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Argenis Fernandez

A Few Thoughts on the SQL Server MCM Program


I took the MCM lab a couple of weeks ago and passed. I still don’t believe it - it’s been quite the journey.

There have been many decisive moments in my career; one of those was back in 2010 when I decided I would work on obtaining the certification after Brent Ozar blogged rather extensively about his experience with the program. I progressively worked on aspects of SQL Server that were out of my comfort zone – and that paid off. But simply put, I have the cert - but still don’t consider myself a true Master. And I probably never will.

I might be okay in certain areas of SQL, maybe even good in others - but I don’t master them all. I intend on getting better on those areas, but that won’t happen overnight.

SQL Server is a mammoth of a product. It’s actually a suite of products – and the MCM certification focuses on only one aspect of it: the Database Engine. No SSAS, no SSIS, no SSRS.

So you might be wondering: Is it worth it then? Why work so hard on obtaining a certification that calls you “Master” when it doesn’t test your skills on every single feature of SQL Server?

To me, it was. And then some.

The fact that I value most after going through the program? Knowing exactly what I don’t know. In other words, looking at a problem and knowing that I won’t be able to solve it right away, yet still I will have an idea of where to begin digging for information to conquer it.

You see, when I decided to go for the MCM I would have probably ranked myself a 6/10. So I went and trained myself on those areas where I felt I wasn’t strong enough. I read blogs, I watched videos, I attended SQLSkills immersion events (lucky me!), I went to SQLSaturdays, and even a couple of PASS Summits – but all of that was theory, not a whole lot of practice. And when you get to the MCM Lab, you better had practiced. You better had familiarized with that particular feature you’re being challenged with – at least a tiny bit. Learning from BOL on the fly during the MCM Lab is probably just going to be a waste of time – trust me on that one.

The other thing I learned along the way? The power of networking. If you are a SQL Server professional, in any function – DBA, Dev or what have you – allow yourself a couple of minutes to brag about what you do: our community is awesome. Better than anything I’ve seen out there. I haven’t met a single person in the SQL community that’s not willing to help a colleague.

And that’s precisely what helped me prepare the most for the MCM: helping others. Perhaps that will help you get there as well?




Published Wednesday, February 22, 2012 12:11 AM by Argenis

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Eugene Lobanov said:

Yeah! You are lucky man!

I wanna pass MCM too, but there aren't training centers in Russia.

I wanna do labs, but it's to expencive for me.

How much does it cost for you? Is it helpfull?


February 22, 2012 2:52 AM

Argenis said:

@Eugene the knowledge exam costs $500, and the Lab costs $2000. If you take a IE class with the SQLSkills folks or do the MCM Online training being offered, you have an opportunity to win vouchers to be used toward the cost of the certification.

February 22, 2012 2:57 AM

Sourabh said:

A very nice take on MCM. I am taking mine the coming winter and hopefully I can learn from your experience.

February 22, 2012 3:02 AM

Richard Douglas said:

Congratulations, that's awesome!

February 22, 2012 4:11 AM

Brent Ozar said:

Congratulations, man, and you definitely are a Master.

February 22, 2012 8:13 AM

Andy ball said:

Congrats . So roughly how many hours did u spend studying ? I know this is kind of meaningless question due to everyone's experience / abilities being different , but would kind of interesting. I'm trying to figure out ROI

February 22, 2012 2:47 PM

Argenis said:

@Andy, I didn't track hours - always studied after business hours. But in my opinion the ROI of such an advanced certification is always 1) huge and 2) very positive.

February 22, 2012 4:26 PM

Jonathan Gardner said:


February 23, 2012 12:30 PM

Oscar Zamora said:

Congratulations Argenis! You are right about the practice portion. You need to have experienced it in the real world. I wish other certifications had labs as part of the exam; I've dealt with certified resources in the past that didn't know how to solve real-world challenges, or even have an idea where to start to get their arms around it.

I was never fond of certification because of it; however the MCM is a different ballpark.

Congratulations again!

February 23, 2012 1:06 PM

Kendra Little said:

Not only all of that-- you've also been regularly presenting at SQL Saturdays, as well, and breaking ground in new topics!

Very cool, and very well deserved. Congrats!

February 23, 2012 3:51 PM

Andy Ball said:

Thx , I'm intending doing outside of office hours too, that's why I was asking ;) Ie giving up say 250 hours ( I need to do the 2 dev exams) of my life v better money / better chance of landing a higher paying Contract cos I know more

February 24, 2012 4:11 PM

Matt Velic said:

Congratulations! This is fantastic news!

February 24, 2012 5:45 PM

Simon Roses said:


March 1, 2012 3:09 AM

Madhivanan said:


June 25, 2012 2:30 AM

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