Martin Fowler pretty much echoes my sentiment about certifications in his recent post. I have lots of certifications and I need them to be able to do my job because Microsoft requires me to certify to be allowed to teach official Microsoft courses. In a way this is a good thing: as soon as you enroll for an official Microsoft course you’re guaranteed to have a certified trainer. And this will, might, should guarantee a good, valuable training experience.
I can feel a ‘but’ approaching…
Does knowing what property to set make me a good teacher or developer? The quality of the exams and the availability of brain dumps seriously degrades the value of the exams. Every once in a while there is a news item about some 7 years old kid passing Microsoft exams. I am not envious but this really makes me mad. It proves that exams might have absolutely no value in determining real life experience and the ability to solve complex problems.
So why do we take these exams?
I encounter three important drivers:
- The employee – Resume building. Potential employers and head hunters still see these titles as an indication of quality. At times, I suspect, because they are to lazy to get someone who is able to really test an applicant involved while interviewing candidates.
- The employer – Checking for the effect of a course. The employer only sends out employees to courses that prepare for exams because they want proof of the effect of the course. I can understand this need but this causes a bad side effect: during the course students are more concerned with the exam than with the knowledge and skills that are needed for their jobs.
- The exam issuer – Staying in the loop. Microsoft requires partners to have a minimum set of certified employees to continue to be a certified partner. Being a certified partner can be very useful when trying to find customers and trying to convince them of your qualities. At times this loop feels like a vicious, never ending treadmill.
Can’t you be more positive?
Sure. There are many good reasons too. It is nice to have a third party to confirm that you know your stuff. It is nice to have some sort of target to aim for and, if you can withstand the seduction of brain dumps, the feeling of accomplishment when you pass an exam.