Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Certified Architect

Todd Biske shares his thoughts on becoming a Certified Architect which I figured I should add my two cents...

Todd states that personally, I've never been a huge fan of certifications which if it were pretty much anyone else saying this, I would suspect that something else is at play. Todd, could with little effort pass any certification exam who chose to pursue while others would struggle.

Have you ever observed the pattern where those who talk about the value of a Masters Degree are the ones who have them? Likewise, the one's that don't feel they are important are the ones who don't. The same thing occurs with certification and the only perspectives where insight truly emerges are the ones who have certifications and still think they are not valuable.

The first two certifications I achieved in my own career happened in 1994, when on the same day I took the final exams for both PowerBuilder making me a Certified PowerBuilder Developer as well as the last exam for Microsoft making me an MCSE. Note: my number is 9079. The reason for taking the exams at the time was the fact that I was employed not only by a consulting firm but they provided monetary incentive for me to pass. One can focus on the marketability aspects of certification, but a good Enterprise Architect would also acknowledge that any incentive that causes the staff to learn on their own time and make extra effort in studying can't be all bad.

Both of these certifications led to something good. For the PowerBuilder certification, I had the opportunity to participate in writing a sample application that actually shipped with version 4.0 of PowerBuilder and wrote the coolest about box you have even seen. For PowerBuilder developers, I would love to know if the Skills Sample Application still exists. As far as Microsoft is concerned, at the time one of the components was Microsoft Mail. Around that same time, Microsoft flew individuals out to Redmond to help them shape Microsoft Exchange. Knowing that I was an early participant helped my career immensely. In 1996, I actually one the Microsoft Solutions in Action Award for an enterprise rollout of Exchange.

So, now that I have talked about the positive aspects of certification, I figured I should also talk about the more BS aspects. To date, I have over twenty different certifications. I have my Cisco CCNP which I not only know but still use my knowledge. The issue here is that I periodically do outside of work projects to keep my knowledge up to snuff as the folks in the data center won't let me tamper with BGP routes on the border routers with good reason. So this aspect exists in terms of a bullet on my resume but won't necessarily be reflected in the work bio aspects of my resume. I am certified by two different firewall vendors, one of which I used successfully for an Internet startup but haven't used since where the other I have the certification but have never even used the product. The funny thing about the second vendor is that I am not sure I even deserve the certification in that when I was taking the four hour exam, the testing engine crashed in the last fifteen minutes and was awarded it out of good customer service. Of course, one could hire me in a consulting context where I can make a mess out of your security, but self-discipline here is fully practiced.

In terms of Microsoft, I also achieved my MCT which helped me become comfortable interacting with others in a training context. I achieved my MCSD which I haven't done much to stay current in terms of all of the wonderful .NET things but can still do COM with the best of them. I even have a sales certification from good ole Sun which was more about indoctrination that anything else.

I guess the point that I am attempting to make is that certifications are neither good nor bad, and it is important to look at each within the context of the role you expect this individual to play. It is my belief that certifications don't prove hands on skills at all, but having multiple at least says that there is evidence as an Enterprise Architect that you have the ability to learn as well as the desire...

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