I’ve been directly and indirectly involved in the Microsoft education space for close to 20 years, going back to 1992 when I was one of the first Windows NT instructors in the world at Microsoft University. Training, education, and certification have been something I’ve given much thought to over the years. I’m passionate about the subject.
I’m going to segue into a related, non-SQL Server topic for a moment, so bear with me. I’ve become more interested in the topic of education in general. Maybe because I have kids that are now in school and might attend college one day. Maybe because I’m concerned that my tax dollars are being spent unwisely within the context of education in the USA or that much is broken in the USA education system at all levels.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the quality of traditional higher education in the USA, and probably around the world, is declining in many ways, while the cost of a degree is rising substantially faster than inflation. It’s becoming more and more common for graduates of leading universities, who have spent six figures on their education, to realize that they don’t necessarily have any employable skills. What about graduates blessed with a good job right out of school? Is the ROI for their six-figure degree better than the ROI for a degree from a lower ranked university or perhaps a community college? What if they didn’t have a degree at all? Many internationally recognized universities such as MIT and Cambridge make their undergraduate and graduate lectures available for free. In fact, I can access many of them from iTunes. Plus, there’s this thing called the Internet that supposedly offers a vast amount of information. Did you know that a human can store at least 295 exabytes of information (see “How much information is there in the world? Scientists calculate the world's total technological capacity” http://pda.physorg.com/news/2011-02-world-scientists-total-technological-capacity.html)? That must be true if Google say so, right?
Now back to SQL Server. Just as much, if not more, is broken in the world of technology training for IT and SQL Server pros who are in the midst of their careers. The following are a few questions that I sometimes ponder related to career-oriented technical training. Of course, the list isn’t comprehensive by any means.
- Is training from someone who is “famous” inherently more valuable than from someone who isn’t? I’m not sure, but it’s certainly more popular and more expensive.
- What is the relative value of a week-long training class versus simply giving employees a structured way to learn the same material on their own?
- Imagine a typical training class. How much of the imparted information is truly unique versus information that’s readily and freely available on the Internet?
- How do people use the technical education ecosystem to keep their skills up-to-date in a structured manner, at a low cost, and in a self-directed way?
- Assuming all of the “answers” are, in fact, on the Internet, how do you distinguish between the right answers versus the huge amount of faulty information out there?
- How does a relational database pro transform themselves into a business intelligence (BI) pro?
- Spending your boss’s money is easy, but would you spend your own money for traditional technical education to further your career the way you would spend your own money for a college education?
- Is there a difference in value between live, instructor-led training and online training?
- Is there ever a need for someone to pay for technical education in the traditional way it’s delivered in the current Microsoft education ecosystem?
- Do certifications prove anything?
These questions aren’t meant to be exhaustive. I’m not suggesting that all paid technical training is a waste of time. But I don’t think the ROI for training available from the current Microsoft education ecosystem is quite what it used to be.
I have a few ideas about things that might be done to improve the career-oriented training ecosystem and further explore this topic in future commentaries. But for now, I’m curious what you think: Am I on to something? Do you think anything is broken in the current Microsoft education ecosystem? What solutions and ideas do you have for improving it?