I have received a couple of comments lately about Certification and taking me to task about my support for certified people. Here’s is Part One of Three (or more) about Certification and why it matters.
I am often involved in helping to interview and select people for network positions. Even after Human Remorse has ‘filtered’ the resumes and ascertained that people match the position criteria, there are still thirty to fifty resumes for a single position. How do I make that judgement ? What criteria can I use to select someone who has technical competence ?
While I can agree that:
- passing an exam doesn’t necessarily make good engineers (( Yassin Perriman here))
- good engineers might have achieved qualification
- there is no replacement for experience on the job (( (2) Anonymous on a recent post ))
- there are other skills that a make a good employee
its not that simple.
Let me discuss a few points about certification that you may not have thought about if this is your viewpoint.
“I have equivalent Experience”
I recently interviewed someone who claimed to have CCIP and CCSP level of expertise. His resume didn’t really support that, but he did have enough experience to suggest that he might be telling the truth.
So my first technical questions was about MPLS, but he had no experience of that. And he had done no study of the topic. My second question was about QoS, but he had no experience of that either. So I moved onto Security questions, he had some firewall experience but no experience or knowledge of IPS systems, Content Filtering or Application Proxies.
So now, I have a candidate who claims to be a Network and Security Specialist, but has no fundamental knowledge of MPLS, IPS, SSL VPN or QoS. And absolutely no experience of these topics. The process of finishing a CCSP (( Cisco Certified Security Professional)) tells me that you should have learned all of these Security topics, and CCIP means you should know a fair bit about QoS and MPLS.
Experience teaches you about things you know or need to know. Certification forces you to learn things that you don’t know, or haven’t needed in your current job. This is important because the next job will be different, and have different methods or technology. I don’t want to teach you what you don’t know becuase there isn’t enough time in the real world.
A friend of mine summed it up this way “If you have five years of experience in one job, then you have five times one year experience”. Repeating the same tasks is not experience, you need to learn new things to be valuable outside of your current company.
Study methods matters
One of the areas that is not well understood, is that if you rely on experience as your best skill you are showing that you cannot, or will not, study. That is, you are not good with textbooks and learning.
There are many jobs where someone who does repetitive work is needed, but there are many more jobs where the person needs to be moving fast to keep up, to gain new knowledge. It is your choice as to which you choose. But I don’t want to be hand feeding you, I want someone who can learn on their own, using the Cisco web site and some textbooks. As a workmate, I am perfectly willing to spend time working on something that you are struggling with, but I absolutely do not want to be teaching you OSPF link state announcements.
Its your choice
Now, if you cannot, or will not, pick up a text book or web site and learn new stuff then that is a career choice. You have chosen a path that, most likely, has no progression and limited opportunities for promotion. And it is human nature that you will think that experience matters more than certification, but you are mostly wrong.
On the other hand, if you want to move onwards and upwards to face new systems and configurations, the fastest way is to start learning. Make sure that you are learning the things you don’t know because that’s the next job.