Currently MCITP: SA, what would you recommend after that?

WhatBackupsWhatBackups Registered Users Posts: 2 ■□□□□□□□□□
Hey guys, Hoping to get some advice about what direction I should go in. I have an MCITP: SA cert in 2008, and have a little over 3 years experience working in Systems Admin jobs. I have about 4 years working in desktop support/helpdesk types of jobs before that. I also have a BA degree (not IT related, but doesn't hurt). I'm currently taking a brief hiatus from working, due to some very unfortunate life events that I needed to take some time to recover from.

Seeing as I'm currently not working, and I can afford to take a little time before I jump back in, I'm thinking it makes sense to try and get another cert or two to beef up my resume and job prospects. I am fortunate in that I am getting a good number of calls/emails from recruiters, and I don't think there's going to be a big problem with landing another job even if I don't get any more certs.

Nearly all of my Systems Admin experience is from working at Managed Service Provider companies. There have been many pros and cons to this. The main positive things are that I've had exposure to a whole boatload of different technologies, many different environments, and have done more projects in that amount of time than you typically would at a single company. I've also interfaced with a lot of the IT decision makers, CEOs, VPs, office managers, etc, at different clients.

There are a lot of downsides to the MSP world as well. Best practices are not always followed for a variety of reasons. There can be a lot of driving around to various client sites (sometimes 3-4 hours a day beyond normal commute time). Last minute schedule changes are fairly common. Not having time to eat lunch is fairly common. Having to deal with a total hodgepodge of technology means knowing a little bit about everything and a lot about nothing (many different vendors for infrastructure/firewalls/servers etc, many different vendors and versions of software for everything from AV to backups to remote access and line of business apps). Little or no downtime is common, and there is constant pressure to maximize your utilization (sometimes above 100%, when no overtime is paid).

So based on that I'm thinking ideally I'd like to get out of working for MSPs. There's just too much chaos. I could probably do it for a couple more years if I have to, and I might, but I want to get myself on a path that will get me into a good job for a real company that I'm happy with.

Since I have some time right now, what certification or certifications would you guys recommend? The main ones I've been considering are a CCNA, MCITP Enterprise Admin, MCITP Enterprise Messaging Admin, or VMware VCP5. Due to the test lab requirements and class costs for the VCP5 I think that's out for now. The CCNA tests aren't too expensive and I believe training can be done mostly or entirely with simulators, so that might be a good option, although I'm not looking to become a Network Engineer. In terms of MS stuff I'm thinking the EMA probably makes more sense than the EA (assuming I'm only doing one). I don't know how much an EA is going to improve my prospects over the SA, but I'm sure it can't hurt. I'm open to any other options I haven't thought of.

I really would like to move up to the next level in my career. I would also like to land a job that I really like that I feel comfortable staying at for a long period of time. My last couple jobs have been kind of short lived (well intentioned choices but I picked some doozies. I now have a lot of new questions to ask in interviews...), and I don't want to make that a trend.

Thanks in advance! I appreciate any advice.


  • PsoasmanPsoasman Senior Member Member Posts: 2,687 ■■■■■■■■■□
    Welcome to the forum!

    It sounds like you want to stay in system administration, but want more stability. The next logical step would be to obtain the MCITP:EA. If you are interested in Exchange, then those certs would be useful. I'd go 643>647, then the exchange certs.
  • ptilsenptilsen Member Posts: 2,835 ■■■■■■■■■■
    EA is for sure your next step, especially since you want to get away from MSPs (or at least small MSPs). CCNA and EMA round out your experience, but realistically signify track shifts into networking or messaging, respectively. I'm planning on doing both myself, but I work for an MSP and will continue to do so for the near future. For someone moving into enterprise IT departments, you probably want to pick a specialization or general track and go with it. That makes EA your next step unless you want a very big job change.
    Working B.S., Computer Science
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  • WhatBackupsWhatBackups Registered Users Posts: 2 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Hey, sorry for the very late reply :) I can be a scatterbrain sometimes.

    Thanks for the advice to both of you, it makes sense. I have been reading a CCNA (ICND1) book that I had laying around since I posted, and feel like it's been helping me to fill in a few network knowledge gaps that I've had for awhile and just never addressed (wasn't important for any jobs I've had). I'm not sure whether it really makes sense right now to go full bore and get the CCNA cert. As you said ptilsen, it would signify something of a career shift, and as interesting as I find the networking stuff, I have a lot of experience and knowledge on the systems administration side of things that I would essentially be leaving behind if I pursued networking.

    I also have been doing some studying on the Exchange end of things, and while I stumbled across a few things I didn't know, I was actually shocked at the amount of topics for the certification that I already knew just from hands on experience with a couple deployments and general administration while working at MSPs. I guess maybe I'm better with Exchange than I thought I was. I will definitely pursue getting the EMA cert, but I agree it probably makes sense to get the EA cert first. That is going to be my focus now, hopefully with some intense studying I can knock out the 3 remaining tests in a couple months.

    I have been applying for a few local IT jobs so that I can get back in the saddle, although unfortunately there isn't a lot of opportunity here, so I may end up having to take a lower end job. I guess the positive to that is I will be making at least some money and have some time to study and get more certs, but I worry because I don't know how it's going to look down the road for employment. My career has had a somewhat logical progression up to this point, going from desktop/helpdesk jobs, to systems administration, but then going back to essentially a desktop job I fear will look funny. If I do something like that for a year or so, but then get an EA, EMA, and possibly other things, I'm hoping that I will still be able to get my foot in the door in corporate server administration. I hope that's not delusional.

    It's such a tough thing sometimes to know what to do in terms of career path. Especially in today's economy. The advice on this forum is really valuable. Thanks!
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