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Re: Certification Available +Pronounce

From: Chris Travers <chris(at)travelamericas(dot)com>
To: David Fetter <david(at)fetter(dot)org>,PostgreSQL advocacy <pgsql-advocacy(at)postgresql(dot)org>
Subject: Re: Certification Available +Pronounce
Date: 2005-08-25 17:02:39
Message-ID: 430DF9AF.10500@travelamericas.com (view raw or flat)
Thread:
Lists: pgsql-advocacy
David Fetter wrote:

>On Wed, Aug 24, 2005 at 11:23:00PM -0700, Chris Travers wrote:
>
>  
>
>>With all due respect, it depends on the certification.  There can be
>>well designed certifications, but these usually have a hands-on lab
>>component.  I passed the IIS4 (and entirely based on my Apache and
>>IIS 5 experience, no less) exam without cracking a book and was
>>rather amused to see it rated as one of the hardest exams in the NT4
>>series.  I suppose this is because it was the only exam that
>>Microsoft designed that was ever worth anything.
>>    
>>
>
>In what ways was it "worth something?"  To me, that your relevant
>experience and lack of rote learning got you through the test where
>cracking open their book did not would be a good sign. :)
>
>  
>
Microsoft made a bold experiment in the IIS 4 exam.  A large percentage 
of the problems featured an interactive MMC and required configuring 
IIS4 to specific requirements.  I thought it was easy because I was able 
to pass it due to my experience with related products, but it was 
actually exam most frequently rated "hardest" out of the electives 
(possibly out of the entire track).  For this reason, Microsoft backed 
off.  Talk about the tail wagging the dog...

>>Similarly the LPIC-1 exams were really good.  They were *really*
>>difficult (but with a low passing score).  But they really tested
>>one's sense of fluency with the command line among other things.  I
>>*learned* a lot taking these exams.
>>    
>>
>
>That's sounding like a criterion, too.
>
>  
>
The LPIC-101 and 102 exams were two exams I never studdied for but 
wished I had.  They had lots of text-field questions with "type in the 
command to do such-and-such."  I passed by only 10 points.

The LPIC-2 I took in beta as a combined exam.  There were no study 
materials except the test outline, so I got a chance to study various 
topics (like the Linux boot sequence) in depth.  It was a decent exam, 
but not nearly as difficult as either the LPIC 101 or 102.

>I don't know that anything *cheap* can test this deep understanding at
>all, even to the level of a vague guess.  Writing a specification and
>a rationale for same given incomplete requirements and a few
>hard-to-schedule people would be one way, but it's not cheap to
>arrange nor to assess.
>
>  
>
As I suggested in a previous post, having a few of hours in a testing 
center where you build a database/data model (and perhaps a rationale 
document) might be good.  This could then be sent to the testing 
authority for actual grading.

>>As far as I am concerned the only "certified engineers" are those
>>with college degrees in engineering disciplines (including CS).
>>    
>>
>
>And even among them, there is a distressing percentage who either
>spent so much time on Proprietary Product(TM) that they have no idea
>what the underlying principles are, or on the other end, there are the
>math-turbatory cowboys (they're always boys, however old they are) who
>imagine that they can (and should) derive the entire thing from the
>principles of set theory, but can't in fact code their way out of a
>wet paper bag.
>
>A good certification must protect people from both ends of this.
>  
>

Good point.  I have a liberal arts degree and a fairly disciplined 
learning approach, and I have found that I understand the foundations of 
the technology as well as maybe 60% of the CS degree holders I have met 
(there are CS degree holders who possess a *much* better grasp of things 
than I do but they are not too common.  Many of them are, however, on 
this list).  Once I can actually have the time to really teach myself 
assembly, maybe I will do even better.

But the point is that I am not *certified* by an educational 
institution.  I am self-taught.

>  
>
>>To call someone a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer is like
>>saying that someone holds a Masters in Electrical Engineering from a
>>Non-Accredited University (and just paid his $50 to get the
>>diploma).  To test this point, I had considered trying to see if I
>>could pass the VB MCSD certifications without actually learning any
>>real VB....
>>    
>>
>
>I have this awful feeling that you passed.
>  
>
Actually after hearing from several MCSD's that I could have easily 
passed, I decided it would be a waste of time.

>  
>
>>The reason why I don't tout my certifications is simply that I know
>>my material reasonably well and I don't want to be associated with
>>those MCSE's who cannot figure out how to fix Microsoft Word when it
>>opens minimized.....
>>    
>>
>
>And that's *just* the kind of certification that could do PostgreSQL a
>lot of harm without doing it any good as a tradeoff.
>
>  
>
Microsoft's certification programs fail because they listen too much to 
those who pass the exams about what is "too hard."  I am also convinced 
that their network diagrams in the Windows 2000 track were designed by 
people with no real network design experience, but this is par for the 
course, I'm afriad.

>>Knowing what I know about the RHCE program, I would probably see it
>>as a positive step.  But again, all you know you are getting is
>>someone you hope will be a decent technician *not* a certified
>>engineer.
>>    
>>
>
>I know that this sounds corny, but I'd rather get somebody with that
>elusive quality called common sense and a liberal arts degree.
>They're likely to be able to do something that's hard to test, namely
>use their imagination on a really novel situation.
>
>  
>
So would I, and I would rather have someone with a proven track record 
in developing software too (maybe with one or two open source programs I 
can evaluate) than I would a CS grad.  But this is my perspective.

At the same time, for an entry-level technician, I have been suggesting 
the A+ certifications...  The reason is that the A+ certified 
technicians I have met have a couple of real advantages on entry-level 
techs who don't have the certification.  The first is that they 
understand the importance of environmental factors in troubleshooting 
systems.  Things like heat and electrical supply are considered by many 
of these candidates while most other techs will start with software and 
end at the hardware.  If the problem is heat or electrical 
supply-related they will never find it.

>Too tough to be worth pursuing?  I'm thinking that an employer's
>signed recommendation would be one way.
>
>  
>
Do you have an alternative for self-employed consultants?  Also does not 
the employer have a conflict of interest here?

>>No problem here.  But what do you do when vendor training is often
>>offered as a part of the certification problem (like the RHCE)?
>>    
>>
>
>Frankly, that is a conflict of interest, and should disqualify the
>certification.  It is simply too hard to avoid "teaching to the test."
>
>  
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The only solution would be to ban all instruction relating to the test, 
as third parties are often worse than vendors in this regard.

>
>  
>
>>Aside from criteria 1, it is more an issue of degree than substance.
>>    
>>
>
>Is it?
>
>  
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For many certifications, yes.  These include some Cisco certs (not all 
though) and probably the RHCE.

>
>
>I think each of these things presents an opportunity :)
>
>  
>
>>Most vendor-sponsored certification programs are marketing programs
>>in disguise "Look at the Cool Stuff(tm) you can do with our
>>software."  In the case of the MCP exams, they often fail miserably.
>>In other words, they teach on features rather than substance which
>>is *why* you get people working well above their ability simply
>>because they have a certification (they didn't realize it but they
>>were being trained to sell the software rather than use it).  Do we
>>really want that image for PostgreSQL?
>>    
>>
>
>I'm pretty sure my opinion on this is clear ;)
>
>  
>
BTW, the MCSE exams helped prove to me how overmarketed NT4 was....

Best Wishes,
Chris Travers
Metatron Technology COnsulting


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