Do you need an IT Certification?

A couple of times in recent days I had the discussion of Certifications with two friends, once with Shawn Zandi, who is the Principal Network Architect at LinkedIn and another time with Hosein Khosravi who is a successful instructor and engineer!
I thought that it might be a good idea to blog on this topic with my own words and the conclusion of my own experience till now.

Disclaimer: I’m neither against nor with certifications. I’m not telling you to be certified or not; I’m not devaluing people who have made legit efforts to get certified and totally respect them and their achievement.
I’m just looking at it from my own perspective.

You can find lots of posts on this topic in the Internet from all the experts. Usually you’ll find two types of answers; the “marketing” and the honest ones!

You can detect the marketing persuasion by phrases like:

  • You have to be certified to be hired!
  • You have to be certified as an indication of your knowledge and expertise!
  • This certification guarantees your job!
  • This is the most valuable certification on the market!
  • Your earnings will boom!
  • Holders of this certification get paid the most!

Well, they could be true, but only to some extent; but I believe less than 10% of the time! I’m not saying neither certification is bad nor it is good. Let me dig deeper into it.

Basically, achieving a certification means that you have put enough efforts and dedication to pass an exam. That’s great, congratulations!
Similarly, earning a University mainly means that you have been a good learner.

First, I’ve to admit that sticking to a plan for a certification could bring dedication into your studies. Personally, I’ve also many times started to gain knowledge about a concept by following a certification path;  but that should never be an end and boundary to grasp a technology!

Have in mind that the reality is usually different from exams.

Exams usually teach you the techniques but not the tactics. You’ve to be prepared for the complexities and harsh situations; you’ve to be able to manage your time, keep pace with new technologies, use them to make your work more efficient and play a part in connecting people and services!
Besides, You should be able to network with people and learn how to discuss your ideas and present yourself.

Be curious and find the original idea behind a thing; i.e. was there a problem out there that made engineers to create that protocol? Did it solve their issue?

Imagine yourself in different situations and scenarios; then challenge your creativity to propose something. This is a best practice!

Read the standards and scrutinize the concepts in detail; google and read what others say about the concept; think out of the box and try to figure out other possibilities; dig the RFCs deep and even maybe you can contribute to one!

Again, studying and learning is always good, whatever the reason is. Just you should be cautious of not getting bound to a vendor. Get to know what’s going on around, know the market and today’s business need; read, read and read and make some educated guesses for the future! Have in mind that the half-life of IT skills is less than 2 years. You should be fast otherwise you’ll be left behind.

So, I believe the honest and truthful answer is that, you have to earn the knowledge by dedication, hard work, experience, curiosity and creativity. A vendor’s certification can’t be a good measure of someone’s knowledge in the IT era today; you’re not bound to vendors anymore; at the end of the day we’re going to live in the IoT and SDN world. (Yeah, they’re the new fancy words)

You should add value to the certificate; not the certificate to you!

If you’re confident of having the knowledge, and you’re able to discuss and demonstrate your skills, then you’re at it! Don’t panic and let your expertise talk for itself.

A good approach could be to become certified when it’s needed; yes, sometimes vendor partners need certified people for specific projects to get discounts and support contracts; I call it a practical approach. This brings a win-win result. You get the knowledge, certification, and money.

It’s not a vendor to approve If you’re an engineer, architect, consultant, etc.; it’s you and your knowledge!

From all the articles out there, Russ White has done a great job writing on this and related topics; I totally recommend reading the posts below:

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