When cruising the newsgroups a week or two ago, I came upon a post from someone that had taken the Microsoft MOC 2151 and 2152 courses. This person said that he had taken the courses and essentially felt more lost than ever. This definitely is not the first time I've heard such a thing, especially from those people that are new to the field of network operating systems and networking in general.
The poster was seeking advice on where to go next. He didn't want to take any more classes. But he did want to learn the material and start a career in networking. Here is some advice to him and to others that may feel like they're in the same boat.
If You're New, the MOC is Not for You
If you're new to networking, the place to definitely not start is with MOC classes. Those classes are designed and presented in a fashion that suits only people who have been in the business for years. If you are new to the field and have taken one of these courses, you know exactly what I am talking about. You'll feel lost, and perhaps embarrassed and angry. That's natural, because those classes weren't designed for someone in your position.
I could rant more about this, but I'll save it for another day. Rather, let's focus on what you can do to get a leg up in the field.
Start by Understanding the Hardware
You need a strong background in computers and operating systems in general before getting near Windows 2000. It's important that you first understand how the PC hardware architecture works, because a good portion of the problems you'll encounter in the field will be hardware related. With that said, you should consider studying for the A+ hardware technician's certification. Don't take some overpriced class on A+. Get a couple of good books, and some cheapo computer parts from garage sales or anywhere you can find them, and try to put together a computer.
After banging your head against the wall about 10,000 times and studying the A+ curriculum, go and take the exam. If you pass great, if not, no big deal. The point of the studying was to get some knowledge and some hands-on practice with the hardware.
Learn the Basics of an IP Network Infrastructure
After finishing the A+ study track, start working on the Network+ certification. My wife, Deb Shinder, has just completed a book for Cisco Press called "Network and Operating System Essentials". Yes, I know it sounds like one of the MOC courses, but it is nothing like it. The book gives a very thorough grounding in core networking concepts, and multiple operating systems. The book covers in good detail network devices such as hubs, routers, switches, and bridges. The OSI model is covered in a nice amount of detail. This is important because a thorough understanding of what happens at each layer makes you a superior network troubleshooter and architect.
You'll also get a great introduction and overview of the Microsoft operating systems, UNIX, LINUX (a UNIX variant), NetWare and others. Most of all, its written in excellent English and is totally devoid of techobabble, neologisms and "hanging concepts" (ideas that are introduced but never defined). Its also liberally salted with examples to provide context to the material (I was the technical editor and made sure that anyone with an average intelligence can get value from the book).
Of course, the book won't be on the shelves until the 1st quarter of 2001, and you might not want to wait that long. The point is for you to self-study the Network+ curriculum. Don't spend money on expensive classes for the Network+ curriculum. The Network+ certification has little value in the market place so it doesn't make sense to spend much money on it. However, the information you gain from studying the Network+ curriculum has a lot of value to you and your progress towards becoming a network PRO.
After you complete the Network+ study, take the exam. This time, pass the exam. If you don't pass, study some more in those areas in which you are weak. After you pass the exam, you're ready for the next phase.