bridge of the enterprise: Are You Certified?

No? Why not? What are you waiting for? The high school sophomore from next door is a MSCSE, CNE, MOUSE. What’s your excuse?

OK, so maybe I am a little out of hand, but haven’t you noticed that the craze within our industry is a little out of hand as well? Every vendor, his brother and his aunt Petunia are writing tests, so they can charge others to take classes and pass tests that rarely have anything to do with the tasks we need to run our businesses. Making matters worse are the consumers of these classes, businesses paying inflated rates for the services of people who know how many lines of code within Windows NT have the letter ‘t’. Thank heaven that question has been answered.

That example may be a little extreme, but, believe me, I have taken a few certification tests in my day. There are some pretty obscure references in those suckers. While formal education of almost any sort has real value to a company, there is no substitute for real-world knowledge and experience. It never fails to amaze me when I am working at a client site and an arrogant, certified, early twenty-something comes in the room. This person then makes a statement and proceeds to ‘fix’ something by shutting down a system, service or database while the users are still working.

What is the value added by this person? If I want to crash my operations, can’t I teach a dog to pull on the power cord? There are students, not out of school yet, sending résumé’s touting their ‘certified status’ and demanding premium salaries because of it. OK, so they can boot a PC, but what do they know about respecting the integrity of data and continuous operations? Perhaps I am being a bit tough. The point is, as prudent business professionals, we are obliged to get the best possible resources at the best possible costs.

While looking for certifications is admirable, it is not and should not be a substitute for due diligence. Checking references and a little in-depth investigation will yield a significantly better decision than will a piece of paper. Hiring technical resources is a tough game, but the interviewing and selection process is no time to get lazy. In all, at least certified candidates have been through some form of education before walking in your door. This is a step in the right direction. Just bear in mind that this piece of paper does not ensure this candidate has a clue.

The fact is, like with so many things today, we are looking at certifications as an easy way to help ensure that we make good hires. And while our chances of making that good NT administrator hire increase when we hire the MSCSE, the certification does not make it a guaranteed success. Remember, these are people who have made the time to sit through the class or take the self study in order to pass a test or a series of tests.

It is tough to keep up with the changes in our industry today. Changes come so fast that in order to keep current, you could theoretically spend all of your time in class. If this is the case, how much value is there in a certification that is 10 months old? Should we immediately then begin the process of re-certification upon each new release of something? Perhaps a radical approach, like being concerned with the functions and features required to operate our businesses is a good approach. In that case, knowing how many lines of code in Windows NT contain the letter ‘t’ does not have much value. Does it?

A veteran of the IBM midrange arena since 1983, Chris Gloede is executive VP for Business Solutions Group in Wayne, Pa. cgloede@thebsg.com.