Last week Microsoft killed their Certified Masters program, essentially making my glass trophy as worthless as…well…a trophy in a bookcase. Today there was a phone call with Microsoft Learning and 250 lucky MCM participants. The result of the phone call? Just more frustration for everyone. What I was hoping for was to hear details about their plans to reboot the program after this “pause” as they call it.
We got no such details, so it’s time for all of us in the MCM program to take matters into our own hands.
Well, that’s why I’m here. You’re welcome.
Also, consider this a brainstorming session. We all know there are no bad ideas when brainstorming. What follows is something I hope will get the ball rolling for Microsoft as they (hopefully) look to reboot the program.
Here is my plan to reboot the entire MCM program.
1. Purchase the Madden Cruiser
John Madden stopped touring the nation in his customized RV in 2009. Microsoft could easily purchase the cruiser and retrofit it to include several workstations that can be used for exams. This breaks through one of the barriers of entry for candidates; you don’t need to get to a testing center, the testing center will come to you! And because it is the Madden Cruiser, you know it can be full of food like buffalo wings, turducken, and McSpicy Paneer burgers. Lunch can be provided to all exam takers!
2. Purchase John Madden
It isn’t just his cruiser that’s available, so is John Madden. He retired in 2009 and is currently 77 years old. In other words, he’s got time on his hands. We hire John to be in the cruiser as you are taking your exams so that he can ask you all those annoying questions you get when you are trying to solve problems at work:
“How’s it going?”
“Can I get a status?”
“Should we bring in more people to help?”
“I can call my niece, she’s smart with computers.”
This makes the exams much closer to real-world experience. Imagine having John standing over your shoulder and asking “why did you press that button” every time you try to work through one of the lab scenarios? How about after you get a question right and John gives you a trademark “BOOM”.
When candidates pass this exam prospective employers are going to know that their skills are truly complete.
3. Hire Local Drivers
Another barrier to entry for the MCM program had to do with scalability. Since John Madden won’t replicate (sadly) we are gonna need to hire more people anyway, and we will need more cruisers. We will go after and get the best local drivers available. I’m certain we can find similar characters like John Madden in most countries of the world as well.
The beauty here is that most countries have roads (sorry Canada) so the cruisers can go literally anywhere in the world they need to go. The local drivers then help reduce the language barriers because they can read the road signs, order from a menu, and translate exam questions as needed.
4. Sell Sponsorships
The third barrier mentioned by Microsoft had to do with costs. That’s easily solved by selling sponsorships. Who wouldn’t want to put their ads on the side of the Madden Cruiser as it winds its way through New York City, Tokyo, Beijing, or Moose Jaw? ACE Hardware, Tinactin, and Outback Steakhouse are shoo-ins but I bet we’d find interest from companies that cater to geeks: ThinkGeek, Starbucks, Rockstar energy drinks, and Frito-Lay all come to mind.
If the cruiser made appearances as part of sporting events I’m sure football clubs (both American and non-American style) wouldn’t mind paying to have the cruiser make an appearance. This helps reduce the price point for candidates, gives the program greater visibility, and even helps to feed a few people along the way.
People can earn points for everything, not just the exam questions. How many chicken wings and quad triple tall soy lattes did you consume while taking the exam? Who has the current high score for the lab itself? How many times did you get John to say “BOOM!”?
You could probably even charge people to watch. Closed circuit TV, live streaming, pay-per-view are all options here. Candidates could even accumulate “likes” for how they solved problems. John could even work the Telestrator for those of us watching at home.
Time for Microsoft to stop thinking about certifications as if this was still the 20th century. Start thinking about how to make it more like an episode of “Undercover Boss” meets “Big Brother” inside of an RV full of chicken wings.
I can’t tell you how much I’d pay for a program like this.