The absurdity of IT “CE” (computing environment) certs…

I just read a depressing post by Dave Shackleford that irritated me beyond belief, as it points out the absurdity of IT “prove your value!” mentality today.

Dave’s comments on the CISSP cert as a *useful* metric in identifying competence are – of course – spot on. CISSP cert by itself does not imply any level of hands-on ability. It’s a good cert for IT managers to have simply to speak the same general language as the hands-on IT professionals they employ.

The depressing part was Scott’s view to make a new cert to weed out the BS artists “living off” CISSP. (Whatever that means!) Why was it depressing? Because IT is a huge area. I have spent the last 5 months studying night and day for VCP5 – which is just one cert, on one particular virtualization domain, and numerous job offers I see list sometimes go out of their way to say “don’t just know VMware”. The problem? Just this one cert has almost 3000 pages of technical documentation around it from the vendor – not to mention the hundreds of blogs and “tech notes” required to read. The stupidity of these “CE” (computing environment) certs is that you must know potentially *all* of the trivia in all of the docs – some of quite vendor specific and even vendor-marketing specific (e.g. licensing models of the VMware product line, as if one cares about that after acquisition).

So Dave’s “improved” cert would simply be…what? Lots of gotcha questions on randomly-selected technologies? For example, what is the correct vCenter SSO command-line parameter for an HA deployment of 2 or more clustered SSO instances? (For the record: where CONFIG_TYPE=Join, use JOIN_TYPE=[HA|Multisite] from page 5 of the VMware Tech Note “Command Line Install / Upgrade of VMware vCenter Server 5.1”). Or would it be like the Windows 2008 cert exam which basically turned out to be almost all “how do you use dnscmd” when I had studied for months on the entire body of knowledge (especially IPsec – maybe one question on that topic). What a joke that exam was – unless one had, in the thousands of prep pages, somehow memorized the specific command options for dnscmd (which I have seen used in production environments exactly *zero* times when WMI approach is much more useful). Fortunately, I did manage to memorize that particular command, at least enough to pass the cert exam.

As a professional assiduously dedicated to improving myself, my value, and my IT knowledge the whole concept of “prove yourself” certs is humiliating and cumbersome. I for one welcome certs like CISSP because there is a profound difference between hands-on knowledge (vertical, time-tagged, reactive, and highly volatile) and generalist knowledge (horizontal, conceptual, reflective, and rewarding of patience / maturity). My VCP5 cert will be valid for a very specific time period – until the next release (probably another year). Moreover, the body of knowledge is full of vendor-specific crap about how great VMware products are; to add insult to injury, learning this knowledge is of no “utility value” to an organization using Xen.

Compare that to the CISSP: It is valuable because it forced me to see the larger picture that IT is just a small part of, and points me toward a future where I can use IT as a strategic tool to solve problems / make money / drive innovation rather than as an end in itself.

Team-oriented systems mentor with deep knowledge of numerous software methodologies, technologies, languages, and operating systems. Excited about turning emerging technology into working production-ready systems. Focused on moving software teams to a higher level of world-class application development. Specialties:Software analysis and development...Product management through the entire lifecycle...Discrete product integration specialist!

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