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The Certification Debate Expand / Collapse
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Posted Monday, November 20, 2006 3:53 PM


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The Certification Debate


Every once in awhile the certification trend rises and everyone seems to want to pass a test and get some credentials after their name. I was actually amazed how many speakers at the 2006 PASS Summit listed all their credentials on an opening slide. Not that it's a bad thing and they certainly should be proud of the work they've put in, but I just never list it after my name. It's strictly a resume item for me.


Last year I got a Beta invitation to the 70-441 exam and took it. I wrote an article about my experiences as the exam was quite a change from the SQL Server 2000 exams I took many years ago. Initially I got a note that I hadn't passed, but then later received a "regrading" notice where they admitted some errors and gave me a coupon for a free exam. Since then I also passed the 70-443 exam, a good thing since I wrote the book on this exam for Sybex.


So I've been looking at that coupon lately, thinking that I should be getting ready for and taking the 70-431 exam. In case you've been completely focused on work and reading this nonsense as a way of taking a break or combating insomnia, the certification program has changed for SQL Server 2005. Now there's a MCTS, a Technical specialist, that you get by passing the 70-431, install and maintenance exam. From there you can become an IT Pro by adding on the 70-441 or 70-443 exams. Since I haven't gotten the MCTS part done, I'm in a little limbo here.


I'm not sure how important this is to me, though conceivably I should prove to you some bit of knowledge if you're going to take what I've written in the technical area seriously. I saw this article on certifications and payoff, which seems to suggest that they aren't valuable. Certifications are what I've always believed, a part of your skillset, and not the defining part.


To me you should know how to do the work, understand the product and be able to act in a competent manner before you seek a certification. At that point, the certification is the formality. It's simply the sign that you can focus your skills to pass a test when need be.


Steve Jones







Follow me on Twitter: @way0utwest

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Post #324464
Posted Tuesday, November 21, 2006 4:15 AM
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I havn't yet had a problem getting a job without an appropriate piece of paper.

I've always found my work experience and skill set got me my jobs.

Although - I find myself going to do the SQL 2005 course just before the end of the year. A vendor has told us that they are no longer supporting 2000 and that we should upgrade our DB to 2005 to stay current with their support.

I have never done any MS training, so it will be a first! - not too usre that I'll be opeining any conversations with Gavin Baumanis, Microsoft SQL 2005 Server certified.

I work in a university - where most of the PHd holder prefer to be called by their first name rather than their Dr. title.

Perhaps its an Oz thing? I dunno - but blowing your own trumpet all the time - (unless on the sauce) just isn't the done thing.





Gavin Baumanis

Smith and Wesson. The original point and click device.
Post #324533
Posted Tuesday, November 21, 2006 5:41 AM
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I guess the certifications help on a resume, but for me, the training I do before taking the tests helps to round out my knowledge on the subject.

So far, no one has ever told me I was hired because I was MS Certified.

Note to Gavin...  If you'll load that S&W with some high quality ammo, it will still point, but you won't hear the click

Post #324554
Posted Tuesday, November 21, 2006 6:47 AM
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I wish that I had the time to go to a school and get a certificaton, although I'm not sure what I would do with it or how it would help me.

I've bumped heads with so many these "certified" folks that didnt have a clue of how to bring a proper solution to the business problem and after all, that is the goal. It's much like the comment from Gavin ,  does anyone besides me find it bizarre that his vendor no longer supports SS2000 ? Why not, what the heck are they doing in there that 2000 wont work?? Is Gavin's vendor so tied to a level of technology from a single provider ? That seems to make the application look much like a Flying Walenda's actm - you have no options in the event of a slight slip. THe Walenda's were certified by the way .. certified nuts !

It seems to me that by the time the average Joe in this business passes all the exams, the platform changes and you have to restudy and retake everything. Nice little revenue mill for someone.

Note to Gavin,, does that S&W have an optical pointer or an old fashioned mechanical pointer ??

Del, HMFIC

Post #324571
Posted Tuesday, November 21, 2006 6:51 AM
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I have continued to find exam taking beneficial for my day to day work. Studying for an exam exposes me to new areas of knowledge and ways of doing things. This is always a benefit.

In addition to the advantage of learning while studying, I believe, perhaps falsely, that having certification makes me more marketable.



Post #324572
Posted Tuesday, November 21, 2006 7:06 AM


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"In case you've been completely focused on work and reading this nonsense as a way of taking a break or combating insomnia..."

Steve, I laughed out loud at that one, almost spit my coffee out! I actually WAS taking a break...

Good article!
Post #324581
Posted Tuesday, November 21, 2006 7:21 AM
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"To me you should know how to do the work, understand the product and be able to act in a competent manner before you seek a certification. At that point, the certification is the formality. It's simply the sign that you can focus your skills to pass a test when need be."

I think this is a good way to look at it.  After all, for all the tests you took in college, how much of that stuff do you actually remember now?  Except of course the stuff you use day in and day out, which I think is the point.

That begs the question though, why even have these certifications?  Although completing a certification suggests you are competent in that area, it doesn't guarantee it (and could actually be misleading to a potential employer).  It may just mean you're good at cramming for and taking tests, good at 'putting in the effort' so to speak.  Oops, the same can be said for my college degree so I'll be quite now...




Post #324591
Posted Tuesday, November 21, 2006 7:54 AM
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I have the impression that the certification cycle is just another money maker for the companies that provide the training and testing.

I'm sure the benefits of studying for an exam are real but I don't think the cost benefit is there.

I'm getting cynical about college too when I look at the inflated prices for the training you get there just to make yourself marketable.

 

Post #324607
Posted Tuesday, November 21, 2006 7:55 AM
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A few jobs back, we hired in a MCSE certified network admin.  The guy was like a reference book.  If you had a specific question, he could give you the answer off the top of his head without a problem.  BUT as soon as you needed to rely on him to troubleshoot, he froze, and invariably couldn't solve the problem.  I had always been good at troubleshooting, but, I can't remember a million minor details.  If I don't use it, that's what the reference books are for.  So, when he couldn't solve a problem, he'd come to me, and I'd use him as a walking talking reference book to solve the problem.  He had all the knowledge, but, when you hit on the more complex problems, he just couldn't put it all together.  I've been in the same position more then once with our network admins at several of my employers. 

I can't say much about the SQL certifications, but, the MCSE seemed to produce people with the knowledge, but not necessarily the skills to use it.

Post #324609
Posted Tuesday, November 21, 2006 8:00 AM
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I never took Microsoft exam but I took a lot of brainbrench exams. 

All the microsoft certs, cisco certs, oracle certs were hot a few years ago but not anymore.  It is because many employers found out when they interviewed a candidate holding the cert, that person was not better than the candidate without a cert.  

I used to work for Xerox.  All the field engineers requried to have MCSA cert.  They just read the book and took the exam.  Everyone of them got the cert but some of them did not even know how to turn on a computer !

I guess that is the reason why the value of the cert went down.

Post #324615
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