Earning an IT cert has always been hard work, and that’ll probably never change. What most IT professionals complain about is the length of time it takes and the amount of money they have to shell out. Well, now thanks to Microsoft employee Larry Kaye, “There’s an App for that!”
Kaye, a Senior Product Manager of Certification, was announced earlier this week as the inaugural winner of the Information Technology Certification Council’s (ITCC) 2015 Innovation Award for his work on Microsoft’s AppToCert program.
AppToCert is designed to streamline how IT professionals earn Microsoft certs. Compared to traditional certification paths, AppToCert is more economical with respect to both time and money. Developers utilizing it are able to save hundreds of dollars and months of time preparing for and earning Microsoft certifications.
“The AppToCert program allows developers to leverage the work they have done in building real-world software applications to earn credit towards certification,” Kaye said. “Instead of a traditional path of three knowledge-based exams, the AppToCert program allows candidates around the world to earn the Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) certification by:
“Passing a technical review of their software applications by a Microsoft engineer,
“Publishing the applications in the Microsoft Windows Store, and
“Passing a single advanced technical certification exam.”
As to who benefits from AppToCert, Kaye said, “Software developers from organizations of all sizes, from hobbyists to those working in large enterprises.”
The ITCC presented Kaye with his award at the Association of Test Publishers’ Innovations in Testing Conference, a gathering of industry peers in Palm Springs, Calif. The ITCC is the recognized knowledge authority for IT certifications, and acts as a resource for employers, government officials, academia, and individuals seeking information about the benefits of IT certification. According to ITCC media materials, “The Innovation Award celebrates IT industry professionals responsible for creating a product, service or initiative that positively impacts customers, a test candidate’s experience, or company.”
In a statement to the media, Gary Fluitt, past chairman of the ITCC, explained the Council’s selection: “The panel was very impressed with Larry’s and Microsoft’s approach to this unique developer audience. Developers are a hard nut to crack. We have all struggled to provide a compelling value prop to this audience. Larry has taken an innovative approach by leveraging work these developers are already doing and bringing developers into the IT certification fold, so to speak. Through this program, Microsoft is providing additional value to the Enterprise by helping these developers improve their skills and succeed with their applications.”
Asked how the idea of AppToCert came about, Kaye said, “Once Microsoft reviewed the focus of ITCC’s Innovation Award criteria, we thought that the AppToCert program was a perfect fit as it demonstrated a unique manner in recognizing real world skills in technical certification.”
According to ITCC media materials, “AppToCert couples real world applications with a team of Microsoft engineers, who perform a technical review of each application, thus allowing developers an opportunity to gain certification through the advancement of work they are passionate about. The end result: a faster certification process and a stronger base of applications in the Windows App Store.”
AppToCert is a great way for developers to thoroughly apply and demonstrate their skills throughout the complete course of certification. “The Microsoft App to Cert program is an innovative way of engaging and validating the skills of developers while still sticking to the principles of high stakes certification testing, explained Kristin Wall Gibson, Vice chair for the ITCC.
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Designed over a nine month period, AppToCert required extensive collaboration and reviews before launching worldwide in November 2014. Kaye described the process as, “[W]e balanced the criteria measured in the program’s technical review activity with available sets of resources who could conduct the reviews. The program then went through a pilot phase between July-Oct 2014 to validate the review process.”
In a statement to the media, Kaye commented on the importance of winning the award, “It adds additional validation of the approach we are taking to evolve our whole certification program. Just like many other certifying bodies, we are largely dependent on knowledge-based multiple choice exams.
"Over time, we have certainly received feedback — both quantitative and qualitative — from those individuals involved in our program who wanted more opportunities to show real world application. We feel that, by ITCC recognizing our work, we are getting the thumbs-up to grow this particular effort, as well as look at other complementary ways to enhance our certification program.”
A very busy man, Larry Kaye lives with his wife and 12-year old son in Redmond, Wash., where, according to his blog, he enjoys cooking, reading sci-fi, playing the keyboard and building LEGO models.
Kaye is the kind of IT professional you would expect to develop an app to make earning a cert easier. He began his IT career more than 23 years ago working as a full-time developer. Since then he has built desktop, mobile and enterprise applications with C, C++, Java, C# and FORTRAN. For the past 15 years, he has also “played the role of educator, designing technical training and certification portfolios, managing partner communities, and delivering instructor-led training classes worldwide.”
Kaye joined Microsoft in 2008, and as a Senior Product Manager is responsible for the technical certification portfolios related to software development and SQL Server, as well as several overarching programs related to recertification, practice tests, and experiential validation. He is also both a Microsoft Certified Trainer and Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer.