Getting Hands-On Experience for Cert Exams

Discussion in 'MCSA' started by jpersona, Apr 8, 2005.

  1. jpersona

    jpersona Guest

    Some brief information before my actual question. I've
    been working in different industry for some time now. And
    I'm thinking about making a change in career--thinking
    about going into the IT industry.

    Everywhere and everything I read about getting certified
    says the similar thing about prepping for exams. Their
    step for certification go like this:

    1. read exam info (certification tracks, skills
    objectives, etc.)

    2. study and/or train (books/guides, self-paced, online,

    3. apply skills to real work/get hands-on training

    4. take practice tests

    and they all say, #4 and #2 should not be substitutes for

    Isn't #3 sort of a catch-22, at least for people
    relatively new to IT (I have some knowledge of networking
    but not enough)? How is someone to get experience without
    an IT job? Some people might have the equipment
    themselves. I have a few pcs lying around, but either
    they're not good enough, too old, just not the amount of
    pcs to build a network, or don't have the needed software.

    So my ultimate question is, how did some of you get your
    first IT jobs (and what did you do in those jobs) to have
    exposure to networks and equipment such that you received
    hands-on experience?
    jpersona, Apr 8, 2005
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  2. jpersona

    JenH Guest

    You are correct - it is a catch 22.

    Start at the bottom. I started with a simple DBA job in 93. Worked up to
    workstation support (win98/nt3.0) and in 97 was supporting a small NT domain.
    99 got my MCSE and since 2000 I've been in a windows engineering position at
    a large financial institution. Takes time and hard work. Also, depending on
    where you live, you might have to move to where the jobs are.

    Some folks have gained experience by working for free at their church or

    Take a peak at the current help wanted adds and go towards the hot
    technologies. Network and web development are still pretty hot in some areas.

    Good luck!
    JenH, Apr 8, 2005
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  3. Number 3 can be mulitple things. 1st, you only need 1
    working system. get yourself virtualab... it is software
    that you can use to make/break/fix/breakagain a virtual
    network. or, after plenty of studying, volunteer your
    services to a non-profit organization in need of
    networking support. not only will you gain invaluable
    expereince... but volunteering looks great on a resume.
    Keyboard Cowboy, Apr 8, 2005
  4. jpersona

    Darrick West Guest

    If you can make time for it, volunteer your time to help local
    organizations. Also attend the free seminars sponsored by Microsoft, and
    network with others. Build a lab at home. Ebay has proven to be a money

    I've been fortunate to transition from a electronic tech position to IT
    helpdesk. I've installed, and configured Windows 9x/NT/2000/2003/XP
    clients and servers(manually and unattended), implemented AD,
    installed/configured DNS and DHCP, learned how to use Group Policy to create
    GPOs for software deployment, resource/user/desktop management, and
    enforcing security policies; all in 1.5 years time. I also have a lab at
    home based on 2 computers, and several virtual machines for exam prep, and
    experimentation. I'm still learning. There's lots for me to learn.

    Paper certification just doesn't cut it anymore. Hands-on experience is
    very important even if you don't get paid for it.
    Darrick West, Apr 8, 2005
  5. I do see a lot of job ads for entry level IT positions. But be prepared
    for low pay - I wanna say as low as $30,000 annually or less.

    If you do get some certs and there are skills in your previous job
    (i.e. customer service), play them up in your resume. Oftentimes having
    someone who gels well with everyone else on a team is as valuable as
    any IT skill.

    In any event, you can learn just as much in a lab as you can in a real
    job. In fact, sometimes in real jobs, when the issues tend to be
    mundane and repetitive (ID10T issues), you can get very stagnant and
    not learn much for months, even years. Learning requires a hell of a
    lot of commitment, a lot of free time (say goodbye to your social life
    for a while), a decent computer that can run VM software and an eval
    copy of Windows Server 2003 and some decent books and guides. That's
    pretty much all you need.
    blastingfonda, Apr 9, 2005
  6. jpersona

    jpersona Guest

    Thanks, guys, for all the responses. Many of you have
    mentioned virtual labs/machines, simulations. Could you
    recommend some good ones to me? Do they all come packaged
    with certification study books one sees at bookstores,
    jpersona, Apr 10, 2005
  7. Here's a breakdown of virtual machine software. Anyone can add
    corrections or additions:

    Microsoft Virtual Server 2005
    Free Evaluation Trial Time: 180 days
    OSes it can run on: 2003, XP.
    OSes it can host: only 2003 and 2000 Server.
    Ease of use: Medium - requires a little configuration of IIS

    Microsoft Virtual PC
    Free Evaluation Trial Time: 45 days
    OSes it can run on: XP, 2003, 2000 Pro, Mac OS X.
    OSes it can host: All Win OSes as far back as Win 95 and DOS 6.22 all
    the way up to XP and 2003. I've heard it can run flavors of Linux as
    Ease of use: Easy

    Free Evaluation Trial Time: 30 days
    OSes it can run on: XP, 2003, 2000, NT, Linux
    OSes it can host: All flavors of Windows and Linux
    Ease of use: Easy from what I hear.

    All evaluation copies are freely downloadable off Microsoft and
    VMWare's site. Also can download a free 180-day trial version of
    Windows Server 2003 as well.
    blastingfonda, Apr 10, 2005
  8. jpersona

    catwalker63 Guest

    And don't forget, LOTS of RAM!

    aka Pu$$y Feet
    MCNGP #43
    "If man could be crossed with the cat, it would improve man, but it would
    deteriorate the cat." Mark Twain
    catwalker63, Apr 10, 2005
  9. jpersona

    jpersona Guest

    1. when running virtual machine and OS/software like
    Windows Server (see blastingfonda's replies), i'll need to
    build a small network, correct? is there any benefit to
    running VM and only learning from one computer (no

    2. what's the minimum # comps i'll need in my network?
    three? two?

    3. concerning books/guides and the software that come with
    them (their usually simulation lab software), are there
    any that come separately by themselves? suggestions of
    good ones?

    4. what if i want to learn networking for non-Microsoft
    equipment? e.g. Cisco's CCNA is for their routers and
    switches. is the only way to go using simulation progs
    mentioned in #3 that come in books/guides (such as Boson's
    NetSim prog for Cisco switches/routers)? Or can learning
    by done through VM?

    sorry if a post containing Cisco may bother anyone. i
    thinking about doing both Microsoft and Cisco certs.
    jpersona, Apr 10, 2005
  10. jpersona

    jpersona Guest

    what company makes virtualab? is it this following link:

    i think that's probably the wrong application. the site
    says that it's an online development tool.

    please provide some more information about this virtualab
    that you have. i haven't been able to find anything on it
    or where to buy it.
    jpersona, Apr 10, 2005
  11. jpersona

    catwalker63 Guest

    What is being referred to is software that allows you to setup virtual
    machines and create a network on a single computer. You can use vmware,
    ms virtual pc, or ms virtual server to accomplish this. Each has its own
    requirements for hardware and host OS, so do some research before
    choosing which one to go with. All of them have evaluation versions that
    can be used for a limited time at no cost.

    aka Pu$$y Feet
    MCNGP #43
    "If man could be crossed with the cat, it would improve man, but it would
    deteriorate the cat." Mark Twain
    catwalker63, Apr 11, 2005
  12. jpersona

    Larry Guest

    Interesting to read how people got their break in IT. Sometimes it is a case
    of who u know more than what u know. I retrained in IT and although my first
    IT job was better money than my old job, it wasnt really that much, and the
    job was boring.
    The first job was basically imaging PC's and to be honest doesnt require a
    qualification, just someone with 10 mins to spare to show u what to do.
    I then moved to work in education looking looking after a 2000 server and
    win98 network. I then Then when the school decided to invest in new 2003
    servers and xp workstations, finally things got interesting, although i
    realised i didnt know a lot.
    You might have to start on lower pay, but give every job a chance, even
    unpaid work experience if u arent working. Although home networks are ok,
    experience is better. I learnt loads in past 2.5 years.
    i was lucky, money isnt great but experience is worth more. hoping to pass
    MCSA and move on. first exam in months time.
    Larry, Apr 12, 2005
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