The Future of Certifications

  • I have mixed feelings about certificates. I agree, that it helps to broden the horizon, but that can be done by other means too.

    I have some certifications (Germans do believe in paper), but in my opinion it is a lot of work and I am not sure if it is worth the time. I was preparing a Microsoft Azure certification (I could it get for free). But when Brent sold his courses in Europe I stopped my certificate preparation immediately, and spent a lot of time with his material. For me it was a lot more worth spending my time than preparing a certification. I will probably never use Cosmos DB. But to see how Brent tackles performance problems put definitely my skills up and helps me with current work related problems.

  • For implementation and consultancy partners there can be certification requirements. For example the different tiers of AWS partnership requires a certain percentage of your staff hold

    • A general certification
    • A specialist certification
    • A business certification

    Consultancies seeking to partner with a vendor become visible to the vendor through active acquisition and retention of certifications. In many cases vendors aren't geared up for the sort of post sales support and training required.

    I've never needed certification until recently and I'm 55

  • I really do not mean to disparage those of you who have invested the time and effort to become certified.  However, I did most of my candidate interviewing before certifications were a thing, and it's been a number of years since I actually did any at all, but here's my take:

    When we talked about degrees and certificates, it was pretty much 'OK, that's nice (as I stifled a yawn), now tell me what you have done, what you like to do, and what you can do for us'.   The main value of having such a background is the demonstration of a general attitude toward applying oneself, having the discipline to accomplish a goal, and an appreciation for learning.

    I understand that we all have to begin our careers somewhere, but I still value experience and the knowledge it provides, unless of course I'm looking for an entry level applicant.  An interviewee needs to demonstrate a willingness, desire, and eagerness to learn more and contribute.  I'm a bit concerned when I see much of the current advertising promoting the concept that attending a certain institution is the magic solution to a successful career.

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

  • My view on certificates is pretty negative. They're usually nothing but a money grab by vendors, and even when they aren't certification tests are a lot like high school or college tests--you cram and then forget 90% of what you studied once you have the certificate.

    Certificates are also a would-be (and ineffective) silver bullet for HR. HR believes the magical certificate is a guarantee the candidate knows what they're doing--but see above about cramming. There is no silver bullet, proving someone is capable of doing a job is hard. Given development is a dark art and not a science expecting to have a miraculously easy tool for hiring is foolish.

    To be honest I think certificates are a scam perpetrated by vendors to make some easy money. But, of course, as I near retirement I find myself growing more and more cynical about human motivations. 🙂

  • I have four career-successful sons, all 50 years of age or older, and three of which are in IT professions.  Only the fourth one holds a technical certificate and that is because it is required by state law for him to carry out his business that he founded and has operated successfully for over ten years.  Before he was certified he had to employ a certificate holder to obtain job permits.  While they are a good thing, we need not over-value them.

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

  • A certification doesn't imply a high level of expertise - only a certain baseline of competence as it applies to a specific area. For example, a "certified BMW mechanic" is familiar  with concepts specific to the brand of cars. Of course, when hiring you also want someone with several years of experience as well.

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

  • Certification is a learning path that forces you out of your comfort zone.When I see someone with certs on their resume, I at least know they tried to get out of their day-to-day tasks and learn new things. I'll grill them to be sure they didn't just cram it with no lasting value, but it's a start.

    Sure, many historical certs have had their share of marketing built in, but the Master exams were a different beast, and applying that format (a lab exam - 'this is broke, go fix it', 'this is slow, make it fast', etc.) everywhere would bring the validity back. They could even publish the test 'questions' without violating the integrity of the test - if you know "you will need to build an AG on a cluster given a list of server names, IP addresses, instances, and backup folders", then you cram for it by actually building AGs as practice.

    Make the tests task-and-skill-based instead of trivia exams and they're useful to the learner as a learning tool and showing what they can actually do, and useful to a hiring agent because the candidate has demo'd a list of skills.

    If you're going to rep yourself as certified, though, be ready to pass that test long after you've taken it. I was a contractor helping with one of the exams, and I've seen some really wide eyes on candidates when they point out they passed that exam and I say "I helped write that exam... I recall we asked a number of questions about [topic]..."

    Eddie Wuerch
    MCM: SQL

  • I agree with many of the comments above.

    I used certifications to show me what was available in SQL Server, to fill in gaps in me knowledge and learn some new theory.

    Going through all of the features in SQL Server does make me able to suggest, for example, that temporal tables may be a good fit in this project, it exposes me to services like full-text search and what they can do as well as new technologies such as Query Store. My knowledge of XML was greatly improved by practicing it as a part of the certification exams. I shred XML roughly once a year and I have a good idea of what SQL Server can do with XML and where to find information on it (aside from docs.microsoft.com) should I need a quick refresher.

    I really miss the certification exams for SQL Server. There is Azure and I will have to learn it eventually, I suppose. I may take up PortgresSQL instead though.

  • I agree with much of this article but I do see that certifications have a place and make us pay attention to features and technologies we might have missed, that are advantageous to our work life.

    When the technology stack is so wide, especially with Microsoft entry level exams, I feel like they are trying to cover too wide a stack, calling it 'fundamentals' but then test on some deeper specifics across that very wide stack.

    Essentially it feels like a bit of luck on the exam day and before that, watching a lot, many hours way beyond a weeks worth, of pre-recorded and quite boring product promotion videos with presenters that do not really inspire me much, personally.

    It is best to learn one technology really well, be tested on that, and then move onto the next, instead  of trying to cover off loads of the tech stack into one single exam.

    Quality over quantity.

    In fairness to MS, they do provide free training content and some of those courses even come with one free exam.

  • Good comments. The certifications do show some motivation and effort. Not sure they do a lot to test competency, but at least you know someone can learn and memorize something, which can be worth a look at them as a candidate.


  • I  believe certification is a very big business and important for newbies as an evidence they are going to do things according to the manual and make it work even not knowing exactly why. The technology providers love this because it's an additional source of revenue. To catch you in their web, very often it's the only way for us - not back supported by companies - to get in real contact with this tools and technologies. Of course, learning new tricks by ourselves can be time consuming, but on the other hand learning through our mistakes prepares us for finding solutions for the unpredictable. Does a certification does that?

  • bi.martingo wrote:

    I  believe certification is a very big business and important for newbies as an evidence they are going to do things according to the manual and make it work even not knowing exactly why. The technology providers love this because it's an additional source of revenue. To catch you in their web, very often it's the only way for us - not back supported by companies - to get in real contact with this tools and technologies. Of course, learning new tricks by ourselves can be time consuming, but on the other hand learning through our mistakes prepares us for finding solutions for the unpredictable. Does a certification does that?

    Doing things by the manual is never any fun.

     

     

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

  • That's a good test. Did the person with the cert try anything outside of the training? Did they actually write their own trigger or just read about how they work?

    Those that have made some mistakes and tried things might be better candidates than those that follow the training (or manual)

  • Eddie Wuerch wrote:

    Certification is a learning path that forces you out of your comfort zone.When I see someone with certs on their resume, I at least know they tried to get out of their day-to-day tasks and learn new things. I'll grill them to be sure they didn't just cram it with no lasting value, but it's a start.

    I agree with this, and other similar comments.

    They get a lot of stick, but I think they're great - as basically the only kind of recognised standard beyond college/University level. And some people didn't graduate or didn't go, so they are the *only* path for educational recognition if someone doesn't want to/can't embark upon a 3/4 year trip back to school at the age of 30, 40, 50, 60...

    Personally, I didn't finish University, so certs were a way to prove that yes, I can study for something and do well at it, and I wouldn't have been able to progress my career as quickly without them.

    That said, they are open to abuse. I took one of my MSCE exams (70-464) in India when I was working over there, at a 'test centre' which turned out to be some guy's living room. I happened to get a very high score on that exam, and when I finished the guy said "wow, great score, which dump did you use for that?"... So there's a clear assumption there that a high number of people taking these exams just cheat because it's easy to do so.

    A partial solution to the 'dumps' problem from Microsoft's POV should IMO be randomised computer-generated questions and more hands-on lab stuff, though nothing is truly immune from a dump. So employers just need to bear that in mind when assessing candidates - it should be pretty easy to sniff out a total cheater as part of interviewing.

    https://sqlrider.net - My technical blog

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