Testing the buzz about certification: Page 2

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Vital statistics

Debra Shinder

Age: 44

Location: Dallas, Texas

Employer: Self-employed, contracts with Syngress Media

Certifications Held: MCSE, MCT

Favorite Study Method: Hands-on. Break it and fix it. "Overstudy" for exams.

Family: Husband Tom and two children, Kristin, in the Navy, and Kristoffer, a gifted high school senior.

Hobby: Computers
Certification leads to role as author, trainer

Technology has brought a great deal to Deb Shinder's life, including the ability to work from her home in Dallas, Texas, and a husband whom she met in an online chat room. She and her husband, a former neurologist, have harnessed the powers of computers and certification to create the life that they want.

Deb Shinder
Deb Shinder

A very upbeat, intelligent and active woman, Shinder spent 15 years in law enforcement and city politics in Texas. She taught report writing, community relations, defensive tactics and physical fitness at police academies. She was a city council member and managed the development of departmental budget and policies, interaction with other department heads, elected officials, citizens, city employees and outside professionals.

But computers were constantly on her mind and she used hers to chat online with friends and strangers. In 1994, during an otherwise typical online chat session, the then Debra Littlejohn chanced upon an Arkansas-based neurologist, Dr. Tom Shinder. Things clicked as only things can in cyberspace and they married a few months later.

Through the late '90s, the couple began acquiring computers (they have nine, at last count) and learned the intricacies of networking and operating systems. In 1997, they finally put politics and medicine behind them forever and redirected their lives to computer training, certification and writing. This was a bold move, but they enjoyed working and learning as a team and knew that they had the potential for success on a grand scale. So, a hobby blossomed into a massive life-change just as an online chat session permanently altered the course of Shinder's life.

In 1998, Shinder earned her first certification, an MCP. By the end of last year, she added an MCSE and MCT. Currently, she writes full time for Syngress Media, along with her husband. Her credits include the Windows 2000 Certification Headstart Study Guide, Configuring Windows 2000 Server Security, Managing Windows 2000 Network Services, and Troubleshooting Windows 2000 TCP/IP.

She is also currently working on a book for Cisco Press to be used in the Cisco Networking Academy program. Shinder teaches MCSE certification classes on a contract basis in the Dallas County Community College District's continuing education program and manages several mailing lists and Web sites to assist her students. She has an ongoing contract to maintain the websites and provide network consulting for two small Texas cities. If that weren't enough, she still dabbles in law enforcement training, although not frequently.

By her own admission, Shinder is a born test taker. She tends to overstudy her material and chooses to use manuals (Sybex MCSE study guides, Microsoft Press books, and resource kits and other product documentation) and hardware rather than enroll in certification training. She and her husband even set up enterprise networking mockups in their home. This experimentation gives Shinder the knowledge she needs to pass certification exams.

Shinder's advice to certification hopefuls is to first plan to work where jobs exist. Her home, Dallas, offers plenty of opportunity for certified professionals. However, she warns newly certified IT workers to expect salaries in the $35K range until they prove themselves. Once a certified person establishes a sterling track record, salaries climb to nearly twice that.

Deb Shinder found a new life midway through her working career. To accomplish that, she combined a zeal for computer technology with the joy of learning. She dedicated herself to a year of hard work and study, but she did not perceive this as a negative. Shinder's positive attitude and faith in herself produced success, and the catalyst was certification. //

Patrick Suarez is a writer, speaker, and Web designer living in Springfield, OH. He can be reached via email at psuarez@dmgrad.com.

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