The Certification Experience

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Take a quick peek at the art that accompanies one of our feature articles in this issue, and you’ll see a “chicken and the egg” theme. It’s a great image, but the more I think about it, the more I’m sure it’s misplaced.

Not that it doesn’t belong with that feature, but because the real chicken and the real egg in this issue is in an unlikely, and un-illustrated, place: the Letters to the Editor column.

Let me back up a month. In our March 2003 issue, we included a reader’s letter downplaying the value of certification in favor of experience. An editor’s note invited readers to share your opinions. And boy, did you.

Some letters fell into one camp, some into the other, and some straddled the “all of the above” fence. We had no consensus of opinion, but we certainly tapped a nerve. (Thanks to all, seriously, for sharing their thoughts.)

So, is certification the chicken or the egg? It’s impossible to definitively say that one has more value than the other. Experience is unbeatable, of course, when it comes to doing the job, but certification is often the grease that lets even veteran professionals slide into jobs and use that experience. Which is more important—being able to breathe or having air to breathe?

The easy answer, naturally, is both are co-dependant and of equal value. That comes closest to the truth of the experience-versus-certification debate.

For aspiring professionals without experience, a certification is a great place to start. It shows a commitment, an investment, in a career, and in this age of vastly improved testing, it shows at least a basic aptitude. It’s the first step on the road to experience, and that’s a journey that has to start somewhere.

For experienced, uncertified professionals, getting credentialed shows all of that as well. And in addition, it combines with the experience to relay that most desired of professional concepts, mastery. It’s never too late in an IT career to certify yourself, and as the saying goes, it sure can’t hurt.

I’m not naïve enough to think this editor’s letter, or the reader opinions in the pages to follow, will end the certification-versus-experience debate. Like the Zen-like query of the chicken and the egg, the discussion will go on.

But for now, let this be the final word: No matter which came first, chickens and eggs both make satisfying meals.

Tim Sosbe

Editorial Director

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