I played a lot of Dungeons & Dragons growing up, and part of the game involves building your character. You picked a class like thief, cleric, fighter, and so on, and your choice determined the strengths and weaknesses of your character. Your character’s Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Charisma, and Intelligence scores were affected by your class. Players roll three six-sided dice to determine their scores, and their class gives them a bonus – or a penalty – for each score. For example, a thief character might automatically lose 3 points of Strength (no matter what they rolled), but get a 3 point bonus in Dexterity. Roll three sixes for your Dexterity, and presto – you’re nearly unstoppable in that one particular category.
Sitting in MCM training yesterday, surrounded by people with different backgrounds (developers, development DBAs, production DBAs, project leads, support engineers), the whole thing suddenly felt like a D&D game. Instead of Strength, Dexterity, and Intelligence, our abilities were more like:
- On-disk structure knowledge
- Index tuning knowledge
- C#/VB knowledge
- Stored procedure knowledge
- XML parsing knowledge
- Backup & recovery knowledge
And so on. I might have went in with a 14 for on-disk structure knowledge, but a 4 for C#/VB knowledge. Nobody in class has a perfect 18 all the way across the board – heck, none of us even have 14 across the board. But this raises two interesting questions; for each subject area, what’s the starting level for MCM training, and what’s the required score at the end? In, say, the XML area, do you need to walk in with a 10, have the training start at 9 and take you to 14, and passing requires a 13? If only we could lay it all out on a simple chart, but skills aren’t so easy to measure.
Look at it another way – no one person teaches the entire SQL MCM curriculum, but one person is expected to learn the entire curriculum at Master level.
The attendees’ attitudes are all over the place. Some folks are completely comfortable with the odds being stacked against ’em. One person noted that their chances of passing the first round are roughly 1 in 8 – they have to pass three written tests and a lab, four tests at 50/50 odds each. (Turns out the odds are running a little worse than that – in the last rotation, only one person passed all the tests the first time.) Other attendees are getting surprised by this news, because they’d only heard about the pass ratios without knowing about the retakes. They thought the 60-70% pass rates meant that 60-70% of the attendees came home with the certification, but that’s not how it’s going down. There’s going to be a lot of disappointed people.
If an attendee fails a test, they still keep going – they just have to retake the failed test later. Retakes, even the final 6-hour lab, are done remotely. Several MCMs and Rangers have told us to expect to fail our first test, and to just pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off. I hear ’em, but a few of us are so confident in our knowledge of the first week’s material that we’ve vowed to throw ourselves off the roof of Building 40 if we don’t pass the first exam. We’re only half joking – if we can’t pass this particular week’s test, we’re completely screwed, because this is our specialty. We feel like we came in at 16s, and Paul & Kim have brought us to 18s. Next week, though, all bets are off.
And for the record, my favorite character was a half-elf thief.