[Guest Blogger] - Does Certification Really Matter Any More?

[Guest Blogger] - Does Certification Really Matter Any More?

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Having held an MCSE for as long as I can remember, and realizing that many IT Pros out there have gone through and are going through the process of getting certified or upgrading their certification - me included - I asked Jennifer Waters, who manages the Learning and Certification Program and the CPLS (Certified Partner for Learning Solutions) channel to provide her perspective on the issue of certification in a series of blog posts.  Here is the first one.

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I have been having a lot of discussions lately around certification.  And 2 items in particular keep popping up - what is the value of certification and how exactly does the new generation of certification work?

Since both of these can be fairly weighty topics, I thought I would concentrate on the value in my first blog post.

Let's talk about the elephant in the room.  I mean, if we are going to discuss the value of certification I should identify the real question, right?

Does certification really matter anymore?

I'm not going to lie to you, I work for Microsoft and I believe in certification.  But, and this is a big but - I have been on both sides of the fence on this one before coming to the realization that it does matter.

Let's take a look at the arguments.

It takes a lot of studying.  And, what do you learn in the end that you couldn't learn on the job?

I started my life at MS in product support; supporting Word, PowerPoint and a variety of odd products (remember Works?).  Thankfully for me and more importantly our customers, I have moved on but not before I had to attempt certification.  

My first foray was in MOS certs, i.e. Word and PPT - I know, you don't have to say it! These are hardly the same thing as an MCSE.  Anyway, I studied for them (ha), passed with relatively little pain and moved on to my first MCSE exam. 

Needless to say, I didn't study enough (I thought I did) and my brain doesn't care to remember these types of facts.  It is too crammed with important things like the names of Angelina's four kids (she's got a new one in case you haven't heard). 

The whole point of this is to tell you that I get it.  Getting a cert is not like going in to a store and buying some toothpaste.  It takes a lot of personal time and effort.

But remember university, high school?  Remember studying for exams?  There were a ton of facts that you memorized but don't remember any more. What all that studying gave you was broad knowledge.  You might not remember the dates of WW II but you probably know what underlying factors triggered the start of it. 

Certification is the same thing.  There are definitely questions in the exams that rarely come up in real life, but it gives you a foundation to leap from.  If you've got a ton of experience, it updates you and jogs your memory.  Some of those out of the ordinary facts just might come up one day and if you are certified you'll be the hero that solved them instead of that shmuck that you have to work with.

Related stats:

  • Certification improves project delivery and deployment - IT organizations with at least 25 percent Microsoft Certified staff had a 15 percent increase in projects deployed on time and within budget*
  • Organizations that have Microsoft Certified staff, reduce unscheduled downtime by 18%*

* IDC Study on Certification, 2003

Stay tuned for my next installments where we discuss "My manager doesn't care or certification won't help me find a job", and "What does the new generation of certifications mean to me".

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Jennifer Waters started her career at Microsoft 8 years ago. After studying Ancient Greek and Roman history (that’s right, this is not a typo), her career path was an obvious one and she began in product support at Microsoft, supporting Office.  From there, she became a Technology Specialist, within Microsoft US.  This position involved a lot of travel to such glamorous spots as Poughkeepsie, NY.   Jennifer has managed  the CPLS (Certified Partners for Learning Solutions) channel and the Learning and Certification program in Canada for the past 4 years. 

 

 

 

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  • Last night at the Waterloo-Wellington IT Pro User Group meeting, Jason Eckert discussed this very issue for close to ninety minutes. Like Jennifer, he is convinced that certification is as important as ever. Jason emphasized how useful Microsoft certification (old and new) was for entry-level positions, for reducing risk on the part of companies hiring in the IT sector, and for seasoned professionals with plenty of experience but looking for other work. The latter often find that lack of certification stands in the way of securing that alternative job opportunity they want.

    Jennifer's quoted statistics offer another dimension of the value of certification, although I have to say that I would have expected a greater differential between organizations with certified staffers and those without.

    I think the value of certification is analogous to having a graduate degree - it's like opens doors that might otherwise remain closed. The rest is up to you.

    Still, I'd be interested in further discussion on this thread from other IT pros as Jennifer writes more about certification.

  • Graham Jones (Surrey, British Columbia, IT Pro) Certification Graham Jones left a comment in regards

  • My Microsoft Learning Neighbor to the North (NTTN) colleague, Jennifer, is a guest bloggette on Microsoft's

  • I think the MCP track is the strongest it was since the last time I pushed hard at it.  For a while it watered down who was an MCSE and who isn't, because the adaptive exams and such from 5-6 years ago were too simple and flooded the market.  So many people out there now that aren't up to date, and you would know it the moment you open their AD Sites and Services.  :)

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  • A few weeks ago Jennifer Waters posted the first blog entry dealing with certification and asked the

  • There is some timely information posted on a blog managed by some of my Canadian counterparts regarding