To recertify or not

Introduction

I counted them up the other day and I’ve done over 30 exams since I’ve been working in IT. Mostly in Microsoft and Cisco, with a CompTIA Security+ thrown in to upgrade my MCSE 2003 along the way. Most of those certifications have expired, having either been upgraded along the way or left to die with a modicum of dignity. This post looks at some key reasons why you might want or not want to recertify/upgrade your certification when the time comes.

Why certify in the first place?

Whilst some people in IT go all in on the certification train, others never take an exam in their career. So what reasons do people have in each camp? There are probably as many reasons as there are people I’m talking about, but some possible answers might be:

ethologically The aye’s

  • Like to measure their knowledge against a known standard
  • For vendor partnership levels and incentives
  • For the kudos amongst colleagues and peers
  • To gain vendor best practice knowledge
  • To aid them in their day to day job
  • A requirement of their employment
  • Looks good on the CV

Balāţah The no’s

  • They either know what they don’t know and pursue it in other ways or they don’t know and have no wish to find out
  • Not keen on the pressure or format of exams
  • Exam blueprint not relevant to their role
  • Got better things to do

In short, IT certifications are for some people, not for others and some just get forced to attain them.

Recertify

Why recertify?

However, the point of this post is around recertification. Once you’ve proved you have the knowledge to pass an exam, what drives people to recertify at some point in the future, sometimes three or more years later?

Again, a list of contenders would be:

  • To make sure you prove your knowledge with the new blueprint
  • Maintain that kudos
  • Maintain partnership levels and incentives
  • …in fact, the same reasons for getting the certification in the first place

Although, here is my issue with IT certifications:

  • The blueprint never matches my day to day job. It usually has a good 25-50%+ of content that I’ll probably never use
  • The whole IT certification business is a gravy train. Vendor A are selling me their product and then charging me on top to learn how to use it and more money still to show that I can prove I can use it? And we need how many ABCDs to get gold partnership? Too much hoop jumping. There is a fear that letting certifications expire means previous investment in knowledge is just lost
  • Once you’ve been in the business for a few years (let’s say 10+ for the sake of putting a number on it), I’d like to think that my previous experience and endorsements count for more than a transcript

Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones. – Sherlock Holmes

Summary

I did 75% of my 30+ exams in the first half of my career. As time has gone by (ok, and possibly as my brain has grown older), I’ve come to the conclusion that focused knowledge that can help me in the short to medium term is far more valuable than certification blueprint knowledge that might, in part, serve me for the next three years. Time is of the essence, I don’t want to be studying things I won’t use anymore.

I’ve taken this approach for the last three years and have no regrets about it at all. It has allowed me to learn many things that I would simply not have had time to if I had focused only on certifications that I needed. Don’t be afraid of jumping off the certification train.

Having said that, my CCNA (R&S and Security) was due to lapse next week and this was always my favourite exam, so I caved in and did the resit. The reason? See the list above 😉

Till the next time.

New Year’s resolutions 2013

Introduction

So another year is over and what a year 2012 was. I made the move to fully fledged network engineer and got the CCNP I had been eyeing up for a couple of years previously. Let’s not dwell on the past though (this post does that), this is a quick look at what I hope to achieve in 2013.

Certification

  1. Upgrading my Windows Server 2008 certs to MCSA2012. I was hoping to have sat this exam before Xmas but the exam centres were low on seats. It’s currently booked for 8th January
  2. I have three more exams left to achieve my CCNP Security. I am hoping to get these done by Q3 2013
  3. Guess what? That’s pretty much it. I feel like 2012 was the year of making the move from sysadmin to network engineer and part of that was getting my certs and experience up to speed. I now want to work more on the experience without having to think that attaining certification is a must. Sure, I may sit the odd exam (CCNA Data Center may take my fancy) but it’s more about rounding off the rough edges this year…and probably next year too

Blog

  1. As you can see, I’ve picked a new theme. It’s cleaner and much more basic. It’s also brighter (which helps shift the Xmas hangover) and the comments show up as I want them to. The old theme would show secondary comments in too dark a font. Please let me know what you think of the new theme…it’s not set it stone and I will take any suggestions on board
  2. More posts, but shorter. If I’m honest, I think the reason I didn’t post as often last year is because my posts were quite lengthy for the most part. That’s fine though and there will still be the odd ‘War and Peace’ post when the topic warrants it, but when I look around at other well established bloggers, most seem to be producing posts of just a few paragraphs and in some cases, just a few lines. As long as I can keep to topics people want to read about and keep the quality high, I think this is the best way forward

Knowledge

  1. In terms of networking, I want to increase my knowledge on the following topics over the next year:
    1. Cisco UCS
    2. MPLS
    3. SDN
    4. Network monitoring\troubleshooting tools
  2. I also want to invest more time in a couple of other hobbies of mine:
    1. Photography\video. This is the year I finally start taking the time to go through my collection and start deleting the crap and tagging the rest. I also want to attend a one day photography course at the local wildlife centre to get inspired
    2. Drumming. Having treated myself to a set of digital drums late last year, I am going to commit to learning how to play them properly, rather than just using them as a stress reliever (at which they excel!)
    3. Electronics. Having recently bought a couple of Raspberry Pi’s, some breadboards and fishing out my old collection of electronic components, I am looking forward to getting back in to a hobby that first inspired me as a child

Lifestyle

This one may be last but is probably the most important one. 2013 is the year I finally get my work\life balance back in order. Three years ago, I took on the team leader role at work and with that came an assumed 24\7 committment. Having stepped down from that role at the same time I moved to becoming a network engineer, there is still some work to be done in knowing when work stops and home life begins but I think that both work and home life will benefit from striking the right balance.

Summary

I hope you all have a great 2013 and hit your own targets.

Till the next time.