I had hoped, eventually, to use this space to announce that I had passed my Windows 2000 exams and to share tips from my experience. However, this is my final column, and I haven't taken any Win2K tests yet. I haven't taken the tests for the same reason that I'm giving up this column: By the time you read this, I'll have left for a 14-month sailing sabbatical with my family. (I'll continue to write for the Windows 2000 Magazine Network, but I'm relinquishing this column because of the frequency and the quick turnaround that electronic newsletter publishing demands.) For the past few months, I've spent any spare time preparing for this voyage, and studying has often fallen to the bottom of my priority list.

For many years, when my main source of income came from working as a trainer at public training centers (Microsoft Authorized Technical Education Centers—ATECs—now Certified Technical Education Centers—CTECs), certification was an absolute requirement. My first and most important certification was my Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) certification, which I needed to become authorized to teach at public facilities. To earn the MCT with authorization to teach SQL Server classes, I also had to take the Windows NT Server exam. After I passed that test, I realized that I was just shy of the full MSCE certification, so I took the NT 4.0 in the Enterprise and NT 4.0 Workstation exams to see whether I could pass them. The MCSE wasn't crucial to my job, and it didn't make me a better SQL Server trainer, but I must admit, I did (and still do) like seeing those initials after my name.

But times change. Over the past 2 years, I've taught just one class at a public training facility. My other teaching has all been onsite for private clients. I know what I'm capable of, and so do my clients—regardless of my certifications. Writing for the Windows 2000 Magazine Network and Microsoft Press has never required that I hold any particular certification.

As I've mentioned a few times over the past year, I must upgrade my OS exams to Win2K to maintain my MCT status. But I'm not sure what I gain by doing so. I haven't given up completely, especially because I can earn the Microsoft Certified DBA (MCDBA) certificate if I pass just one test (but it's a monster, Exam 70-240: Microsoft Windows 2000 Accelerated Exam for MCPs Certified on Microsoft Windows NT 4.0). I need to pass two tests if I decide not to go the Exam 70-240 route. That Exam 70-240 is free doesn't mattercthe cost to me is my time. I've never minded putting in the time to learn something that's important to me or something I just want to know about, but to take time to study aspects of Win2K that I'm not interested in and will never use would feel like even more of a waste during the next 14 months. To me, it's a matter of principle. I'm willing to do whatever I can and need to do to be the best SQL Server instructor I can be, but the requirements for maintaining an MCT certification are too steep. Of course, I might change my mind before my MCSE and MCT certifications expire in 6 months, and if I do, I'll put in a guest appearance here to tell you all about it.

I wish you all the best of luck on whatever path you choose to follow.