Wearing your certification on your sleeve

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The Oracle Certification Program announced in January the availability of branded merchandise for professionals who have earned one or more certifications. At this time, there are only a handful of items available: two styles of shirts (a T-shirt and a polo shirt), a gym bag, and journals in two sizes. I am surprised how fast they moved on this. In August of last year Oracle asked certified professionals to vote on what kind of merchandise they would be interested in. I participated in the survey and contributed write-in requests for a ball cap and key chain. Apparently my tastes are not shared by much of the Oracle community.

Gaining the right to use the official logos is one of the benefits of becoming certified, of course. Until now there have been a limited number of ways for professionals with Oracle certifications to make use of this benefit. It is conceivable to make use of logos on a resume, or on your business cards, or on a personal website. I tried once adding them to my resume. In the end, I decided that the text of the certifications was sufficient. Like most DBAs and developers I know of, I have very limited use for business cards. I do maintain a website, but the logos do not have any obvious place on it. In short, this particular certification benefit has never been one that I have utilized. I suspect that many other Oracle Certified Professionals are in the same boat.

Not everyone was pleased with the news, though. Soon after Oracle made their announcement, I saw at least one Oracle professional complain about Oracle’s greedy motives behind it. He felt that Oracle should give certification-branded merchandise to candidates that pass the exams free of charge. While exam candidates who pass the Oracle Master certification receive merchandise currently, the cost of “free” items is a tiny fraction of the exam fees charged for the OCM testing.

There are very few things in this world that are truly free. If such a perk were going to come as part of passing the appropriate certification exam, it would mean that the exam fees would need to be increased first. In addition, the choice of merchandise to be sent would almost certainly be Oracle’s. I have passed enough Oracle certification exams by now that my closet would be overflowing with whatever that particular choice was. I much prefer the idea that I have the ability to decide if, which, when, and how many of these items I want to spend money on.

The notion that greed is Oracle’s motive for making the branded merchandise available is based more on fantasy than fact. It would take a ridiculously high number of shirt sales to even make a blip on the revenue brought in by Oracle Education, much less that of the company as a whole. I would never claim Oracle is a disinterested party. The company certainly has an interest in making the merchandise available or it would never have happened. I am certain that they have received requests from Oracle professionals who have earned one or more certifications.

In addition, Oracle obviously benefits from people displaying their brand. The Oracle certification program as a whole is a means for the company to ensure that the job market is filled with people who have been trained to use their products. With this move, Oracle professionals who purchase and display the merchandise will make Oracle and Oracle Certified Professionals more visible.

So … there are obvious benefits for Oracle from this action. After reading the post complaining about having to pay for the merchandise, I found myself thinking about the benefits for certified individuals. I will almost certainly pick up a couple of the polo shirts. I routinely wear these to work. Given a choice between having a little alligator displayed on my chest or “Oracle Certified Professional,” I would have to go with the latter.

In all fairness, though, I do not think this will boost anything other than my ego. I could be wrong, though. On the day I go in to the office for the annual review with my manager, I will likely wear one of the shirts. A former manager once said to me that the annual review is one occasion when bragging about your accomplishments is not only acceptable but encouraged.

There are clear benefits for an Oracle professional who is employed as a contractor, consultant, or instructor. In these roles, they will be interacting with people who may not be familiar with their expertise. Wearing one of these shirts would provide a low-key method for indicating competence with the Oracle platform. Certainly it is more subtle than whipping out a little plastic card that says you are an Oracle Certified Professional.

For unemployed individuals, I could certainly see wearing a branded shirt to a job fair, Oracle User Group meeting, or any place where you might network while searching for employment. As mentioned above, it is a means of advertising your certified status without being overbearing.

I do not think that I would choose to wear a shirt with the logo to an interview, however. The nature of an interview would eliminate the ‘subtle’ element. Also, since your interviewer will already have your resume, presumably they will already be aware of your certifications. Having interviewed candidates for Oracle positions on several occasions, I would probably see this as a sign of a candidate who was either insecure, or was relying on their certifications rather than their skills to get them hired. That said, I pay little attention to people’s clothes and might not even notice the logo in the first place.

Ultimately, the value of earning an Oracle certification lies primarily in what you learn from having studied for the exams. This in turn is followed by the privilege of being able to add the credentials to your resume. Becoming part of a select list of people who can purchase shirts with a logo on them is way down the list in terms of value add.

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Matthew Morris


Matthew Morris is an experienced DBA and developer. He holds Oracle DBA Certifications for every Oracle release from 7 through 12c; Expert certifications for SQL, SQL Tuning, and Application Express; and is an Oracle PL/SQL Developer Certified Professional. He is the author of more than 20 study guides for Oracle certification exams, as well as a suite of Oracle practice tests that are available at ocpexam.com.

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