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The book sheds extensive light to be eye-catching professional even in the recession period of 2009..hurry up
ASPE SDLC Training The Critical Skills You Need to be a Marketable and Indispensable SDLC Professional in 2009 A WHITE PAPER PREPARED FOR ASPE BY DAVID MANTICA www.ASPE-SDLC.com toll-free: 877-800-5221 The Critical Skills You Need to be a Marketable and Indispensable SDLC Professional in 2009 Introduction The economic outlook for 2009 continues to look bleak. There is a strong possibility we will be faced with conditions that have not been seen in over seventy years. From tight credit to equity market volatility, from consumer confidence/spending freefalling to the recent whirlwind of layoffs, all indicators point to a deep and long lasting recession that will impact almost all verticals for at least a year. Regardless of a company’s past financial performance, there is a strong possibility that most companies will conduct some level of layoffs and a number of companies will have to file for bankruptcy. An employee of any company within any vertical must logically consider the potential for their position to be dissolved, outsourced, or co-mingled with other roles within an organization. The key word in the previous statement is logically. All of us would like to think we are indispensable but are we really? All of us would like to think we are marketable, but are we? There are some critical questions to consider as an employee or prospective employee. • • • • What does it mean to be indispensable and is it possible to become indispensable to a company? What does it mean to be marketable? Who determines what is or isn’t marketable, and how do you go about becoming marketable? What do job skills have to do with being indispensable and marketable? What are my skills? Are they the right ones? How do I find out if they are, and if not, how do I go about getting the skills needed? Indispensable vs. Marketable Being indispensable and marketable is all tied to skills. As workers we all have talents and skills we use to perform our job. Some of our talents are critical for work success, but some are not, and in a number of cases we don’t have all the skills we need to excel at our position. It is figuring out the skills gap we have between what is needed and what we don’t have, that makes all the difference in being both marketable and indispensable. Being marketable and indispensable are two different things. Indispensable skills are usually tied to very specific details of a particular company. It could mean having detailed knowledge of the architecture and function of a critical internal software system © 2008 ASPE | Critical Skills You need to be a Marketable and Indispensable SDLC Professional in 2009 A White Paper from ASPE or being a Business Analyst who knows the detailed go-to-market strategy for sales tied to a CRM deployment. In the end, indispensable skills tie you to your current employer and usually have no value to other potential employers. So indispensable skills are by nature not transferable skills. Marketable skills are usually tied to more general skills that are in high demand for a specific industry vertical or position. These skills could include knowledge of a specific COTS system or of specific regulatory issues within an industry, or can even be tied to a specific certification or software development process. In the end marketable skills may not tie you to your current employer, but can have very strong value to potential employers. Changes in the System/Software Development Lifecycle that impact worker skill needs In looking at the Systems and Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) portion of IT, which includes Business Process, Business Analysts, Business System Analysts, Project Managers, Systems Analysts, Systems Architects, Software Testers, Quality Assurance, Developers, and the managers of these departments there are a number of skills that are critical to be marketable or indispensable in 2009. Recently, there have been some major changes going on within the software/system development world that will continue to impact worker skill requirements. Those changes include: • Continuation of the outsourcing trend (both on-shore and off-shore) of technical IT positions. • Continuation of requirements work moving away from systems requirements (systems analysis and design) to business requirements (requirements elicitation, enterprise analysis, and process modeling) with a larger focus on business needs. This ties to the efforts of the IIBA to standardize the BA position. Continuation of software development moving from Waterfall to Agile processes with a major emphasis on the Scrum methodology. Also the movement toward hybrid Waterfall/Agile models. • There are some new changes on the horizon that will also impact worker skill requirements within the SDLC. New changes include: • Reduction in the number of projects due to economic and financial constraints, and a much more significant focus on the ROI a completed project will deliver to the business. This will put more emphasis on developing the business case and doing the upfront enterprise analysis. • Roll up of positions and responsibilities to cut costs. Taking five employees and spreading the work among to two or three. This will keep salaries intact, | Critical Skills You need to be a Marketable and Indispensable SDLC Professional in 2009 A White Paper from ASPE © 2008 ASPE but will increase workloads. This could potentially include the rolling up of PM/BA positions together, and will be tied to outsourcing. • Growth of the ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) movement and spreading of that movement beyond operations to SDLC work. This includes figuring out how ITIL, PMI, and Agile processes fit together. Adoption of the CBAP certification for requirements professionals and a move to include CBAP expertise requirements on RFP for SDLC consulting work (including government contracts). • The Critical Skills for 2009 Skills that can make you indispensable in 2009 • Domain Knowledge • Business Alignment Skills that can make you marketable in 2009 • Communication and Presentation • • Agile Methods Specialized Certifications o Project Management Professional (PMP) or Program Management Professional (PgMP). www.pmi.org o Certified Business Analyst Professional (CBAP) www.theiiba.org o Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Certified Scrum Practitioner (CSP), and Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) www.scrumalliance.com o International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTBQ) www.istqb.org o Certified Outsourced Offshore Project Manager (COOPM) http://int-iom.org/ o IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL v3) multiple levels of certification http://www.itil-officialsite.com/ Indispensable Skills You have to make a decision that the company you are with is where you want to stay before deciding to invest your time in building the skills that will make you indispensable to that company. As discussed, indispensable skills are in a vast majority of cases not transferable, so if you were to get laid off or decide to leave the company, the skills you developed would not be useful to other companies. If you do decide to invest in skills to © 2008 ASPE | Critical Skills You need to be a Marketable and Indispensable SDLC Professional in 2009 A White Paper from ASPE make yourself indispensable to your organization, here are two areas you should focus your time and effort on. Domain Knowledge Long-term experience and knowledge of older but critical systems is very important. A number of banks and other financial institutes will vouch for this based on their experience with Y2K challenges in 1999. They frantically searched for Cobalt programmers in the late 1990s to help ensure Y2K system function. Although an aged programming language, people with that particular skill and an understanding of systems and programs running Cobalt became dispensable for a number of years. Domain knowledge is the skills and knowledge a worker has related to the specific function of the company in one or multiple domains…a.k.a. departments or systems. A new person to a company might bring highly marketable skills like certifications or specific COTS experience and lots of new ideas, but to work at optimum efficiency they will have to “learn the ropes” of the company. This sounds sophomoric, but think about it. How many of us really know the internal operation and function of the critical systems that manage a company? What about the business process both intra and inter department that keeps the company moving? How many of us even know the organizational structure, hierarchies, and personalities both intra or inter department? In a vast majority of cases, employees work in a vacuum, focusing all their effort and time on their specific task/function. This is especially true for employees in larger firms and workers in SDLC positions. The natural inclination of an SDLC professional, especially in a waterfall structure, is task focused and around very specific projects. There is very little motivation for an employee to look beyond their task in this model. When the employee does, they begin to learn about the inter-workings of an organization, which will significantly increase that workers task productivity and make them a more valuable resource for others. You can gain Domain Knowledge specific to: • Critical systems (business and IT) capabilities, function, architecture, and how the business uses the systems. Becoming the guru on an important system or at least a portion of that system makes you very hard to replace. • Internal processes and procedures including, how work gets down and how decisions are made. If you watched MASH, Corporal Klinger was a master at this, and that is why he was kept even though he wore a dress. If you needed it he could get it. Regulatory issues within your industry. This is especially important in the world of Graham-Leech, Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPPA, TARP and 8570.1 to name • © 2008 ASPE | Critical Skills You need to be a Marketable and Indispensable SDLC Professional in 2009 A White Paper from ASPE a few. In the regulatory world it is tough to lay off the person that helps keep the executives out of jail. Strong domain knowledge can make you an indispensable employee. Even within an outsourcing play, it is critical that domain knowledge expertise is kept within software development to help direct the efforts of the outsourced staff. There is no specific test or path you can take to be certified in domain knowledge. The key is gaining the skills and knowledge, using what you gain, and building a reputation within the organization. We all know the person who knows the most about a given system or knows how to get things done through all the red tape or can quote regulations from memory. They are the people we go to in times of need for quick results. They don’t have the title or the certification, but because of their expertise they become critical pieces to overall day-today function and business success, and become in one word indispensable. Business Alignment This skill is very similar to building domain knowledge, but it is different in what it covers. Business alignment skills will make you an indispensable worker, especially within the SDLC. The critical piece of business alignment ties to the context of the work. Knowing “why” you are doing something not just the “how “of doing it, and relating that “why” to your “how” to create the most efficient end product. Without business alignment an SDLC professional can be like the Japanese soldiers left on the South Pacific islands after WWII. Many, even years after the war, were still working under the context that the US and Japan were mortal enemies, even though the Marshall Plan was in full rollout rebuilding Japan. They were working under the wrong context and were not aligned with the current direction of the organization; in this case align with the changes in Japan. In the Waterfall methodology, since some projects last 12 months or longer, it is very easy to get lost in the “how” and not go back to revisit the “why”. A number of times Waterfall is set up to protect the “how” from the “why”…a.k.a. the change order process. Change order is a dirty word to a lot of workers in Waterfall. In 2009 business change and business alignment must be embraced no matter what process you follow. The “why” of a project must be understood throughout the lifecycle. Adjustments to match changes in the “why” must also be embraced or you risk end product obsolescence, which is the opposite of indispensable. Businesses in 2009 can’t stomach projects that start and become obsolete. The impact of running a project to obsolescence will be swift and ugly in 2009. You can gain Business Alignment specific to: • Knowing the type of business your organization is in, the products it sells, the organization’s core values, and tying work to core values. • Understanding your organization’s sales and marketing strategy, goals, and making decisions on tasks within projects based on those strategies and goals. | Critical Skills You need to be a Marketable and Indispensable SDLC Professional in 2009 A White Paper from ASPE © 2008 ASPE • • • Prioritizing projects and functions within projects based on business needs and goals. Seeking and gaining stakeholder feedback throughout the project, not just at the beginning and end. Controlling the “cool” factor. Using technologies that provide the best results to requirements, and allow for easy use by end users, not ones that are “cool” or “hot.” Just like with Domain Knowledge there is no specific test you take or path towards being certified in Business Alignment. The key again is gaining the skills and knowledge, using what you gain, and building a reputation within the organization. The results you produce will show how aligned you are with the business. The output of your projects will be used more within the organization, which will increase overall worker productivity, and result in decreased labor costs, increased margins. You might even create a competitive advantage for your company through the systems you build. Look at what Google did: a true case study for alignment of business goals to systems and software. Marketable Skills Investing in marketable skills is valuable whether you are staying with a company, looking to move to a new company, or are forced to look for other employment options. As discussed, marketable skills are highly transferable. They are skills that other employers will have interest in and will be willing to pay for. The value of marketable skills is higher though with potential employers than current employers. A current employer will invest in you to gain marketable skills based on company need and your compensation will be the increase in skills. For a major initiative, they are more apt to look for new people who already possess the specific skills needed. A potential employer will also look for marketable skills based on company need and will select you based on those skills, but your compensation will come in the more tangible form of a higher salary or better bonus. The challenge to getting marketable skills is the “how.” Skills defined as indispensable are skills that can be learned through internal informational interviewing, mentoring and or researching. Marketable skills usually can’t be found on-the-job/internally, but must be sought after or proposed based on initiative changes. The key is how to creatively gain the skills that are currently deemed as marketable. Presentation and Communication If you are an employee within the Systems and Software Development Lifecycle you most likely have heard this before and might be sick of it, but one of the best books on © 2008 ASPE | Critical Skills You need to be a Marketable and Indispensable SDLC Professional in 2009 A White Paper from ASPE the market place about this topic is My Job Went to India (And All I Got Was This Lousy Book) ISBN number 0976694018. I consider the issue here similar to the situation in the movie Lost in Translation where two Americans are in Japan together, and are basically stumbling and bumbling through the language and cultural issues. The only way IT and Business can align is through some type of translation services. Business talks in business speak, and IT talks in IT speak. IT has its culture and concerns, Business has its culture and concerns, and usually they are polar opposite. Someone has to cross the chasm. For SDLC professionals it is critical they learn how to make that crossing. It is actually what is expected of the positions within this space, from the BA and PM to the Tester and Developer. Business expects that an SDLC professional can speak to them in terms they can understand and not in tech terms. Gone are the days when a coder is left in the corner with a refrigerator full of Mountain Dew or Jolt color, and is seen as valuable because of the fantastic code they can write. The reality is that specific science related IT tasks are being outsourced much more quickly than tasks that are seen requiring strong communication and presentation skills. A company feels if they have to provide translation services between IT and business even with internal resources why not get lower cost resources and provide the same service, but with an outsourced IT group. This mentality continues to drive a lot of corporate cost cutting strategy. So for an SDLC professional more closely linked to direct IT services, like programmers, testers, and software architects, the more they can provide translation services themselves over needing the support of a BA or PM, the more value they provide an employer at a bigger cost savings. This is a small part of what the Agile methodologies try to do. Even for PM and BA professionals, it is critical they can communicate and present ideas and topics to business in the way business wants to see it. If the translator can’t translate, there is serious trouble. You should gain Communication and Presentation skills specific to: • Written (specifically email) and verbal communications. This includes converting technical information into a language understandable to the business (either verbally or written) and making sure your communications (either verbal or written) are grammatically correct. • Presenting your ideas. An idea is nothing until your can communicate it…a.k.a. socialize it throughout the organization and get sponsorship. You need to learn how to present your ideas to peers, managers, and functional groups, again in a “language” they understand Ability to train others. Training/teaching shows the ability to take complex ideas and make them easy to understand and learn. It shows a level of • © 2008 ASPE | Critical Skills You need to be a Marketable and Indispensable SDLC Professional in 2009 A White Paper from ASPE communication skill that is needed when proposing technical topics to business professionals. It provides significant value to the organization. Gaining communication and presentation skills take time and practice. It is not just information-based, but is tied directly to experience and repetition. You must first read about different styles of communication and define your style. From there, practice communicating technical concepts to non-technical persons, and put yourself in a position to present on topics. You can certainly take any number of training classes on presentation and communication skills, but they are built on the premise that you will go back and use the skills immediately after the class. With presentation skills, like most skills, practice refines and hones the skill. You must take the risk to make the initial steps, but the positive rewards from a career prospective are significant. Agile Methods Much of what has already been written in this paper on skills, both indispensable and marketable, can be tied back to what is needed to make Agile methods work. Agile is a methodology for software development that has taken the SDLC by storm. What was once thought to be a fad has turned into a very viable option for organizations of any size. Agile has fundamental principals that can be mixed and matched with other SDLC methodologies, and it has specific methods of its own like Scrum, Lean, and Extreme Programming (XP) to name a few. Agile focuses on business alignment, embraces change, and forces practitioners to communicate directly and consistently with their business sponsorship. It is built on the premise that 80% of needed function with a system is done by the first 20% of the work effort (Pareto’s efficiency). So instead of spending extra time and money on the 80% of the effort, which is usually focused on gold plating and fat, build in an iterative process always reprioritizing the work and come out each time with something usable for the business. Some people love it, some are incredulous that it works, and some just plain hate it, but no one can deny its current impact on software development. Learning Agile is a choice you have to make. As a current employee you have two options if your company is not currently doing or planning an Agile pilot program. 1. Learn about the methodology and present the method as an alternative solution. Get approval and learn the process as you roll it out. 2. Take the time after work to learn the methodology and look for work on the side to practice. Agile is something you can’t just learn and take a test on, it is a skill that must be practiced, honed, and refined. Agile is as much an art as a science. It is a scalable and repeatable process with metrics that can be measured and monitored, but it also relies heavily on people skills including, motivating, coaching and mentoring. Many people like to think they have solid coaching and mentoring skills, but most are wrong. They take people following their orders in a hierarchical model as proof of their skills. This is not the case. Coaching and mentoring © 2008 ASPE | Critical Skills You need to be a Marketable and Indispensable SDLC Professional in 2009 A White Paper from ASPE is a skill that must be practiced, honed, and refined, and has no connection to our ability to tell people what to do, like in the hierarchical model. Critical items you must invest in for Agile success: • Face-to-face hands-on training is a critical success factor. Since Agile is as much an art as it is a science, classroom experience will provide a “safe” environment to practice and learn. • Continuous reading and learning. Resources like the Agile Journal http://www.agilejournal.com/ or Mike Cohn’s book Agile Estimating and Planning, ISBN number 0131479415, are just two great examples of the many resources available for someone interested in Agile. Real-world practice and experience. To excel at Agile you must have practice time. Find side work, or test and use some of the methods on the job. User groups, Agile associations, or conferences. Seek mentoring and coaching support from the growing community of Agile practitioners. Your communication, coaching, presentation, mentoring and business alignment skills. Agile processes and methods mandate daily interaction with peers, project sponsors, and management. Don’t even consider learning Agile if you are not interested in person-to-person communication • • • Learning and growing Agile methods knowledge and skill is a highly transferable skill. Currently, Agile experience is the most sought after experience employers are looking for from SDLC professionals. For professionals looking for a new position, it gives you the greatest increase in probability of finding a new job quickly. As usual, just because something is hot doesn’t mean it is easy. Instead, it usually means it is very difficult and such is the case with Agile. It takes time, energy, money, and interest to gain the skills you need to be highly marketable in Agile, with the critical components being live project experience, strong communication, and presentation skills. It is highly recommended that all SDLC professional, at the very least, become conversant on Agile principals and methods. Specialized Certifications The IT training and certification industry would like you to think that certifications are the difference maker that tips the scale in your favor when looking for a job. The industry uses fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) to its full advantage to drive home its marketing efforts, which can cause a lot of confusion. The reality is that certification is a very helpful tool, but is not a direct replacement for skills and experience. It is merely an augmentation. In some cases a certification without experience on a resume can put “paper certified” fears into a hiring manager. © 2008 ASPE | Critical Skills You need to be a Marketable and Indispensable SDLC Professional in 2009 A White Paper from ASPE “Paper certified” means a person has a certification, but shows no relevant experience on their resume to back up the certification. For experienced hiring managers this is a major red flag, and results in the resume not making it through the initial review phase. Certification bodies do their best to control “paper certification,” but only a few do a solid job. The two key elements a certification should have to control “paper certification” is a difficult and time consuming application process and or a hands-on component to the certification. Two SDLC certifications that have done a solid job on maintaining the integrity of its certification are PMP and CBAP. Both have application processes that can take upwards of 15 hours of time to complete, where the exams themselves are only 3 to 4 hours. This means the application process makes up over 70% of the actual certification effort (this snapshot doesn’t include study time). Both certifications require a set amount of work hours spent doing tasks specifically related to the certification as part of the application. By doing this both the PMP and CBAP certifications ensure that only truly interested and experienced individuals even have the opportunity to try for certification. A certification does not do much to make you indispensable to your current employer unless you work for a consulting firm or outsourcer where customers ask for specific certification in RFPs, or you work for an organization where the certification is mandated because of regulations. Only in those models does a certification provide you skills that make you indispensable to an organization. In most cases, especially with internal IT or PMO organizations, managers will shy away from offering certifications to employees for fear the employee will leave the company. In other cases managers will use the certification as a compensation tool in lieu of a bonus or salary increase. With all this said though, a certification does help you market your skills to potential employers. A sought after certification gets you noticed with consulting firms and outsourcers as described above. For local, state and federal government departments, a certification can be a mandatory legal requirement in the hiring process because of specific legislation. But the most prevalent largest positive result a certification provides is getting you through the “filtering” process. A vast number of hiring managers trying to fill SDLC positions are not skilled or knowledgeable in SDLC processes and methods. Their skill is in human resources or functional management. They use specific certifications as a “filtering” tool to initially weed out resumes received. Once that initial weeding process is done, the remaining resumes are reviewed looking at experience level and previous work. Having that certification, in this process, gets the resume to the second step. Whether this fact of life is right or not is not the point, the point is it happens, and as a professional you must prepare yourself to make sure your resume makes it through the filter. SDLC Certifications: • PMI certifications: The certifications offered by PMI have application and recertification requirements. There are currently over 270,000 PMP certified © 2008 ASPE | Critical Skills You need to be a Marketable and Indispensable SDLC Professional in 2009 A White Paper from ASPE professionals worldwide. The PMP certification has gained importance for employees, but more importantly employers. PMI has done a fantastic job getting employers to recognize the value a PMP certification provides employers. On the downside, there is groundswell of dissatisfaction with the qualification level of new PMPs, and a fear with longer tenured PMPs that the value of certification is getting watered down. • IIBA certification: The CBAP certification offered by the IIBA has a very difficult application process and solid recertification rules. The certification, although in its infancy, is now getting noticed by companies. RFPs are starting to appear with requirements for CBAP certified professionals for requirements elicitation. The certification is making strides internationally as well, and looks to become the de facto requirements certification worldwide. On the downside, with only three full-time employees, the IIBA has moved slowly, especially with employer marketing, and there is still risk that a competing certification body could muddy the waters. Scrum Alliance certifications: The foundation Scrum certification (CSM) requires attendance in a class only. There are pros and cons with this model. On the positive the certification is given based on attendance in a class over taking a test. A key success requirement for Scrum is continuous practice and hands-on work, as described in this paper, and participation in a class provides that much better than a test does. On the negative side, the only certification requirement is the money to attend the class, so long term it will not be a good baseline to show proven skills. The remaining Scrum certifications (CSP and CST) have very difficult application process and requirements. They are not easy certification to achieve and provide a solid proof of experience for a hiring manager. The CST also requires a significant yearly fee and proof of continuous Scrum consulting work. The major downside is with the Scrum Alliance itself. It is a for profit organization, not a non-profit industry association. There isn’t an industryapproved body of knowledge, but instead a process developed by an individual. This model opens the certifications up to potential change based on the needs of business owners over the needs of the industry. • ISTQB certification: This certification is tied to a course with a test administered after the course. There is a body of knowledge, but there is no certification application process. So if you have the funds to attend the class and can retain enough information to pass the exam, you can be certified without any relevant experience. But just like the foundation Scrum certification the requirement of the class provides practice and skills development, which gives the certification recipient experience. On the • © 2008 ASPE | Critical Skills You need to be a Marketable and Indispensable SDLC Professional in 2009 A White Paper from ASPE downside, the certification has not received much employer recognition, and there are not many RFPs or job postings requiring ISTQB certification. • ITIL certification: These are administered by two different organizations, but are both based on the same information resource, the IT Infrastructure Library version 3.0. ITIL certification is 100% about the exam. There is foundation level certification, functional level certification, and Service Manager certification (highest level). There is no application process or course requirement. A number of certification candidates take prep classes for the exam to ensure they pass, but the course is not required. ITIL continues to gain traction in the US, but the issue is finding professionals with both certification and experience. Until more experienced professionals pop up the certification alone will carry merit and creditability, so there is a sizable window of opportunity with this certification series in 2009, especially for PMPs gaining their ITIL certification. The certification world can be very murky and difficult to maneuver. It is difficult enough to have to learn what you need to know for certification, but you have to also learn the certification process and the value of the certification you are considering. The critical success facture is finding a certification that has creditability in the market place with potential employers, and which also augments your work experience and skills. Putting experience together with certification increases you chanced of finding employment significantly, and it should be the goal of any professional working within the SDLC. Wrap up Becoming marketable or indispensable means making choices. If you wish to make yourself indispensable that means you’ve made the choice to stick with the company you are with. If you wish to make yourself marketable, you have pretty much made the decision to seek employment elsewhere. Either choice requires significant investment in skills development. The goal of this paper was to provide you detailed information related to employment in the System/Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) and what you need to do, skills development-wise, to make yourself either indispensable or marketable. Care was taken to focus the marketable skills section specific to what industry requirements would be “hot” in 2009. Anyone currently employed must be concerned about his or her employment prospects in 2009. It will be an employer labor market. Employers will have choices, and it is sad to say they will be looking to trade up skills wherever they can. You must prepare yourself for this by setting goals for skills development in 2009 that will make you either dispensable to your organization or marketable to other organizations. The key is you have to think about and analyze yourself. What are your current skills, your current © 2008 ASPE | Critical Skills You need to be a Marketable and Indispensable SDLC Professional in 2009 A White Paper from ASPE interests, your current feelings about who you work for, and if you would like to work somewhere else. Only than can you put a plan in place. Abraham Lincoln once said there is no such thing as luck, just hard work. To make yourself either marketable or indispensable in 2009 you will have to think, plan, then work hard. There is no way around it; the job market in 2009 will treat work and career laziness very harshly. © 2008 ASPE | Critical Skills You need to be a Marketable and Indispensable SDLC Professional in 2009 A White Paper from ASPE
"Critical Skills to be Marketable and Indispensable SDLC Professional in 2009"