MCSE Server Infrastructure Certification Journey

Today I passed the fifth exam to obtain my MCSE Server Infrastructure certification and this is definitely a milestone for my career certifications. I have seven years of professional experience working with server infrastructure, but I have to say that there are so many new features of the new Microsoft Cloud OS that staying up-to-date with certifications is a must! I have been studying through lunches, in the evenings, and on the weekends to accomplish this for the last two months. I have really learned so much in this process. My virtualization experience of the last two years has been primarily with VMware, so stepping into the Microsoft way of virtualization has been a huge learning experience. At first look I thought it was entirely too complicated in comparison, but after journeying through the material and the labs I really see the benefits and the big picture to what makes it great.

I have to give a shout out to my beautiful wife, Amy, who I could not have done this without her love and support. I am very thankful for the material that is published by CBT Nuggets as the provided me with a classroom like environment for training, and best of all on my time with the ability to pause and even speed up the tempo. I would not have gained so much from my studies without my VMware Workstation 9 lab environment that allowed me to nest Hyper-V servers, and that with my Vyatta router allowed for a fully production like environment. Microsoft’s Born To Learn wiki and forums were a great avenue for references to relevant TechNet articles to dive deeper than the books went a long way. I really appreciate all of the experts who take the time to post articles on new technologies and to provide walkthroughs on setting them up. To sum up my advice for learning the content and passing the exams, it is to dedicate the time to reading, understanding, and getting your hands-on experience in walking through each step.

I will get going this week on moving on to studying for MCSE Private Cloud to gain more insight into the Microsoft Cloud OS and specifically how System Center works together for an enterprise private and hybrid cloud.


15 thoughts on “MCSE Server Infrastructure Certification Journey

  1. Congratulations!!! Any study resources or tips for the 70-413 and 70-414?

    • Thank you! I definitely can share some resources and tips. I was pretty ambitious with my studying resources because I wanted to knock it out quickly, but at the same time know the content thoroughly with hands-on experience for everything I could simulate. When I started studying for the 70-413 I had just spent 7 weeks studying and passing the MCSA (410-412) tests. That said, I had a pretty comprehensive lab environment established and some good study habits as well. I devoted most all of my free time (lunches, early mornings, late evenings, etc) to studying.

      I have always started with reviewing the Skills Measured section for each test on Microsoft’s site (70-413, 70-414) and forming my blueprint. I would copy that information into Microsoft OneNote and highlight sections where I felt that I knew the least about and the sections that I needed to setup in my lab environment. I purchased the kindle edition of the Exam Ref 70-413 book on Amazon and read the 5 chapters of the book. Now, I like to read the book, when available, but I don’t necessarily study the book. I read through it so I can grasp each concept. As I do this I continue to highlight and notate my OneNote document on sections I feel I need to go deeper in or setup in my lab. At this point I watch the CBT Nugget video series and follow along in my lab where I think it is beneficial. Now, CBT Nuggets costs $100/month and so it can make people question if it is worth it. It is, besides, if you knock it out quickly you won’t have invested that much overall. There are very knowledgeable trainers that walk you through in a classroom like, whiteboard and lab demo style training series. They even walk you through how to configure your lab to follow along. Here is the link to the 70-413 training series. As I go through this I continue to make notes on my OneNote document of where I need to go deeper and I will stop to make sure I simulate whatever I feel that I need to in the lab environment. Now, I am walking through the videos and taking notes in what I need to go deeper in. If they don’t go deeper in the video, then I may not need to, but I still like to if it is in the Skills Measured for the exam. To do this I recommend the Wiki articles, and after looking it looks like they added the CBT Nuggets series! Woot! Here is the link to the Wiki for 70-413. They have links to TechNet articles that will take you deeper on topics of interests or knowledge gaps, and there is a helpful study guide I used that they also now reference. Here is the link to the 70-413 study guide.

      All that said this is the method I followed and was able to knock out theses tests with an average of less than 2 weeks of study time. It is hard to measure how many hours I studied but I would guess about 20 hours a week between the lunches, evenings, mornings, and weekends.

      Do you have any questions? Do you have a good lab environment established?

      • Ben, how much IT experience did you have prior to taking the 410-412 exams?

      • Hey there Tom. I had 7 years of IT experience when I started going through the certification exams. I am almost finished typing up a comprehensive article on my experience obtaining two MCSE certifications in 90-days. I will be posting it on my blog site here within the week. This will include lots of valuable resources. At least ones I found valuable.

  2. Thanks for the quick response. I’ve recently switched careers so IT is fairly new to me. If you only have CompTIA A+ and network+ with no job experience then would it take longer to learn the materials for 410-412? Also, what books did you use? I’m a student so I have all the time to only focus on studying which I plan on doing about 8-10 hours a day. Is it a reasonable goal to take 410-412 by the end of December? I would like to take those 3 exams before they change it on January. Thanks.

    • Hey Tom,
      I definitely think December is a reasonable goal. I just posted a new blog that is more comprehensive. I share how I obtained my Microsoft certifications in 90-days. I hope it is helpful for you. Please let me know if there is anything I can help you with along the way! Best of luck!

  3. hi Ben,
    Congratulations for the MCSE, i have done MCA and im thinking to do MCSE. but i came to know that they are changing the certification after DEC 31st. so is it good to wait until new year or continue right now,

    • Hello Faheem, I am assuming you meant MCSA instead of MCA. 🙂 I would say knock it out. The last information I have from Microsoft is from September and states that the MCSE content wont’t change until April 2014. So that gives you four months or two months per test to get your MCSE. I might search online a little more to see if there is anything newer than that, but I think you’d be good to go for it. The changes will be minor as far as the information you won’t be studying for if you take it prior to the R2 changes. Look at this guide for the changes to the first MCSA Windows Server 2012 test and I imagine to see something like this released in February for the MCSE test to prepare people who are taking the exam in April. You can always go back and fill in the blanks later if you want to be up with the latest. Hope this was helpful, please feel free to follow up with any questions. Best of luck to you.

  4. If you are pursuing a certification in MCSE what are the best steps in achieving that when you start with no experience or background knowledge? What certificate should you get first, second, third, etc?

    • If your goal is MCSE Server Infrastructure I would say you can start down the path with the MCSA but I would take more time on the labs and maybe do things twice to gain lab experience. I would also recommend using CBT Nuggets as a must because you’ll get great access to content at all levels as well as good walkthroughs. Overall you’ll just have to keep good notes of what you’ve covered and it may take a little longer to have confidence on the objectives. Microsoft Virtual Academy is also a good free resource for some getting started overview style videos. Best of luck. Feel free to write with more questions as you go.

      • Thanks for the reply but MCSA is not an introductory certificate. I’ve read that there’s two pathways with one starting with MTA then MCSA then MCSE. The other is CompTIA A+, then network+, maybe security+, then MCSA, then MCSE. Which is the better route?

      • Microsoft recommends MTA to get the fundamentals before MCSA, and I imagine that would be helpful for the foundation. I think someone determined could start with MCSA, but may need to read up on some basic fundamentals such as network and as I mentioned fill in gaps and take more time in the labs to prepare for the MCSA. I wouldn’t worry with A+. Network+ may be a good step, but if you prefer to learn via certification I would go MTA.

  5. Realistically speaking, how long do you think it will take to get an MCSE certification going with the MTA route?

  6. What’s up, I read your blog on a regular basis. Your writing style is
    witty, keep it up!

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