Most readers are probably familiar with the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) program, which includes the Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA) certification plus many other major and minor certifications. The MCP program tends to be tightly coupled with Microsoft Learning courses, with final certification tied to passing certain tests that are based on core competencies and skills covered in various classes offered through Microsoft Certified Partners for Learning Solutions or other training resources.

But not as many readers are familiar with the various specializations that exist for Microsoft Partners. Microsoft is in the process of launching some new partner-level specializations, several of which are directly related to the SQL Server community, so I wanted to give you a quick heads-up on this program. Readers who work for or own a Microsoft Solution Provider company might be interested in pursuing these specializations. Even if you aren’t connected with a Microsoft Solution Provider company, you should still be aware of the specializations so that you know what they mean if some fancy-pants consultant shows up on your doorstep offering to help.

Partner-level specializations are managed at the “partner competency level,” which is the term that Microsoft uses to classify which areas their partners have expertise in. You can find detailed descriptions of all 13 of the partner competency levels at https://partner.microsoft.com/global/program/competencies. Although many of the competencies are related to SQL Server in some way, the three competencies that are most applicable to the SQL Server community are Advanced Infrastructure Solutions, Data Management Solutions, and Information Worker Solutions.

You can read about the new specializations that Microsoft is preparing to release at https://partner.microsoft.com/US/program/competencies/upcomingspecializationinitiatives. The company is releasing nine new Microsoft Partner specializations:

  • Data Visualization
  • Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Forms
  • Enterprise Project Management
  • Office Solutions Development
  • Office Systems Deployment
  • Performance Management
  • Portals and Collaboration
  • Search
  • Unified Communications
  • Directly related to the SQL Server BI world are two new specializations: Data Visualization and Performance Management. However, if you read through the list, you’ll see that many of the new offerings touch on SQL Server topics in one way or another, which makes sense because a database touches so many aspects of a company’s business and technical initiatives.

    I often find myself writing editorials that offer ideas and suggestions related to career planning and management as the end of the year approaches and people are thinking about the coming new year. I generally think of these topics as “What do I want to be when I grow up?” The big 40 is looming closer for me, and you’d think that I’d have the answer to that question by now. Alas, like many of you, I sometimes have a hard time making up my mind. I’m short enough to be an astronaut, but my eyesight isn’t good enough, so that’s out. But everything else is on the table. I’m sure that I’ll have more thoughts to share on the topic of career planning over the next several weeks. For now, I encourage you to check out the new specializations. Perhaps one of them will help you decide what you want to be when you grow up.