At the end of 2010, I decided to take my career to a new level and apply for
the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) for Exchange 2010. To be accepted into the
program, you already have to be at the top of your game and have all of your
certifications up to date. The MCM program for Exchange has fewer than 200
people worldwide with a very large percentage of those people working for
Microsoft. The origins of the program are rooted in the original Microsoft
Rangers program. This group of keyboard wielding super geniuses could be dropped
shipped into any problem or environment around the world and arise victorious
with smiling customer faces. I have much respect for these gentlemen and women
as they are the best of the best when it comes to not only technology but
personal persona and a willingness to go above and beyond to get the job
Having been in the industry for the last 16 years, I figured this training
would be hard but it would be like any other training I have been to, just a
little compressed. I could not have been more wrong.
I was given a list of pre-reading material prior to attending the class. The
pre-reading material included over 1000 pages of content from TechNet and other
sources. On top of the pre-reading, I took it upon myself to read a book that
was recommended by an existing Exchange Master. I started reading in
mid-December 2010 and never fully completed any of it. Between work and family,
it was very hard to dedicate the time to all that reading. I did however manage
to complete a very large chunk of it, which I believe greatly helped me in the
My training rotation started on January 17 2011. I was in the 8th rotation of
the Exchange Master program with 23 other brave souls from around the world.
The first two hours of the training were a wash. We started at 7:45 AM did
intros and were given background info on what the program would entail over the
next 3 weeks. We were told that everyone in the class was under a NDA and not
everything in class was public knowledge and by no means were we allowed to blog
about specific content in the class. The whole time the director and first
instructor are talking to the class they would stop every 5 minutes or so to
tell us how hard the program is. At this point, I am thinking stop telling me
how hard it is and let us just see. At 10:00 AM on Monday January 17 2011, it
became hard. The first instructor began going over concepts about the product.
Diving deeper into the product than I could have ever imagined. Our first
instructor finished his content Wednesday after noon and with no rest for the
wicked the second instructor showed up ready to go for another two and a half
days. Every day started with me in my seat around 7:00- 7:30 AM class started at
8:00 on the dot. Instruction finished most days of week 1 around 10:00 PM.
However, after instruction you usually had to studied for a few hours and or do
lab assignments for the next day. There is no instruction on the weekends
however, I was in my seat by 8:00 AM and usually finished around midnight. The
first week of class, I was presented over 1000 slides and spent over 110 hours
in the classroom.
Week 2 started Monday morning at 8:00 AM with a 2-hour exam. This test was
not like any I have ever taken before. The content and concepts were so
difficult I almost lost it in the middle of the test. Right after the test we
were given a 15 minute break and then instruction started for the next topic.
This instructor finished at 10:30 PM. So, after sitting for a two hour exam and
then 12 hours of content I was wasted to say the least. Week 2 was much of the
same as week 1 over 1000 slides and hours and hours of labs and studying for the
next test on Monday. I think I put in around 100 hours week 2.
Week 3 started just like week 2. A 2-hour exam on content from the following
week and then just like week 2 another 12 hours of instruction. I do have to say
that after Monday of week 3 it does seem to get a tad bit easier. Maybe because
you are, finally adjusting to the schedule, level of difficulty or maybe your
brain transforms into a sponge and you are just able to soak it up easier.
However, do not take week 3 lightly. The instructors may let you go earlier…..
say 6:00 but the main difference of week 3 is you have a test on Friday for that
week’s content and the wonderful Qualification lab to study for on Saturday.
I was fortunate enough to pass all three of my written exams as well as the
qualification lab on the first attempt. I join a very select group of
individuals that are respected in the Microsoft community the world over. I only
hope that I can live up to and portray the same level of expertise and knowledge
as those people already in the program.
Think you have what it takes……. Here are a few pointers.
1. Check your ego at the door. There is always someone smarter than you are,
especially the instructors. Get to know them. Ask them questions. Challenge them
if you have the guts.
2. Read as much as you can before arrival to the class. It really does
3. Form study groups early on. Make friends and study with them. Ask
questions of each other. Challenge one another. Create a survival guide for the
4. Do the labs assigned to you. You never know where or when you might need
or see this content again.
5. If it is mentioned in class, referenced in the slides, or even thought of
in the back of the instructors head but never verbalized, it is fair game for
6. Eat and Sleep when you can.
7. Leave work at work. Do not try and do your job while you are at class.
8. Being away from family is hard. Talk to them when you can. It was very
hard for me to be away from my wife and kids for 3 weeks straight
9. Take breaks when you can. Take a walk, go for a run. Watch TV for a few.
Sometimes you just need to get away from it
10. Study like you have never studied before.
Information and Registration
Information on not only the Exchange MCM but other Microsoft Master programs
can be found HERE
Fill out and application and register HERETweet