The Value of Certification for the RFID Technician

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In my former life as a LAN/WAN professional, I used to ask, “Why should I certify?” Having learned my lessons on the street, many times I would watch the pedigree engineers struggle with a problem, only to give up, while the street engineer would step in and solve the problem but never receive the credit for it. Years later, after I was done being embittered by this, I saw the answer (with help from my super-certified brother): Plain and simple, it’s about credibility.

As a real-world engineer, you can solve the problem, but will you ever get the chance? Taking the time to complete a certification program tells your employer, not only do you know what you are talking about, but also you are secure enough in your knowledge to prove it.

I can speak to the value of the CompTIA RFID+ credential because of my involvement in its creation — I was part of the Phase 1 and Phase 2 development efforts for this exam. Seeing the effort that went into this exam firsthand was an eye-opener for me because I was always on the other side of the monitor, taking the exams.

They represent thousands of man-hours spent creating, editing and grooming data to come up with an exam that means something. The subject-matter experts who write these exams as part of this collaborative effort put a lot of themselves and their experience into it. The result is a good litmus test to ensure testers have the appropriate knowledge to function in their industry.

I watched with keen interest when a well-respected friend, who is a guru in the industry, decided to take this exam. The gentleman testing is a legend in radio frequency identification (RFID), so when he told me this exam bears credibility, I listened. For me, that was enough to decide we had done well in our development effort.

Reading that last bit, you might ask yourself, “Did he doubt the validity of the exam?” The answer is yes. The critics in the industry will tell you any test will be outdated six months after it is written, and people passing this exam are not going to be able to handle implementations. The reality is this test is not designed to verify that you can handle an end-to-end implementation. Rather, it is designed to verify you understand the core concepts and terminology needed to function in the industry.

No one will walk out of this test an answer-all, end-all guru — that’s not what it is supposed to do. Job applicants with this certification tell their prospective employers they can speak intelligently about the technology and understand the basic principles behind it. Ultimately, employers can put these employees into the fray of day-to-day work with the confidence they will be an added value, not slowing down the effort with questions about things they already should know.

The RFID Market
As the RFID industry gains momentum, more and more consulting opportunities present themselves. Individuals pursuing these opportunities find immense value in certification of knowledge, as it often is the very reason they are selected for the job. Every class I teach has more students who pay out of their own pocket to attend.

These students’ introduction into the market is a classic example of the market creating a need and pioneers seizing the opportunity. Armed with the evidence of their knowledge, these students take the core knowledge and best practices I have taught them and pursue these opportunities. Many of them are already well-versed in consulting and project management, and they use the RFID+ certification as another tool in their vast array of already-established solutions capabilities.

One such consultant attended a class I taught two years ago and has since established himself as an industry-recognized subject-matter expert (I love to see acquired knowledge put to work, especially when it is through the hands of a world-class professional).

The moral of the story is that the opportunities in this type of market can be found by taking the first step, then continuing that momentum. For many, certification is that first step.

During the course of certification, it is inevitable you will run into others who are pursuing the same goals, but they usually come from vastly different perspectives. Public certification courses offer a unique opportunity to learn from not only the instructor teaching but also from your peers — I have seen students from defense, manufacturing, software development, data management, pharmaceutical, retail supply chain and electronics all taking these courses.

RFID+ Certification
The RFID+ certification was created to address the needs of this emerging market. Once certified, an RFID+ technician should have the core knowledge to install and troubleshoot RFID reader installations, participate in RFID solution design, identify various RFID tag and reader technologies, decide what technology best addresses a specific scenario and contribute as a value-add to any RFID solutions team. Many RFID+ certified technicians are former LAN/WAN professionals or supply chain support professionals who want to use the skills they have as they acquire more.

Although this has been designed as an entry-level exam, the way you approach it will determine just how ready you are to apply the concepts you have learned. When I teach a class, it is about so much more than just the certification. Every class my company teaches includes “lessons learned,” which is a very practical look at real installations and the issues that arise during them.

The RFID+ certification is about the core concepts needed to work in this field. A quality education supporting this will cover these concepts and also impart experience from people who have been there and are willing to share their scars with students to help them avoid pitfalls.

The standards body that developed the RFID+ exam also certifies the educational providers that teach in support of this certification. Look for a CompTIA Learning Alliance (CLA) logo for the organization. Also, ensure the class materials are certified — the CompTIA Approved Quality Curriculum (CAQC) logo should be prominently displayed if they are.

Beware, however, because some companies blatantly misuse these logos. Be sure to validate the logo on all class materials with the certifying body. CompTIA lists each individual component per company (not groups of material that share a common theme) that is certified on its Web site, http://www.comptia.org/sections/caqc/training_materials.aspx.

In a new and pioneering market

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