Friday, March 25, 2016

IT Certifications are still a load of BS

IT Certifications are still bullshit....

I won't accept any opinion to the contrary.  Plain and simple what IT certification was supposed to provide to non-technical people was a measurement to evaluate skills competency. It's still sold that way but the sad fact is, nothing could be further from reality.   The bulk of IT certifications are about as reliable as a Yelp! review.

It was IT that really started the current certification craze that has spread to other industries.  While some might argue that the ASE ( Automotive Service Excellence)  programs beat them to it I'd say you were wrong.

Here's why.

Where an ASE certification generally involves some of the same types of procedures for their testing, there's also a requirement to have "hands-on" experience.   In fact you can't even take the written portion of the test until you can show a period of actual work experience.  In other words, experience counts.

IT certification with very limited exception doesn't work that way. 

Check your local bookstore (if you can find one) and you'll see rows filled to the brim with certification "exam cram" books.   For many a few hundred dollars worth of these tomes is all that's necessary to effectively pass an exam.
When you crack one open you'll find it organized similar to study books for passing college entrance exams.

There's a reason for that.  Just like standardized testing in schools and the SAT's, IT certification programs are designed to "teach to the test."  No more and ultimately a whole lot less. 

In the end just like the SAT's you're going to forget 90% of the limited learning you may have gleaned from all your "cramming" anyway.

I don't know about you but that doesn't sound like a great model to measure anybody's competency.

But it's not about competency, it's about marketing...

I'll give you a recent example that happened just the other day.

As you know I've been in the field for close to a quarter of a  decade.  I cut my teeth setting up servers and networks in the days when people thought email was just a fad.  So ok,  I've been around a bit and done some stuff.

Today I went on an interview for a position that was decidedly "entry-level" but I'm a humble guy.  I've been working for less than cutting edge clients over the past few years so I'm willing to take a hit in the wallet (and as it turns out my dignity) to get up to speed on the latest and greatest.

As I at down with the hiring manager I had already done my homework.  I knew his background ( thanks LinkedIn) knew what the company did, memorized the job description and what jobs like this typically paid.

As the conversation wore on and I did my spiel about my background and experience those fatal words fell from his lips.

"Do you have any certifications?"

I did but was honest and told him they weren't current.
I've become a student of the subtleties of body language and I instantly recognized a furrowed brow after sharing that information.  He uttered, " They're not current?"

Slightly annoyed I said, "No, but the $60,000 in student loans from 2 IT degrees and 24 years experience are."

More brow action and the start of some head shaking when he said, " I need certifications to make sure my customers get helped.."

In my head I started screaming, " Wrong, wrong, wrong, 1000 times wrong!  You need competency not certification!" 
Instead of making a scene, however, I just said, "stop, we're done here."

I cut the interview short, something I would never consider doing especially since things aren't that great these days but as I said, I'm a student of subtlety.

As I got up and thanked this misguided moron for his time I looked straight at him and said, " I find zero value in certifications."

He actually looked surprised as I headed for the door.  

What, was I supposed to waste even more of our time on a job neither of us wanted me to have?

I should mention this MORON was a lord high mucky muck with the entirety of his background  not in IT but in sales over the past 20 years.  Not one day spent ever doing ANYTHING in IT but selling products.   Let's face it, a salesman sells a server the same way he'll sell you a used car.

To be honest I was actually offended that some *fat sales goon was casting aspersions on my qualification and abilities based on nothing more than being blessed by  another glorified "product."  That product  being certifications. 

* (and he was fat, like add a seat belt extender to his 7 series BMW fat)

That's all an IT certification is folks, a stupid product.  Just like your phone or your tablet.  It's a sales tool used by marketers to fool unwary customers into believing in their credibility.  As pure product, it's sold to IT folks as a shortcut to relevancy.  Problem is, It's no more a measure of ability or competency than those standardized tests I mentioned earlier.  Folks, we already know what dividends those have paid.

This interview was over the minute he professed his undying love of certifications.  He had made a judgment call based on a flawed premise.  He chose to Ignore experience and competency for the sake of a marketing tool.  He never bothered to even try to find out what I knew, he was only interested in the labels.  If he was serious he would have had a technical person in on the interview.

The arrogance and dismissive attitude is what really rubbed me wrong.  Honestly, if I'd stayed any longer I might have been much more demonstrative of my irritation with him.

To be fair, however, I couldn't expect any more from someone who was really unqualified to interview me for any technical position.  It would be like me trying to hire someone to run a nuclear power plant. 

I'd have been better served by just blowing this interview off.  As it was it cost me 4 gallons of gas just to get there.  Wasted time, wasted effort and a waste of limited resources.
It's a problem that has spread through the industry like an STD without a prescription cream.   Strangely, however, it seems that the higher the pay grade the less emphasis there is on such things.  

For example, I've yet to meet an IT manager in the past decade who had or was required to have anything like the demands for certification that I see for low and mid level IT jobs.  Apparently the guys who make the tough calls aren't chosen based on their labels.

The bottom line is that certifications are just a crutch for ignorant managers and organizations.  Think I'm wrong?  Well friend you can proceed straight to hell with due haste.  I won't bother with anyone who thinks otherwise because I've seen the detrimental effect on the industry.  I sure as hell won't be judged by anyone like that either.

I may go hungry and homeless for my point of view but hell, I will anyway if things continue on like they are.  Am I against education and keeping my skills up?  Not at all and you're missing the point.  IT certifications don't teach skills nor do they test them.  They exist only for their own benefit as a product which makes them useless as a measure of competency.  Who cares if I'm good at playing with a marketing tool if I can't fix your problem!  

Ah, and the thing that proves my point the best is the investment required to acquire this "product."  

I haven't mentioned to this point the high cost that YOU not the employer has to shoulder to get these certs.  Training materials and "classes" can run into the hundreds even thousands of dollars.  It's an industry in itself producing a product of little more than the facade of competency.  And just like any other product it must be purchased over and over again.  Here's the saddest part of it...I haven't found any company in the past 2 decades that would pay for a certification they demanded for a position.  Sorry you poor misguided souls but that aint me, I'd rather spend that money on rent thank you very much!

Until  IT certifications are administered more like the ASE program (and by the way, Why the hell aren't  they? ) they serve no purpose as anything but a sham product. 

Which makes sense, this fat moron I interviewed with knew nothing about IT other than selling products.  He was a salesman not an IT professional so I can understand why he was so enamored with certifications.  He was  just too ignorant to know any better.

If you're OK being evaluated like an IPhone or a pair of shoes then by all means enjoy your naive bliss just stay away from anywhere I'm working.

I don't need your kind of "help."