Are IT Certifications Still Relevant?

  • Comments posted to this topic are about the item Are IT Certifications Still Relevant?

  • To be honest, certifications were never relevant to me.  I was considering becoming certified 2 decades ago but then I ran into two people that were working for the same company that I was.  I don't remember the exact name of the certification they had but it was the one having to do with database design and implementation, which also included a fairly good introduction to T-SQL.

    They both sucked when it came to anything having to do with SQL.  If I put 2'n'2 together and concluded so quickly that Certification <> Skill/Knowledge, then I figured other people (especially people that do the hiring) would also come to the same conclusion and so I'd be wasting my time.

    Several years prior to that, I had learned from the old "SQL Server 6.5 MSCE Training GUIDE for Design and Implementation" and that was good enough for me at the time.  After that, I took a class (same subject but for 7.0) at one of the better known (to this day) training companies and ended up not learning anything new (in fact, I inadvertently stumped the instructor who side-stepped the question with a terrible answer).  I was a member of the old "Belution.com" forums and was sharing in that community before it was shut down with no notice.  That was the same year that I became a "regular" on SQL Server, although I started mostly as a lurker.

    Getting back to the subject at hand, over time (and especially in the last decade) I've seen how easy it is to find "Exam Dumps", which seriously cheapens the supposed value of certifications.  As someone who used to find people to hire and used to offer free interviewing services to small companies, I found the same thing was true with most people that had certs that I found with the original two people I was talking about... if working knowledge of SQL Server and programming skills in T-SQL were gasoline, they (most people... there were just a few exceptions) wouldn't have enough to run a sugar ant's mini-bike through a match box.

    I've also run into similar issues with people that I've verified have degrees.  I once asked a fellow with a PhD in Mathematics to convert 14 Base 16 to Decimal.  He said he'd need a pen and paper or a calculator to figure it out (major facepalm/head-desk).

    I have also seen my fair share of SQL Server MVP's and other high-visibility, well-followed "experts" (both certified and not) that have published code that silently fails under the right conditions, especially but not limited to the age of SQL text splitters and timeless converters (simple example... convert DATETIME2(7) to DATETIME).

    I am NOT saying that all people that have done Certs or Degrees into the "ill category" I'm portraying.  What I'm saying is that I don't consider people based on the alphabet soup after their name.  I give everyone the same chance to succeed.

    With one single exception (The old, no longer offered MCM cert), I AM saying that Certs, Degrees, and other "shingles" have not nor will ever be relevant to me in the world of SQL of computers/software in general.  I carry that forward to other things, like Cardiologists, GPs, etc.  There, they MUST have the paper but I still check on them.

    p.s.  The same hold true today... I see people do all sorts of sample problems and their answers work but, lordy... they're severely performance challenged and complex for what they do because of just one reason... the courses these well meaning folks are taking aren't teaching them the "fundamentals" correctly, if at all.  What kind of fundamentals am I talking about? The "deep knowledge" fundamentals.  I know that sounds like an oxymoron but, if you want to take your first hike in the woods, you better learn to know which berries will kill you if you eat them and what a bear looks like and what to do when you see one.  That and to not wipe your mouth, eyes, or your but with certain 3 leaved plants. 😀

    --Jeff Moden


    RBAR is pronounced "ree-bar" and is a "Modenism" for Row-By-Agonizing-Row.
    First step towards the paradigm shift of writing Set Based code:
    ________Stop thinking about what you want to do to a ROW... think, instead, of what you want to do to a COLUMN.

    Change is inevitable... Change for the better is not.


    Helpful Links:
    How to post code problems
    How to Post Performance Problems
    Create a Tally Function (fnTally)

  • I work for a consultancy and we are expected to have a certain % of staff certified as part of our technology partnership contracts.

    When we put out to tender our staff certifications are used as marketing collateral.

    It is possible to get certainly certifications just by rote learning having never touched the product for which the certification exists.  Without real world experience the work done to obtain the certificate is preparation to start learning for real.

    I've done courses that have been very good.  Docker courses by Nigel Poulton,  Terraform  courses by Ned Bellavance. However, when you hit your 1st real world legacy Terraform code base it looks nothing like as clear as it did on the courses.  Not all of it is for natural complexity reasons, some of it is a metastatic mess.  Some courses push a particular vendor feature but in the real world that feature is provided by a separate,  more specialised solution.

    I've found that courses and exams are of variable quality. Generally Pluralsight has a high bar for course quality.

    I did a practice exam (from a vendor) for one product and  it gave the end mark but didn't tell me which questions I got wrong or why they were wrong. I had to brute force the practice exam to get what the answers should have been.  The better practice exams tell you precisely what you got wrong and why so you can focus on addressing your weak points.

    In terms of TOGAF and SAFe certification, I know a CTO who bins any CV that mentions them.

  • I work for a consultancy and we are expected to have a certain % of staff certified as part of our technology partnership contracts.

    When we put out to tender our staff certifications are used as marketing collateral.

    It is possible to get certainly certifications just by rote learning having never touched the product for which the certification exists.  Without real world experience the work done to obtain the certificate is preparation to start learning for real.

    I've done courses that have been very good.  Docker courses by Nigel Poulton,  Terraform  courses by Ned Bellavance. However, when you hit your 1st real world legacy Terraform code base it looks nothing like as clear as it did on the courses.  Not all of it is for natural complexity reasons, some of it is a metastatic mess.  Some courses push a particular vendor feature but in the real world that feature is provided by a separate,  more specialised solution.

    I've found that courses and exams are of variable quality. Generally Pluralsight has a high bar for course quality.

    I did a practice exam (from a vendor) for one product and  it gave the end mark but didn't tell me which questions I got wrong or why they were wrong. I had to brute force the practice exam to get what the answers should have been.  The better practice exams tell you precisely what you got wrong and why so you can focus on addressing your weak points.

    In terms of TOGAF and SAFe certification, I know a CTO who bins any CV that mentions them.

  • Studying for certifications used to be a great way to fill in gaps in your knowledge. I started with XML & temporal tables this way. I do think that it was very short-sighted of Microsoft to get rid of the certification exams for SQL Server. Brent Ozar's courses fill that gap in now.

  • Interview:

    You:  I hold certification in x,y,z.

    Me:   Oh, that's nice.  What have you done?  What can you do for me?

    Rick
    Disaster Recovery = Backup ( Backup ( Your Backup ) )

  • Jeff Moden wrote:

    ... if working knowledge of SQL Server and programming skills in T-SQL were gasoline, they (most people... there were just a few exceptions) wouldn't have enough to run a sugar ant's mini-bike through a match box.

    This gave me a good chuckle Jeff, I do agree with you in general.  I've had several certs throughout my career.  Usually when I was highly motivated to push my career in a certain direction.  While I knew it didn't necessarily make me any better than the next person, it could end up being a deciding factor to an employer. This could potentially be true in a tight race with other candidates.  However, when I'm already in a position my view shifts a bit depending on how much importance my employer puts on such things.  If they don't care and don't bother investing time and money in you then why should I.  Keep in mind I'm referring to certs specifically.  I'm a firm believer that you need to be an eternal student when you work in the IT industry.  Just because I don't have a piece a paper, it doesn't stop me from attending conferences, online seminars, reading articles, personal research, etc...


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  • I've never attempted any certifications and I've never missed out on a job because of it.  I don't see the value, but as a learning tool it is probably ok.


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    [font="Comic Sans MS"]https://davegugg.wordpress.com[/url]/[/font]

  • david.gugg wrote:

    I've never attempted any certifications and I've never missed out on a job because of it.  I don't see the value, but as a learning tool it is probably ok.

    I strongly agree with that.  The course material for such a cert or even just the list of requirements for the cert can be really helpful to identify what to study.  My first book (back in '97) was (I still have it on my bookshelf) the "MCSE Training Guide" for "SQL Server 6.5 Design and Implementation" (ISBN: 1-56205-830-4).  I dare say that, when it comes to SQL and rowstore indexes, it's still very useful, especially for but not limited to beginners.

    --Jeff Moden


    RBAR is pronounced "ree-bar" and is a "Modenism" for Row-By-Agonizing-Row.
    First step towards the paradigm shift of writing Set Based code:
    ________Stop thinking about what you want to do to a ROW... think, instead, of what you want to do to a COLUMN.

    Change is inevitable... Change for the better is not.


    Helpful Links:
    How to post code problems
    How to Post Performance Problems
    Create a Tally Function (fnTally)

  • At least the cert exams when I did them forced me to learn about and use features I didn't know about. That part was super useful.

  • I think the journey of studying for a certification is more valuable than the final destination itself.

    There is a huge knowledge related to Azure,  and it's constantly expanding or changing. Passing any one single exam may not be very useful, but it helps to have role based certification path(s) mapped out with study guides that cover the material.

     

    "Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Instead, seek what they sought." - Matsuo Basho

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