Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why isn't getting certified like getting a drivers license?

When I posted the other day about certification, I was being honest, it will bring us quite a bit of money, especially when we are done with them all over the next couple weeks, but I still don't like the whole idea.

While discussing this with a few people the idea that one studies for the exam, using whatever mock exam tools there are and then passes the exam seems to be a bit pointless.

Yes, I know, there are customers who expect it or demand it and some people that really believe in it, I'm just not one of those people. Never have, never will.

If you are an experienced individual and are taking the exams to set yourself apart from others, or even from within your own organization, that is a valid reason. After all if it will help you get a raise or promotion or a better job, why not?

If you are not very experienced or worse, have none, and you take the exams and then put yourself out as a Lotus or other product expert I have major issues with this.

And these types of people are out there, more and more, although it seems like they are almost all Windows Server or Exchange admins.

In my case I have never wanted to get certified. Aside from a handful of projects over the last 18 years or so, I can not say having any certs or not having any has mattered one bit. In fact, I missed more projects(and sometimes training events) because of religion related issues.

IBM and other vendors want to put forth their best foot forward, proud that they have gold level or whatever type of Business Partners. I don't blame them, but does it make a difference to the customers? Sure in some types of organizations, but in general no customer we were engaged with any projects ever stopped to ask me what we are certified in or when. So if our certs were for Lotus Connections, yet we are working on a Quickr project should or would that disqualify us? We hope not, but we have numerous Quickr projects to back up our work and knowledge.

Having certs or every cert does not make the partner. It may in IBM's eyes, but projects are not won on certs, they are won on relationships and the ability to actually talk to the customer on their level about the business, the technology and the future. No cert can provide that, nor can it ensure that the partner you are working with is honest and open about what they know or don't know or if they are going to pull a Microsoft Partner line and hit you up for money when you are deep in problems.

Unlike a driver's license, which one truly must pass in a live automobile on a real road sometimes in horrible weather, a paper or electronic test that does not involve real live workings or products just doesn't have that same authenticity to me, sorry I am just from the old school where "Getting Things Done" meant "Doing It Yourself" (hopefully with your team), not sitting back and saying you have a degree or a cert or don't get paid to "do" that work.

Save the server from crashing, produce an application using only 13 Lotuscript functions (and if it isn't possible be able to explain why or what is needed to accomplish the task), build a working LDAP environment, push out email to only one group of people, some of which no longer exist and where do they go if they don't exist? Active, realistic testing is much more important because this person being interviewed may or may not need to bother you at 3 in the morning sometimes.

The problem is unless you interview this way, you can not hire good people either. I generally do not interview people with certs that make no sense from their resume or the job being applied for. I can't put someone in front of a computer and say, fix it or do it. But I do ask open ended questions around issues that can appear. To be fair, I pick some from my blog posts to see how much research prospects do.

To all those who worked hard to get their certs through the years, I am jealous of you all. You did it when it really meant something to have it, or so it seemed to me.

Maybe if I had been thinking about it differently over the years I would have done it sooner, then again as I am a horrible test taker(something about always seeing a different opinion of what I am reading) I was a self fulfilling prophecy.

For now I am happy we meet the requirements and will continue to do so as long as we are an IBM Business Partner.