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Hustling to Deliver Partner Training

Lutz Ziob of Microsoft Learning talks about certifications for new partner competencies and the future of training and certifications.

Lutz Ziob may focus primarily on IT professionals in his job at Microsoft, but his role is important to partners. Ziob oversees the development and distribution of Microsoft products that include training and certification programs as well as Microsoft Press books and eLearning. He has also overseen the evolution of the Microsoft Center of Excellence for Learning, which trains and certifies partners on Microsoft technologies from beta and throughout the lifespan of the products. Redmond Channel Partner recently caught up with Ziob at an event held by New York-based NetCom Information Technology, a key Microsoft training partner.

With Google and Apple being seen as the cool companies right now, how do you address the young talent that's coming out of school? How do you get the word out there that the Microsoft platform is just as cool?
On the highest level, we have programs that we bring into the schools. One of them is called IT Academy, where any school can sign up and get training materials and software. We're already up to 8,000 colleges that have signed up. We will grow to 11,000 in the next 12 months. No. 2, we have a wonderful program called DreamSpark. If you can show us that you're a student -- [if you have] any student ID e-mail address -- and you go to DreamSpark, you get all the software from us to play around with. Third is Imagine Cup. What we do is say, 'Look at what you can do with software,' and we have hundreds of thousands of students that once a year come together and use Microsoft software to build solutions that are real solutions that have to do with helping disadvantaged people, protecting the planet, those kinds of things.

"Every day out of the office, [partners] lose money. So we work with our partners to package training solutions that are condensed, and we’re helping them to find an attractive price point as well."

Lutz Ziob, General Manager, Microsoft Learning

What is Microsoft Learning doing to support the new certification requirements for the Microsoft Partner Network?
A lot. One is we have literally an internal SLA that [for] every competency that Microsoft has, there will be a matching certification program that will come up when the product comes out. The other thing we're doing right now is we're working with our training partners, giving them an incentive to package optimized training for partners. Partners simply want it in-depth and short. Because every day out of the office, they lose money. So we work with our partners to package training solutions that are condensed, and we're helping them to find an attractive price point as well. Last, but not least, we have a program in place right now where they can buy whole packages of certifications, and save a lot of money by doing that because we discount it for partners.

What's the role of Microsoft Learning when it comes to cloud computing?
For us it's a gradual thing: there are cloud skills that are just cloud skills, but the advantage is, once you understand what SQL Server, Exchange and Windows Server do, a good chunk of that is retained because the behavior of the data is the same in the cloud, [albeit a] different source. There's a lot of virtualization knowledge out there; we have development for the cloud in Visual Studio [2010] so we're doing content for the cloud. Using the cloud to teach, we have a whole portfolio -- we're digitizing our content, we're giving out partners virtual labs in the cloud, so they don't even have to install them any more, and we encourage them to use things like LiveMeeting, as we do ourselves to reach students in virtual classrooms.

Do you see any new certifications coming down the pike?
This year alone we will launch probably 15 new certification exams. With launching new programs, we try to be very, very careful, because those are big systems to make. It's almost like a college degree. But we'll add things like Windows Phone, virtualization, cloud. So, again, those are solutions within the existing certification tracks.

What's your view on the future of jobs in IT?
It's clearly networking, it's clearly communications, it's clearly virtualization, it's clearly everything that goes in the cloud. That includes programming skills -- it's security. Another thing is design skills. I think there's a growing demand for people who have a graphical user experience kind of thinking to be able to work with IT pros and developers, and we're trying to facilitate that.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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