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What does certification achieve? Expand / Collapse
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Posted Tuesday, September 10, 2013 7:37 AM
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As someone with a number of certifications (some for SQL Server) and a former hiring manager, I have to respectfully disagree. In my view, certifications represent a broader measure of one's willingness to spend considerable time pursuing a subject and their ability to follow through on it. The view that they guarantee some technical proficiency misses the point. Although I think they provide an excellent opportunity for strengthening knowledge and skills we already have and for exposing us to things we might not otherwise be exposed to. I’ve known very good developers who have no certifications, and I’ve known others who have them that weren’t so good. I’ve also known plenty of doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects, etc. who weren’t worth their salt. But that doesn’t mean I think they shouldn’t need to demonstrate some level of mastery via schooling and certifications.
Regarding Microsoft’s certification programs specifically: I’ve found them to be generally very good. I’m working on an Oracle certification currently, and the training materials just don’t seem to be quite as good.
Post #1493186
Posted Tuesday, September 10, 2013 7:38 AM
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I am a DBA by responsibility but not by job title. How does someone like me "prove" that they know what they say they do without certifications? They may not be worth much but they are better than a resume where there you can say you have any skill you want and its nearly impossible to check.

Maybe PASS or some other user organization should start offering some sort of certifications. Perhaps based on lab tests of some sort that could be peer graded by a group of people so we lower the amount of personal bias in grading.
Post #1493190
Posted Tuesday, September 10, 2013 7:58 AM
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jeff.stanlick (9/10/2013)
paul.knibbs (9/10/2013)

Frankly, it seems to me that having the company which is selling the software also providing the certifications for that software is a conflict of interest which is never going to come out well. We need to have some sort of large, well-recognised third-party certification to get some trust back in the system, but I have no idea what the chances of *that* happening are.


^^ This right here. As long as there is a chance of unclear motivations in handing out those certifications, they'll never be fully trusted.


I really like this idea. Having a third party running all tech certifications, not just Microsoft, sounds like a step in the right direction.

krowley (9/10/2013)
Maybe PASS or some other user organization should start offering some sort of certifications. Perhaps based on lab tests of some sort that could be peer graded by a group of people so we lower the amount of personal bias in grading.


I think I could support this as well. It could be a good way to get it started.




The opinions expressed herein are strictly personal and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of my employer.
Post #1493201
Posted Tuesday, September 10, 2013 8:29 AM


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LightVader (9/10/2013)
jeff.stanlick (9/10/2013)
paul.knibbs (9/10/2013)

Frankly, it seems to me that having the company which is selling the software also providing the certifications for that software is a conflict of interest which is never going to come out well. We need to have some sort of large, well-recognised third-party certification to get some trust back in the system, but I have no idea what the chances of *that* happening are.


^^ This right here. As long as there is a chance of unclear motivations in handing out those certifications, they'll never be fully trusted.


I really like this idea. Having a third party running all tech certifications, not just Microsoft, sounds like a step in the right direction.

krowley (9/10/2013)
Maybe PASS or some other user organization should start offering some sort of certifications. Perhaps based on lab tests of some sort that could be peer graded by a group of people so we lower the amount of personal bias in grading.


I think I could support this as well. It could be a good way to get it started.


Maybe something like what has been outlined at http://jasonbrimhall.info/tag/stepping-stone/?


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Post #1493212
Posted Tuesday, September 10, 2013 8:55 AM


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charles.jacobus-765275 (9/10/2013)
As someone with a number of certifications (some for SQL Server) and a former hiring manager, I have to respectfully disagree. In my view, certifications represent a broader measure of one's willingness to spend considerable time pursuing a subject and their ability to follow through on it. The view that they guarantee some technical proficiency misses the point. Although I think they provide an excellent opportunity for strengthening knowledge and skills we already have and for exposing us to things we might not otherwise be exposed to. I’ve known very good developers who have no certifications, and I’ve known others who have them that weren’t so good. I’ve also known plenty of doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects, etc. who weren’t worth their salt. But that doesn’t mean I think they shouldn’t need to demonstrate some level of mastery via schooling and certifications.
Regarding Microsoft’s certification programs specifically: I’ve found them to be generally very good. I’m working on an Oracle certification currently, and the training materials just don’t seem to be quite as good.


Certifications do provide a good opportunity. They can show someone that's studied and improved their knowledge of the subject and is a better employee.

They can also not show that. They can be easily gamed, and passed after a couple weeks of study.

There isn't a 100% solution, but there are ways to do this better. While there are poor engineers, doctors, etc, that doesn't mean they aren't very knowledgeable about their field. They might not practice well, same as in technology, but doctors don't cram and pass a test in a few weeks.







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Post #1493230
Posted Tuesday, September 10, 2013 9:00 AM
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I agree completely that testing task knowledge is superior to testing syntax, and I'd suggest that testing syntax is more tightly tied to selling "stuff" than testing task knowledge. After all, task knowledge doesn't need you to recertify for every new version of the product... syntax (and its GUI variants) can!

Taken to the logical conclusion, this brings us to a very interesting place, however, as many of the differences between DB2, MariaDB/MySQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL, SQL Server are syntax differences, and very mild ones compared to the differences between C++, Lisp, and Perl (for example).

SELECT Col1 FROM Table1 WHERE Col2 = 33

for instance, is near-identical on any major relational database based (more strictly or less strictly) on ANSI SQL standards. ACID compliance is the same. Normal forms are the same. The idea of transaction log/redo log files/archive logs/etc. is very similar, with twists on the implementations. The idea of Point in Time Restores is the same.

The idea of data order vs. separate indexes is identical. Compression tradeoffs are similar, and so on.

Thus, we could start with a SQL DBA cert not related to any particular product, and then move into the various flavors - and in the doing, all of us would be exposed to different ways of implementing those concepts, and perhaps even do better in the future.
Post #1493236
Posted Tuesday, September 10, 2013 9:25 AM
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Nadrek (9/10/2013)
I agree completely that testing task knowledge is superior to testing syntax, and I'd suggest that testing syntax is more tightly tied to selling "stuff" than testing task knowledge. After all, task knowledge doesn't need you to recertify for every new version of the product... syntax (and its GUI variants) can!

Taken to the logical conclusion, this brings us to a very interesting place, however, as many of the differences between DB2, MariaDB/MySQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL, SQL Server are syntax differences, and very mild ones compared to the differences between C++, Lisp, and Perl (for example).

SELECT Col1 FROM Table1 WHERE Col2 = 33

for instance, is near-identical on any major relational database based (more strictly or less strictly) on ANSI SQL standards. ACID compliance is the same. Normal forms are the same. The idea of transaction log/redo log files/archive logs/etc. is very similar, with twists on the implementations. The idea of Point in Time Restores is the same.

The idea of data order vs. separate indexes is identical. Compression tradeoffs are similar, and so on.

Thus, we could start with a SQL DBA cert not related to any particular product, and then move into the various flavors - and in the doing, all of us would be exposed to different ways of implementing those concepts, and perhaps even do better in the future.


I know some educational agencies have specific database certifications and perhaps more importance and emphasis should be placed on that, as they teach the fundamentals and "vendor-neutral" understanding of databases.

When I went through university and concentrated on databases, I know we learnt our querying via relational algerbra and calculus...etc.
Post #1493255
Posted Tuesday, September 10, 2013 10:14 AM
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The same arguments against certifications could be used against high school and college diplomas. They show you attended classes and got decent grades - good enough to pass. They don't show how you will perform in a work environment.

Certifications present a certain set of information. As I see it, the two main problems are:

1. Conflict of Interest when the certificate is issued by the software vendor for the product
2. Hiring managers assuming the certificate guarantees things which it patently does not (work ethic, troubleshooting ability, plays well with others, etc)

So yeah, I'm for certificates issued by neutral third-party organizations - and preferably for skill sets rather than knowledge of a specific product version. I do realize some software is complex enough that a certificate for knowledge of that product might be useful, and I would agree that SQL Server and Oracle likely fall into that category. I just think it's important to know what the testing is based on for any certificate when you use it in the hiring process. Then you know what it shows about the person who holds it.



Here there be dragons...,

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Post #1493279
Posted Tuesday, September 10, 2013 11:08 AM
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The brain dump sites really borke the process even with adaptive tests. People study for the answers versus the work reality. But people do that in school as well, so a degree doesn't really truly mean as much. Heck we even have a list of questions we cooked up for interviewing people but I have come to realize they must be sharing the info because too many folks come in answering questions almost text book and all the people give the almost exact same answer verbatum. But we always have things we keep in reserve to catch them off guard or we reword the questions to confuse them. The reality is you will always have people who cheat any system. Doesn't mean the system itself is bad, but always be skeptical of anyone who has a cert. I have a few (I don't even remember all of them) but I don't use them to present myself because I know when I took them I did study and learn and practice and I have done several beta tests blind that I have passed so I know what I have truly accomplished and don't need to flash these to prove anything.

I like to see what people say they know but don't expect me to leave it at that. Besides you might have had a clue at one time when you got the cert but haven't used in in a long enough period you have actually forgotten it.

Grain of salt and a lot of skepticism is my rule.



Post #1493292
Posted Tuesday, September 10, 2013 11:59 AM


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Stephanie J Brown (9/10/2013)
As I see it, the two main problems are:

1. Conflict of Interest when the certificate is issued by the software vendor for the product
2. Hiring managers assuming the certificate guarantees things which it patently does not (work ethic, troubleshooting ability, plays well with others, etc)

I just think it's important to know what the testing is based on for any certificate when you use it in the hiring process. Then you know what it shows about the person who holds it.


Very good points indeed Stephanie. The ability to memorize material or brainsdumps and pass tests does not shed any light whatsoever on what kind of employee they are going to be or their expertise level for that matter as well...


"Technology is a weird thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ..."
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