Since I began supporting ColdFusion customers for Allaire many years ago I've taken a wide range of computer and web development courses in local universites and vendors, as well as many internal training classes on Macromedia products. Except for a few vendor certifications though, I have no advanced degree or similar milestone to demonstrate my aptitude and achievements in computer or web technology.

I'd like to be able point a tangible and definitive milestone to demonstrate my technical level to others, as well as to satisfy myself when reflecting on the subject. To address this need, I've committed to a 6 month Master's Certificate in Java and J2EE from Boston University. I think a Certifcate from an accredited university carries much more weight than most vendor "certifcates", so much so that I wish the naming convention was different because you can't compare a 60 minute multiple choice test with a 6 month program. At any rate, the BU Master of Java & J2EE Certificate includes the following sequence of courses which could be broken down into two sub-areas:

Master's Certificate in Java and J2EE

  • Java Developer
    • Introduction to Java
    • Intermediate Java Programming
    • Advanced Java Programming

  • J2EE Enterprise Developer
    • JavaServer Pages
    • Java Servlets
    • Jakarta Struts
    • XML Programming Using Java
    • Developing Java Web Services

This program runs in the evenings, 2 nights a week for each class. Although I've had several courses from Sun for the Intro and JSP/Servlet material, as well as XML for J2EE at Harvard, I feel a repeat of the material would help reinforce my understanding since I don't develop in Java on a regular basis and some details are fading. The consecutive courses over 6 months will definitely help it all sink in since I will be writing Java code and applications on a regular basis. I already spend a fair amount of time reading Java source, but reading program flow is quite different from writing and building.

To continue adding some tangible milestones, I'm going to take the 6 hour performance based RHCE exam for Red Hat Linux later this year (again). Last fall I took the RH300 4 day class with the exam on the fifth day, but I didn't make the cut for the RHCE. I think this is one vendor certificate that is definitely worth the effort. If you don't know, the RHCE exam has two 3 hour sections. In the first you are presented with a variety of scenarios where something is broken and you must fix it, such as making Apache Virtual Hosting work, or setting up hard disk quotas for a set of users, or correcting a machine in Kernel Panic and won't boot. The second half of the exam requires you to set up a machine with a suite of services (DNS, SMTP, NFS, etc) configured to certain specification as well as disk and user administration tasks. I earned the RHCT mid-level, but will try again for RHCE.

Another vendor certificate that marks a personal goal is the Adobe ACE certification for Photoshop CS2. This might actually be some low hanging fruit now that I've completed about 30 hours of Photoshop CS2 training via the TotalTraining video DVD training courses. I highly recommend it. In fact I just ordered their new Flash 8 course which includes 25 hours of training in high definition.

Within ColdFusion, my immediate goals include mastering application architecture by approaching the Model-Glue framework more seriously and practicing other time saving techniques including the use of Reactor and/or ARF!. While I think I understand these projects -- how they can be used, and how they work -- I'm not in the practice of building full applications so I've never applied them. I'd say more than half of what I do when supporting ColdFusion is diagnosing and correcting server hangs or crashes, with only about 25% coding related problems in the remainder, but even then that's usually debugging someone else's code or building small models of code to reproduce a problem. To that end, I think I need to focus on a project idea and actually build something useful in order to shape and build my skill set. With the release of Flex 2, I look forward to thinking up a Flex project that integrates with ColdFusion, but that's on the backburner for now.

Collectively, I think this will be a very productive year professionally, and even personally since I consider web technologies to be a favorite hobby and not just a job.