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Information Technology: Certifreaks

Sunday, June 17, 2007 in Technical Articles (Views: 5192)
The other day I was talking with another IT person, and certifications became part of the conversation.

Anyone who knows me, knows I have flopped on many occasions about the value of the certification in the workplace. Going back to my earlier article, You have the MCSE - should I be impressed?, one thing seems clear. Regardless of what level of certification you have in the IT field, certification combined with experience means one thing plain and simple - you know the basics. You are smart enough to use the basic functions of the technology in question, and know how, when and where to run for help.

Over the years, certifications have taken quite a change in meaning. Take for example, my take on certs since the 1980's (when I jumped into IT).

1980's: Computer people were limited in numbers, and if you could convince someone you had close to half a brain with how to operate or otherwise use a computer, you were hired.

Early 1990's: There were more people coming into the IT job market. Certifications were a sort of new phenomenon (and not mainstream), but if you knew someone, or again could demonstrate an ability, you could be hired.

Let's stop here for a minute. Up until this point, only people who really wanted to be in the IT job market (with some exceptions) were in the market. But for the most part, people were doing what they were passionate.

Mid 1990's: This is in my opinion the "Gold Rush" era of Information Technology. Many people flooded the market, since if they could "get certified", they would land into a pot of gold as they slid down the back side of the rainbow. This produced fly by night, unmotivated by nothing other than money, and in many cases useless since they had no passion for their business or love for what they did. Can you do it for just the money? Absolutely. But do it in such a way that you actually care for your profession.

As a side note: I get a smile every time I hear someone saying, "Yeah, I was in computers once, back in the 90's".. This usually has some conversation that goes something like this - "Yeah, I also sold dishwashers, and then got into Online Stocks" (or whatever seemed to their advantage at time time)... Again, the almighty dollar can be a motivation, but remember - DO YOUR JOB...

Late 1990's: One thing I noticed in this era was the fact that companies looked to save some money by hiring people who weren't certified. This in some ways burned me up, working like crazy to get certified with my MCSE, only to be disqualified because that makes me too expensive for a job. I can understand why, however. The "Paper MCSE" was becoming a popular term.

The present: Since 2000, the job market hasn't been easy. Paper MCSE's have been getting run through the assembly line (cookie cutter) at the same pace, but jobs are harder to find. Employers want experience and a certification now.

I used to be sore about those who got their "Paper Certifications". They, for some reason, always had a better looking resume than I did, got the interview opportunities (and jobs), yet weren't capable of much of anything besides drooling on themselves. So what is their secret?

Now, I am not so worried about those who cheated to get where they are. Let them have their interviews, because a trained IT manager who knows how to discern truth from pure crap would laugh them out the door. An untrained manager deserves his paper certified employee.

I also know those who are already working that if they were to be unemployed, they may starve to death (or kiss the IT field goodbye). They would be completely unmarketable out there in the cold hard small town I refer to as "Reality". I have heard MCSE's ask me for help on file permissions, or worse, managers who have referenced the "PDC/BDC" concept in Windows 2000 (this technology died before then). Simply saying "I don't know" is good for me, but saying pure garbage as fact makes me think you could be sued by those who write comic books for copyright infringement... :)

One last thing for those of you who do have certifications. I don't need to see your certification logos or credentials at the end of every e-mail. It's been my experience in the past that the more letters you have to put after your name, the less confident (and capable) you are in your abilities.

So enough about paper certs and people not worthy of their calling - this is really about those who are. Coming from someone with numerous certs, accolades, and a lot to show for his past, don't worship the ground I walk on, or give me the "I'm not worthy salute". I'll be honest, a simple "I can really appreciate the time and hard work that it took you to achieve your goals" would be nice. But all the MCSE, MCSD and other certs mean to me is simple - I am an expert on nothing, rather someone who has (bundled with experience) a grip on the basics and somewhat beyond of the technology in question.

So please, appreciate the work done that results in the certification, not the actual certification.


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