One of my favorite quotes is “Titles don’t matter, but they absolutely do matter.” Jeff Hackert said this on an Arrested DevOps episode titled Career Devops back in 2015. Titles don’t matter because they should never limit what you do, what you learn, and what you think you’re capable of. Titles do matter because titles equate to how much you’re paid. Titles are also used to recognize the experience and are the primary keywords used by recruiters when looking for candidates. To summarize, I’d say titles are situationally important. Whether they matter or not depends on the context of your situation. I believe the same is true for certifications. People view certifications very similar to titles. Some people think they are of the utmost importance. While others view them as worthless. As with any polarized view, the truth lies somewhere in between.

Career Devops With Jeff Hackert

Why Certifications Don’t Matter

There is merit in both sides of the certification argument. When people say certifications don’t matter, they’re really meaning; Certifications do not equate to experience, mastery, or competence. Why would they say this? Well, in a lot of cases people can cheat the system. Braindumps exist and someone who has the skill to memorize all of them can pass the exam without actually knowing the content. Certifications also don’t mean experience.

You learn things through experience that you won’t learn by studying for an exam. Different conditions exist in the real world than in a lab environment. Certifications do not mean mastery either, especially entry-level exams. Mastery can only happen through experience. Now some of the high profile certifications like the CCIE are an exception. I’m not sure you could make it to that level on braindumps. While these are all valid points to the argument, I still don’t think certifications should be dismissed. Also where does this leave people who aren’t in a position to acquire that experience through their job?

Certifications do not equate to experience, mastery, or competence.

Why Certifications Matter

Certifications do matter because they validate your knowledge to a degree. It gives people who don’t yet have experience the confidence to speak about a specific technology. They will gain experience through that confidence. Certifications provide an on-ramp with entry-level exams. Learning a new technology is difficult, but trying to decide where to start is the biggest stumbling block. Certifications tracks solve that for you and will get you started. They do that by giving you a clear and structured learning path and then test you on that content. Another huge benefit is the keywords you can use on your social media profiles and resume. If you haven’t already, you better start learning a little bit of SEO to maximize the visibility of your social media profiles.

Key Points

  • Certifications set a north star, a direction for learning.
  • Provides the foundational knowledge used to gain experience.
  • Validation of knowledge to a degree.
  • Provides an on-ramp.
  • Structured learning.
  • Used as Keywords on Social and your resume.

Your career needs a direction, not an opearting manual.

When Someone has Certifications

When someone has certifications what does that mean? Well, it doesn’t mean you should immediately hire them based on that. Certifications are not the end all be all. Whether or not they hold certifications, it’s still your job to find out where their knowledge gaps are. It does however mean that the person is disciplined. Braindumps or not it takes effort and is uncomfortable to will yourself to study. It also means they have a certain level of grit. It’s nerve-racking to sit for a test and to push past those nerves takes a certain level of perseverance.

When someone has a certification it is an indicator not a predictor.

How I Used Certifications to Revitalize My Career

In my last blog post “You Are an Engineer Be an Engineer” I was very open and honest about how and why I fell off the path and out of the game. I simply stopped learning and because of that I was in a bad spot. I knew I had a lot of catching up to do when it came to the cloud. I had put off learning it for years, but now knew it was time not only to dive in but catch up. I also knew I couldn’t just “learn” the cloud. I needed some method to my madness.

I was completely overwhelmed by the choices I had. Instead of being paralyzed by analysis paralysis again I decided to come up with some criteria for my learning. I wanted to do something that provided structured learning and a way to gauge my progress. I also wanted some level of recognition or validation of the knowledge I acquired. Certifications fit the bill for me. I was a little reluctant to say the least. My last certification exam was in 2013 when I finally passed the CCNA on the third attempt. I had to convince myself that these new certifications wouldn’t be as bad as that one.

Fast forward several months and I now am an AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner, Microsoft certified Microsoft Azure Administrator Associate and a Microsoft certified Azure DevOps Engineer Expert. Having these certifications does not mean I’m an expert in any of it by any means. It doesn’t mean I’ll be qualified for $10,000 more a year. What was the point of it then? The point is, I’m no longer afraid of either cloud provider, It gave me the confidence I needed to dive deeper into each of these technologies and gain the experience I was lacking. It also helped me rediscover my love of learning. It revitalizes my career.

Certifications revitalized my career and got me back in the game.

Conclusion

Since deciding to invest in my career through certifications a lot has happened. I passed the AWS CCP, AZ-103 and AZ-400 exams. Then I put that knowledge to use by authoring a 5 part series on DEV titled Using Ansible with Azure, and wrote a Study guide for the AZ-103.

Passing the exams was simply validation. The real value was in learning alongside a community. Plugging into the CloudSkills community has kept me engaged and always learning.

If you feel stuck, overwhelmed, or confused by where you should invest your time to improve your craft. Consider a certification path. Invest in yourself and enjoy the process.