Introduction For SQL Bits

Earlier this month saw SQL Bits, one of the largest SQL Server Technical User Group conferences in Europe. The event served as a great opportunity to hero six of the dozen or so professionals who have achieved the highest level of SQL certifications in the past year. To achieve Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM) status requires many months of hard work yet many professionals globally recognise the value it and the other SQL Server Technical certifications bring them to enhance their career and the companies they work for. We caught up with Paul Egan and James Skipworth – two of the latest to gain the certification to explain what motivated them to embark on this endeavour.

Paul Egan is CEO of SQL Database Solutions Ltd. “Early on in my IT career I remember reading an article in a magazine which asked the question, why IT professionals are not required to take exams when they are for many other skilled professions. I think it is important to take exams for two reasons, firstly to keep skills up to date, IT is continually evolving and we have to keep up with changes. Secondly to demonstrate skill and commitment to learning and professional development to a future employer.

I started my journey to MCSM certification status by watching these readiness videos I decided that I would watch them in the evenings to improve my SQL Server skills - they are excellent free training and I have recommended them to many people since. Once I was on the programme I was working all the time. I was commuting to and from work on the train and either watching training videos or working my way through the long reading list at

It has meant a great deal to me passing the exam, knowing I have achieved one of the highest technical certifications available to SQL Professionals. I have also learnt a great deal on my journey, knowledge which I use every day. Being a freelance SQL Professional I am very hopeful that my certification will help me with new opportunities of work in the future. It is quite an interesting time for SQL Server professionals with the new features of availability groups and the cloud offering using Windows Azure SQL Database or SQL 2012 in a Windows Azure virtual machine. I am looking forward to learning more about them.”

James Skipwith, Principal at Exorior adds:

“As a consultant, the MCSM means a lot to me and hopefully to my clients. It shows that I am at the top-level in my chosen profession, that I have worked hard to achieve such a certification, and that they can be assured that any architecture I propose or work I do will be of the highest level. It validates my extensive experience with SQL Server and instils confidence in those who work with me. It shows that I care about what I do, that I am very serious about it, and that I do know what I'm talking about (most of the time anyway!)

I took my first Microsoft exam back in December 2000. With each new release of SQL Server I upgraded my exams to MCITP, both DBA and Developer, and then I found out the MCSM could be done outside of an onsite course at Redmond. It was a big decision to go for this though. I had a full work schedule, three children under the age of four, and also had to fund it myself due to being a self-employed consultant. The challenge was too great to pass up: I booked on the QuickStart course and worked, hard, for just over a year. It was all worth it in the end. In January this year I found out that I had passed and the sense of achievement was fantastic. Yes, passing the MCSM requires a lot of work and experience but it also requires motivation, a thirst for knowledge, and a stubborn refusal to be beaten!”

Microsoft, provides Certified Solutions Master (MCSM) across five disciplines: Data Platform, SharePoint, Communication, Messaging and Directory Services. To find out more click here

For those interested in becoming a Microsoft Certified Solutions Master but are just starting their IT career, MCSA or MCSE level certification provides a valuable stepping stone in that direction.

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