The missing MCSEs

In a development that may dramatically change the ability of companies to get support for Windows, more than half of all MCSEs (Microsoft certified software engineers) worldwide seem likely to lose their certifications by the end of the year.

In a development that may dramatically change the ability of companies to get support for Windows, more than half of all MCSEs (Microsoft certified software engineers) worldwide seem likely to lose their certifications by the end of the year.

This is due to a Microsoft requirement, announced last US autumn, that those who’ve passed its NT exams must now complete new Windows 2000 exams by December 31.

Those in the know say the pool of MCSEs, on which numerous companies rely to support massive new projects, is at risk of a major depletion.

“If you were a CEO, and you heard that you were going to lose more than 50% of, say, your marketing partners or distributors, you’d be upset,” says Harry Brelsford, an MCSE and author of MCSE Consulting Bible.

Anne Marie McSweeney, Microsoft’s director of certification skills and assessment, says there are presently over 400,000 MCSEs worldwide. She also notes that more than a million individuals hold the less-demanding rank of MCP (Microsoft certified professional). Value-added resellers that do not employ at least one MCSE or the equivalent lose their Gold-level status as Microsoft partners.

McSweeney says only 13% of MCPs have attained Windows 2000 certification so far. When asked the figure for MCSEs, she says, “We’re not quite ready to release that yet.” Whatever the number is, it appears to be embarrassingly low.

A source close to Microsoft Australia says a mere 326 out of almost 10,000 MCSEs in that country are certified for Windows 2000. “Microsoft Australia quietly estimates that it will lose 80% to 90% of their partners at the end of the year — virtually their entire channel,” my contact says. “This is reminiscent of when the new requirements for Micro-soft certified solution developers came into effect [in 1996] and, overnight, the number of MCSDs worldwide dropped from over 30,000 to under 10,000.”

An unknown number of MCSEs, of course, will try for recertification. Michael Domingo, web editor of MCP Magazine, conducted an unscientific survey of MCSEs in June. About 10% say they are already certified for Windows 2000, and another 52% say they’d try to meet the requirements by the end of the year.

“But getting through the battery of seven exams is going to be difficult,” Domingo said in an interview. “A lot of folks are not adopting Windows 2000 as quickly as Microsoft hoped. They’re the same ones wondering, ‘Why retire the NT version of the track?’ ”

When I asked whether or not Microsoft might decertify 50% or more of its MCSEs on January 1, Microsoft’s McSweeney replied, “I don’t think that’s an unreasonable number.”

Companies that depend on a steady flow of trained people might start looking elsewhere.

Livingston’s latest book is Windows Me Secrets (IDG Books). Send tips to Brian Livingston.

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