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[Slightly OT]: Is certification worth it?

by rozallin (Curate)
on Feb 28, 2005 at 13:41 UTC ( #435051=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

As some of you may already know I left full-time traditional University last year for financial and personal reasons and am now continuing my degree part-time with the Open University (which I'm so far finding much more enjoyable and rewarding). I had hoped that now I am no longer studying full-time I could gain some "real-world" experience and have in recent months been looking for an entry-level IT job suitable for a school-leaver with some college education. Unfortunately because I'm not eligible for unemployment benefits and still have credit card and overdraft debt from my student days I now need some income desperately. I'm about to accept a full-time position at a well-known multi-national fast-food restaurant for the minimum wage of £4.10 an hour.

This morning I was contacted by an IT company based in North London which was apparently so impressed with my CV which they found through a recruitment agency that they were calling to arrange an interview. Unfortunately, my fiancé has had dealings with this company in the past; they said the same thing to him and when he went for the interview they gave him a talk about how essential IT certification was to the industry in an attempt to persuade him to part with over £1,000 for an ECDL. When I explained that I had heard of their company and was aware of what they do the lady on the phone tried a different approach, trying to persuade me to enrol on their "Complete Learning Programme", which is the ECDL, A+, N+, MCSE and CCNA at a cost, after applying a lot of pressure on her to find out, of £8,000 (just over $15,000 USD).

I've been to school with people who have thought that they could jump straight into the industry with an A Level in Maths and graduation from the Cisco Network Academy Programme and have seen them fail dramatically. Conversely, I know a number of senior skilled programmers I respect whom have lost their jobs to people straight out of high school who know only what they've been taught on these certification courses. I'm a great believer of Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years and I have to say that the actions of this company this morning haven't made me look any more favourably on the whole issue of certification, but I'm now beginning to think that at least without my degree it may have to be something I need to consider if I want some pregraduate IT experience. (although that company won't be receiving my custom, of course).

Firstly, I'd be interested to know what you think of certification; in terms of how it helps in finding employment and how useful it could be in filling gaps of knowledge. Is there a general consensus as to which certifications are more worthwhile than others? Or should I eschew the whole notion of certification (and to a lesser extent real-world experience – the IT job market seems competitive enough for those with degrees and/or experience, let alone small fish like me) and instead focus on my studies, becoming the best programmer (as opposed to language-of-the-month coder) I can be and deepening my involvement with the Open Source community? (That sounds more enjoyable, at least).

Secondly, what would you do if you found yourself in my situation? I have a vague idea of the next step I should take, but I'd like some guidance and perspective. Thanks in advance.

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Re: [Slightly OT]: Is certification worth it?
by naChoZ (Curate) on Feb 28, 2005 at 14:32 UTC

    Just from my own personal experience, I tend to be wary of companies that put that much emphasis on certs. I tend to think it's their own lack of understanding of anything technical that makes them rely on others (the certifiers) to make sure someone can do the job. Some of the bosses I've had actually think LESS of an individual when they bother to include a certification on their resume/cv that is are very low level cert. One of them actually said, "That one just means he actually has a home computer... BFD."

    I've met some real certified idiots in my time. I've met an Enterprise MCSE that couldn't even work a gui ftp client in Windows as well as some truly incompetent Cisco certified folks. They were skilled (gifted, even) at memorizing a bunch of facts long enough to pass a test and then they were done.

    I've been lucky. Every place I've worked for the last decade puts little emphasis on certs because they understand that it doesn't matter whether or not you can pass a test, it matters whether you can do the work. They aren't mutually exclusive.

    This doesn't mean you won't see "CCNP" as a requirement on a job posting, but it really means that they want someone who can handle that level of work. If you can demonstrate that you can, few places will circular file your resume.

    Take my opinion with a grain of salt though. Some of my drive comes from when I worked at Big Health Insurance CompanyX many many years ago and I applied for a decent position that opened up. The first layer of application was to go through an HR rep. This little snot who had no clue what the job was about took one look at me with my lack of cert and damn near thumbed her nose at me. Not long after, someone else scooped me up instead. Someone who told HR to go pound sand and hired me without even making me go through an HR interview. Inside a year I won the President's award (sort of an employee of the month thing) which was pretty cool in a company of 1,500+. The guy who hired me had a doctorate in Information Systems as well as two other masters degrees in other fields. So when they told me I received that award, who do you think was the first person I thought about? She was really rude, but even almost 15 years later it's a silly little vendetta I occasionally snicker about every time I'm hired for something solely on my own merit.

    "This alcoholism thing, I think it's just clever propaganda produced by people who want you to buy more bottled water." -- pedestrianwolf

Re: [Slightly OT]: Is certification worth it?
by felonius (Scribe) on Feb 28, 2005 at 14:40 UTC

    I can't answer this from a programming perspective, I can only give you my observations as someone who contracted in support roles for approx' ten years and has recently gone perm. The was partly due to the reasons you hint at above, namely lots of young, cheap people with no experience but lots of exams who suddenly become experts ! :-)

    I find it strange that any reputable agency would give out your CV to another company, they normally like to play things close to their chest and should contact you before forwarding your CV to anyone but this appears to be indicative of the whole agency industry these days. Was this a bona fide IT agency or someone like Adecco, or Alfred Marks, your common or garden temping agency? When I started contracting you would lodge your CV with an agency and then update them as you progressed through contracts and they would phone you if they had a likely contract. Nowadays, you have to apply for each job even if it is with an agency who already have your CV. It seems to be that all they are interested in is harvesting CVs and I suspect there is a trade in selling them as well. If you are concerned about agencies, there are contractor websites(sorry don't know any off the top of my head) that would be worth reading and may tip you off about bad agencies. You don't need to be thinking about contracting to check them out.

    with regard to certification, I have worked with people who have no certification and been excellent. I have also worked with people who are certificated upto their eyeballs and been less than useless. We had one contractor (MCSE) who wouldn't do any support(desktop, server) "I'm here as an architect" he whined, he was kicked out the next day ! It would certainly do no harm to study for some certification and would remove the opportunity for them to discard you at an early phase, but there are other options to these so-called professional training companies. Local colleges, night school and good old doing it yourself with the manuals and test questions. In your situation I would go the self paced training route.

    So far as getting work goes; have you tried jobserve and searching for contract/permanent roles in your local area ? There always seem to be plenty of junior roles advertised - even think about desktop support roles etc and work on your programming in your own time(as a non programmer I can't really say for certain, but if you did contribute to Open Source projects etc. and have something to put on your CV, it should help) - it's all experience. All you'd be looking for is a foot in the door position. I've no idea what part of the country you are in, but you could try The Evening Standard in London on wednesdays(I think) for IT jobs, or other local rags.

    Sorry if I sound like a TOG (when I was young we used to live in shoebox in middle of road etc. etc.), anyway I'll be interested to hear other peoples take on things.

Re: [Slightly OT]: Is certification worth it?
by g0n (Priest) on Feb 28, 2005 at 14:41 UTC

    First up, you have my heartfelt applause and admiration for keeping going and taking the part time route. You'll get a lot of support from the OU themselves, and other OU students (and its amazing how many you'll meet in everyday life).

    Secondly, you also deserve applause for being willing to take a mcjob in extremis to pay the bills.

    As to your question, I would not advocate commercial certification as a route into the industry for private individuals, especially not the more 'advanced' (i.e. expensive) certifications. Most of the commercial certification schemes (CNE, MCSE, A+ etc) are priced for companies. IMO you simply will not see the benefit of paying anything up to 10k for a certification which, without experience, is of dubious merit. Most of the boot camp companies pumping out high pressure advertising, suggesting a high paying career in the computer industry after a couple of weeks training at considerable expense, are IMHO carpet baggers after your money. I used to recruit a lot of technical staff for my last employer, and what I was interested in (sorry!) was experience, pure and simple.

    A previous employer put me through several of these things (CNE, MCSE, CCNA, PSE) purely because they got large discounts from the manufacturers for having certified staff. Once I'd left their employ (paying back quite a large amount in training fees) the certifications did me no good whatsoever.

    ECDL, incidentally, can be done at minimal cost, at your local HE college. No requirement to pay large sums of money to carpet baggers at all.

    For my part, I got into the industry after leaving school at 16 by working in a dull, dead end job in a small insurance company, who suddenly found a requirement for someone who could write code (however badly) on the cheap. I've met a lot of people who got in the same kind of way. IMO you're more likely to get worthwhile IT work based on word of mouth, being in the right place at the right time, and/or being involved in the open source community than putting yourself in swingeing debt for years to come. If you're sufficiently interested in programming to be hanging around here, you'll find something eventually.

    Oh, and make sure your CV says you're an OU student. Especially in this industry, you'll find that a bigger recommendation than anything else.

Re: [Slightly OT]: Is certification worth it?
by Joost (Canon) on Feb 28, 2005 at 14:13 UTC
    What kind of job are you looking for? What kind of experience do you have right now?

    If you already have some experience in programming etc, you could possibly get an employer first and let them pay for any courses/exams. You might not make a lot of money, but it'll probably pay more than fast-food and I would guess it'd be more fun :-)

    If feel you need a certification, you can probably buy some books, study at home and do just the exams for a lot less than 8000 pounds. For instance, IIRC the sun java certification exams cost about 250 euros, add a couple of hundred for the books and you could save yourself a lot of money. Dunno about the MS exams, though.

Re: [Slightly OT]: Is certification worth it?
by rir (Vicar) on Feb 28, 2005 at 15:13 UTC
    If I were in your place I would dismiss the idea of certification, the idea only came to the fore due to the deceptive practices of a "recruiting" company. They can't sell it on its own merits.

    I counsel you to focus on your degree program as much as possible. Three rationales: First maintain positive inertia. Second, a partially completed degree will have its worth discounted and will depreciate drastically over time. Third, you have already demonstrated your belief in the value of your studies.

    It is apparent that you have doubts, exacerbated by your present difficulties, I would point out that you might have similiar feelings if you were in a certification program.

    I appreciate that you ask us before making your choice.

    Most fair sized boat building projects fail because the builder loses heart. The builder is a beginner; as mistakes are made the builder sees that the boat will far fall short of the dream boat she envisioned. She loses heart.

    I was glad to learn that bit about boats before I got too far with my boat project. I was slower to realize I am another boat that I build.

    Be well,

Re: [Slightly OT]: Is certification worth it?
by samizdat (Vicar) on Feb 28, 2005 at 15:15 UTC
    I don't have a degree in CS or EE, or a cert of any kind, and I've often been slighted for that lack. However, I always found small companies that loved my attitude and creative capabilities. Stay away from the BigFCorp's, and find a small company that has a one-man SWAT team (That's software writing and testing, of course) and get hired as his assistant. You'll get the flexibility you need to finish your degree, although you'll probably burn lots of darkness, too. I always found it to be thoroughly enjoyable because the whole company literally turns on your work. I went from 31G to 64G at one place in about 3 years, and that was only my 3rd real computer job.

    One caveat... that's a programming ladder, not IT. I find IT types and departments are much more ossified than programmers, and programmers are a heck of a lot more valuable. I look at IT (as in network admin) and I think it's a scary place I wouldn't recommend going. If you have any talent at programming, jump on it and polish it. You'll get hired.
Re: [Slightly OT]: Is certification worth it?
by Tanktalus (Canon) on Feb 28, 2005 at 17:19 UTC

    I suppose I'll put in from the perspective as a prospective interviewer. All other things being equal, I would likely look at certifications as an area that you've shown interest in. However, all things are rarely equal: I would worry more about your actual accredited degree from a reputable university or college (as may be applicable to your country - colleges here in Canada are usually not accredited degree-granting institutions, unlike in the U.S., and I know nothing about the U.K. system), and your in-field experience. Even if that in-field experience is open source. (In some ways, that's even better, since I can go and look at samples of your code, buglists, etc., before the interview - we can then go over your code with some really technical questions!) I want to know what you have done, and how that makes you a better candidate for the position I have to fill. Certification rarely answers that question.

      Even if that in-field experience is open source.

      Well, IT is much more than writing code. Open source code can act as a portfolio, and can be useful for an interview (although it can't answer many of the questions an interviewer will find important). But code can't show your experience/knowledge of a certain OS, or hardware. I do have code I can show, but I also have solid knowledge and experience of several major Unix platforms. Which, for many jobs, is far more important than any code I have written.

      I want to know what you have done, and how that makes you a better candidate for the position I have to fill. Certification rarely answers that question.

      Yet it's often the only fysical evidence a candidate can present. I would never hire someone purely based on the existence of certification. But if I have to pick between two candidates, all other things being equal, the fact that one has the certification, and the other doesn't, might drop the scales in favour of the candidate with certification.

      My advice is, if you can get certification without paying an arm and a leg for it, go for it. Noone will not hire you because of having a certification, and it may help you to secure a job. If only for getting through the HR filter. Or by being noticed by a recruting agency.

Am I the only one who thinks this is a scam?
by jhourcle (Prior) on Feb 28, 2005 at 22:11 UTC
    when he went for the interview they gave him a talk about how essential IT certification was to the industry in an attempt to persuade him to part with over £1,000 for an ECDL. When I explained that I had heard of their company and was aware of what they do the lady on the phone tried a different approach, trying to persuade me to enrol on their "Complete Learning Programme", which is the ECDL, A+, N+, MCSE and CCNA at a cost, after applying a lot of pressure on her to find out, of £8,000 (just over $15,000 USD).

    I admit, I don't know about hiring practices in the UK or EU, but it seems rather odd to me that someone would contact you on the basis of your CV, but then suggest that you get some extra certification, at your expense.

    I'm guessing that they also don't want to hire you until after the certification is complete, and they haven't given you any sort of documentation that would assure you of a job with them should you successfully complete the class. As they are the ones offering the certification, I would think that their cost of the class would be negligible for you to fill an empty seat in a non-full class. (I took a few Oracle classes for US$40, because I worked for the university that was offering the classes ... sure, I spent a few months when their incompetant record keeping resulted in them telling a collections agency that I owed US$3k, but it got cleared up, after much annoyance).

    If they really wanted to hire you, they'd bring you on at a reduced rate, and pay you while you were taking classes, and they'd pay for the classes.

    What would I do in this situation? I'd report them to whatever sort of fraud-reporting organizations you might have available, for potentially deceptive selling practices. If you want to take the classes -- you might want to contact a lawyer -- it's possible that you might be able to get some way to take the class, and then reclaim the money for the certification if they do what I think they are planning. (of course, would you want to have a certification from a company that might do such a thing? I know I wouldn't)

      Oh no, it's worse than you think. They don't want to hire me at all, because they style themselves as a training company which has a dedicated recruitment team who when not harassing people like me use the same recruitment agencies that anyone else with a computer and Internet connection can use to put people forward for jobs. So there is no job, only a promise from them that if you don't have a job within six months (note job, not job in IT or other field vaguely relevant to the certifications you've shelled out for) they'll refund your course fees.

      You're right in that this is an unusual hiring practice in the UK and I'm not entirely sure why the otherwise reputable recruitment agency that this company must have mined my details from allows this company to do this (or why they are allowed to advertise "jobs" on the agency's website with descriptions that state that candidates would be expected to pay for their own further training). I believe that the company is misleading people but I'm not sure what recourse I could take if any, primarily because I don't know enough about the company as the telephone conversation this morning was the only contact we have had and hopefully ever will have (in other words, no harm done). I do find it strange though that I haven't found or heard any negative experiences about it other than what Matt and I experienced.

      Rest assured, my original question was not whether or not to get a certification from this training company (when they first contacted me this morning I hung up as soon as they introduced themselves - besides, if I had £8,000 to burn I wouldn't be desperately looking for a job nor applying for full-time work at a fast food restaurant) but more about what I should do in terms of gaining some experience prior to graduating from University and whether some type of certification would be advantageous in this endeavour.


        I have no idea what the job market is like in your area, or other opportunities, but I've seen some things that can help for building your experience, and/or help in the job market. (okay, maybe not help that much, as I'm barely one month out from having been unemployed for 7 months)

        I'm of the opinion that certifications are a way of someone vouching for you. The better thing to do is to network with tech-folks in your area, prove yourself in that arena, and then let them know you're looking for work. (now, I say this, with over a hundred certificates under my belt... although, only about a dozen of them were from classes, the others were because my work had a contract with Brainbench, and I managed to prove that I have no life.

        Having someone vouch for you in the correct field is probably of more benefit to you than someone who can vouch for your ability to wait tables. Not being one to pass up on money, when the choice is money, or no money, I'd say that money is good. That being said, if you can, I'd take a part-time job in the field I'm getting my degree in, than a full-time job in some completely unrelated field. I have my undergraduate degree in civil engineering -- And I've done nothing professional with it. (unless you count laying out desks in our new office space, or the occassional building shelves and such).

        All that my degree has done for me is to show that I was willing to put in 4 years to getting a sheet of paper. (well, 4 years for the diploma, but then, when I was unemployed last year, I found that their computer system didn't reflect that degree, so I had to spend 4 months trying to get them to fix it).

        My advice would be to work on your degree over certification. If you have the time to spare, you'd do better off volunteering your time, and putting your skills to use. I find practical experience is much more useful than standard education -- You have to learn real problem solving, and often times, learn as you go, rather than having nice little exercises that neatly package this week's lesson.

        Anyway, I'd like to stress again networking -- I got my current job tip from a former co-worker who saw a notice on a mailing list she was on. And be willing to take a job below your level -- In my case, I took a job under my abilities (it called for 2-3 yrs Perl experience, while I had 9 at the time), mostly due to boredom, but it pays the bills, and I like the folks I'm working with. If the option's minimum wage in food, or minimum wage in the industry you want to progress in, take the minimum wage in the right industry. If you can only find a part time job, maybe you can pull 2 part time jobs (one in your field of choice, one not, just to pay the wallet).

Re: [Slightly OT]: Is certification worth it?
by Anonymous Monk on Feb 28, 2005 at 15:27 UTC
    Ah, the old, reoccurring question. People never seem to tire to discuss this - see BOFs on various conferences, and even a wiki by someone from the NW corner of the US (Seattle?) I don't know whether the wikie is still that active, or whether it ever got much discussion.

    Anyway, my point of view (shared by some, disagreed with others) is that is sometimes matters. I know from personal experience that certification (in general, not Perl specific) is a big advantage for consulting firms. It can be hard work for a consulting firm to get your first gig from a new customer - the customer doesn't know the consultants yet, and all the consulting firms have to show are CVs and certifications. If the choice of the client is between "Consultant A from company X without certification, and consultant B from company Y with certification" and the client has no experience with A, B, X and Y yet, the presence/absence of certification can make the difference. Consultancies firms know that, so it will play a role when hiring. How much of a role will depend on various factors - what else the candidate has to show for, how many candidates there are, the field (s)he is working/going to work in (Microsoft certification seems to be much more common than Perl certification), the work the candidate is going to do (if you're going to (re)sell equipment of vendor V, and V requires (re)sellers to have certification, it's kind of obvious not having certification isn't going to get you far), etc, etc.

    For companies other than consulting firms, it may or may not matter. I've interviewed with companies where they ask whether I was certified (I'm not certified in anything). I might have missed job offers because of that - I don't know. OTOH, I've never been unemployed for longer than 2 weeks.

    To sum up, I believe that certification can help - but you need certification from a 'good' agency (vendors are almost always 'good'). And with 'good', I mean an agency whose certification is generally accepted as 'good' by whoever finds certification important (employers).

    Whether certification is worthwhile in the situation you describe, I've no idea. Don't know your market, don't know your skills, and don't know the agency.

Re: [Slightly OT]: Is certification worth it?
by johndageek (Hermit) on Feb 28, 2005 at 23:10 UTC

    Going back to my experience ( a long time ago), having graduated with a 2 year technical degree in computer programming (not enough to impress head hunters or some of the companies that used HR for filtering).

    First step was to do some programming as a voulenteer for some local charities. (some real world experience and some references). Also managed to work at a larger company as an intern - with pay (not a lot, but hey it was money). Spent some time keeping up with every IT related person I knew.

    One of my old instructors, who had moved to the private sector gave me a chance.

    Put in some years on Univac iron, then began to learn about those PC things. Eventually the company downsized - See YA! So I was unemployed with bills and nowhere to go. Well I did a little side programming for small companies, while going to the library in all my open time. Got the names of around 200 companies that looked like they might have some form of IT department, using the wonders of computer technology, created a cover letter that was modified for each company. Created a resume, made it one page, proofed it, re-proofed it, had friends proof it. Bought serious resume paper and envelopes. Had the resumes professionally printed (current laser technology should do now). Then sent the letters - a few each day.

    Why so much noise about the resume? Because if there are more than six resumes to be reviewed a mis-spelling is tossed, sloppy work on a resume scares me because this is supposedly the BEST work this person will do, just to impress me, if it doesn't, odds are I do not want the person.

    Unfair? You bet! But decisions are made based upon available data.

    Just for you:
    Get something on your home page that looks sharp and professional. How did you learn HTML, XML and all those other ML or tools to do this work? Tell them!

    A couple of other hints: Left University due to financial reasons, am continuing my IT studies via non University training.

    If you can show a solid base knowledge of IT, and a sincere interest in learning quickly, and on your own, someone will take a chance on you. Prove yourself by studying material needed for the job (if the job needs C, ask the company to pay for a C programming book of your choice, or a local class on C if picking up a language from a book is not your strong point). Have them pay for the book, so they know you are interested,and they also have some money invested in you.

    You have chosen a tough route, but it can be done. The pay will be low, and the hours long (because you are learning and working).

    Keep taking courses, certs, books and so on. These will increase your value to the company and to the outside world.

    Good Luck!

    P.S. I did get a job out of the 200 letters. An accounting firm that wanted to start a computer consulting branch. Scared the heck out of me, but took the job, spent five years getting the branch up and running, then got an offer that was too good to pass up elsewhere. Not to mention the fine collection of rejection letters, some professional, some downright rude - be ready for the rude ones because they can hurt a lot, try to brush those off with the knowledge that it probably was not a good fit for you.


Re: [Slightly OT]: Is certification worth it?
by ajt (Prior) on Feb 28, 2005 at 20:52 UTC

    Certification is a piece of paper. Some times it will impress someone, sometimes it will not. Sometimes the training behind it is good, and sometimes it is not. Sometimes the exam will be easy, sometimes not. Some certificates are cheap some are expensive. Alas many of these factors are not directly correrlated, the most expensive training, may be very poor, the exam may be hard but the certificate worthless and so on.

    I'm not in favour of them per se but those in positions of authority place undue importance on them, because they are too busy or unqualified to make the correct decision based on CV, references and your interview.

    If the person making the decision knows what they are doing, I doubt they will have much influence, they will be looking at you and your total skill set. If it's a typical PHB, then it may impress, which could give you the edge you need.

    Remember the world is full of MCSEs and most of them are without a clue, finding a good Windows person is very hard.

    See also from use Perl:

Re: [Slightly OT]: Is certification worth it?
by CountZero (Bishop) on Feb 28, 2005 at 23:08 UTC
    A recruitment agency actually selling certification courses? It should be reported to the Authorities and its licence withdrawn (if they have or need a licence to start with).

    That being said, indeed some PHB or HR-types will consider certificates important for lack of any real knowledge about the quality of the applicant or how to test for such knowledge.

    These are probably also companies who think 'Perl' eq 'CGI' or forbid you to use modules in your Perl code or force you to use Java since it is supported by a big name as Sun. You would probably not be happy there.

    Still as certificates have some value in this world, I wonder whether PerlMonks could not issue some certificates to its Members. As there are close to 30,000 members on PerlMonks, you would rank as a Pontiff in the top 2%. Some creative spirits could make a nice certificate for that such as: Within the larger peer reviewed community of Perl programmers, Rozallin is ranked in the top 2% due to her outstanding support given to beginning programmers, her acknowledged skills in analysing and debugging code and her repeatedly proven knowledge of programming languages in general and Perl in particular. Then add another section on the PM-site to check/issue the certificates and include the URL in your CV and presto you have a certification.


    "If you have four groups working on a compiler, you'll get a 4-pass compiler." - Conway's Law

Re: [Slightly OT]: Is certification worth it?
by fergal (Chaplain) on Mar 01, 2005 at 15:54 UTC

    A friend of mine works for a fairly big software company who interview lots of people and have very high standards (incredibly challenging technical interviews). He said they once analysed all the past CVs to see if they could find anything that would be an indicator of interview performance. Their statistical analysis found one only word/phrase that was was an indicator of good/bad performance. The word was "certified" and it was associated with bad performance.

    I thought that was funny but it does show that this company (and many others) don't care about certifications. Many good jobs are not about what you've learnt in the past, they're about what you can learn (and apply) in the future and whether you need to be taught it or you can learn it yourself. A company that cares a lot about certification is probably not one where you'll learn a lot.

Re: [Slightly OT]: Is certification worth it?
by dwhite20899 (Friar) on Mar 02, 2005 at 12:10 UTC
    As stated above, people with the alphabet soup after their name can be idiots, and those without can be brilliant.

    Those certifications are more for your employer's appearance than yours. It allows them to brag about the quality of their people, based on the existing measurement system. Until we get something like the medical fields have - board certifaction, etc. - we're stuck with this.

Re: [Slightly OT]: Is certification worth it?
by KeighleHawk (Scribe) on Mar 03, 2005 at 19:44 UTC
    A few days late, but if you're still watching this thread I thought I'd throw in how I got started. For me it was a university student job. I got a job on night shift in the main campus computer center.

    "unfortunatly" you already left the traditional university, but universities have a variety of IT groups and computer related jobs. Many other companies have a 24/7 IT need as well. I eventually parlayed my student job into a full time job and started taking fewer and fewer classes untill I dropped out.

    FWIW, night shift IT jobs are particularly useful because they often consist of starting and monitoring big jobs (backups, major print jobs, etc) and no one tends to care what happens during your shift as long as it is all done when you are finished at 8am. That gave me plenty of time to learn and practice a variety of skills that eventually launched my last 15 years as a never un-employed programmer.

    In the "who cares" department, I've finally started back to classes after not opening a text book in over 15 years. I've never had any industry certifications (though I thought about it) and even my venture back to campus has less to do with getting certified/degreed as it does with total career change.

    As many here have said, some will trash your resume just because it doesn't have the right keywords on it. Others will take interest in it specifically because it doesn't have those buzzwords. From you're perspective, there's no way to win in all cases.

    Best rule I can contrive is to get certifications if the opportunity arises and you have nothing else to do and/or don't have to pay for it. But never expect it to accelerate or jump start your career. If someone dumps you for lack of certification, just move on to another.

    I can't say I've ever seen any practical reasoning behind corporate hiring practices. I've been hired because of my recent (then) and extensive experience with Oracle Forms and SQL, only to be immediatly after hire assigned to a major Unix Shell script assignment (I'd never written even a single shell script before). I learned PERL becuase I got hired for a job based on my rather meager C skills. I later got a PERL job and had to write Visual Basic (I still wake up screaming about that one...).

    As far as I can tell, it's damn near a lottery so the only possible win strategy is to apply and interview as often as you can. Even "worthless" interviews are good because they give you practive interviewing and help you decide what YOU want. Believe it or not, that may not be as obvious as you think.

    Get a job to pay the bills, but scan the paper and any other job sources you can for something IT related. Don't do it every day because, quite frankly, it's depressing, but at least check up on them twice a week. Spend the other days doing some "fun" coding to keep up and advance your skills.

    To finish off with something inspirational, I have a friend who completed a four year degree in graphic design and decided he didn't want to do that after all. He spent several years working in retail (eg. the Mall) when he decided computers where kinda cool. He downloaded Red Hat and loaded it on his old NT machine. He then set about creating an email server, web server, etc. He spent probably 3-4 months tinkering around just for the hell of it. He recently got a job (on night shift) in a company's operations group. For his "resume" he was able to submit a URL to his web server and describe the various setup he did. He spends his night shift doing his work and continuing to tinker remotely on his personal server, advancing his skills based on what he has to do for work and what he wants to do for himself.

    You have to keep your hand in the technology. Patience and Persistence are your friends. And finally, a little well timed arrogance will be that final boost you'll need to kick it off...

Re: [Slightly OT]: Is certification worth it?
by JSchmitz (Canon) on Mar 03, 2005 at 14:56 UTC
    Maybe it is different in Europe but I have been working as a consultant pretty much non-stop for large oil companies and some geophysical companies for the last 10 years and am pretty devoid of any certs. I have a few for Sun Starfire (large servers) but those I have because my employer paid for me to have them when I was doing work for them. As far as getting a job I can't remember a single interview ever being asked for any. Now on the other hand I work only on the *nix side of the shop I think maybe in Microsoft world they may be a more regular occurence.

    IMHO you can have all the certs in the world but without real in the trenches knowledge and actually doing the job for a while you are still going to look green when you show up for the gig

    cheers -

Re: [Slightly OT]: Is certification worth it?
by zakzebrowski (Curate) on Mar 06, 2005 at 15:02 UTC
    My personal $.02 ... I personally believe that certification / degrees from colleges are noise. However, they do show to a potential employer that at least some time has been spent investigating technology x. Personally, however, I would ask a potential employee what real life experiences do you have. Can you solve problems? Have you dealt with problems that have bitten our organization in the past, and how would you deal with it? Do you personally identify problems and solutions, or do you wait for prompting from managers to solve problems?
    I would continue to do what you are currently doing, go to user groups if they exist in your neigbourhood, and participate in online communities. I would also encourage you to *give* presentations to those groups, because if it perks someones interest, it may be a way into the door of that person's organization...

    Zak - the office
Re: [Slightly OT]: Is certification worth it?
by dthacker (Deacon) on Mar 05, 2005 at 03:05 UTC
    Take the job, it's hard to code when you're hungry. Keep looking for opportunities to code for free and for pay on the side. Try and build a body of work and references that can be a real certification. It's real because you've already done the work and you have satisfied customers. IMHO, you may not want to work for the kind of place that dotes on certifications instead of experience. Best of luck Roz!

    Code On!

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