, he admitted that the company had a service contract with a systems integrator, and they did all the setup and installation. He just "administered". Oh boy.
The 2 MCPs we interviewed were too inexperienced to be trusted with a lone gunman setup. Errr, and not entirely clueful either.
The 15 or so odd individuals who had worked with / administered NT for more than two years (a couple had 5 years experience or more) were really not much better. Many of them were running NT4 servers on FAT partitions, had no clue about NTFS or file permissions, and whose understanding of IP was limited to ping. <b>So there's something to be said about the value of certification</b>.
The phrase "I'll take an experienced administrator over a trained MCSE monkey" needs to be looked at in a different light. Of course you meant "experienced" = clueful, but job hirers need to be careful not to simply ignore the resume of the MCSE with no experience in favour of someone whose got "5 years of solid NT4 experience" under his belt. Damn resume padders. And I might mention that some of these people had CS degrees too. So much for the value of that degree. Trainable, you think? Well, my attitude is that if you've been administering servers for 5 years running them under FAT, and you think you're competent enough to run a <i>real</i> network, well you can go find someone stupid enough to hire you. (sad thing is that such stupid employers do exist - I wonder how much of the bad press given to NT admins are in fact due to morons like these who think they deserve a job and then call themselves "NT admins" - the horrors)
How were the two MCSEs themselves? Neither were clueless, but one did not have hands-on experience and lacked confidence. He was actually looking for a junior position where he could learn his way up. So I think that's another MCSE stereotype busted. The other was pretty sharp but came from a Netware 4 environment and unfortunately only knew IPX/SPX. He also wanted a comprehensive benefits scheme and full medical, which we couldn't afford.
That pretty much left the HP/UX sysadmin who "liked Windows" (as stated on his resume). He was clueful as far as Unix was concerned, but his attitude to Windows administration was ... "Oh it's all really easy, you just install Windows, click a few things here and there, and it'll run. Windows is easy. And if anything doesn't work, you just reboot." I was like, omg. This guy was administering his company Exchange server, and anytime it didn't work he'd just reboot it. I asked how often this happened and he said "about once or twice a week". The worst thing about this was he considered this "normal". "NT is like that, it's very unstable and it's not a good piece of software, you have to reboot it every two days or so".
Needless to say, he didn't get the job. But I mean, look - is this guy - this UNIX sysadmin - any better than what you people term a "trained MCSE monkey?". This guy is supposed to be clueful, knowledgeable, he's entrusted with the management of a company server, and his response to everything is "reboot", and he thinks uptimes of 2 days are normal. Hell, I've run Exchange boxes that had uptimes of over 3 months, and they go down only because I'm updating a component.
So to whoever made the comment about UNIX sysadmins being "easier to train to use Windows" well ... I don't know man. I'm sure the guy we interviewed wasn't "typical" but then again the "typical" clueful UNIX sysadmin doesn't even want to touch Windows. So much then for your topic "Hiring UNIX Admins to do a Windows Admin job".
These are just my experiences over two interview rounds over the last 2 months. A lot of the stereotypes I've found - are exactly that, stereotypes. In practice, no one seems to fit them.
I think one shouldn't automatically assume an MCSE is clueless. My experience is that someone with certification is likely to be far more clueful than someone without. And just because you're a UNIX guru doesn't necessarily mean you can administer an NT server worth a damn either. Fewer still are people who can do both.
Oh yeah, we ended up hiring a Notes r5 programmer / administrator with a couple of years experience, no MCP/MCSE, no UNIX experience but was clueful, knew his TCP/IP subnetting, pleasant and most importantly, willing to learn. And he's learning fast.
Stop judging people by stereotypes.