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IT Certification On the Job: An Analogy

By  Oct 13, 2008

Topics: Certification

We all know people who hold deep prejudices against IT certifications. In many cases these negative attitudes are rooted in past experiences with so-called "paper tigers"; in other words, individuals who studied hard to earn their credentials and obtain gainful industry employment, but who find they drag down their departments through their practical inexperience and occasional ineptitude.

Today I would like to make a case for the practical benefits of IT certification by drawing an analogy to a non-IT certification program with which I have intimate experience.

After many, many years of thoughtful consideration (and, of course, obtaining the imprimatur of my loving wife, Susan), I decided to learn how to ride a motorcycle. Many of my family members and friends are avid motorcyclists, and the desire to ride has been with me since my late adolescence.

It was strongly suggested to me that I attend the Basic Rider Course (BRC) training put on by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF), which I certainly did. This course was unspeakably helpful to me, friends.

In my state of residence, Tennessee, one can take the MSF BRC course in lieu of queuing up at one's local DMV and horsing around with their wonky written and driving tests. Sure enough, some of my MSF classmates confessed that they enrolled in the MSF training course primarily for that reason; to "shortcut" their requirements to obtain their motorcyclist's license. Whatever gets you through the night, I thought, quoting good ol' John Lennon.

However, I received such an amazing flood of knowledge from my trainers, the courseware, and the practical riding time in that course, that I simply cannot imagine any aspiring motorcyclist not taking the BRC course before undertaking the sport of motorcycling.

Fast-forward to today: I am happily on the road with my first bike: a 2008 Honda Shadow Spirit 750 (a beauty, let me tell you). Do you know that every single time I'm on that bike I still hear my trainers' voices whispering in my ears?

Do you know that every time I gear up I recite snippets of my MSF manual to myself? My MSF certification is more that a piece of paper that allowed me to waive my DMV requirements for my motorcycle licence; it provides me with a practical knowledge base that guides me, keeps me safe, and very likely saves my life on a daily basis. Nashville isn't the safest place in the world to ride a bike, y'all.

Now, then: to tie this analogy back to information technology. While it is unlikely that your becoming a Microsoft Certified Information Technology Professional (MCITP) in Windows Server 2008 will save your life (but hey, you never know!), I submit to you that if you take your training seriously and work consciously to apply your training to your day-to-day work, you will certainly (a) shorten your learning curve; (b) avoid "paper tiger" syndrome; and (c) uphold the good things that IT certification is supposed to represent to all of us in the industry; namely:

  • a validation of your career skills
  • an investment in a vendor's technologies or a vendor-neutral skill set
  • a boost to your professional credibility

Have a good day: for my part, I'm gonna go take a ride on my cycle!

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