Friday, January 4, 2008

Certification - Is it worth it? - Part 3

I've done some research on what others feel about Microsoft certifications. Here are the results.

First is the perspective of a development manager:

I spoke with a former manager of mine who has been hiring developers for a number of years, some good, some not so good, and asked his feelings on this topic. He was very much in favor of certifications (he does not have one that I know of btw). Basically in his opinion certifications tell him two things that increase the chances that the candidate will get an interview.

1st: The candidate probably has the initiative and drive to achieve this for himself (or herself). He stated what we all know which is that no matter what most employers say at hiring time, they will not give you time to study nor will they provide an incentive strong enough to make it "worth your while" to achieve a certification with great personal effort.

2nd: It does indicate a certain level of knowledge in the candidate. He was quick to point out that knowledge and competency are not the same thing as he and I both know a former hire that had a certification and was less than stellar.

Next we have someone who has managed to set himself apart:

A former Microsoft consultant, Patrick Santry of, last year posted his advice on how to get ahead in this field which had some decent information (read: his thoughts are similar to mine). This is more geared toward the consultant role but I think it is relevant for most people in our field. Included was a bulleted task list, notice the first item:

  • Get certified! You have to start somewhere, and getting certified helps provide some credibility for you on a technology area. [bold added for emphasis]
  • Never turn down an opportunity; you never know where it will lead.
  • Always follow up and build from your experience. If you write a book, then promote yourself as an expert.
  • Participate online. Build a website, be active in the forums, and get your name out there. Opportunities will arise just from being out there.
  • Create a career plan. You need to set goals and objectives of where you want to be five, or ten years down the road and try to stay on the path to those goals.
  • Stay current! Probably the hardest aspect of being a consultant, but necessary.
  • Work with your local Microsoft reps. Go to the presentations, and free training opportunities in your area. This helps build your knowledge and your network.
  • Support the local user group community. If you don’t have a SIG locally, start one. Contact INETA for more information about your area.
  • Build the network. Contact every user group, or organization to see if you can promote your book, presentation, or whatever it is you want yourself to be recognized with.
Finally, we have the words of someone who has been in the field longer than some of us have been alive. I won't call him out by name but my co-workers should know who he is.

While he worked at a consulting company a few years ago, this gentleman was asked to get his certification by the company he worked for. He was told that this was mostly so the company could retain partner status with Microsoft (I too have been asked for this reason at a previous position). At first he was excited about the supposed benefits of certification including access to software, exclusive messageboards and other items.

So he studied and tested and eventually achieved his NT certification (see, I told you he was older). He took the test seriously as well, instead of just memorizing the information he truly understood the WHY of things, not just the HOW. Still, he was disappointed. The access to 'exclusive' materials was underwhelming and the messageboards were full of people complaining about how even after achieving certification they still couldn't find a job.

In the end he was glad he went through the process but was quick to caution that the end results may not be what you dream of them to be.

So basically all three of these perspectives back up what I was already thinking. Now I'm sure if you dig into it you can find opinions that directly contradict these but this at least gives me confidence that what I am thinking is valid. I probably won't post any more in this series until I have achieved something, I really need to stop typing and get to studying... I mean working :).

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