Friday, February 25, 2011

The SQL MCM Might Not Be For Me

I've been thinking a lot about the Microsoft Certified Master Certification recently, trying to decide if it's worth it.

On one hand, I really like being identified as a smart guy, and perhaps MCM will help that effort. I can picture it now - I walk into SQL Pass, standing proud and tall in my scottish kilt, legs hairy, smiling brightly...and I hear hushed whispers of "There's Ike...the Microsoft Certified Master." Reverence on their faces as I stride into the room...right up to the point where I trip, legs sprawling and they realize I'm wearing that kilt as a true scotsman.

Also, I seem to learn better when I have a goal. It gives the learning purpose, context, and urgency, which I (and many people) require in order to learn.

On the other hand, my clients do not care about this certification. I doubt I would ever even mention it. My clients are not SQL DBAs. They are corporations and institutions that don't have great SQL knowledge in-house. Some of them are large software companies that just haven't found the right SQL resource. They've never heard of MCM and therefore, wouldn't add to my bill rate by a single dollar. MCM = time-consuming = expensive and <> cost-justified. Basically, I'd be going against the advice I constantly give my customers. If it doesn't make you more money, it's not worth it.

My clients employ me for one basic reason. I'm always concerned about their profitability, efficiency, and productiveness. Getting better at making them money will make me more money. I'm unconvinced that MCM helps me achieve that.

Is ego enough of a reason to pursue this?

EDIT - 3/31/2011: Joe Sack, acting PM for MCM:SQL, has been talking to me about this post for quite some time. He gave me the details of a study done to prove the value of MCM...the non-ego-driven value. Here is a link to the study:

Looks like my SQL MCM journey is going to begin today.


  1. Hi Ike,

    I think you’re right in that ego isn’t a good reason to pursue this. On the contrary, folks in our community are quite aware that you can never stop learning. Achieving the certification is great and tough to do – but it must be coupled with a great deal of humility (not to mention a focus on getting results).
    As for MCM awareness with CXOs, hiring managers, etc – this is a work in progress. The old format of the program made it far too expensive ($18,500 + T&E + opportunity costs) for most external (to Microsoft) candidates – and so we’ve rewritten the exams to stand alone in measuring experience and that enabled us to reduce overall costs. The costs and time investments are still not trivial – but $2,500 for the exams is still a good step away from the previous cost and brings us more in line with other industry advanced certifications. The hope is also that with these changes we’ll get more candidates from outside of Microsoft. As that talent pool grows, so too will the relevancy for hiring managers, etc. This won’t be the only tag of why someone should be hired (far from it) – but it is another way to differentiate yourself (so many ways in the SQL MCM community to do this – so this is just another way).

    As for value, even though our community is small, a study was performed last November across all MCMs (across all products – SQL / Exchange / SharePoint / Lync /Directory). It will be published in April, I’m told, and the key result was that 80% of MCMs reported increases in project success rate, customer return rate, annual revenue and billable rate. I’ll be parsing through the data once it is officially published, but we do have MCMs who have gained value. I think it is up to the individual to leverage it as they can, and my hope is that it will be easier to do so over time.

    Last point is in terms of the community benefits. To me the best part of being an MCM is the community aspect – which includes the email distribution list (people helping each other out) and the monthly ongoing education sessions that we set up with various members of the SQL product team. Just a few perks that can help with your ongoing SQL Server consulting…

    Happy to keep the conversation going and Best Regards,

    Joe Sack
    Acting PM for SQL MCM

  2. "It will be published in April, I’m told, and the key result was that 80% of MCMs reported increases in project success rate, customer return rate, annual revenue and billable rate."

    Hi Joe,

    This answers my question. If the MCMs are finding value in it, outside of ego, then I'll pursue it. Thanks for posting such a thoughtful and detailed response.


  3. Sounds good Ike. Hope to see you in the community in the future.

    Ping me if you have questions about this in the future. I keep an eye on the SQL MCM Forum ( for questions and there is direct email too (rather than post my email here - I can DM it to you over Twitter or something).

  4. My email is just my first name at