The Missing Certification

  • Steve Jones – SSC Editor

    SSC Guru

    Points: 713653

    Comments posted to this topic are about the item The Missing Certification

  • Peter Schott

    SSCrazy Eights

    Points: 9485

    I’d definitely agree that certification depends on the person. I knew way too many paper MCSE’s a while back. It was just easy to grab a book, study, pass an exam, repeat. If you had money, you could go to a boot camp to pass all required exams within a week. Personally, I never went that route – partly due to lack of money, but mainly because I wanted to understand the technology I was using so that the MCSE wasn’t just a logo on my business cards. Sadly, that meant that way back when I first started I put myself into a non-upgradeable cert because I chose to grab NT Server and Windows 98 instead of NT Workstation (dating myself). There was no appreciable difference between workstation and server to me so I figured I’d learn about a very common OS at the time.

    The time I spent studying has been worth it to me, though I stopped taking exams for a long time after that. I still studied, but my experience in working with the technology was more important than the new or upgraded certifications. I still think that what you can do is more important than the certification and we’ll test around that rather than assume the cert means you know your stuff.

    Having started taking exams again, I think that there’s a gap as well. The MCTS seemed a little too basic. (I’ll speak more for the MCITP path shortly after I’ve taken that test.) It made sure that I knew about various things in SQL Server, but I didn’t feel that it tested whether I really knew them or how to use them. I seem to remember one of my colleagues saying that SQL 4.21 exams required actually writing code to pass, though I could have remembered that wrong and the exam was already retiring when I started. Something like that might be valuable – a measure of how well you can do various tasks, including being able to track down the knowledge you need to verify something or fill a gap quickly.

    Perhaps there could be something between MCITP and MCM. Reading through what the current crop of MCM candidates are going through, it’s a pretty heavy set of training and exams even without knowing all of the details. Add in the three week requirement, and that’s a lot to ask. However, something local that asked for a day or two to test and verify skills might be worth it. It would be even better if they could give you meaningful feedback on strengths and weaknesses to target real gaps in knowledge.

    Only thing that might be missing is the whole GUI vs non-GUI skill assessment. If you’ve spent most of your life working completely with T-SQL, trying to use the GUI could throw you. Ditto if you’re asked for a command that you rarely use in real life, but could script out through the GUI in short order if needed. I remember a “where would you start” GUI option that asked you to click which menu/area you would use and that’s not really useful because in real life you get to look at everything and can start over if you choose incorrectly. Perhaps a test of just getting the task done within graded time frames might work there.

    Some good thoughts to start the day, Steve. I appreciate you bringing this up.

  • Raju Lalvani

    Say Hey Kid

    Points: 695

    It all depends on the individual, whether it is academics or Certification some people will know the answer while others will know and understand and have used tha answer.

  • nick.mcdermaid

    Hall of Fame

    Points: 3668

    After using SQL Server for some time, I found that studying properly for the certification filled in loads of knowledge holes for me. It was the best thing I could do to complete my knowledge.

    On the other hand you have the braindumpers cheapening the value of the certification.

    So I say use it as a learning tool but don’t count on it as a Resume tool… until they find a way to stop the braindumpers.

  • bwild

    SSC Eights!

    Points: 976

    As Nick states, it does fill in the holes. I’ve been certified in various areas since 1999. Since then, other things I’ve noticed about certs:

    1. It’s what the vendor wants you to use, not what the employer needs (as far as knowledge).

    2. It’s the tipping point for getting hired in lower/entry-level jobs.

    3. It impresses HR people who don’t know what they are.

    4. They can help a tech company be called a vendor “partner”, or helps us get “good maintenance discounts” for another unrelated vendor.

    Mostly I see it as a good addition to (proven) experience, not stand alone. I would never hire anyone who did boot camp. That’s just like cheating.

    If it’s any consolation, my MBA doesn’t seem to impress much either when added to 14 yrs experience, management experience, and about five industry certs. Perhaps we should bring this up again when the job market improves?

  • Dave62

    SSCertifiable

    Points: 6166

    I couldn’t agree more that “it depends” is going to be the rule for this one. So I’ll just share from my own experiences. Over the last 25 years I’ve seen people who were referred to as “paper tigers”. Meaning, that with all their certifications, on paper it seemed like they could do anything. But when given a simple task they were unable to perform it without hand holding. Management was given the impression that these people could pass tests but they couldn’t perform tasks. Which is why I fully agree with your statement “…It ought to be hard to get this certification, so that if you achieve it, someone out there viewing your credentials actually has some confidence to can perform certain tasks…”

    Personally, I have no Microsoft certifications. I’m gainfully employed primarily developing and working with SQL Server 2008, ASP.NET, and VB.NET. Every job I’ve had over the last quarter of a century has been better than the last and no certifications were needed.

    While these are my own experiences, I’m sure there are plenty of certification success stories out there. So I guess… “it depends”. 🙂

    Dave

  • Jack Corbett

    SSC Guru

    Points: 184296

    I agree that there is something missing in the certification arena. I just completed the MCTS and MCITP for SQL Server 2008 Database Administration, and I was disappointed in the difficulty of the tests. I felt that the MCITP test (70-450) should have been the MCTS (70-432). I passed both tests quite easily and, honestly, I have no experience with most of the enterprise level tasks that are on the test (clustering, mirroring, log shipping, etc…). I think it should have been harder for to pass the tests because of the lack of experience.

    In my opinion, this is one of the areas where PASS should be leading. Either PASS should develop a better certification or it should be working with MS to produce a better certification process.


    Jack Corbett Consultant Straight Path Solutions Dont let the good be the enemy of the best. -- Paul FlemingAt best you can say that one job may be more secure than another, but total job security is an illusion. -- Rod at workCheck out these links on how to get faster and more accurate answers: Forum Etiquette: How to post data/code on a forum to get the best helpNeed an Answer? Actually, No ... You Need a QuestionHow to Post Performance Problems[/url]Crosstabs and Pivots or How to turn rows into columns Part 1[/url][url url=http://www.sqlservercent

  • Aaron N. Cutshall

    SSCrazy Eights

    Points: 8596

    I have always struggled with the decision. I guess I still have a bad taste in my mouth from when an MSCE was way too easy to obtain and I worked with “experts” who knew diddly-squat. It doesn’t help that I’m a terrible test taker and always have been. I’m more of a hands-on kind of guy.

    I did have to take a certification for, of all things, MS Access 2007 just so I could teach a class. I figured that it would be a no-brainer, but it took me three attempts to pass (and not with a great score)! Though it was a simulated exam where you actually had to perform the operations, it didn’t take me long to realize that for every question posed, there were actually a number of different methods that could be used to obtain the desired results but the exam was looking for only one of those methods. Apparently, I had to solve the problem exactly in the manner that the exam was expecting. I passed the third time because I used the simplest (GUI-based), though not the best or most efficient, methods.

    I know that I have the skills to pass the SQL Server exams, but if the testing method is anything like the one for Access, then I’m not sure that I’d be able to pass the first time. At the price of testing, I can’t keep taking them to fail repeatedly just because I use a different method that the one the test is expecting.

  • TravisDBA

    SSCoach

    Points: 15780

    If you look on the Internet you can still find Braindumps that allow you to memorize these tests, and as long as they are available out there people are going to use them and probably braindump about 90% of what they memorized (hence the name) after they have taken the test. As long as this is the case, the certs are compromised in my opinion, and not worth as much in the REAL world. Like I said before on this topic, I knew a certified person in SQL Server and she could not even setup permisions on a login properly. Turns out she braindumped the cert. Very sad, and that hurts all of the people that study very hard to pass these tests the right way, because they have that stigma attached to them by a lot of people in the business. TravisDBA.

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

  • Shawn Melton

    SSC-Insane

    Points: 24554

    I like the idea of stepping stones in certifications. Maybe not steps up to MCM but somewhere half-way-there maybe. A cert with SQL Server that requires proof of experience (similar to applying for CISSP) and maybe requirement to take a course (1 week or less). The are other vendor certs that already have this in place, example I know of is going for Certified Ethical Hacker requires a 1 week course prior to sitting the test, no exceptions.

    I have taken MCITP test and although you do have to know the material I would like to see more challenging lab questions (performing a task). I would like, maybe each tester is giving a VM that has some error with SQL or performance issue with the database engine or SSIS package. You test is getting a xx% increase in performance that is proved through a DMV query maybe or resolving the error in SQL. With you answering questions for that VM as fill-in-the blank and not multiple choice.

    That would be a fun test to take 😎

    Shawn Melton
    Twitter: @wsmelton
    Blog: blog.wsmelton.info

  • GSquared

    SSC Guru

    Points: 260824

    I would very much favor an apprenticeship system. They have a very strong proven track record of working well (they have been the main training technique for most of the history of civilization). Certification based on testing actual ability to actually do things would make sense to me. Certification based on exams, even tough ones, doesn’t add up to much for me.

    When my dad was in high school, they had a class that had the specific purpose of preparing the students for their standard tests (I think it was the SATs, but I wouldn’t swear to that). They all had scores that were well above average, because of the class. Did that mean they were actually better educated than their peers who didn’t take that class? Not if by “better educated” you mean “better prepared for adult life as productive members of society”.

    If, on the other hand, someone recognized as a master of the craft were to sign a paper saying that the person had adequate skill and experience to take on the role (as per classical apprentice-journeyman-master routine), that would mean something.

    But that goes straight back to my usual condemnation of modern education systems. They prepare a person for academia, not for anything else.

    - Gus "GSquared", RSVP, OODA, MAP, NMVP, FAQ, SAT, SQL, DNA, RNA, UOI, IOU, AM, PM, AD, BC, BCE, USA, UN, CF, ROFL, LOL, ETC
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  • Shawn Melton

    SSC-Insane

    Points: 24554

    TravisDBA (3/23/2010)


    If you look on the Internet you can still find Braindumps that allow you to memorize these tests, and as long as they are available out there people are going to use them and probably braindump about 90% of what they memorized (hence the name) after they have taken the test..

    This is what I think is amuzing, people going through the braindumps…pass the test…then call themself experienced. How many of those peopel that took a CompTIA test know that in the agreement they clicked “yes” on prior to taking there test (you can’t start the test engine without accepting the agreement), that there is verbage in there about “you did not use any braindumps in studying for this test”:w00t:

    I don’t take test well either. I did not use briandumps but I used well known test engines (MeasureUp, Microsoft’s, ect) simple cause it prepared me on how the questions may be asked. The test I have taken so far have been just cause it made me study and I wanted to see what areas of SQL I was weak in.

    Shawn Melton
    Twitter: @wsmelton
    Blog: blog.wsmelton.info

  • Nadrek

    SSCoach

    Points: 19929

    I agree with GSquared; an apprenticeship system is what I have been supporting for decades. Yes, you have a varying education based on the master you study under (i.e. it’s not standardized), but if you study at the place you’re working, you’re likely to know quite a bit about what that business needs.

    And, as exists now, when you move to a new place, you learn new things, and bring the most appropriate of the old with you.

  • Michael Valentine Jones

    SSC Guru

    Points: 64818

    I wouldn’t go as far as to say that certifications are worthless, but I personally give them no weight at all when I look at a resume.

    I just look at the resume and cover letter to see if they meet the qualifications in the job description and are able to communicate in written English.

    I use my own questions in an interview to determine if they are up to the level of technical knowledge that I am looking for. I think that is the best method, because there are no brain dumps of my questions available on the web.

  • TravisDBA

    SSCoach

    Points: 15780

    MeltonDBA (3/23/2010)


    TravisDBA (3/23/2010)


    If you look on the Internet you can still find Braindumps that allow you to memorize these tests, and as long as they are available out there people are going to use them and probably braindump about 90% of what they memorized (hence the name) after they have taken the test..

    This is what I think is amuzing, people going through the braindumps...pass the test...then call themself experienced. How many of those peopel that took a CompTIA test know that in the agreement they clicked "yes" on prior to taking there test (you can't start the test engine without accepting the agreement), that there is verbage in there about "you did not use any braindumps in studying for this test":w00t:

    I don't take test well either. I did not use briandumps but I used well known test engines (MeasureUp, Microsoft's, ect) simple cause it prepared me on how the questions may be asked. The test I have taken so far have been just cause it made me study and I wanted to see what areas of SQL I was weak in.

    Come on! 😀 How many people do you think actually read online agreements in their entirety before just accepting them to proceed with something online? That would never stop anyone from using a Braindump..

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

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