Greybeards vs. certifications

A friend sent a link to a story many of us have seen before, in all sorts of industries: the cocky young kid tries to show up the experienced greybeards, with predictable results:

Very good story, and one in which I’ve played both roles myself 🙂

The problem with a lot of these stories is that there’s a real attitude in the IT world that certifications are so worthless that they are actually bad, an indication that an incompetent is hiding behind a paper certificate. And while there certainly is an industry devoted to cranking out “paper tigers,” that attitude leads to a lot of cowboy programming by “self-taught” computer techs. There’s a wise saying about doctors self-treating having fools for patients.

I really value my self-learning. I have a wall full of books (and I’ve actually read them!). And I’ve used the knowledge I’ve gained in solving real problems for real clients in the real world. But I also have a wall full of certificates, as I’ve learned from others as well. I think that’s the best of both worlds.

A certificate ought to be looked at like a driving learner’s permit: it says the operator has a base level of knowledge that makes them safe enough to operate so they can learn how to really do the job. And I think everyone ought to pass the learner’s permit test.

— from a former Novell CNA, Microsoft Certified Professional, Certified Solution Developer, Certified Network Engineer, MySQL Certified Developer. And a slew of other certifications like Throttleman, SCUBA diver and Senior Lifesaving.

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