Certs for IT professionals – Another 2 cents
May 2016 · 6 minute read
There are a massive amount of mixed opinions out about whether or not certs or even degrees are actually of any use to anyone in the tech industry. I can see clear points on either side of the argument and strongly believe that it all boils down to where you’re at in your career and where you’re coming from.
You see, for me, I don’t have a degree in Computer Science, largely because I did not know early on in my life that it would benefit me let alone become my passion. What I have instead, is qualifications and vast experience in managing the operations and efficiencies of small businesses, which may be just as useful, if not more useful to any career that I may decide to pursue.
Real engineers don’t need certs cause they can prove it by just doing great things. Well, yeah if you’re a senior developer with years of experience and projects under your belt I would expect that those are what gets you noticed.
Certs get you noticed when you’re not yet at a level yet to fully complete great things. As a Junior trying to be taken seriously and having only worked on a few small personal projects, it seems that certs can help!
Well, as a lot of people out there will say there is no real value in certifications, in particular, the “free” ones on offer.
I understand a number of Developers and Seniors out there who have been coding all their lives stating that a big long list of online certifications count for nothing and it really comes down to the open source contributions and real time applications you have written yourself. I completely agree that there is more grounding and proof of understanding in having written working code.
However, my reason for wanting to become certified is not to gloat about how many certs I have or expect employers to consider me on the basis of passing those certs. The reason those certs interest me is that regardless of whether I need to learn a little or a lot to pass, I still need to learn something to gain the qualification in the first place. It also gives me a really solid direction in how to learn a new language or what fundamentals might I miss if I’d never heard of or read about them prior to actually having to research them.
From my point of view, I’m trying to learn as much as I possibly can about as many different areas of computer programming as possible because basically, I don’t only want to be a developer, I want to be a good one. A genuinely good developer. And I strongly believe that to do that you need to be open to new and changing technologies, you need to have a strong understanding of a wide range of technologies and how they interact with each other. But everyone cannot be an expert at everything, so how do you decide where you want to specialise?
As a Junior, in a position where I’m trying to make a break into the IT scene, I think at least showing high-level knowledge or an interest in a wide variety of technologies can make or break your reputation to potential employers. If I was to walk into an interview and say that I only want to specialise in one language, in one framework, in one database and not look anything else, not take any interest in underlying architecture or deployment systems or make any front end contributions I think I might as well quite literally shoot myself in the hand before I even walk in the door. Narrowing down and specialising too early could be detrimental to the rest of my career. You know the saying “Beggars can’t be choosers”, well they can try, working in a bar once I gave a homeless man a can of coke and his response was “Nah, can you get me a cold one”. Sure I gave him a cold coke, I admired that he had the balls to ask. But generally speaking, the saying goes, and when you’re looking for someone to give you an opportunity you really want to be able to give that someone as many reasons as possible to offer it up.
I like the idea of online certs for the same reason as I like to find topics I know of but don’t necessarily know a great deal about and research them to write reports on my blog describing and archiving my findings in simple English. I do that largely for my reference later on, but much like teaching someone else, it also solidifies what I have actually learned. Of course, I have a tendency to do this as another side project to writing small programs and building applications which help me learn new technologies followed by tutorials to better understand what I have done to make those programs work in the first place.
Overall, as a relatively inexperienced programmer looking to gain as much knowledge, in particular about modern or popular technologies as possible, the ability to pass even simple online certs is a definite confidence booster and I don’t think it would hurt for anyone to go and do some. At the end of the day, you will more than likely learn at least one thing from doing so and if you find yourself with some free time, half an hour or an hour, why not get something out of it? In saying that of course, I probably wouldn’t recommend listing hundreds of free online certs on your CV, although I think if you brought it up in an interview, as a Junior, to get across the point that you are interested in learning a range of technologies and like to use these more as little tests for yourself rather than genuinely useful qualifications you would more than likely make a good impression on your potential employer. If not, you should probably re-consider whether you would want to work for that potential employer given your extremely sensical reasoning for completing a few certs. Of course, everything is relative and there is more to landing your first job than just learning about a range of topics.
When applying for jobs with no certs, I managed to rapidly get about a dozen interviews and even a couple of job offers. But I had to apply to over 100 places and go through countless interviews to get to that. Now that I’m certified and maybe a little more experienced too, it would seem that getting noticed is not only no longer a factor but also I am now being approached for potential offers!