CXO

Do certifications help IT consultants attract business?

If you think getting certified will bring in more IT consulting clients and convey that you're a subject matter expert, read why Chip Camden says it may be prudent to save your time and money.

 When you're looking for new business, you don't want anything to stand in your way. Best lay to rest in advance any objections your prospect might raise, and anything you can use to spruce up your resume has to help, right?

Many IT consultants look to technical certifications as a way to kill both birds with one stone. If you add four or five letters to your Web presence, you can just sit back and wait for the googlers to come flocking to give you their business. And any prospective client will assume that you have the goods since you passed the test(s). Let's examine these assumptions about the benefits of getting certifications.

Certifications as a marketing tool

It's difficult to collect data on whether certifications help IT pros land consulting gigs, but Gustavo Duarte recently analyzed job postings on Dice.com that mention specific vendor certifications. For most of the certifications he examined, less than one quarter of the relevant job postings mention certification. (The Certified Information Systems Security Professional, or CISSP, cert sticks out as an exception, but it's still in demand less than 40% of the time.)

Even if it's only a fraction of available business, why wouldn't you still want to attract that portion? Well, you have to weigh the potential costs. Not only will getting a certification take time and money, but it may even cost you some business. Depending on your type of work, there are lots of ways that a certification may be viewed as a negative by potential clients. Here are a few examples of how they may interpret your certification:

Certifications as a guarantee of knowledge

A prospective client might view your certs as a type of insurance; you must know what you're talking about in this area because the Almighty Vendor says you do. The degree to which that is true and relevant has a lot do with the subject matter and the test. For instance, perhaps the demand for the CISSP correlates to the importance of good basic security practices. According to Duarte, the test itself isn't hard enough to act as a good filter, and a large part of what is tested (regardless of the subject matter) is actually your ability to take standardized tests.

Even if a certification succeeds in screening for a certain base level of competency, how does that benefit a consultant? Isn't that like asking to see someone's high school diploma at their doctoral dissertation? If you're a consultant and you're not getting kicked off of every gig you take, a potential client should presume that you have a fairly thorough knowledge about your field. When you're meeting with a prospect, I recommend that you talk about the things you've created rather than all the things you should know by default.

Should IT consultants bother getting certs?

I'm not suggesting that you won't learn anything from getting certified; I always learn something from anything I study -- even if it's a children's book. The real question is: Will certifications help you build your IT consulting business? The answer depends on the type of prospects you're seeking.

If a prospect requires certain certifications, you should consider the motivations behind their demands and ask yourself whether this client is a good match for your business.

What's your experience with certifications?

Certification is a hot topic among TechRepublic members, so let's hear from you. If you have certifications, which ones do you have, and do they help you attract new business? If not, why have you opted not to get certified?

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About

Chip Camden has been programming since 1978, and he's still not done. An independent consultant since 1991, Chip specializes in software development tools, languages, and migration to new technology. Besides writing for TechRepublic's IT Consultant b...

139 comments
hrobertjean
hrobertjean

In my humble opinion, anyone with half a brain can cram enough information just to pass a specific test. That, in no way guarantees knowledge or common sense. For someone desiring to offer effective consulting services to his/her clients, business acumen-in addition to a solid foundation in technology- will be most valuable. In preparation to becoming a cloud broker, I first got a Bachelor???s degree in Information Systems Administration, an MBA in Leadership and Project Management. My scholastic achievement, plus years of experience will be most valuable than a certification. Although I???m endeavoring to learn from, and be ???certified??? by all the different providers with whom I partner. Bob Jean

ogunda
ogunda

Absolutely Not... I am SAP certifed and believe it or not, clients are more interrested in your experience than your certifications. It is an expensive endavour so be careful before you invest in something that does not provide the expected ROI.

tony
tony

For a small (approx one person) business, one week on a course = 1 week lost earnings + cost of course + cost of travel/accommodation. To recover this requires me to hike my charges 5-10% for each week I train in a given year. Customers don't seem to want to pay this extra.

dinotech
dinotech

To pursue a certification is a personal educational choice. I work as a part-time tech at a local community college and we have network admins, database admins, going to specific classes on subjects such as VLANS, HP Procurve switches, SQL Server, et. al. Most of our team do not carry certifications, and the ones that do have certifications they are expired. Yet they manage a large campus environment on a daily basis without question to their ability. I am a member of IEEE's Computer Society and Association of Computing Machinery which gives me access to over 3500 online course in disciplines ranging from Cisco to Microsoft, Java to .NET, and Personal to Business development. After completing a handful of courses, getting an A+ and Net+ cert, and performing on-the-job work, I wouldn't have any problem getting clients for consulting work. My Mother was an accountant for a large insurance firm. She left because the direction of the company had changed. As soon as she left, she didn't need to advertise - she had 20 clients in the first week she started on her own! And she never pursued becoming a CPA! If your desire is to become a consultant in your field, you should have established yourself long before you obtained any certification. You need to demonstrate that you are competent in your field, and there isn't a certification out there today that can demonstrate competency in a real world environment. Cisco does have a certification which requires you to perform in a environment where you have x number of hours to fix the network using the tools given. CISSP does have a requirement of 10 years in a security industry (or something like that). For the first few years in any consulting business, you will gain client via word-of-mouth or reputation. If your last name is Camden, you might benefit from being associated with that software guru that posts every so often at Tech Republic. Here's my point: people are going to remember your name - business or personal, good or bad. And there is no amount of certification that is going to save you from a bad engagement, or guarantee a good engagement. There is a place for certification, and here is my thoughts on what they can do: 1. Certification can be useful for someone who is new to the industry. It gives them a goal to shoot for, an opportunity to see if they can handle the responsibility of studying for the test, developing their own lab, and solving problems. If any of those areas cannot be met with above average results, then they should choose to do something else. 2. They provide an educational path down a vendor specific trail, or a vendor-neutral trail. Anything in IT has a certification behind it: go to www.vue.com and click on Information Technology. Notice all of the vendors on the right that have a certification. Some are worth more than others, but they all have two things in common: help you learn about products and paradigms. 3. A Certification gives you a baseline reference as to what a vendor or an industry expects a person to know about a product or service. You can get a list of the objectives and use that as a guideline to make sure you know your material. You don't have to take the test, but the test will complete the certification stating that you met all of the objective domains with a passing grade. 4. Certifications help you set a goal (test date) and work to achieve that goal. This can be applied to new techs and veteran IT professionals. 5. Certifications offer immediate results versue an Associates or Bachelor's degrees. While the latter two will give you more options, the certification will give you immediate knowledge of a technology. Of course, you must find a way to *demonstrate* the levels of responsibilities in the same area as the certification you achieved. 6. There is no argument that a degree from an accredited college or university will hold more weight than a certification - you are sacrificing more of your time and you have to take courses that you wouldn't take to complete the cert. That is where the real difference between a formal education and a self-taught or certified education lies: how much time and money are you willing to sacrifice, and what do you want to accomplish with it. Are you able to demonstrate the discipline that you achieved by completing the certification? by completing that CIS degree? You definitely won't starve do to lack of work if you have a few certs; but if you don't put in the effort to know what you are doing, you will have wasted all of your time and be in the next chow line on the block. If you plan on running a consulting business from certifications alone, you might find yourself with a handful of clients, maybe. But to truly be a consultant that is worthy of your talent and ability, you need to demonstrate that you can complete the job in a timely manner with minimal issues. I don't see how a certification can make that guarantee.

rolychechanova
rolychechanova

Certification is an art of making money in the field of Information Technology. Why? Because the more certification can be gained, the more effort, time and money will be wasted. Better if all hardware and software companies will unite and provide a standard examination for certification then we can say that it is a tool in business. For now it is useless. It is an art of making money.

sgogate1
sgogate1

Yes, in the sense that they give you an opportunity, but after that you can survive only on the basis of your knowledge content and NOT the certification.

parrey
parrey

a few things, i work with a guy who has so many certs thats its not funny and i find him absoutley useless when it actually comes to hands on jobs etc. i have a certs like a+ network + etc and more but have also had 8+ years of hands on experience. I think that hands on and actual understading is more important then certs by them selves.

parrey
parrey

a few things, i work with a guy who has so many certs thats its not funny and i find him absoutley useless when it actually comes to hands on jobs etc. i have a few certs like a+ network + etc but have also have 8+ years of hands on. I think that hands on and actual understading is more important then certs by them selves.

bond.masuda
bond.masuda

i'm not a big fan of certifications as i often find it's a business about collecting revenue more than about the professional field itself. given my personal opinion, take my comments with a grain of salt. here is my take on certs and IT consulting: "Depends on what type of business you want, AND how you obtain new business." If you're going after government contracts, sometimes certs put you higher on the list. Many bureaucrats need to make decisions that they aren't in the best position to make, so certs help their decision making process. In fact, sometimes such certs become "requirements" in their RFPs in an effort to narrow down their choices. In some ways, it provides a way to point the finger if the project goes wrong. The person who hired you can tell his boss he hired "certified professionals", it's not his fault the project went south. Some commercial businesses will require certs as well in their RFPs, but it's usually less strict and commercial entities can often be more flexible. But, even in this case, if two very qualified candidates end up on their short list, the one having the cert might tip the decision in their favor. Knowing your prospects & competition well will determine if that cert makes a difference. On the other side of things, "how" you approach prospective clients will also make that cert more or less useful. If you're gaining new business through a tight professional network where others know you well and are already giving you business based on your reputation, then the certs will matter less. If you're trying to go in cold, the cert can sometimes be useful. If you're explaining your proposal to the decision maker that will choose a consultant, but he/she isn't necessarily a technical person, the technical details may not impress that person. But, something like, 15 yrs experience in XYZ big industries and certified in ABC, DEF, and GHI might help them understand "ah, this person should know what they are doing, even if I don't understand what they are saying." Although, in this case, certs may seem helpful, but as a consultant one should consider this only a door opener, not the deal closer. This might get you a chance to explain your technical proposal to the client's technical guys. And if that goes well, the consensus of the technical and decision maker might help you seal the deal for that contract. In many cases, the certs will do nothing for you. At least that's been my experience. But, sometimes it might just help you get that one "big" contract.

mbardeh
mbardeh

It could be good for change in your career.You can use it when you are aiming for hire position or different direction. You can use it as a measure to knnow if you are good at this new path and if you should consider it more seriously. Of course I'm not talking about taking an exam by reading all the possible questions, you don't want to fool yourself and believe me you won't fool others in the long run.

bob
bob

As an employer, I look for independent certifications, not manufacturers' certs. An A+, Net+, Security+ and CISSP add to the value of the candidate, but don't make the final decision. I have been in the business 30 years and just got my FIRST certification this year! CISSP is no "quick fix" cert for a recent graduate. It REQUIRES 5 years experience in 2 of the 10 domains of security, passing a 250 question test, submitting a r?sum?, passing a background check and being sponsored by someone who already holds the certification. When I see that cert on a CV, I am impressed.

mark.silvani
mark.silvani

Perhaps not, but not because they're worthless. I suspect that it's more an industry prejudice. Lot's of companies don't put faith in them because in the past they were too easy & certification equated to higher pay. Still, as a baseline, would you want the guy who was scheduled to do your open heart surgery to be board certified? Yes, experience counts...but so does certification as long as it's understood that it's only a piece of a larger puzzle. Certification does not equal competency at every level..but, like a college degree...it helps to point you in the right direction in terms of 'thinking'when there's an issue.

derek
derek

None of our clients ask me for my certifications, only if I can solve their problem. So far, my CCNA study has only improved my day-to-day operations, but certifications are not going to increase my market share unless I perhaps go to another industry... As a system integrator, they just assume I know what I am doing...

george
george

No ... our most effective way to attract new business is through referrals; we have found certifications to be meaningless and don't mention them at all. When hiring new staff, we look for experience. Certifications only indicate that you can pass a test, not that you can do anything in the real world.

keith.johnson
keith.johnson

Hello Chip: Really nice post. I personally feel that certifications are always a good thing, because it reveals your professional competence and ability to have passed sometimes a difficult test. Will this intimidate the client? Well, that is another matter. But at least certification shows you had the courage and ability to conquer certain technical materials and meet a designated level of performance. KUDOS to all who pass tough certification exams. Keith Johnson Hallandale, Florida

Traker
Traker

The reasons in the article for discounting certs are highly subjective and negative. If a company actually were to seriously use these criteria for for hiring consultants or employees they have greater problems than an IT consultant can solve and will likely have a hard time finding the 'right' people. Most organizations require quantifiable criteria for deciding on their investments and hiring, whether those criteria are certifications or verifiable references for accomplishments in the field. In IT security, the right cert.s help get you the interview. The interview sorts out the merely cert.ed from the competent and/or experienced. The training for the certification itself should establish a beneficial baseline of knowledge. Experience tells you what you need to work on further.

frederick.b.beltzer
frederick.b.beltzer

Facts and fictions confuse the innocent! Certifications are good for starter positions but once you have an established resume and degrees they should go away. In fact certifications take people away from getting bachelors degrees, master's degrees, and PhDs to the detriment of all.

-Q-240248
-Q-240248

is a different story for those who are not consulting. If I want someone to come in and engineer a Cisco-powered network, wouldn't I request a CCIE? Definitely. Even a CCNP for that matter. There's no doubt that certs help consulting businesses. But outside of consulting, certifications do not add much value. Most employees don't even know what all those letters mean. Plainly put, in a corporate environment, certified employees still have to present themselves with their experience first and foremost. No one remembers how many letters you have after your name, they judge you on your performance. In a consulting environment, your certifications are allowed to precede you in presenting you as perhaps a subject matter expert.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Because either the certs are a lot more expensive than I thought, or you're running on a very thin margin.

reisen55
reisen55

I agree with your logic. Several of my customers are medical houses and the professional staff inside has a number of seminars they have to take to stay current with tech trends in their field of optometry, but heaven forbid if I RAISE my price beyond a certain limit per year. Secondly, this morning I just won a huge victory here by using remote desktop to switch archive settings on a critical medical device so that retina images for over 13000 patients switched over from a comatose computer to a redundant system I setup for Disaster purpose. They rather argued about the redundant hard drive and it's purpose in the world. Wow - now they know what that is. I am making this point ot them, but heaven forbid they actually PAY FOR AN UNECESSARY EXPENSE too? It took some convincing on my part that this redundant device was a good investment. Now, they know it is. And because I caught the failure last night, when their office was closed, and fixed it too ---- hmmm, maybe their consultant knows a thing or two!! Gotta love our customers.

Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

If you work in the IT industry, you must EXPECT to learn on a cuntinuous and regular basis. Yes, this costs money. YOU ARE YOUR OWN CAREER MANAGER. No, you don't HAVE to take courses, but if you want to learn the material the FASTEST way possible, that's the way to do it. When someone asks me what courses to take, what certifications to follow or how to advance -- I take the very pragmatic approach by having them list what they like to do -- and then trying to match that against what is 'in demand' on the job boards. Once you have the list of job titles you are interested in, it is a simple matter to pull out what skills are being sought. That list should guide your professional development. Nothing good comes for free or without hard work. (OK, well, unless you are born rich and/or pretty, I suppose.) Or course, there are some industries where continuous education probably isn't required. Horse-shoeing probably hasn't changed a lot in the last several hundred years. (And probably hasn't paid much more either.) However, even in this case if someone was a certified veterinarian surgeon, studied aerodynamics and came up with a special way of doing it that would help racehorces win races or reduce injuries - you COULD demand a premium. However, if you want to be in IT, you'd better be a good student because you'll never run out of things to learn -- even in the narrowest specialization. At one point I figured out I'd spent over 10,000 GBP on my IT education and certifications. (40+ industry certifications and shortly, a Master's Degree in IT Management). However, if I added up all the EXTRA income I made by being able to take on BETTER and HIGHER PAYING jobs, I figure I'd have broke even the first year and been way ahead for the rest of my career. Training and education is the BEST investment you can make. 100% of it goes to YOU. If you spend it well, it increases your earning capacity over your career at least 100s times whatever you spend. Maybe you just have the wrong work or the wrong customers?

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

The question then becomes, "do I want to work for someone who relies on certifications to make such a decision?"

Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

A+, Net+, Security+ are probably the worst examples to use -- these are really entry-level certs and can be self-studied in a couple of weeks each. Unfortunately, this is the case with probably most of the 'vendor neutral' certs. When you start digging into the guts of the technologies -- the vendor implementation of even common technologies DO matter. CISSP is a high-profile cert, but the cost and recertification requirements are a killer. At least with the Microsoft certs, you don't have to re-take the same exam. The cert stays valid forever, but is linked to the specific product, so of course you'd eventually want to take the exam for the newer product or version. Anyone serious about personal/professional development would be doing the additional study anyway.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

But I don't think intimidation is the problem here. In software development consulting it's more about having the wrong focus.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

being the operative word. I wouldn't lump security certs in with say MCSE either. Sort of indicates some of the real problems. If you accept the reputability of the certifying body and that the candidate is certified by them. Then there is still the percieved value of the certification itself, and the candidate's ability to apply it. Neither of those come out of most certs, so that requires someone else you trust , with the knowledge to vet the candidate anyway. So cert = get past the first cut for the interview...

dinotech
dinotech

...getting a traditional education. They offer another path where a determined IT professional can get to work as soon as possible. The current computer science curriculum is based on theory, which may or may not translate to what is required of a graduate. If a student pursues a business degree in information systems (MIS, CIS or similar), then there might be a greater chance they could get more business exposure and be ready to go upon graduating. It all depends on the current context of the student. A transitioning student (from a non-technical career to a technical career), might need those certifications to help bridget the gap. They would be cheaper than to pay college tuition for introductory technical classes. So, in this context, the certifications would be useful. (Side Note: taking the actual test is up to the individual. One could argue that going through the process and proving they know the subject matter to an employer would be just as valuable as taking a cert test.) However, if a student has been in the field for a while, doing repair, networking, etc; a certification may or may not make sense. At that point, I would think getting a bachelors in either business or computer science would be in order. She might consider taking A+, Net+, Server+, and Security+ just to round out her experience. Again, it is an individual decision. It should not be decided without further discussion with qualified career counselors, family, or friends. Dino

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

So how does your PhD help you do your job. Does your employer recompense you suitably for having it. When in public, take the underpants off the head, pencils out of the nose and use the word Bibble, a little less frequently. Certs stop people taking Phds, sheesh...

oldmikie
oldmikie

True in a corporate environment experience and performance are the criteria. But, What about that first job application? I don't mean the consultant and the CEO. I mean trying to get a job as the DB admin in Ops. How do you prove to the hiring manager that you know what you are talking about. You use anything you can, certifications are an external objective attestation that you are a serious person.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

between employees and consultants. But I also find certifications to be irrelevant when it comes to software development consulting. Others here have mentioned network admin and security as being on the other side of the equation. I wonder how other consulting disciplines fare?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

been there done that. Unless he just signed up for that MCM thing....

Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

Having put on my 'marketing' hat, I'd suggest you not forget to ask for a written reference/testimonial/case study about that. In some cases, you can do the text and the client may be happy to just sign it. (If it isn't too ooozzzyyyy, of course.) Two things that set a 'professinal' apart are first the ability to recognize and plan for the mitigation of disasters and less severe failures. The second is the ability to document them. These days, most of the work I get comes not just through the technical skills and certs (that's the foot in the door), but also the quality of documentation that accompanies the work. This is an area NOBODY (including myself) enjoys doing -- but boy, it sure does bring in the business. It also gives the client something they can 'hold in their hands' rather than just a piece of software running somewhere.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

One big assumption, is that people will take you on based on having taken the course but not used it. In my experience that puts you at at best in the middle of the queue, unless you are going to undercut those with the paper and the experience. It's as much of gamble as it is an investment. I know for a fact that if I'd rushed around getting even the cheapest courses every time a new and shiny product hit the market, I wouldn't have time to work. :p What was wise for you, may be dumbass for others. Not arguing, but your success is down to as much what you are, as what you know. That week's lost wages can be a powerful dissuader to some.

Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

I'm more of an IT Mercenary. If the customer wants certs and I have them, great, if I don't have the ones they want, I can either demonstrate I have what it takes to do the job -- or I shouldn't be applying in the first place. Keep in mind that as stated previously, some employers REQUIRE certifications. And who are you to say that this somehow makes them inferior -- just because you don't agree with it? In fact, some of the best companies I've seen not only require certs, but provide the employees with training (or comp-time to get it), books and study materials and pay for successful completion of exams. Microsoft Gold Partners are a prime example. A certain number of staff MUST be certified -- and the value of the contracts quite clearly demonstrates the 'premium' these vendors enjoy over their non-certified competitors. When recruiting for positions, I've bounced plenty of people out the door who demonstrated absolutely no responsibility for their own professional development.

frederick.b.beltzer
frederick.b.beltzer

I concur, the basic fact is I have hired and fired MCSE, CNE, CISSPs. I hire based on what I can tell form the interview, their resume, past experiance. Certifications show me they have done something to set themselves apart. That being said I have found attitude and work ethic to be the most valuble asset. If you are good at what you do but a jerk your out! Stab people in the back OUT! Try hard make mistakes and do better, thats life! If you do not have a degree, I cannot use your talents on many contacts. That is a fact, in many cases you can only be carried with certifications for a limited period of time. Tony I hope the weather is nice in the UK, lived there for a very long time.

Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

>I wouldn't lump security certs in with say >MCSE either. While the MCSE no longer exists, the main point is that a solid comprehension of the operating system is absolutely essential in order to properly secure it. Just because someone can click Next> Next> Next and install an OS in no way means that they have the slightest clue about it and ABSOLUTELY means that it will be installed with only minimal security. The last iteration of the MCSE program really proved that level of skill with the OS. You had a lot of exams, very difficult exams and then the +Security additional certification raised the bar to cover not only the Microsoft-specific security aspects, but a lot of 'general' ones as well. (Having taught both the +Security and Security+ Certifications, I'd have to say that the CompTIA exams are really 'entry-level' compared to the Microsoft ones.) Now I've seen people who still regurgitate the BS about 'paper MCSEs' and that all it proves is that you can 'take exams' -- but to be brutally honest -- the people with these ideas should bring themselves out of the stone age and try taking some CURRENT exams to see how easy they find them. As far as the Microsoft exams go -- surprise, surprise -- the exam formats HAVE CHANGED since the '90s! :) Exams went from static multiple-choice to very long and difficult scenarios to simulations to full, working systems. OF COURSE, as with anything else, it is always a cat and mouse game -- with the cheats trying to get by the exams, and then the exams being changed to be more cheat-proof and challenging -- this is the same as the nature of software security itself. Example: http://www.techworld.com/opsys/news/index.cfm?newsid=103147 It won't end but that doesn't mean you should throw out the baby with the bathwater and declare that just because a few cheats (or hackers) can break the system, doesn't mean that the entire program is worthless. One can deny the "reputability of the certifying body and that the candidate is certified by them." You can also say that every University degree is worthless, every College diploma a sham as well or anything else for that matter -- just as you can say that people lie on their resumes and CVs, set up their friends to give false references or whatever you want -- EVERY system can be hacked -- so you can either just assume that everything is a lie or use your head and take what is presented -- with the appropriate grains of salt and meaningful verification.

frederick.b.beltzer
frederick.b.beltzer

Tony, I think I understand what you?re trying to say and I will try to be succinct in my reply. 1. How does the PHD help, if it is based on your area of expertise say a PHD in INFOSEC you gain access to others who deal with more complex issues then just a basic CCNA, MCSE, CISSP, certifications do. Though the other definition of PHD does apply sometimes, Pile Higher and Deeper! 2. Are you suitably recompensed by your employer? Some do pay more others provide cash incentives, bigger office or cube space, maybe more vacation time each year. I made a few thousand extra for completing my Masters, company stock, and a pay raise. My company also paid for my Masters. Working to get the PHD paid for now. So maybe you will maybe you won't. 3. My point about the certs stopping people from getting degrees is simply this, the over emphasis on certifications has many on tread mills for certifications. I have had several people on staff that have not pursued Bachelors degrees because they were focusing on certifications. This has resulted in slow advancement and inability to work on some contracts. But it is a personal call. Also remember you have to keep retaking the same thing over and over again to stay ?certified?. Keep having fun! :-)

-Q-240248
-Q-240248

So if some new guy, with no experience, except now he has a cert, he's still going to be viewed as a new guy with no experience. And as well, they will view the cert as watered down since someone got it without having any experience. Some certs require that you have experience first. I think with any new career, a college education is the door opener, followed by "who you know".

jcbick
jcbick

Been an interesting thread. I've moved from straight IT to mostly IT/tech project management. I've just moved (voluntarily) across the country and have found that the Project Management Professional (PMP) cert is golden as far as opening doors when one doesn't have an existing local network to help.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

If you had a fragile and slow Oracle cluster, you'd want an Oracle DBA with a basket full of certs in. If you anted someone to optimise a C# .net program, you might get someone with that cert. If you wanted a new piece of .NET software with an Oracle Backend, you'd want a .NET aware developer with optionally Oracle backend experience and knowledge of say client server database development. It's the latter experience that's important not a particular vendor implementation of it. Anybody seen a client server database cert, that isn't limited to specific vendor tech. Does a CS degree give you it? No, so you read the resumes, get hold of someone with enough technical knowledge to verify it, or you go down the reference route....

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Right on, Marty. I've seen the same thing over the years -- the better you document what you've done, the more "complete" it seems (and is) for the customer. Note I said "better", not "more". Concise, easy to follow, but complete is what I strive for.

Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

When I was first starting out in the Certified side of the house, I took both MCSE and MCSD tracks. I didn't mind doing and teaching the System Engineers, but really wanted to be doing more software development and teaching the development languages. The market said otherwise. I ended up teaching NT-4 courses on an almost continuous basis, but there was so little demand for the developer courses that I only ever did a handful of them. Even thought I invested just as much (maybe more) time and effort focusing on what I wanted to do -- the market kicked my butt in another direction. I'd not say the investment was 'wasted', but I could have saved a lot of time and money if I'd done the market research BEFORE picking which direction to run. (I also picked another 'dog' with distance education. I thought it was really going to take off. However, in 10 years have only taught 4 or 5 students -- simply no demand. A bit more cash out the door - oh well...)

Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

It seems that the larger the organization and the larger/longer the contract -- the more hoops there are to jump through. In a contract for the US Army, I was required to provide the usual security-related stuff but on the technical side, their requirements were: "Within the first year, all instructors must have MCSE+Security, Security+, A+, Network+ and CCNA certifications." This was to teach US Army network administrators A+, Network+, Security+ courses in preparation for their own certification (which was to become MANDATORY for their job positions in the US Army.) Keep in mind that many companies have certification requirements for various positions. Whether or not anybody agrees or disagrees with it is irrelevent -- the fact of the matter is that the requirements exist and unless you have the right magic letters, no point to even apply. (Just as many firms now demand degrees.)

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

I said that you'd want to consider whether you want to work for someone who makes decisions like that. It's an indicator of the culture and values of your potential client. I've had a few engagements with big corporations that sprout red tape and unthinking requirements. I've been through their hurdles, got my drug testing, etc. and had successful engagements. But I personally prefer small, agile, "do what makes sense, and no more" clients.

frederick.b.beltzer
frederick.b.beltzer

No doubt Tony, I completely agree. I have never wanted for work. I guess the big difference is working US DoD contracts sometimes requires a minimum of "paper" to meet certain requirements for the contract. In addition their are caps on paying employees based on education in some contracts! Not always fair but I am not king of the universe. I take free money and education when I can get it! :-) Well I guess it isn't really free they get their pound of flesh no matter what!

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Three months out of work since Jan 1981, and that was between contracts... Plenty of work for those who can do. Proof is in the pudding, not the paper.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

yep said I didn't have one... Beefing up recruiter contracts, no problem with that. In fact there's a few I'd like to kick the ass of for wasting my time as a candidate. We can talk about paper certs, claimed experience, degrees, clueless HR and recruiters, but the real problem is business's see it as cheaper to buy in ready made employees, than investing in creating them. We are arguing about ready for what and how you tell. These are symptoms the real problem is business's can come up with sound reasons to get rid of a good employee on the basis that if they get it wrong they can just get another. Not true is it? Ther are good employees and bad employees. Good employees can acquire new skills and tools, bad ones are a waste of effort no matter what their skill set. So keep the good, get rid of the bad, watch these issues diminish in importance. Of course this means an up front and ongoing cost, with potentially fuzzy benefits, not to mention a long term mindset. All unpalatable to the corps.

Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

It's easy to knock a system -- but much more challenging to actually propose a workable solution. Would you be happier if the recruiters did pre-testing for you? Or would you insist that all candidates do pre-testing for you directly? What prevents cheating on these tests? What value are the tests going to be relative to the work that needs to be done? It isn't like anyone has TIME to do that level of screening -- certainly nobody I know has time to come up with suitable, validated test questions to throw at people. Keep in mind that any solution must be practical. As I mentioned before, YES, there will be cheats and liars -- but they should be pretty easy to spot. In the UK, recruiters are a dime a dozen and are competing tooth and nail for clients -- just tell the recruiter that if they don't send you the BEST candidates, and ones who match up with their claimed expertise -- you'll dump them and move to the next recruiter. This would be in addition to the 'free replacement' option offered by most recruiters. Tell the recruiter you won't pay a penny if the candidate can't survive the first week -- that gives a wake-up call too. It is amazing how quickly the quality of the candidates improves after that. (Saw exactly this at my most recent contract.)

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Simply that it doesn't have the intrinsic worth that certain people ascribe to it. Lets face it certs, even degrees didn't get a bad rep from orrible oiks like me not bothering to get them. They got one, because both the disrepuptable and to a certain extent the reputable saw a way to make a large number of fast bucks. I can't think of a real solution, but I do know that any claim that none is needed, is seriously bogus. Nine candidates got through to me last time I interviewed for a position. All had certs, all had degrees, all claimed experience, six were lying their asses off. Too high a ratio for me, and I wonder about the people I didn't see, because they didn't make the recruiter's cut....

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

99% of IT people do not need a PhD , nor can I see anyway they could apply the gain they got from it, they certainly wouldn't get paid for doing or having it. So for nearly all of us, career wise a total waste of time, money and effort. Personal satisfaction and enjoyment is a different animal of course.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

can be a bit fuzzy, in terms of exactly what it is. Basics carry over from one job to another, specifics rarely do. In our disciplines there are a lot more right answers, to specify any technical question to where there's only one possibility, you've prety much wrote the answer on the paper and stuck a ? on the end of it.

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