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The Future of Knowledge Measurement Expand / Collapse
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Posted Wednesday, September 11, 2013 8:14 AM


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janelesleydunn (9/11/2013)
...

Certificates can breed arrogance and are no guarantee.

True, but the same is true for any measure (MD, JD, CPA, PE, etc.)

...
If a DBA does not know the syntax he (or she) will very quickly get caught out.


Perhaps. But that doesn't necessarily mean they will be terminated, or there is a penalty. Plenty of people get jobs, keep them, and don't know how to do them well.

Part of that is the gamble of hiring the next person, and the costs in doing so.







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Post #1493703
Posted Wednesday, September 11, 2013 8:16 AM


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simon.crick (9/11/2013)
Why not base your decision on the candidate's academic qualifications?

College and university exams are far more rigorous and comprehensive than any interview tests can ever be.

Choose a candidate with good exam grades in a relevant subject area from a reputable college/university and you can't go far wrong.

Base your decision on a small number of random interview tests and you will get random results.

Simon



Not sure I like this. College/University isnt' a training ground. There are plenty of people, for all I know the majority, that work in technology, but didn't major in CS/IS.

The college exams often don't translate to the real world. Even in closely aligned programs, like medicine, law, accounting, there is a good amount of training done for the candidates later. I do wonder, however, how often companies in those fields regret their hires?







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Post #1493707
Posted Wednesday, September 11, 2013 8:17 AM


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chrisn-585491 (9/11/2013)

Steve mentioned self publication. There's a large number of people attempting to "game" that too. There's a lot of blog postings out there that are cribbed 99 percent from other reputable sites and MSDN articles.


true, but you can easily discover this with a few minutes on the phone. as you mentioned, screening is needed.







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Post #1493708
Posted Wednesday, September 11, 2013 8:25 AM


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charles.jacobus-765275 (9/11/2013)

I still don't see how this directly (or just) relates to Microsoft. "They [Microsoft] have too much incentive to cheat." I disagree. I would be interested in knowing how Microsoft's certification program -- which I've been through and find not perfect by any means but very good -- is different than Oracle's, Cisco's or any other such company. Besides making a profit, it seems to me that what they want is competent professionals eager to use and promote their technologies. And what we want is the opportunity to do so.


Getting enough professionals, or competent professionals, can be at odds. When the use of MS technologies exploded, as happened in the late 90s, there weren't enough people. The programs weren't designed to really prevent cheating/gaming, and resulted in lots of people being certified. Some of whom were qualified, some weren't, some learned on the job, some didn't. Companies didn't know much about computing infrastructures, and they often didn't realize how poorly their staffs were running systems because few of them had had good infrastructures in the past.

Now we have more complex systems, and the exams haven't done a good job measuring if people are ready to handle the systems, on which we are more dependent now. MS Learning has an incentive to get more people certified, which increases the perceptions that their software is easily supported and widely used. This doesn't mean they have an incentive to ensure these people are well trained.

Cisco has a similar problem, but there are just less people acting as network engineers. We need less of them than server admins/exchange admins/DBAs. The CNA is gamed, with the same bootcamp memorization, but the CCIE is more like the MCM with a lab exam.

No idea on Oracle, but I think they have a similar problem, but perhaps at the same scale. I have met plenty of Oracle DBAs that I suspected weren't as skilled as I'd have expected them to be.







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Post #1493713
Posted Wednesday, September 11, 2013 8:27 AM
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You can have all the degrees and certifications in the world, but if you have no understanding of the industry you are going onto. what good is that? Granted it can be in the IT or IS department of a company, that makes no difference. If you go into the automobile or other heavy industry and you have no idea how anything works, how can you develop or support systems that are for that environment? Sure you have a CS degree or citification, but it will not help you make a connection between the database and the special PLC device that collects data from a CNC metal stamping flex-cell.

BTW, having a stack of Microsoft certifications does not make much difference if you walk into a Linux shop or are asked to be the DBA for an ORACLE Manufacturing application. So what I am getting at is that you need to have a well rounded experience, education , and perhaps certification mix to really stand out.
Post #1493715
Posted Wednesday, September 11, 2013 8:29 AM


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simon.crick (9/11/2013)
I agree 100% with the idea of a probationary period.

However... you still have to decide which candidate to hire for the probationary period, and it is still 6 months wasted if you get the decision wrong.

Therefore, you still need some way to choose the best candidate, and I still believe academic qualifications are the most reliable indicator of long-term potential.

Sitting someone in front of SSMS will tell you how useful they will be on day 1, but not how useful they will be in 6 months or a year.

Simon




I like the idea of probation periods, but I agree that it doesn't reduce much of the pressure. You are still out a person and time if things don't work out.

I'm not sure I think academics are a long term indicator. They do show someone is willing to work through a long term project (a degree), and can learn, but it doesn't speak to long term motivation, to being motivated to be a DBA, etc.







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Post #1493717
Posted Wednesday, September 11, 2013 8:35 AM
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In Steve's first article in this series he pointed out that most of the certifications test one's ability to memorize. This hits the nail right on the head. It's a skill I personally stink at. I hold no certifications and yet I've never been unemployed for more than a few weeks during my IT/development career. Knowing the technical aspects of the technology is only one part of a good fit for the candidate. And even with that I've always questioned the value of certification to test the technical aspect.

I've worked with developers and IT people that have had several certifications and they can't think, reason or exercise good judgement or debug their way out of a paper bag. The certifications don't test that. They test memorization. When I interview, I want to know if a person can DO development. So I sit them in front of VS or SSMS with a live internet connection and make them write something. I want to see how they go about solving the problem. Are they reasonably facile with the tools or clicking around aimlessly? I don't care that they go to the internet to look something up. Most of the troublesome problems I face are with some third party's piece of code that doesn't do what it says it should do. Can the candidate research problems and find solutions? What's their temperament like when they struggle with something? Certifications don't test that.

Some of the most intelligent productive people I've worked with didn't have degrees or certifications. They had a passion for creating. That's what I look for in a candidate.
Post #1493724
Posted Wednesday, September 11, 2013 8:45 AM
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Steve Jones - SSC Editor (9/11/2013)
simon.crick (9/11/2013)
Why not base your decision on the candidate's academic qualifications?

College and university exams are far more rigorous and comprehensive than any interview tests can ever be.

Choose a candidate with good exam grades in a relevant subject area from a reputable college/university and you can't go far wrong.

Base your decision on a small number of random interview tests and you will get random results.

Simon



Not sure I like this. College/University isnt' a training ground. There are plenty of people, for all I know the majority, that work in technology, but didn't major in CS/IS.

The college exams often don't translate to the real world. Even in closely aligned programs, like medicine, law, accounting, there is a good amount of training done for the candidates later. I do wonder, however, how often companies in those fields regret their hires?


I am one of them. I got my first job in computing before I went to college/university. After 5 years I realised I could never compete with graduates who had a deep understanding of the underlying concepts in computer science, so I went to college, got my A-levels, then went to university and got a degree in Mathematics. I then went back into computing and now work as a senior software engineer responsible for some very large and complex databases.

When I left university I would have certainly failed the SSMS test because I had never had any exposure to Microsoft technology. Therefore, I know from personal experience that rejecting someone based on an SSMS test would be wrong, and I'm pretty sure that positively choosing someone based on a limited SSMS test would also be wrong because it only proves a very narrow range of skills and doesn't really prove the deep understanding of the underlying concepts that is necessary for problem solving and innovation.

I'm not saying that academic qualifications are a 100% reliable indicator of ability, but based on my personal experience from both sides of the fence, I strongly believe they are the best available indicator, certainly for entry-level jobs.

Simon

Post #1493732
Posted Wednesday, September 11, 2013 9:10 AM
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Steve Jones - SSC Editor (9/10/2013)
Comments posted to this topic are about the item <A HREF="/articles/Editorial/102072/">The Future of Knowledge Measurement</A>
We'll never be able to completely and accurately measure a person's skills in technology. At least not in any cost- and time-effective way.


First, a lot of you will recall I am not a fan of certs. I think they are useless. However that does not mean I agree that you can't measure skill. I think you can. Unfortunately, companies don't want to pay for proven skills. I was going to include some examples, but those aren't quite on topic so I won't. Suffice to say that certs aren't going to be fairly valued on either side they way they are currently done.

OK, so how can we measure skills, assuming we can find companies that are willing to compensate employees for being productive? First, it is easy to hand out questions like you suggest. This is part of testing ability - if you know the answers you PROBABLY have some level of skill in the field. Next, interview them. Ask them how they would handle very specific issues. Some of these should be soft skill questions, some should be trouble shooting questions. These should be "think through the problem" type of questions, not specific "what would you type at a command line" questions. You should get a feeling for how a person thinks, how they analyze, how they develop a theory of what might be wrong. You can even produce scenarios where the person being interviewed is led to a false conclusion, to get an idea of how they pigeon hole themselves. There is no reason this could not be automated, with written answers.

Slightly off topic, but truly related is that part of the process of measuring someone's technical skills should be to include communication. I have worked with lots of foreign born individuals that could communicate in English as well or better than those born and raised in English speaking areas. These individuals have typically been superior in what they did. Those that couldn't write a complete sentence, or couldn't convey a thought or question, typically can't program to save their life! Why? Well learning a spoken/written language is not much different than learning a programming language. There are technical people that never need to talk to non-technical users. Those that do, should be evaluated for the ability to SPEAK CLEARLY about their area of technical expertise.


Dave
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Posted Wednesday, September 11, 2013 9:19 AM
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simon.crick (9/11/2013)
Why not base your decision on the candidate's academic qualifications?

College and university exams are far more rigorous and comprehensive than any interview tests can ever be.


Eeek! Depends on where they went to school. I know of one university that values income more than education, and refuses to fail ANYBODY no matter what. I doubt they are unique.

Then you have the professors that teach opinion and not fact, and grade based on that. How valuable is if that someone learned an opinion?

A college degree says that an individual is able to learn, nothing more. It does NOT mean they know anything in particular, nor does it make them an expert. Everyone I know that has taken networking course work in college is of the opinion that it was nothing more than theory and basically useless in the real world. I know my database classes were at least as bad. I would go farther and say that about half the database courses I have taken at professional training schools have been just as useless.


Dave
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