I’ve never been a big fan of technical certifications. The primary reason being that I’ve met far to many certified people that clearly didn’t understand the material they were supposedly certified in. I once met a Certified Novell Engineer that was booting a NetWare 4.x server from a floppy disk because he didn’t understand how to transfer the DOS system files to a hard disk. He told me it wasn’t possible. Hint: sys c: – it was probably the first DOS command I ever learned way back in 1991 imaging IBM PS/2 desktops with DOS v3.3.
Over the past few years I’ve softened my position as I’ve met more and more truly talented and certified people. I still see the occasional book smart person that can answer every question correctly 99% of the time but quite literally cracks under real world scenarios and pressure. Again there are quite a few examples but one of the best examples – a senior network engineer was dispatched to replace a failed CPU/SF, the engineer was warned to make sure he only removed the failed CPU/SF and not the remaining active CPU/SF. Well you guessed it, he removed the only remaining working CPU/SF from the chassis bringing down the network.
In healthcare such a simple mistake can itself lead to a potential life or death situation, this is so much more the case today than it was 10 years ago with all the centralized monitoring and alarming. There simply aren’t enough nurses on the floor these days to monitor every patient individually. The network is critical to real-time patient care and life safety.
I’ve often referred to the Qualified Network Engineer (QNE) being just as desirable as a Certified Network Engineer (CNE). In February 2011 I wrote an article entitled, “How to separate the wheat from the chaff” on this blog. The purpose of that post was to provide hiring managers some basic non-vendor specific questions they could ask potential applicants to gauge the candidate’s depth of knowledge and understanding.
Years later, wiser and more seasoned, I now see a benefit in holding a few certifications from a career path standpoint, in conjunction with a deeper technical understanding of the products and technologies employed in each solution. Last fall I decided to seek out a few of these certifications to enhance my resume and round out my real-life work experiences. To date I’ve accumulated the following certifications;
- Avaya Certified Support Specialist (ACSS)
- Cisco Certified Network Associate Routing and Switching (CCNA)
- Juniper Networks Certified Associate – Junos (JNCIA)
- Juniper Networks Certified Specialist – Security (JNCIS)
- VMware Certified Associate – Data Center Virtualization (VMA-DCV)
I’ll be the first to admit there’s nothing really special about any of the certifications above, they are just very basic entry level certifications for each vendor. I will say that the JCNIS was probably the hardest one but even it wasn’t too difficult. I say that since I work with all of these technologies day after day so they are very familiar to me. That’s not to say that there aren’t always a few questions on these exams which leave me scratching my head.
What’s next you ask? Well, I’ll probably complete the CCNP because its probably the most interesting to me personally. I could probably pass the CISSP as well but I’m not sure I have the time to commit in covering all that (boring) material. And if they ever change the prerequisite requirements for the VMware Certified Professional (VCP), I’d like to complete that certification since I spend a lot of my time working with VMware vSphere ESXi these days.
What’s your opinion of IT certifications? Which ones do you hold today? Any future plans? Career growth or technical development?
Image Credit: Mortar Board 2 by Renata Jun
I learned ccna and ccnp in academy bunt I didn’t pass exam. Today I work with cisco and Avaya ers. Later I want passed on ccna.
Michael McNamara says
Thanks for the comment Oleg.
Nice post Michael,
in my opinion the sense of gaining certifications can be quite different. Not only for certifying the individuals personal engineering skills, nowadays vendors require partners within their channel network to certify their staff, even if the reseller never sells 100% of the vendors solutions. You are still required to pass all the topics in the exam to pass it.
Take the CCNP – Switching & Routing for example, you might will never install some bgp routers or similar advanced routing topologies, but you are required to pass the whole CCNP to raise the partner level of your employer. Same with other vendors, Brocade’s SAN path is a quite a good example for that as well.
As long as the vendors don’t split up their exams or certifications to more granular ones you will probably always find people, and I count myself surely to them, who are certified for a specific technique of a vendor or a whole technique path, but don’t cover real world experience of 100% of all the topics within that exam.
It just depends on the reason why the individual took all the time to certify her/himself. Some are keen to new technologies, some, as stated, for their partner level, some through real world experience and filling up their CV, some and that’s what my reason was, being at least able to handle all the theory of a specific technique, since the employer just doesn’t sell it, but you are convinced you will need this technique in the future or with other employers.
But yeah, in the end you are absolutely right, nothing beats real world hands on experience with networking gear and that’s what makes you successful and considerable for a good position within interviews for employers, everything else is just a cherry on the creme. The individual should be true about their reasons of becoming certified of whatever, then all is fine.
Michael McNamara says
Thanks for the comment Maik.
Robert Juric says
I used to place a high level of importance on certifications, but I was just beginning my career and was using them as validation of my skills in lieu of much experience. As I’ve grown in my career and experience the luster of certifications has worn dull. To me they can be gold stars pinned onto an already experienced engineer, but alone they don’t care much weight with me anymore.
I wanted to work for an xxIE level certification, but my current employer could care less about certifications. Without employer support it doesn’t make much sense in my opinion. I’ll probably try to hold my certifications steady at the Professional level, but that really just depends on how long I want to finance them myself.
Michael McNamara says
It becomes really challenging when 1) you’re footing the costs and 2) your employer doesn’t really value the certifications your interested in. I was in somewhat of a similar situation and found some creative ways to get the costs down (reached out to the vendors looking for discount codes and such), and while my current employer didn’t place any value in the certifications I sought, my future employer was very impressed. ;)
Thanks for the comment!