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:

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

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.