A Case of the Haves: Should I Get My Degree and/or Microsoft Certification?

OK, I realize this is my fifth blog post in two days after a seven month blog posting deficit. Is it obvious I'm procrastinating? Well, I am, but writing blog entries is way easier than studying. Apparently, my brain is fed up with learning what Microsoft recommends I do with SQL Server 2005. So until it decides to cooperate, I'll just write about SQL Server, or related topics thereof.

So.. on September 1, 2001 I just submitted my resignation to the CEO at Trellion Technologies because I no longer felt challenged and thought it was time for me to move on. The dotcom was still sorta going on and numerous calls from Microsoft recruiters left me confident I'd be able to immediately find a job or contract. Then September 11th happened.

For months, my phone didn't ring. My resume was out there on Monster and the jobs were there (sorta) but nobody seemed to need a 2 year DBA with no degree and no certifications. I didn't want to just sit on my hands so I started self-studying for the MCDBA in late October. I studied a ton and fortunately, I learned a whole lot. My study time in Tahoe was especially nice; I'd snowboard during the day and study for my certification at the coffee house at night. I felt totally West Coast.

I finished my MCDBA sometime in early January 2002 and updated my resume on Monster and around the web. The calls started coming in immediately. Within three weeks, I had two job offers. One of which was from Luce Forward, my very amazing employer whom I'm so fortunate to still be with, ~7 years and one cross-country relocation later.


I found what I learned while studying immediately useful both on my side projects and at Luce. Remembering this, I've worked to obtain my BS in Information Systems and upgrade my MCDBA to an MCITP-DBA, even though my employer did not request I do so. I love the challenge of getting certified and I appreciate how much I learn while studying. Just recently, I finished up the SQL Server 2005 Administrator's Pocket Consultant and oddly enough (or not), I thoroughly enjoyed almost the entire book! Wrox's Professional SQL Server 2005 Administration is also pretty good, as well as the Microsoft Press Training Kit for exam 70-431. Those books, coupled with nearly 10 years of experience as a DBA, helped me pass my first SQL Server 2005 exam with relative ease.

I'm currently studying for the last two of the SQL Server 2005 certs and hope I find the next exams as easy as I did the first.

So to answer the question posed in the subject of this post, I recommend getting a college degree to everyone and I recommend obtaining certifications to techies aiming to work for Corporate America. Geeks who specialize in working for or creating start-ups (like many of my friends in Silicon Valley) probably won't benefit much from certifications, but I do believe they will benefit greatly from CS and CE degrees, and to a lesser extent, IS degrees. But that's just my two cents. For reasons deeper than "it works for me," check out these posts from other bloggers about this topic.