Some of the smartest people I know…

Some of the smartest people I know are ranting that certification doesn’t prove the person is worthy.  Well, of course it doesn’t.  No certification does that.

It only says you’ve met the requirements for the certificate.

Of course, they really know that.  So I don’t know why they’re making such a fuss.

A number of them have made public statements that they discriminate against people who hold certifications.  That really saddens me.

It’s true that I’ve found a pretty strong inverse correlation between collecting certifications and ability to do the work. I’m not sure I ever found a job applicant with Certified Java Programmer on their resume who passed muster when I asked them to write some code.  I am sure that I gave everyone an equal chance.

The skills to do well at collecting certifications and the skills to do well at the work are different things.  But having a certification is no indication of incompetence.  I have a CSM certification.  I also have an MS in Computer Science.  I don’t make a big deal of either one, and the classes I took for them pale in comparision to all the other things I’ve learned.  But I also learned valuable things while qualifying for both of those certifications.

I don’t collect certificates, but I do have a few.  I got the MSCS to give me credentials for work I was already doing.  Sometimes it counted against me in job interviews that my degree was in English.

Well, I’m here to tell you today that things I learned getting that English degree have been a great help in my career of software development.  There’s more similarity between a good essay and a good program than you might imagine.

And while neither my MSCS nor my CSM have opened any doors for me to my knowledge, neither should they count against me.  I implore my bigoted friends who see certification as a blot on a person’s character to reconsider.

6 Replies to “Some of the smartest people I know…”

  1. Well, I don’t think I quite fall under the category of “bigoted”, but I do add a downcheck to someone if their resume _prominently_ features their certifications. For exactly that reason, my resume doesn’t list any of my various certifications, all of which I’ve gotten because one employer or another insisted (and paid for the exams or whatever).

  2. George, you make a good point that holding a certificates should either be looked at as a bonus nor should it be considered against the person when evaluating them for a job.

    The problem is that this not clear to both the person holding the certificate nor thousands of employers. IMHO this is intensionally kept in the dark, else majority of the people would stop wasting their money on such gimmicks.

    Also when one has to find needles from haystack, the certificate becomes a filtration criteria. Which forces people who don’t hold the certificate to get one. And this is where the problem starts. The certificate becomes a mere entity to satisfy the filtration criteria for a job. IMHO it losses its original purpose.

    Also I come across a lot of people in companies who force their (dumb) ideas on others claiming that they hold so-and-so certificate and hence they have the knowledge and right to make the decision.

    In many other industries people have come up with skill based certificate which at least makes some sense to me.

  3. Hi! I’m not sure if you’re referring to me.

    What I said is that I believe that there’s a negative correlation between developer certifications and the people I end up hiring. I’ve also said that seeing a Certified Scrum Developer certificate would reduce my chances of interviewing somebody. It’s not a huge factor, but it definitely costs people points in my eyes.

    I don’t think that’s discrimination, which generally means unfair or prejudicial treatment. When sorting resumes, the whole point is to judge people on a statistical basis. As a hiring manager, my job isn’t to be maximally fair to applicants; it’s to maximize the chance of getting great people for the minimum amount of work. If I gave every applicant an equal chance, I would have to spend 50x as much time on interviews, which is not happening.

    I should mention that I don’t have any problem with people getting degrees, or other meaningful evaluations of their work; I’m in fact in favor of that. BS, BA, MS, JD, CFA? All great by me. I’m also entirely in favor of people taking classes, including classes on Scrum. Seeing classes on a resume is a big plus to me, almost as good as hobby development projects.

    However, I’ve never seen a developer certification that has any evaluative weight to it. From what I have read, the CSD won’t either. Ergo, when I see a resume that foregrounds low-grade certifications as if they matter, I will continue to be concerned that the person who made the resume has different enough values than me that they are not a good match for my teams.

  4. I feel the problem(if any) is not with the certification, it’s with the candidate. You should always ask why he/she has the certification and then use another method to gauge competence before deciding to hire(or reject). Blindly basing your decision on the certification will only lead you to problems.

  5. I invite the commentators to consider an edge case: getting a cert to get oneself into a position to gain the practical experience, which, anyone would agree, is crucial.

    Frankly, programming is pretty easy for a motivated student.

    Of course, being a good programmer — that’s a different story, I imagine. How do you get there if you don’t want to waste time with a cs degree? Certs had recommended themselves as an answer — and they have gotten me interviews.

    I just had a phone interview with a guy quizzing me from a Java book — I’ve got a bunch of java certs — but he was determined to find my skills inadequate. He asked me what I could do starting day one: I told him if he gave me a bunch of test cases I could use my certified knowledge of standard Java to build libraries — then he shifted to ask me if I knew spring/hibernate. this kind of bluffing is sadly typical of my interaction with the community — even on a personal level with programmer friends!

    The point I’d like to make — with a little venom, yes — is that the posture of the programming industry is intrinsically hostile and deprecating, so how could the general opinion of certs even be neutral?

    But of course, the reader is wise enough to appreciate all that’s left unsaid.


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