Products like a Lead Balloon

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In every industry, there are products or ideas that are massively hyped before release and then fail to live up to that original promise — for whatever reason, they just fall flat. They can’t all be blockbusters. For every “Transformers,” there’s a “Redline.” For every “The Simpsons Movie,” there’s a “Code Name: The Cleaner.”

The same holds true in IT — whenever a new product or idea emerges, there tends to be varying amounts of buzz around it. Whether advertising departments or end-users generate this buzz depends on the viability, appeal and actual usefulness of the product or idea in question.

But in each case, when the product or idea launches, the market overall and end-users individually are given the chance to see whether it’s all it was cracked up to be.

Often, it’s not, and our CertMag.com discussion forums recently saw a post satirizing such duds. In a thread titled “Biggest IT Farts?” regular contributor Masterssullivan wrote, “What do you guys think the biggest IT ‘farts’ have been this year? And by ‘farts,’ I mean ideas that were hyped up a lot and heavily promoted but ended up just being hot air that stunk.”

Another forum contributor, cpattersonv1, responded, singling out Vista and iPhone.

“I’d say Vista for one. It’s really hard to believe that they would launch such a hardware-demanding OS and state that they’re dropping XP shortly after the first SP is released. It makes it hard to keep up when you have to get budgets for software and hardware upgrades, not to mention the learning curve every time some interface designer decides to ‘redesign’ an OS by moving control panels and functions around.

“From what I’ve read, iPhones seem to cause a lot of trouble with Wi-Fi networks in public areas like universities. It stands to reason, if they’re anything like my PDA, they’ll lose and gain their wireless signals at random. They’re pricey and don’t integrate with enterprise-level applications like Outlook or Domino either. Just nice for show? Maybe. They’re definitely not going to hurt the BlackBerry market anytime soon, unless Apple comes out with an enterprise-level server for them.”

General Discussion
Elsewhere on our CertMag.com forums, discussion board regulars and newbies engaged in a spirited debate over the balance between certification and experience in building an IT career. In a thread titled “Running Hard on the Certification Treadmill,” regular forum contributor Wayne Anderson writes, “My nutshell summary of my outlook on certification: Experience trumps certification.

Certification provides a ‘trust mark’ of the initial representation of a set of skills to a client or employer or, in some limited cases, provides HR a validated mark of trust that an existing employee holds a specific set of required or desired skills.”

Another CertMag.com regular, wagnerk, responded: “I believe certification should go hand in hand with professional certification. That’s why I try to encourage people with no IT experience to do lower-level certs rather than jump on the MCSE bandwagon, but that’s just my two cents. Someone could have 10 years’ IT experience but of just doing toner changes, password changes and logging calls versus someone who has five years’ experience in server administration. Certification should be there to assist in validating that candidate’s skill level.”

New member kieranm added: “Well said on both counts. My take is this: Imagine a graph moving left to right, with two lines, one representing certification, the other representing experience. In terms of importance and relevance, the cert line will start high and trend downward, and the experience line will start low and trend upward.

“Certs are a foot in the door and, in many cases, are really table stakes these days (think CCNA for a networking job). They are a good supplement for little to no experience. They will never be a bad thing, but their relevance will fade as you spend more time in IT. Experience will be low or nil at first, so of course you can’t rely on it. But over time, you’ll gain more, and it will become more and more relevant. Eventually, the certs will be the ‘nice to haves,’ like the icing on top of a resume of solid experience.

“One other interesting thing about certs is their value can depend on where you work and what you do. For example, if you were a high-end network consultant, it would be good for business if you could flash your CCIE badge to customers, whereas if you worked at Cisco, it would barely raise an eyebrow.”

Elsewhere in our CertMag.com forum discussion boards, a posting by a junior member asking about telecommuting drew a range of responses. In a thread titled “How could I work from home?” teemhill wrote: “I’m in the process of pursuing my A+ and Net+ certs, and my primary goal is to work from home full time as a network engineer. Because I’m in the beginning stages of my IT career, my question to you all is, am I pursuing the right certs? Should I pursue other certs if I would like to work from home?

“I really enjoy working with computers and would definitely like to begin a career in the IT field from home (if it’s not a far-fetched endeavor).”

The first response came from cpattersonv1: “You might want to pick up some program development skills. From what I’ve been reading and experiencing myself, to keep up with the botnets and automated hacking attempts now, you’ll have to get some skills until the newer firewalls that screen traffic on port 80 become more cost-effective. At least this way, you could be a white hat from home, or anywhere else for that matter. Might help with the aspirations.”

Wayne Anderson expressed his skepticism that this endeavor could or would succeed: “The idea that you will somehow get some magical certifications that will allow you an entry-level job working from home is, at least in the U.S., pretty unrealistic. I was going to say preposterous, but I guess technically you could start your own PC-repair business or do consulting for people on their PCs. But realistically, even doing that without much experience in IT would be bad because you would quickly degrade any reputation you had in the business running into situations that you are not prepared for. You need to get experience in the office world before you can look at positions that have a high rate of telecommuting.

“As far as specific certifications for network engineering, work on your CCNA and CCNP. You will need to get to the CCNP level to really show a level of competency to go after more-advanced positions. Network engineering tends to be a very office-oriented career path because of the potential for downtime, security restrictions on switch configurations, etc. Again, I really do think that you need to examine whether your expectations of a full-time, work-from-home engineering job with just a college degree and a few certs is an expectation in line with reality.”

New member kieranm agreed: “I would second Wayne’s comments — there are jobs that are at least part-time, work-from-home ones, but in almost all cases, you will need to get some industry experience first. Based on the certs you are going for, you’re probably lining up for entry-level positions, which is just fine, but in the majority of cases, these jobs will be in-person-type jobs, providing in-office support for users or the network. There is also the ‘newbie’ and company culture to consider. As a new employee in an entry-level position, many companies won’t want you working from home anyway (at least until they know you are reliable, capable, etc.).”

If you’re interested in jumping in to any of these discussions, please visit our forums at www.certmag.com/forums.

– Daniel Margolis, dmargolis@certmag.com

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Daniel Margolis

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Daniel Margolis is a longtime professional writer and editor. Daniel was managing editor of Certification Magazine from 2006 to 2012.

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