Approach to certifications

N2ITN2IT Inactive Imported Users Posts: 7,483
Just wanted to rant a little and see if I can spur up an discussion. It seems to me that a lot of new IT professionals or new to the IT certification world tend to go overboard on their certification including myself. For example - If you just graduated high school and wanted to go straight into IT wouldn't it make sense to get a help desk/desk side specific certification like A+ or Windows 7 and work a year or two in that role before immediately swinging into another certification. I'm not saying this strategy should be utilized all the time for everyone, but it seems like to me you see a lot of ambitious people with little direction trying to plan for the future when it's almost impossible at that stage. Wouldn't it be wise to just do 1 or 2 certifications land a job and work for a year and get a feel of what you like and what you don't like?

Comments

  • Kinet1cKinet1c Member Posts: 604 ■■■□□□□□□□
    Knowledge & experience will always trump certifications. However, certs have their place and show an ability to learn, along with showing you have an interest in a particular subject.

    For people who have not broken in to the industry, it can show that you are committed to starting down the line of life long learning in the IT world.

    It's also quite possible that a tech might not realise what part of the industry they will settle in to until they start studying for it. I'm like this right now. I enjoy technology and while I've enjoyed studying windows/networking/virtualisation, nothing has jumped out and said "Pick me" as my main route. To add to that, in my company they don't train you on anything that's not relevant to your existing role. So it's up to me to get exposure to anything and everything I can to enable a move to a more interesting environment internally (if I stay put).
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  • RouteMyPacketRouteMyPacket Member Posts: 1,104
    N2IT wrote: »
    Just wanted to rant a little and see if I can spur up an discussion. It seems to me that a lot of new IT professionals or new to the IT certification world tend to go overboard on their certification including myself. For example - If you just graduated high school and wanted to go straight into IT wouldn't it make sense to get a help desk/desk side specific certification like A+ or Windows 7 and work a year or two in that role before immediately swinging into another certification. I'm not saying this strategy should be utilized all the time for everyone, but it seems like to me you see a lot of ambitious people with little direction trying to plan for the future when it's almost impossible at that stage. Wouldn't it be wise to just do 1 or 2 certifications land a job and work for a year and get a feel of what you like and what you don't like?

    I'll put it this way..I took one look at your certification list and it doesn't give me any idea of what your skill set is. System Administrator I would dare guess?

    IT is one of the worst fields when it comes to certifications. I'd dare say a good 50% of people in the field do not believe in certifications (for various reasons i'm sure), out of the other 50% who do believe in them I would seriously guess 70% are simply cert warriors..they want to be the "Sr" Administrator or "Sr" Engineer..they want the "Sr" pay and respect yet are nothing more than hacks and downright liars. These types tend to hide and flourish in Enterprise environments.

    I support anyone who is willing to go the extra mile and seek out knowledge and strive to be the best Admin/Engineer they can be. It takes so much work and focus but it is extremely rewarding. I could go on and on and over the years I have seen countless numbers of people who fall into a plethora of categories

    1. I'm a Sr Admin/Sr Engineer...I'm awesome and know everything - Clueless hacks with ego problems, these are the types you ask a question "So what kind of exposure do you have to bla bla technology?"..they respond..."Ummm, well yeah I umm yeah I have experience on it but well umm..it's been awhile". Translation, i'm clueless and my ego won't allow me to be honest.

    2. Desktop/Admin/Engineer who does just enough to keep their position, doesn't want to study nor work hard. In at 8:15, out at 4:50 everyday. Complains about salary yet does absolutely nothing to better themselves. Has every excuse in the book as to why they can't study etc. - Tons of these around, see them in Enterprises all the time

    3. Help Desk/Desktop/Sys Admin/Engineer that is relatively green and or good but shows a willingness to learn, is honest about their skill set, asks questions before acting. Takes on more responsibilities, takes advantage of any opportunity presented. Willing to sacrifice time to study and learn something new everyday - These people are the future, will take ownership of an issue and see it through to resolution. Has a combination of good attitude, customer service, composition and documentation skills. Check their ego at the door.

    4. I'm a MCSE from 10yrs ago, I don't need to study or learn anymore. Afterall, i'm an MCSE. This person has tons of certifications, all expired. - Just lol

    5. I got my CCIE R/S 10+ years ago...I am God and haven't had to study since I am a CCIE and know everything - Sadly this type exists and wow are they dangerous, they know everything and will not listen to anyone, regardless that they hired you to come in to consult on a network issue. I've only ran into one these while some of my colleagues who are current 3 and 4x IE's speak of these types with utter disgust.

    6. Cert Warriors, these people have almost every cert under the sun and love to tell you and flood their resume and cubicle walls with all the paper.- Cart before the horse mentality, these people believe having a certification makes them valuable when in reality they only prove their lack of focus and experience. These types are fun during technical interviews and a solid technical interview will allow these types to sink themselves quickly. This group is also why so many do not believe in certification and find it a waste of time.


    Moral of the story, I think at some point everyone who wants to take their career to the next level has to stop and ask themselves: "What do I want to do? What technology do I love working with? What am I good at? What do I really enjoy doing? How do I get there?". You then start taking the necessary steps to get there.

    Unfocused ambition is like spinning your wheels, there is motion but you're aren't really getting anywhere.
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  • DoyenDoyen Member Posts: 397

    Unfocused ambition is like spinning your wheels, there is motion but you're aren't really getting anywhere.

    This is so true. A shame it took me 6 years to realize that. From my experience, you first need to find out what you enjoy working with or a specific field you want to work in then focus your ambition, while working on your talent, in order to achieve it. Having a cert is one thing, but maintaining its knowledge another. I am NOT implying "re-certification", but actually living by it. This isn't through pride either, but your enthusiasm on the topic will reflect on others. Knowledge and experience trumps certifications. I feel certifications are just a formality to show others what you know without them directly knowing you. I find it counter productive when people study to pass the certification rather then learning the material and using the cert exam to test your understanding.
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  • paul78paul78 Member Posts: 3,016 ■■■■■■■■■■
    Interesting topic and discussion...

    I think like all things in life, it's probably highly individualistic as to the approach that people can take towards certifications. For me, certifications has never played a role in my own career development. That doesn't mean that I consider them valueless. They just have little value to me.

    From a few recent threads on this forum, I do agree that there is a tendency to go overboard with certifications. Or there is some perception, that having certifications is a panacea for an ailing career or to jump-start a career.

    I've always thought that career progression is multi-dimensional as is skill development. Certifications are just one way to keep up to date on technology and one way to demonstrate competency in an area.

    For me, I didn't hold a single certification for the first 20-23 years of my career. It really just never occurred to me to get a certification.

    Today, I do enjoy sitting for the exams. It's mostly a hobby for me. And I do whatever happens to be interesting to me. Lately, I've had an interest in privacy regulations and legal frameworks as well as with VMWare virtualization technology. A bit diverse but it works for me.

    I realize that my diverse interest could be characterized as "spinning your wheels" with certifications but for me its just the opposite. In general, I have focused on career development instead.

    I am fortunate that I have found a profession and trade where I truly have a passion.
  • LarryDaManLarryDaMan Member Posts: 797
    Certifications and degrees are probably both over-valued, because they are both inexact ways to measure intelligence/skills. BUT, what else do we have? A lot of interviews are a joke and even during a thorough interview it is possible to prepare and then regurgitate common answers. At a minimum, a certification shows that someone put forth some effort/money/time. I have seen old veterans with no certifications who knew everything and young dudes with advanced certifications who didn't have the confidence or knowledge to do basic tasks. If companies improved vetting/interview processes, these conundrums would be less troublesome.
  • unfbilly11unfbilly11 Member Posts: 100 ■■□□□□□□□□
    I might be able to give a bit of a different opinion here because I just finished college and started to get some certs a few months ago. I have been at a great job for the past 18 months gaining a ton of experience.


    To me, the certifications are not necessarily about gaining the knowledge (of course this is important) as much as they are about gaining the confidence.I knew a lot about computers before entering the real world, particularly the knowledge in A+ and Net+. When a friend would ask me what to do in a certain situation I would tell them without hesitation. Then I got this job and it's a lot different when my boss is asking me. Getting a few certifications gave me the confidence to start suggesting things and speaking at a higher level.


    I am well into the Microsoft MCSA studying now and my confidence keeps growing. In my eyes, the confidence that I gained by passing these exams is just as important as the knowledge.
  • LaminiLamini Member Posts: 242 ■■■□□□□□□□
    a poster comes to mind: "Certification gains confidence".

    It most certainly did. But not so that I could be proud with my nose up in the air, it was also a requirement for the jobs. Only wish is that I got the degrees first as they seem to be what hiring managers want. However, since anyone can read an A+ for dummies book and pass the test in couple weeks, its by far most cost and time efficient path.
    CompTIA: A+ / NET+ / SEC+
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  • LittleBITLittleBIT Member Posts: 320 ■■■■□□□□□□
    I'm guilty of being a cert warrior - I've obtained all mine in a fair short amount of time. However, in my defense, I know the route I want to go (DoD Contractor) and I need these certs in order to even be considered, amongst other things. I have about 6+ years IT, 3 of which were Help Desk, and I have strived to learn everything I could. Day in and Day out, I would have my ear to the engineer's to listen what they are complaining about and what needs to be fixed, why, how and when. I've learned pretty how to onboard/network discover an entire organization and how to properly document everything.

    I've learned how to set up AD/Exchange, configure a basic file server, a domain, DNS server, small things, and small steps, but steps I did on my own time.

    Now, I've make it as far as Lead Tech of a small team of 4 techs at the Helpdesk. However, my pay isn't getting any higher. And how am I to compete in the market with 'just' experience?

    I laugh at degree holders, but guess what, they are making more then I am, and I know more then they do. It's not always a true fact, but in a lot of instances, it is. It's the real world. I hate hearing 'oh, in my area blah blah blah', 'in my company, blah blah blah'. Truth is, not everywhere is the same, the only thing I have that will give me (And others) an edge is having certifications.

    They are watered down, and with the availability of **** and things like that, people are getting certified left and right, even CISSP and PMP's are becoming common sight. Truth is, it is what it is. More and more companies and employers want certifications vs degree's.

    I will agree 100% with RouteMyPacket, he has a real cynical way of telling the truth, but I will also say that people who earn certs are earning them in hopes of getting a job. No one at my company has certs, let alone degree's, however, we also missed major contract positions because no one in the entire damn company has a single cert that is required! Sure experience is great, but proving you have it is just as good.

    I will say that the A+, Net+ after 2 years of Helpdesk were ez. Sec+ and Serv+ I did learn some new concepts (More so with Sec+). I just wanted certs to validate my knowledge and give me an edge. I am now studying for the MCSA Win 7, I've learned so much in the last month actually studying for the test that I could put to good use at my job.

    That brings me to my next point - with certifications, some of us actually do learn good valuable stuff. Stuff that we could bring to the table and better our staff, our company and our pockets.

    Of course the pool is getting larger with people obtaining 20+ certs, but so what? Whose fault is it going to be when they can't do the job that they are certified for?

    It'll be easy to replace someone if you ask me.
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  • paul78paul78 Member Posts: 3,016 ■■■■■■■■■■
    Lamini wrote: »
    a poster comes to mind: "Certification gains confidence".
    Thanks for bringing that perspective. It makes a lot of sense and I'm going to have to remember that aspect of sitting for a certification.
    LittleBIT wrote:
    I'm guilty of being a cert warrior
    @LittleBIT - I personally think your approach seems a valid way to view certifications - Ie. validate knowledge and learning additional kernels of skills that you can apply to your job.

    I don't mean to diverge from the original thread but as your comment about "how to compete in the market with 'just' experience". Experience is always an important dimension to career growth but it also has to be the right type of experience. It sounds like you do not have a degree.

    Perhaps if you are finding the lack of degree as an impediment to your career, you could consider starting down that path. I myself, have no degree, and as I mentioned, I held no certifications until very recently. I was always just very lucky in being in the right place at the right time. I do think that luck does play a role as well. But I always did try to increase my luck through perseverance by chasing things to enhance my career - whether through networking or just plain hard-work. I admire your willingness to be a "cert warrior" as your means to increase your odds. You never know....
  • MSP-ITMSP-IT Member Posts: 752 ■■■□□□□□□□
    Just to chime in a bit. Had it not been for my A+, Net+ and MTA, I'd have never landed my first IT position as a low-level technical engineer, had I not continued to gain certifications and alongside that position, I would have never landed my current position in IT Security. Coming up on my 12 month mark in IT, I can say, without a doubt, that certifications alongside my drive to climb the IT ladder was most likely the one factor that lead to my current position. In ~18 months, my pay has gone from nearly minimum wage to a 50k~ salary, and I have a feeling it will continue to grow quite a bit in the next 18 months.

    TL;DR, certifications alongside a certain attitude and drive can get you places.
  • LittleBITLittleBIT Member Posts: 320 ■■■■□□□□□□
    paul78 wrote: »
    Thanks for bringing that perspective. It makes a lot of sense and I'm going to have to remember that aspect of sitting for a certification.


    @LittleBIT - I personally think your approach seems a valid way to view certifications - Ie. validate knowledge and learning additional kernels of skills that you can apply to your job.

    I don't mean to diverge from the original thread but as your comment about "how to compete in the market with 'just' experience". Experience is always an important dimension to career growth but it also has to be the right type of experience. It sounds like you do not have a degree.

    Perhaps if you are finding the lack of degree as an impediment to your career, you could consider starting down that path. I myself, have no degree, and as I mentioned, I held no certifications until very recently. I was always just very lucky in being in the right place at the right time. I do think that luck does play a role as well. But I always did try to increase my luck through perseverance by chasing things to enhance my career - whether through networking or just plain hard-work. I admire your willingness to be a "cert warrior" as your means to increase your odds. You never know....

    Thanks for your insight - I have no degree, and only in the last 4 months have I received certs.

    I am a firm believer in Experience > *, but that still doesnt change the fact that more and more places are requiring degree's for higher level jobs (and better paying jobs).

    Yes, compete in the marketplace with just certs and experience is probably better then a degree and no experience, but you can probably bet, at most places, it will not be a 55K+ job, and I bring up your quote about luck - truth is, not every aspiring IT has it, or the resume/people skills and networking connections. But upon writing this, I wills say that every aspiring IT should start low who are without experience, and work their way up the hard way, builds character and strength as well as knowledge. I can build a mean resume, talk a talk and walk a walk because I have failed so many times to grab the attention of employers that I wanted a job at.

    This is a good thread, I hope we can continue this.
    Kindly doing the needful
  • paul78paul78 Member Posts: 3,016 ■■■■■■■■■■
    Yes - agreed. Good thread and topic. I see that there are similar topics recently started which I expect is par for the New Year season icon_smile.gif

    I do want to comment however on "more places are requiring degree's for higher level jobs (and better paying jobs)". I had to dig back in memory but I actually don't think that's much different than it was 25 years ago. I think that attitude may have changed with IT during the dot-com bubble, because of workforce shortages, there was a tendency for employers to risk hiring less credential-ed employees. Today, employers may still "list" degrees as requirements but I suspect that a lot of employers are likely to be less rigid. For myself, even without a degree, I don't suffer from a compensation ceiling. My own job is suppose to require an MBA.

    But that doesn't mean that people should not pursue certifications or degrees. Both provide a benchmark in an individual's career progression. And as I recently learned from this thread - it's a great way to boost one's confidence. I had taken the position that a lot has to do with attitude but good attitude usually comes from having good confidence.
  • LittleBITLittleBIT Member Posts: 320 ■■■■□□□□□□
    paul78 wrote: »
    good attitude usually comes from having good confidence.

    Well said.

    I do agree that employers will look past the degree v experience, but that still may dissuade a lot of potential people with the right skills to not apply.

    All's I'm sayin' is -- It doesnt hurt to have credentials in whatever field your in, and yes, it's a confidence booster for sure. I remember being 15 and wanting the A+ real bad.. really, really badly. Now at 23, I feel like I've earned something special that 15 year old me wanted.

    Anyways, good convo, I hope others will chime in.

    If I wasn't going the DoD route, I would have started with A+ and Serv+ and worked my way to Proj+ just because that is the area I am in at my current job.
    Kindly doing the needful
  • GoodBishopGoodBishop Member Posts: 359 ■■■■□□□□□□
    [/B]6. Cert Warriors, these people have almost every cert under the sun and love to tell you and flood their resume and cubicle walls with all the paper.- Cart before the horse mentality, these people believe having a certification makes them valuable when in reality they only prove their lack of focus and experience. These types are fun during technical interviews and a solid technical interview will allow these types to sink themselves quickly. This group is also why so many do not believe in certification and find it a waste of time.
    *waves flag* Cert Warrior here. But I don't do it for the initials. I do it because I want to keep on learning. IT is constantly changing. You have to keep up, and one of the better ways to do that is study for certs. For example, two of the next certs for me is CCSK, since I'm highly involved with cloud solutions, and ISSAP, since I'm constantly getting called in to approve such-and-such architecture diagram (mostly, I take a common sense approach with architecture diagrams). Plus it's fun to learn. This stuff is great, you have to admit.

    I agree with paul78's point of view above.
  • XyroXyro Member Posts: 623
    Lamini wrote: »
    ... since anyone can read an A+ for dummies book and pass the test in couple weeks, its by far most cost and time efficient path.

    Most people cannot cover the material for A+ in 2 weeks.
  • Venom35Venom35 Member Posts: 11 ■□□□□□□□□□
    I have witness to many individuals in three letter agencies who only have the basic CCNA or Network +. These individuals have been working 10-15 years and have not put any effort into continuing their education. I have even help a few (I am the closes thing to a novice personally). These people make 100,000 a year smh. I have a lot of respect for those who continue their education both cert warriors or those who educate themselves through other means.
  • bigdogzbigdogz Member Posts: 847 ■■■■■■■□□□
    I work for a MSP. I have multiple certifications and I am constantly learning. I work in multiple environments and technologies.
    Some customers also like to know that people working or maintaining their environments have credentials. In addition, some vendors require x amount of certified people in their respective equipment. In most cases, our employees are required to obtain the fundamental certifications before taking the advanced training.
    I have also been in the field for 20+ years and don't really tack on my certs (including the expired ones) in my email signature. Nothing like a Windows NT 3.x MSCE or a Novell 3.x CNA!!!!
    I am also going for my Masters and some certs will help me to that journey. I can honestly say that most companies will use the degree over the certs unless the hiring manager can filter out who actually knows their stuff.

    I also know about 20 CCIE's that are just smart and can be placed in any environment and succeed. One co-worker interviewed a CCIE that could not perform some simple tasks but since he/she was not familiar with service provider topologies the hands-on portion of the interview was a total failure. I think I have been lucky running into these smart people.

    There is the "who you know" factor. This can sometimes be based on your reputation.
  • wgroomwgroom Member Posts: 147
    I am seeing more job postings listing certs as a necessity. Higher education levels and more cert requirements are escalating the bar for newer entrants into the field. I feel this is a good thing, as I have met some "Tech" experts who buffalo end users into acknowledging how smart the IT pro is, when they really can only do the basics. Diagnosing a Solidworks 3D issue would floor them. Trying to find out why an Exchange mailstore dismounted would show their true knowledge. So demanding more education and certification will weed out the hotshots.

    I have been in IT since 1998 professionally, and played in it for years before that. So upping the ante is a good thing to me. What I do not agree with are the people feeling that multiple certs ENTITLE them to more money. If they are employer mandated, then maybe. What happened to being better for the sake of being better? Chasing the almighty dollar decreases the joy of doing a good job just for the sake of being good at what you do. Being well compensated is what we all desire, but being GOOD is great in and of itself.
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  • paul78paul78 Member Posts: 3,016 ■■■■■■■■■■
    wgroom wrote: »
    What happened to being better for the sake of being better?
    I don't disagree that it's a noble sentiment. Perhaps I've just lost that sense of idealism over the years. While I haven't lost that passion for technology - for me - it's a means to an end - and it really is to chase that dollar.

    I'm not entirely sure that I necessarily agree that "upping the ante" is a good thing when it comes to requiring more education and/or certs for a job. It seems like a very lazy way for a hiring manager to find qualified employees. I still prescribe to the notion that it's better to have an employee with the right attitude and passion for the job who can grow with the business.
  • wgroomwgroom Member Posts: 147
    Good points Paul, and to an extent I agree. I have seen small shops hire IT "pros" who are not qualified to pump gas, let alone touch a user's machine. I know there are some very bright people out there, and not all of them are certified / highly educated. However, there has to be some form of filter in place to weed out the lackluster talent, in my humble opinion. My point being some see IT as a ticket to easy street, which is not always the case.

    I have never been set down for a hands on test of my abilities during an interview, which is one way to accomplish this. I see too many in the IT field who are not well suited to it, thereby drawing down the reputation of all IT personnel to an extent. Hard IT skills are very important in today's workforce, and the soft skills are almost as important.

    I guess that is why we have front facing personnel and rear echelon admins / engineers. Personally, I prefer being in the shadows, making things run as intended.
    Cisco VoIP Engineer I
    CCNA R&S COLOR=#008000]Complete[/COLOR CCNA Voice COLOR=#008000]Complete[/COLOR CCNA Collaboration [In Progress]
  • paul78paul78 Member Posts: 3,016 ■■■■■■■■■■
    wgroom wrote: »
    I have never been set down for a hands on test of my abilities during an interview
    That's very interesting to hear. I personally abhor hands-on testing of interview candidates. I have always felt that it was a bit unseemly but I understand that it's more common these days. I've always preferred conversation where the candidate can show as much or as little about their knowledge of a particular subject. For example - for some job roles, I ask a generic question like - "can you explain to me how a computer works?"
    wgroom wrote: »
    Personally, I prefer being in the shadows, making things run as intended.
    LOL - somehow that deserves a witty response but unfortunately I've used up my quota for the year. icon_lol.gif

    Sorry about taking the thread a bit off-topic.
  • GoodBishopGoodBishop Member Posts: 359 ■■■■□□□□□□
    I think what is interesting (and this was mentioned in my grad class ages ago), was that companies hire for skills and fire for attitude, when it really should be the other way around.

    Attitude is everything.
  • N2ITN2IT Inactive Imported Users Posts: 7,483
    6. Cert Warriors, these people have almost every cert under the sun and love to tell you and flood their resume and cubicle walls with all the paper.- Cart before the horse mentality, these people believe having a certification makes them valuable when in reality they only prove their lack of focus and experience. These types are fun during technical interviews and a solid technical interview will allow these types to sink themselves quickly. This group is also why so many do not believe in certification and find it a waste of time.


    I can't get enough of this. This was me 5 years ago, it's embarrassing to be honest. I once thought that loading up on certifications was going to help me. All it ended up doing is costing me money and making me more confused.

    ****This is not saying people who get certs are confused or misdirected but for me personally this is reality.
  • ClaymooreClaymoore Member Posts: 1,637
    I'm beyond the point in my career where I need a cert to get past an HR resume filter or to open the first door, but I still certify. I maintain my certifications because it's required for my job.
    1. We require consultants to have or earn a certification in their practice within their first year. It surprised me that we would hire someone without certifications, but I've seen it happen. Some people come from internal IT where certifications aren't as important as in the consulting world.
    2. Certifications are part of our annual training plans.
    My job requires them because our industry requires them. And they require them to be current - my Exchange 2003 certs don't count for much these days.
    1. Certified consultants are required to maintain partner competencies in technology areas. These competencies are required for Microsoft funding and marketing in those areas, either for Microsoft to pay us to go do something or to be on the list when a customer calls looking for a partner to come do something.
    2. Certifications are required to deliver MS-funded engagements. When a customer calls to trade in planning days from their Enterprise Agreement, we have to send a certified consultant.
    3. Some clients - usually government - require certified consultants on projects. We have had to shuffle staffing because we needed someone with a cert and we have had people rush to take exams because they needed to have a cert before a project started.
    I certify because my company requires it, and my company requires it because the industry requires it. As to why the industry requires it, that's a discussion for another day.
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