Keep on Learning
Today I launched a Certification Checklist on My Developerworks that you can use to track your progress on following the steps required to earn a certification: Getting Started Guide to DB2 Certification. You can use most of the steps in this checklist to track your progress for any IBM software certification, but many of the steps are specific to DB2. I would like to expand the list in the future, but started with the basics.
Please note that you'll need to be logged into My Developerworks in order to access and use the template.
What is a checklist template?
A Checklist template allows you to create a copy of the steps that must be take to achieve a specific goal (in this case to earn a certification). By creating a copy of the checklist, you are able to check off the tasks as you complete them (or if they are not applicable to you) so you can keep track of your progress. You can set specific deadlines for completing each step and use My Developerworks to keep you on top of the schedule.
This is the first checklist that I've created, so I'm sure there are areas for improvement. If you have suggestions for how I can improve this checklist, I'll be happy to hear from you.
Frances Pastuszenski was my mentor for creating this template and I encourage you to follow her checklist for "Getting Started with My DeveloperWorks" and to read her blog entry about her checklist.
svisser1 2700018UK9 Tags:  iod tutorials skills fired certification books 3 Comments 10,009 Views
I subscribe to many newsletters and was reading through them this week..... the one that caught my attention the most was this:
5 surefire ways to get fired by Denise Dubie
I don't want to get fired... and I'm sure most of you don't either! So, reading the article I found that one of the best ways to KEEP your job is by continually growing your skills! I can give plenty advice as to how you can grow your skills... and not all of them require a great deal of time or money!
I've blogged about how to get certified many times. The only thing I want to add at this point is that you can use the path to get certified as a roadmap for building skills. You will learn a lot but will also have validation that your skills are up to par by passing one or more certification exams. For further information on how to start, see my blog entry "Certification 101". To make it even more cost effective for you to get certified, we have Certification Days where exams are offered half price, and a Try it Again offer that allows you to retry your exam if you failed to pass. In my opinion, getting a certification is the FASTEST and most COST-EFFECTIVE way to build skills... bar none!
Travel is expensive, so take a look at the new way to take an IBM class where you choose the time, place, and best of all, no travel involved! Self-paced Virtual Classes are one option, ILO classes are another. Right now, you can take a free SPVC to see how it works.
Another very cost-effective way to build skills. You can buy a printed book, read a book online, borrow from a library... whatever works for you. There is a wide selection of books available... that cover just about every topic imaginable. For the entire list of books that we have available for Information Management topics, see either DB2 in Books or IM Bookstore. The online engines where you can read books are Books 24x7 or Safari Books Online. You can read more about these options in my blog entry.
OK... a conference is very expensive... but is it really? If you factor in all that you get when you attend a conference, you may find that it is very cost-effective. The IOD conference has free certification exams, 400 technical sessions, demos... not to mention networking! See Kate's blog for a series of entries about the IOD conference. Another option is to attend a virtual conference. I don't know of any that are scheduled at this moment...but when I learn about one, I'll blog about it. Sure it is quite different than attending a conference in person in a city away from your home / office, but it still provides some training, demos, and networking, but is usually free to attend.
So, please! Don't get fired because you've let your skills stagnate! Keep up to date with the many options that are available to you!
svisser1 2700018UK9 Tags:  webinar docs bestpractices db2night db2 flashbooks free 2 Comments 12,119 Views
Many of my blog entries had their origins in a question posed to me. Earlier this week someone asked me for some free resources that can be used to stay on the cutting edge of all DB2 changes. I went through recent blog entries and without much effort, I was able to come up with 10 different types of free stuff. Check it out:
and now I get to add 2 more.
11. FREE - Learn from experts via Best Practice articles for DB2 for z/OS: http://ibm.co/eTXbRd
12. FREE – 3 certification exams for attendees of IDUG Tech Conference: http://ibm.co/giLoQA
That’s a lot of FREE! I hope you like.
If you're reading this blog entry, then you're probably knee deep into the social networking that is available. Personally I'm very much into social networking and can't remember what I did before these tools were available.
In this entry I give details on the sites that I am aware of ... and use on a regular basis. I know my list is not complete... so if there is something that you think I should be aware of, please let me know!!
There are so many blogs these days with more being added all the time.... so how can you find the best blogs to read? I suggest that you use aggregator sites where you summaries of many blog entries so you can choose which appeal to you the most. For the IM world the best place to go is PlanetDB2.com. My blog is there as well as blogs from Kate Dawson, Leon Katsnelson, Chris Eaton, Craig Mullins, Grant Hutchison, and many many more! Of course once you begin reading some of these blogs, you can become a fan and can get the entries sent to you directly through RSS feeds.
For a broader range of topics, I suggest looking at the developerWorks blogs. My blog is hosted by developerWorks, so you can find it there as well, but you will find many interesting entries on a wide range of topics.
The difficult thing about Facebook is whether to use it for personal or business reasons. There seems to be quite a few lines being crossed which may cause discomfort for some people. For most of us who write blogs and have Facebook accounts, we automatically pull our entries into our Facebook profile. There are many product fan pages that you can join as well including many from IBM. Some groups you can join are:
I've always had a LinkedIN account for business reasons but only recently have I started to use the groups that are available. I've been very impressed with the amount of interaction taking place in these groups. My only regret is that I don't have enough time to read all the articles that I'm interested in! One of the pros about LinkedIN is that you could separate personal from business by keeping Facebook for personal uses and LinkedIN for business purposes. There are at least two levels available when joining LinkedIN. I have the basic membership and find it incredibly useful. Here are some groups that I like:
This is such a rich site, it is hard to figure out where to start! You can make connections with other devWorks users and create a profile for your personal accomplishments. There are many groups and communities that you can join. I mentioned the wide variety of blogs that are available. The richness of devWorks lies in the content that you can access. Tutorials, Skills Kits, ekits, articles, videos, checklists, downloads, and much more. developerWorks covers a huge variety of topics that covers every software brand and technology that IBM cares about. To find something specific, use the amazing search engine in developerWorks to find what you need. Join developerWorks and then check out these groups:
I call this site a hybrid of many of the sites listed above. It calls in the blog entries from PlanetDB2.com; you can have a network of friends like Facebook; there are groups that you can join to discuss topics with other interested parties like LinkedIN; you'll find a collection of presentations, videos, and links like developerWorks. One thing that is unique about this site is the amount of representation from academic environments. You can find groups for specific countries as well as specific universities. Here are a few of the groups that I follow:
This is the one piece of social networking that I do not use. I understand how powerful it can be, but just don't think that I have the time to get involved with tweeting at this time. Here are a few that I've heard of:
Books on Social Networking
Like all popular topics, you can find a book to read that can teach you how to go deeper in any or all of these topics. Here are a couple of recent titles from IBM Press that you may find interesting:
Reminder: Join me on the DB2Night Show... Friday, Feb 12 at 11:00 EST. The DB2Night Show Episode #12
Yesterday I blogged about the benefits of getting certified.
Today I want to tell you about how to prepare to take and pass an exam.
How to Prepare to Pass a DB2 Certification Exam
1. 1. Read the exam objectives. The website ibm.com/certify lists the objectives for every IBM certification exam. Read these carefully as each question on the exam links directly back to one or more of these objectives! (That’s a huge hint!)
2. 2. Use the recommended study materials to refresh your skills. For each DB2 exam, you can find the recommended study material on this site: ibm.com/software/data/education/certprep.html.
3. 3. Take an assessment exam. These exams cost $10 per take. See ibm.com/software/data/education/cert/assessment.html for the latest information.
4. 4. Take the test. Where? IBM exams are offered worldwide at Prometric Testing Centers. To find a site near you call 1-800-959-EXAM or visit www.prometric.com.
5. 5. If you do NOT pass, use the score report to determine the areas you need to increase your knowledge and start these steps over again.
6. 6. If you PASS, make sure you let your manager know! Your results are confidential to YOU and no one will know you passed unless you tell them!
** DB2 Certification exams are experience-based, so the more practical experience you have using DB2, the easier it will be for you to prepare and pass the exams.
Expected to publish July 17, 2009, order now from amazon.com and save 37% ($18.50)
Authored by two of IBM's leading experts provide the single most comprehensive coverage of DB2's pureXML capabilities. This book explains DB2 pureXML in more than 700 practical examples, including 250+ XQuery and SQL/XML queries, taking the reader from simple introductions all the way to advanced scenarios. The authors have distilled their hands-on experience with many pureXML applications so that you can benefit from best practices, tips & tricks, performance guidelines, and other gems that are not documented elsewhere. This book is invaluable for database administrators and application developers, beginners and DB2 experts. The topics are organized by typical user tasks throughout the life cycle of XML database projects, from planning, designing, and implementing databases all the way to tuning, problem determination, and application development. It includes code samples for Java, .NET, COBOL, PL/1, C, PHP, and Perl programmers. The DB2 pureXML Cookbook provides proven recipes rather than a mere reference of ingredients.
About the Authors
Matthias Nicola is a Senior Software Engineer for DB2 pureXML at IBM's Silicon Valley Lab. His work focuses on all aspects of XML in DB2, including XQuery, SQL/XML, XML storage, indexing and performance. Matthias also works closely with customers and business partners, assisting them in the design, implementation, and optimization of XML solutions. Matthias has published over a dozen articles on various XML topics and is a frequent speaker at DB2 conferences. Prior to joining IBM, Matthias worked on data warehousing performance for Informix Software. He received his doctorate in computer science from the Technical University of Aachen, Germany.
Pav Kumar-Chatterjee has worked with DB2 since 1991 on DB2 for z/OS and since 2000 on DB2 for Linux, UNIX, and Windows. He is currently employed by IBM as a technical sales specialist for Information Management in the United Kingdom. He has helped customers implement the XML Extender product with DB2 V8 and has presented on DB2 and XML in the UK and around Europe.
To tie you over till the book is in your hands, here are some websites for you to check out:
I received my copy of Sam Lightstone's latest book: Making it Big in Software. What chapter should I read first? I think I'll start with Chapter 14: "Zen and the Critical Art of Balance". Why this chapter? I think software developers are notorious for NOT HAVING A LIFE! I must admit that working in the software business (and for IBM for that matter) can be all consuming and never ending... and maybe a bit addictive. Can a balance be achieved? I think it can and I'll let you read what Sam says about the subject.
The only hint I'll give you is the last paragraph that Sam wrote in this chapter:
"Careers do require hard work and enthusiasm, and those are attributes that encourage people to spend more time at the office. Finding your own balance is hard, but if you discover the Philosopher's Stone that helps you get it right, you'll have done the best possible service to your career and your life. No other tactic or vice will serve you better. With only one life to lead, it's definitely worth the effort".
Thanks Sam for helping all these hardworking people achieve a balance in their life while pursuing a very gratifying career in software.
PS... the book is now available for purchase, but it appears that amazon is still saying that it hasn't been released and are offering their standard 34% discount while it is in this state.
I was planning to blog about IBM's Academic Initiatives today, but while doing research I keep being reminded about how important it is to have excellent writing skills.
In the Certification Magazine in the article "Buzzwords your Resume Doesn't Need" I read the following:
Written skills are becoming more and more important for IT professionals to possess, especially as tech workers communicate with others throughout the organization on projects and proposals. But as the old saying goes, show, don’t tell, the hiring manager about your abilities. Demonstrate with your resume and cover letter that you know how to get your ideas across on paper — or on the computer screen — through clear and concise writing and by carefully checking for any typos or grammatical errors before submitting your application materials.
Yesterday I attended a web seminar called "Unwritten Rules: What You Don't Know Can Hurt Your Career" and found that communication is very important in career advancement. Communication in this presentation was largely focused on discussing your expectations with management regarding your career advancement options and expectations, but communication to gain visibility was also a key point. Tell people what you have accomplished and get noticed by writing well.
Then of course Jeff Jonas making the following plea on facebook: "Note to universe: emails over 200 words are very hard to find time to read. Do summarize!"
My favourite was the Macleans article "Do your prof a favour; Write Better!"
A few weeks ago I was invited to be a guest lecturer to a Masters of Computer Science class at York University about how the can improve their writing skills. This is my second time delivering this presentation that was created by Roger Sanders who is also writing a book about the same topic. The presention is entitled "The Art of Technical Writing" and the book will be published this year by MC Press. I don't see a link on the web for this book yet, but will be sure to tell you about it when it is released.
I won't tell you everything that I passed onto the students, but here are a few general guidelines:
1) Go as deep into your TOC or outline as you can... before you begin writing. This will ensure that you have a plan and can help prevent writer's block.
2) Keep your audience in mind when creating the outline and as you write. I guess I should have said "define your audience" first as this is a key step. Don't fall into the trap that what you are writing will appeal to EVERYONE! It won't... and shouldn't.
3) Don't try to impress with a large vocabulary or difficult sentences. Even sophisticated readers like to read concise, well-written sentences rather than complicated words and sentences where they may have to read them twice to get the proper meaning.
4) Vary the size of your sentences. Some long, some short. If you do all the same, it may be boring to read.
5) Avoid the passive voice... stay active. This can be hard to do.
6) Review your own work. Read what you wrote... out loud to yourself, out loud to others, have the computer read it to you... whatever it takes. If you hear the words spoken you can easily spot the parts that are difficult and need revision.
7) I like Roger's recommendation to reveiw your manuscript several times, each time with a specific purpose. For example, read through looking for where you used the passive voice and fix those. Then review again for grammar. Then to make sure lists and headings are parallel. Then to ensure that diagrams and tables are properly labelled. And on and on. It is easier to be consistent if you look for specific problems each time through your manuscript.
8) Be sure that you need to include a diagram or table before including it. I tend to skip diagrams and tables unless it makes it much easier to understand the concepts that are being discussed. I've heard other people admit to skipping them as well. Don't include diagrams and tables as filler.
9) Have someone else (or several other people) review the manuscript for you. When you get feedback... do not take it personally. Your reviewer is NOT critisizing you as a person... but is giving you feedback to improve what you wrote. You don't have to make all the changes that are recommended to you, but do take the feedback seriously. If you don't get feedback at all.. don't assume what you wrote is perfect. It never is! All authors have been shocked to find simple errors in their books even after they were reviewed endlessly by experts.
10) Learn from your mistakes and actively look for ways to improve your writing skill. Writing is a skill and can be learned by paying attention and learning from your mistakes and from others. I strongly encourage you to read Roger's book when it publishes as it will help you in ways that you can't yet imagine.
While I'm on the topic of writing, I should point out that my job is Publishing Program Manager for IBM Information Management. I'm happy to say that I am continuously meeting people who have a desire to write a book. I can help you with that goal if it is one of yours. The first thing you'd want to look at if you are interested in writing a book is this site that gives help on writing a proposal for your book: Proposal Guidelines.
Writing is an important skill for you to have, regardless of your career, so I hope I've helped on some small way to encourage you to continually improve this skill.
Last week my 4 blog entries centered around why and how to get certified in DB2. So, once you've earned your certification, what's next? The latest Certification Magazine answers this very question. I encourage you to read the article: I'm Certified, Now What? by Lynn Lawton.
Share the News
The fact that you passed a certification is NOT broadcast to the world. This is something that you should do yourself. Tell your management, update your profiles on facebook, linkedin, plaxo, etc, add details to your email signature line, add details to your business cards. In short, tell everyone in the biz that you have put the initiative in to study, learn, and pass a certification exam and you should be very proud of your accomplishments.
Put it to Use
You must have learned something during your learning journey... and hopefully what you learned will help you become more efficient or effective at your job. Or perhaps you learned about a new feature or way of doing your job that will have far reaching effects. Practice what you learned. In addition, did the certification that you earned simply a stepping stone to more advanced topics? Check through the roadmaps to see if there are deeper achievements waiting for you. For example, if you've earned a DBA Certification, consider trying for the Advanced DBA Certification. Build on what you have just learned.
Expand your Network
With your added knowledge, are you now qualified to answer questions on forums or in newsgroups? Are you now able to write articles? Join professional groups? I would suggest that you look at PlanetDB2.com, ChannelDB2.com, groups on LinkedIN, Facebook fan pages, etc. Wherever product experts gather, you should see if you are able to join and contribute.
Display the Accomplishment
Print your certificate... give one copy to your boss and frame another to display in your office. Be proud of your accomplishment and brag about it. If you are in a consulting role, perhaps this certification will open up new opportunities for you and the certificate can be presented to your clients.
Consider a Job Search or Raise Request
It won't hurt to ask.... is it time for a raise or a job change? A new certification might be the stepping stone to something better.
Teaching is a great way to strengthen your knowledge about any topic. Now that you are certified, can you encourage and help others achieve the same goal? Can the need for certification become a department or company wide goal and future achievement? Wouldn't you prefer to work with people who at least know what you do? Think of the synergy that can come from working with equally educated team members.
Achieving a certification is a great accomplishment, but in no way does it mean that you know everything that there is to know. You must put what you learned into practice, recommend better ways of doing things, and continue to learn. One mistake that I saw people making a few years ago is that they didn't think that they needed to re certify when a new product level was released. This is an incorrect assumption. If the vendor thought that it was worth updating an exam (usually at significant cost) then it is worth you retaking the exam to be sure that you are aware of the latest features of the latest products.
Do you have any other suggestions for what people should do once they've received their certification? If so, let me know!
In the past 10 years, I’ve met many people who have taken and passed one or more DB2 certification exam. I like to chat with people, so I usually ask them to tell me if they see benefits to passing an exam. I also meet with many people who are reluctant to take an exam and must convince them of the benefits. I’ll put a few of my findings in this post, but I hope that I hear from people if they agree or disagree!
People who are reluctant to take a certification exam are usually reluctant due to fear. Fear of failure, fear of taking a test, fear of having others learn their scores, or fear of being judged or ranked. I totally understand these fears! The first thing I want to stress about certification exams is YOUR SCORE IS CONFIDENTIAL TO YOU. Sure the score is captured by a computer system and is sent to IBM to be stored in a DB2 database, but we are governed by very strict privacy laws that prevent any of this information to be given to anyone except for the candidate who is taking the exam.
This should give you a sense of comfort that you can take the exam without anyone knowing. So if you fail, feel free to try again! Use the score report to help you strengthen your knowledge in the areas where you didn’t do so well. If you do pass the exam, you must tell your managers, customers, clients, etc. Only you can brag about your certification!
Another thing that you should keep in mind is that each exam has a cutscore assigned to it. You can think of a cutscore as the mark you must reach to pass the exam. To come up with a cutscore, we have a team of experts take the exam and then rank each question in terms of difficulty, importance to the job role, and frequency that the task is performed. As an example, the cutscore for Exam 731 is 59%. Since there are 64 questions on the exam, you must answer 38 questions correctly to pass the exam. As a result of passing the exam, you will be sent a certificate stating that you are now IBM Certified. Your certificate will look the same whether you score 59% or 100%!
I also suggest that you don’t play the “score” game. I’ve heard conversations where people are bragging about their score or candidates who are pressuring themselves to score better than one of their co-workers. I can tell you that most of the people bragging about their score are embellishing slightly! It’s best to not discuss your score in the first place.
One of the biggest benefits of passing a certification exam is that it proves that you are very proactive at keeping your skills up to date. Anyone can say that they know about the latest features of a product, but by passing a certification exam, you have validation that you do indeed understand the latest features. Although DB2 certifications are very popular and still growing in numbers, the number of people who actually [i]have[/i] a certification is a fraction of the number of people who [i]could[/i] have a certification. If you are certified, consider yourself as part of a relatively small group! A second benefit is that studying for a certification will expose you to areas of the product that you wouldn’t normally care about. Very few people have hands-on knowledge of EVERY feature in a product, so when studying for, and taking the exam, you will be exposed to more features than you normally use. Perhaps you’ll discover a feature that will really help your application or in the usage of the product.
One of the benefits that I mention to the developer in the Toronto Lab who create the DB2 product is that it will allow them to see the product as our customers use it. Not many of us in the Toronto Lab work as DBAs, so by passing the DBA exam, it exposes us to the tasks that DBAs must perform in their daily jobs. It seems to me that this will help IBM create better products! The same is true for those who are writing about the product, supporting it, testing it, or even selling it.
A team of us are trying to scientifically determine the actual benefits of being certified, but in the mean time, my team ran an informal survey asking what the benefits were. Here are some of the responses:
What do you think? Have you experienced any of these benefits? Are there other benefits that you experienced?
I’m looking forward to hearing from people.