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Questions from readers: Breaking the user support mold and SMS training options

Questions on breaking the user support mold and SMS training options.

Looking for a new direction in your career? Ed Tittel answers reader questions on System Management Server (SMS) training and whether certifications alone can get you that new job you want. The following questions and answers have been taken from's Ask the Experts feature.

I have just completed my MCSA and plan to take Exams 70-217, 70-221 and 70-220 for the MCSE. My problem is that I haven't been able to get my boss to think of me outside my current job of user support technician. I really want to get into infrastructure, design and implementation or security. Do you have any suggestions that will help?

The problem isn't certs per se but what kinds of experience you can garner or claim for yourself. To begin, you should share your aspirations with your boss, and see if you can't spend at least some of your working time supporting the kinds of things you want to study: infrastructure matters, security and directory services stuff.

You might try to make a case that it's a good idea to include support staff in projects from the design phase forward, because this will make the support group more effective when new systems go online, and because those groups can benefit from input from the support side. (You'd be amazed how many dumb decisions can be avoided when a support tech says, "How will this functionality be supported?" "How will we train the users?" "What happens when x breaks?" and similar questions.)

Worst case, if you can't grow where you are, you'll have to seek out other employment opportunities where growth is part of what's available to you. Even so, you'll still want to gain as much experience as you can in the areas where you want to develop skills and competence. This may mean unpaid volunteer work outside normal working hours -- quite a sacrifice, I know -- but sometimes such sacrifice is the only way to open doors to a brighter future.

I am looking for hands-on training and certification in Systems Management Server. Do you know where I can find it?

Microsoft actually has an MCSE elective exam 70-086 on SMS 2.0, and a couple of Certified Technical Education Center (CTEC) courses to go with it (course numbers 828 and 827). Check out any of this information for more details:

You can find these courses at various CTECs around the world. My advice would be to shop around by looking for particularly good instructors or coverage (asking for references from former students then checking them, is a good way to do this kind of thing).

Also, is a well-recognized and reputable source of Microsoft information and training. It offers online SMS classes that might be worth checking into as well. See its Training Center for listings of same. There's even a Microsoft Management Summit in Las Vegas from April 29 to May 3, where it looks like some interesting training will be offered as well.

Ed Tittel runs a content development company in Austin, Texas, and is the series editor of the Que Exam Cram 2 and Training Guide series. He's worked on many books on Microsoft, CompTIA, CIW, Sun/Java, and security certifications.

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