So I passed 70-453 today, 70-453 is the upgrade exam for MCITP Database administrators on 2005. It made me think about a few things.
Is certification useful?
Is it truly reflective of a person’s skill or there “trade”? Here meaning database administration.
Personally I have used certification for two reasons, firstly I always learn something! It may sound silly but there are often parts of a technology we use for years that we never touched. If you work for a very small company you often don’t have time to dig into features you are just covering a wide area of basics. Too large a company and you get pigeon holed into specific task or roles. The sweet spot is where you are large enough to be able to specialize somewhat but small enough to get your fingers in lots of technologies beyond the database servers like Active directory, SAN’s, virtualization, SharePoint, exchange etc.
The second reason I use certification is simple – it makes it easier for companies to hire me. It may sound strange but often the people making decisions are not technical, there can be many reasons for this, so certifications makes it easier for IT management to hire a new position or hire the person they want. Of course certifications do not help you through a technical interview nor do they make your personality any more appealing so don’t think that they buy you anything no-one will be in awe of your uber certifications!.
Are certifications reflective of skills – yes and no? Perhaps they demonstrate the ability to read understand and remember information yes – beyond that no not really. I would be interested to hear from other people out there- do you actually use in your job all the technologies you are tested on? There are certainly many things in Database administration that I do that are not in the exam but I feel are part of day to day administration, Reporting services and Analysis services administration from an administrative perspective for one. There are many things that I don’t do. In my experience with other administrators I have worked with I am sure there are many that never actually do any form of high availability like mirroring or specifically clustering. How many DBA’s get to design and implement a monitoring system as opposed to inheriting. When you look at the skills measured http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/Exams/70-453.aspx there is a lot of good stuff covered that is basic and should be included. Maybe Microsoft has the test right? I think personally I knew 50% of the answers and I made educated guesses at the other 50% this was pretty reflective in my score. Perhaps certification demonstrates that someone is at least aware of the underlying functions of the “trade” being measured. There always seems to be quite a few off the wall bizarre exceptions as questions though which always leaves me somewhat disturbed.
I guess it comes down to the fact we are all different and have different opinions and skills, personally the exams I have taken have always left me feeling somewhat insecure in some way. I have often felt that by being certified I was setting myself up for failure that I was somehow misleading people/management that I had skills in something I did not or that I was opening myself up to criticism if I didn’t know the answer to something on the spot!. On the flip side I have often been able to bring up lesser know features as potential solutions, often people are surprised about features they had never heard about so there are swings and roundabouts
So for me certifications are a way of learning a product, they make me more marketable in some ways. I used to wear them as a badge on my email signature, these days they just come out on my resume when I am looking for a job.
Does Microsoft have its certifications right? Is it just the way other people/hiring managers/the industry itself that has a misconception about what they represent?
Drop me a line or leave a comment if you have any strong views
I currently work as a senior database administrator and I hold/held the following certifications
MCITP DBA 2008
MCITP DBA 2005
MCST SQL 2008
MCTS SQL 2005
MCDST charter member
Compaq accredited Platform Specialist