Been there, done that, got the certificate!
Well, I finally overcame my continued procrastination in this area and sat the MCTS: BizTalk exam today. I always knew I was ‘certifiable’ and now I got the paper to prove it 🙂 I cleared it with a score of 899 out of 1000. I’m quite chuffed with it. It revealed a couple of areas I need to work on a bit more but it was a good experience overall.
I know a lot of people debate the merit of certifications in general (and there has been lots of debates on this particular one as well), but I’m not going to re-hash them here. My aim in writing this was to give me a spur to read through areas that I havent had the opportunity to work in and also in a depth that may not have been necessary in the past. As Saravana points out , if you seriously study for this, you get a good feel for the breadth and depth of the product.
Studying can never take the place of actual hands-on experience, but with any large framework or product its common to find yourself working in a ‘niche’ area and never having the chance to explore all that it offers. Biztalk being a huge product, it’s quite ‘normal’ to find developers who have never had to use things like TPM/RoleLinks or the BRE and even BAM (actually, i think BAM is criminally underused, but thats a topic for another post). The study process can open up areas for you to look into and improve your productivity which you may not even attempt otherwise.
I have been quite selective in my approach to certifications thus far, the only one I bothered to write was 70-320 (Building Web Services and Server Components), that too 4 years ago, but at the end of that study process I was totally amazed at the breadth and depth of the .NET stack and was far more confident of my grasp on Web Services, Enterprise Services, Remoting etc than I had been till that point. I think that going forward that (selective approach) will continue. The R2 exam is now available so that’s next on the agenda and working on the WCF exam should be a useful process as well (assuming I ever get off my lazy backside and take them 🙂 )
I thought that Id’ just point out a few resources that were of great help.
- Saravana Kumar’s awesome 70-235 Exam Preparation Diary.
- Professional Biztalk – the best explanation of BAM, ever . Period.
- The BAM Training Kit – specifically the hands on exercises. The training material itself is pretty complex in some areas and I personally didnt get much out of those explanations, but the practice was good.
- For BRE, I honestly couldn’t find any single resource which allowed me to get to grips with it. There were some nuggets scattered here and there. I ended up writing my own study paper where I combined notes from all the books and whitepapers into something I could revise easily. The highlights of all the resources were the awesome BRE Tips and Tricks – MSDN Webcast – by Jeff Seagard and the MSDN BRE Walkthroughs . The MSDN exercises were exceptionally good. Saravana also points out (in his post) another techNet webcast on the BRE, but i didnt get a chance to watch that.
- Biztalk 2006 Recipes – I used this for a quick final review of BAM and BRE, Orchestrations etc.
So, if you are considering writing the exam, I’d say go for it. Working on the numerous areas involved can only make you a better developer (or at least a more ‘aware’ developer). And when you are done with it, look for areas that you can feed back the learning gained into your daily development tasks.IMO, the real payback is there. Good luck.!!