MCSD: Web Applications


I've recently decided to look at Microsoft Certification for development. In this series, I am looking to document my progress through ultimately (hopefully) taking and gaining the certification.

In this first blog, I'm going to outline primarily the why and my initial steps.

Why am I looking at MCSD certification?

Those that are familiar with my history will see over 12 years of IT management, so there is an obvious question as to why I would be interested in a technical qualification.

There are a few reasons, but I guess that primary one is for fun ... yes I am that odd.

My background is development. Every role I've every held has had an element of technical work - in recent history mainly C#, ASP.Net and SQL. So even though it isn't my day to day role, I do love to keep my hand in. And with my geeky head on, I love to learn - and the MCSD certification appears to have some good new stuff for me to learn.

So what other reasons do I have;

Firstly, the technologies are very key to my current organisation (ecommerce). So getting an understanding in advance of the team upgrading the systems will help me to understand the work to be done, as well as help and mentor the team as necessary.

Secondly, as a self preservation technique. Earlier this year I was between management roles - falling back to development allowed me to still bring money into the household. One problem I found with getting development work was the IT management history - even though I had the technical knowledge, it was difficult to get people to look past the job titles for hands on roles.

And I can understand this. Have that MCSD certification, I believe, would have helped me in that situation. And as I cannot see myself ever stepping completely away from the technical side then I feel it is appropriate to keep that string to my bow.

Initial thoughts on the MCSD

In a previous role, I started to put my entire development team through the MCPD Developer certification - so I spent a lot of time looking at the contents of that certificate, so it was interesting to compare the differences in the new certification.

The details of the new certification can be found here.

The set up is quite different it's predecessors and is made of the following exams:

In this you can see a clear progression:

I especially find it so interesting that the first of these (70-480) doesn't actually appear to focused on the Microsoft tools - rather the web staples of HTML, JavaScript and CSS. I wonder if non-Microsoft web developers would be able to understand and pass the exam - certainly looking like it from the exam details.

There is definitely enough in these exams I think to interest me. Yes I have experience in most of the technologies - but not in these latest versions so it will be great to use this as an excuse to bring myself up to speed.

The plan

I'm planning on looking at the courses in the order as prescribed, so will start with the 70-480. Having seem some excellent developers fail to achieve Microsoft exam qualifications, I am keen to not underestimate the work that needs to be done to pass them.

I'm not currently planning of spending on the courses. Partly because of cost & time and partly because, from experience, courses generally give you are starting place - not the entire knowledge.

And to be honest, I think this last point is why people fail to pass the qualifications time and time again. The exams are to test practical and demonstrable experience of the knowledge - not just a good memory of the text book.

You need to really understand and use the technologies.

So regardless of it if you do the course or read the books (see later), you still need to spend a lot of time doing self study and experimentation to really make sure you have a good enough grounding to pass.

I would have looked at working through the books. However it doesn't appear that the books will be available until early 2013 (as per this blog post).

So, for the immediate I am going to probably use the help of Mr Google and the vast array of articles and knowledge available. This works best for me - or has traditionally.


I've decided to use the Microsoft Visual Studio Express 2012 for Web (which can be downloaded from here). I have a great love of the Express products for self learning. I still find it odd that so many IT professionals are unaware that Microsoft make the Express versions available.

I've expect the Express version to be practical for at least the first two exams and possible the third. If I do need to change version, then I'll let you know. But for now, for accessibility, I will stick with Express.

Next steps

Well the next steps will be to research and learn HTML5. I have the basics, but I'm certainly I will need a deeper understanding. I will post as I go - especially with useful links that I find.

Once I am confident with HTML5, I will then move onto JavaScript and then CSS3.

Being happy with all three I will then review skills measured for 40-480 (found here to see what gaps I have).

About the author:

Mark Taylor is an experience IT Consultant passionate about helping his clients get better ROI from their Software Development.

He has over 20 years Software Development experience - over 15 of those leading teams. He has experience in a wide variety of technologies and holds certification in Microsoft Development and Scrum.

He operates through Red Folder Consultancy Ltd.