Thoughts on Certification

Eugene Meidinger is certifiable:

This being a complex topic, I thought I’d lay out the various factors to give a more comprehensive answer than you can easily fit in a tweet.

So the first two questions we need to answer are “Why do certs exist?” and “Why do people take them?”. Without these, we can’t give a good answer to whether you should take them. Certifications often exist for reasons that have nothing to do with your personal best interest. It is necessary to understand that fact.

Giving the economist’s spin, certifications are imperfect signals of reputation. When you know nothing else about a candidate, business partner, vendor, or ranting homeless person on the street, that cert can let you update your priors about the person. The exclusivity of the certification goes a long way in building credence: the MCM (or MCSM) has such a positive reputation even years after its cancellation because it was so difficult an exam that the only way a person could pass is if that person really knew the topic extremely well. By contrast, the old MCSE certifications from the early 2000s were a joke because anybody could memorize a brain dump, spit out answers, and get a cert.

The economist in me also says that certifications tend to be a net drain because you’re spending time on an imperfect signal when there are probably better imperfect signals out there. Your blog, YouTube/Twitch channel (assuming you’re not just playing Slay the Spire all day), and GitHub repo are going to tell me more about your interests and technical capabilities.

Read what Eugene has to say. I think we agree on the broad strokes but I’m probably more in the “not worth it” camp than he is with the exception of cases where it’s necessary to land a business contract (e.g., needing to be a Microsoft Gold Partner).

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1 Comment

  • Jeff on 2019-03-11

    I look at certs this way.
    Yes, they look nice on a resume.
    But….

    It does not mean that you really know anything. We have had plenty of job seekers with certs.
    Once you start getting into the meat of a topic on what they “know”, often they have touched on it, but do not have any in depth knowledge.

    It’s like hiring someone with a PHD. To often, they know concepts and high level things, but when asked to make it work, more times than not, they do not know how to implement something.

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