Month: July 2013

Certifications a good idea or bad?

Certifications a good idea or bad?

 

Is the person with the most certifications the best hire?  Maybe yes, maybe no. 

 

The history of the certification for IT really started with Novell.  Novell used to charge computer manufacturers to “certify” that their equipment was compatible with their software.  This was no inexpensive proposition.  Somewhere around the release of V2.15 there was the invention of the CNE or Certified Netware Administrator.

 

Back at this time this was no easy certification to obtain.  Proficiency in hardware, DOS, NetWare, Networking equipment and topologies, datagram’s, IPX XPS, NetBIOS and the list went on. 

 

As the certification idea took off, adaptive test were created.  If the test found a weakness, it would give you more questions around that weakness which may very well be your doom.  These tests were not inexpensive.  The study material was not cheap and when you boiled it all down, unless you are really good at taking test; you had to have the experience and knowledge the back it up.

 

So in theory this was a good idea and should have given employers an excellent way to gauge someone’s level of expertise. 

 

What changed?

 

It is human nature to cheat.  I am beginning to think that making ones way through college was in part, how good you were at gaming the system.

 

This is true of the certifications today for the most part.  There are too many websites and groups dedicated to giving out information to the applicant, that we really have no idea how much the person knows.  That is why it is paramount that you, the hiring manager know the technology and not just look at his or her pedigree.

 

We don’t like to take test and I appreciate that.  As a professional I want to know that I know the material.  Would you want your doctor or Pilot to “game the system?”  Why would we hold them to a higher standard; other than the obvious of the life and death thing?

 

Do we not put the company at risk if we are not qualified?   The people that you hire absolutely can make bad decisions and as one who sells disaster recovery, that is one of the things to consider, “an oops.”  I have seen this happen more times than I would like to say and it is never pretty. (No, it never happened on my watch.)

 

After my company hired a person on their credentials alone, I soon learned that you had better know more or at least as much about the subject as that person who you are looking to hire.  The person was a paper certified pro meaning he could take test, not actually do it.

 

I look for someone with a good track record in the field that they want to pursue, a solid work history and lastly I consider their certifications.  I need to know if they can do the job and not just take a test.  I also check their references and backgrounds if they make it past the first few hurdles.

 

Technology is an extremely liquid entity. The books and materials that you buy today may not be salient tomorrow.  Spending thousands of dollars on classes, books and test is only good for such a short time, before you have to hit the books again.  

 Your “technologist” the CIO in most cases should understand technology better than anyone else in the company.  He or She should have a very in depth background and not only understand the nuts and bolts of things but, should possess enough business acumen to know what products or services are relevant for their company; and those that would have a poor ROI or high TCO not to mention poor application. 

 

All purchases and changes to the architecture should make sense.  Anyone that you hire to administer that equipment should not only grasp the equipment or technology, but also the company’s vision.   

 

In short, I am not given to looking solely at certifications.  Can they do the job and how did they do it before?  Were they successful? Are they willing to go to classes if the job requires it?

 

The trick to committing to obtaining a certification is to determine the viability of the company or product, and if that product will take off or die on the vine?  That is the rub in that I have seen technology come and go.  Xerox had the best of the best, 30 years ago and had their marketing been better, and they not try to recover their total development cost with the first few sales, Bill gates might still be working out of his garage.

 

Xerox had the GUI and the Mouse before Steve and Bill.  That is another story.

 

If you are looking to the information technology field as a career I can tell you from experience that the length of your job at that company will only take you until you have maxed out on the salary that they want to pay; or they find a way to outsource what you do.  There are fewer and fewer indispensible employees any more as most CEO’s or owners have figured out that everyone should be replaceable.  If you are one of the people who have stayed in one place for a long time you are either underpaid, or the company does not have the guts to replace you with a less expensive alternative.  Keep doing what you are doing as it is working for you and for the boss, get real; nobody is indispensable.

 

It is therefore paramount for you the job seeker to keep your resume up and current, analyze trends in the market to see what company is doing what, and who is using them.  Most of us will get into the rhythm of our jobs and get comfortable.  This can no longer be the case, as very few companies have any loyalty to their employee’s . Employee should empower themselves to become even more marketable.  Accomplishments are a great thing to put on your CV especially projects with dollar figures or some other quantifiable metric.  “saved the company $13 million dollars a year by changing the way that they did business.”

 It is up to you the worker to maintain your marketability through skills, career choices, education and even personal appearance plays a role.  I cringe when I see these young people today with piercings and tattoos.  I personally see this as not a real bright decision and a possible impediment to getting a good job as I know that most serious business people feel the same way.  You now will have to go with some young company that is really out there like Google or Microsoft or, find a way to cover up your decisions…  I don’t mean to sound critical but, it is a shame that youth is wasted on the young.  

These are pearls from me to you…

 -Best to you and those that you care about!

Dot Zero

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After 30 odd years of being in the field of Information Technology; one might have guessed that I had picked up a thing or two.

 

When a project does not go as planned something called a root cause analysis needs to be performed.  Basically why did the project fail?   Was it poorly planned, poorly funded, poorly thought out, were the deliverable s too much or too little? 

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There are a host of things that should be considered before embarking on any project.  One really needs to play the “what if” game.  We are not striving for analysis to paralysis here but, we do need to know that everything is well thought out and a fallback plan is in place.

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Is the project necessary? 

What are the driving factors for the project?

What are the deliverables?

What will the TCO (total cost of ownership) be?

What is the (Return on investment), ROI? 

How long to implement? 

What impediments to business will the project cause, if any? 

Are those impediments accounted for with workarounds?

What are the risk?

Are the milestones clearly defined and; expectations set with all members of the project?

Are the tasks clearly defined and assigned?

Is there a test plan to determine feasibility as well as to determine a baseline?

Is adequate documentation of the project occurring?

Are key players involved through a process like a change control committee?

Will training be necessary and if so; has that documentation been planned for and prepped?

If tweaking was necessary, what was it and why?

Did the project perform as expected, if not why not?

Did the project come in at or under budget?  If not why not?

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Some manager’s think that upgrading to the newest latest greatest is the thing to do and press on.  I for one, have learned never be on the bleeding edge of technology.  I always wait until a service pack has been released, especially if Microsoft is any part of the equation. Never load Rev.0 into a production environment, unless you really don’t like your job or company as you will most certainly have to explain why as it most likely will fail.  As the sysadmin you really have to be able to tell your manager “no,” and back it up with sound logic and reasons.  Some will ask for the .0 not realizing the inherent dangers that go along with that.  You will be the one with the arrows in your back from the users, and the owners / manager  and CEO.  They wont see the software bugs as the issue, they most likely will blame you and or your staff, or anyone that had their hands in it.

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The hallmark of a PM is to be able to communicate every aspect of the project with everyone involved.  To be able to manage their resources in such a way as to not have any wasted dollars or time.  The project should be on track and on budget at each and every milestone.  Having a good Gantt chart, or at the very least a good plan of the project in excel will help to keep you from getting off track.  There are no good surprises in business and hardly ever any good surprises with projects!

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-Best to you and those that you care about.