Joe Shirey, an Architect Evangelist for Microsoft, has posted an eight-part series that discusses the Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) program. If you're like me and have spent time reviewing the Microsoft Certified Architect Programs web site, and wanted a more in-depth, personal understanding of the process, you should take the time to read Joe's posts in their entirety. Joe is one of the original participants of the MCA program, and offers a lot of insight into the process.
MCA Part I - Intro - Joe talks about his initial introduction to the MCA program when it was in the beta stage, and explains his purpose for reaching out to potential candidates.
MCA Part II - Why do you want to get the MCA? - Joe points out that the MCA is only "one way to measure an architect." He recommends that candidates take a close look at their reasons for pursuing the MCA certification. Take a look at some of the more common reasons he has heard when talking to customers, and his responses.
MCA Part III - Preparing the documentation - To be considered for the MCA program, you have to provide a significant amount of documentation. Joe provides recommendations on preparing this documentation, as well as choosing a project to present. Additionally, Joe provides some suggestions on how to present yourself to the board.
MCA Part IV - Putting together your presentation - The presentation is an important part of the process, and Joe provides some thoughts and tips on how to approach it. Additionally, he provides some insight into what will occur during the presentation, which I found useful and illuminating. Make sure to look at his "rough set of topics" he proposes you use to pull together your presentation, and his suggestions that follow.
MCA Part V - Other things to prepare before going in front of the board - Joe points out that you either "possess or don't posses" the skills and experience required for the program, and it isn't something you can cram for at the last minute. That said, take the time to review and brush up on your strengths and skill sets you haven't used recently. Also, Joe suggests asking an MCA you know to perform a mock board review for you. Joe, are you volunteering?
MCA Part VI - The Competencies - This is a fantastic post, and really goes into what the core requirements of the MCA program are all about, as well as Joe's thoughts on the official statements. Take the time to thoroughly review this post. Also, note that Joe focuses on the "Solutions Architect" competency, instead of the Infrastructure or product specific competencies.
MCA Part VII - Going in front of the board - The board will grill you for two straight hours. Joe outlines the process from a board member's perspective and also provides suggestions on things you can do to help yourself out during the review. This is a great post, and provides a lot more insight into the process the board goes through in formulating and making their decisions.
MCA Part VIII - Getting your results - The elation of passing or the disappointment of not. Joe shares his thoughts on the potential outcomes. Regardless of the outcome, Joe suggests that you take a look at the feedback and better yourself.
Personally, I have been interested in the MCA program since I heard about it six months (or so) ago, and having read Joe's posts I find myself even more interested. If nothing else, I am impressed by the amount of thought and effort put into the process by the board, and how they try to drill down into the candidate to see how they truly measure up to the "straw man". Additionally, I was struck by the fact that the board wants to see candidates succeed, and that the rigor of the process is to reinforce that the program is a premier certification that is much more than an effort by Microsoft to push their product stack and solutions.
Again, if you're interested in the MCA program, take a look at this posts as well as Joe's blog.