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Are certifications worth it?

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The Lounge What is on Your Mind? Are certifications worth it?
# 8  
Old 09-29-2017
Originally Posted by Corona688
It's becoming harder and harder to have "general" knowledge about Linux as distros become more specialized, Windows-like, and sundered from each other.
Unity, dbus, pulseaudio, systemd, featurism, dependency hell, ego-driven development, ...
I really start to like BSD and Solaris.
# 9  
Old 09-29-2017
Thanks for such quick responses from so many. I agree that leaning is generally a good thing, it's just should I bother re-taking the exams? I'm not after a CV builder, especially at my age Smilie

I might take it again for personal pride. I was very much a "rabbit in the headlights" for the exams, especially given that I didn't know before Monday morning that there was RHCSA Friday morning and RHCE in the afternoon, so no prep-work and I hadn't done the course for RHCSA Smilie

At least I kept making sure that may machine booted and the changes I built up were persistent. There are many stories of people scoring zero because there was a fault somewhere that stopped the server boot, e.g. a duff NFS mount.

The big thing is that it's not multiple choice, but actually delivering things that just seem irrelevant to everywhere I've ever worked and you have to remember enough so you read the right man pages without wasting too much time - oh and you have to crack into the OS and set the root password, which is a different process from RHEL6 and before. They only mention it briefly, miss it and you are doomed Smilie

Kind regards,
# 10  
Old 09-29-2017
i work with AIX, therefore my clients are always big companies (mostly banks) with big datacentres. I have none of these fancy certifications*) but i have a project record going back more than 30 years.

Would i (or, rather my business) profit from having all these certifications? I don't think so, but i have provable experience compensating for this. I suspect that for younger colleagues the situation is different.

Personally i think this certification industry is helping nobody except themselves. Instead of finding out if (and further certifying that) a person is capable of doing certain tasks the tests simply question factual knowlege. Now, suppose you are ill and need a doctor: would you want one who can name every bone in your body correctly, but has no idea about "therapy" or one who knows how to cure patients but has to look up the name of some bones in case they are involved? A person who can name all binaries in /usr/bin without error does not necessarily have the knowledge about how to use these to achieve a certain goal - and even if he does he might not have the wisdom (read: experience) to distinguish between a good solution and a bad one. **)

Certification testing, if it should really mean something, should be done in the same way academic testing is done: you get a problem description, create a solution for it and an expert or team of experts judge what you have done. They do not give you some multiple choice tests and after testing positive on 30 of these you are a physician. Of course, this would mean that the certification business would be a lot less profitable than it is now, because it would involve actual work on the part of the certifiers. But as their intent (like any capitalistic business) is not to deliver the best possible work but to make as much money as possible this has no realistic chance of becoming reality.


*) actually this is not entirely true: i once was a certified MCSE ("Minesweeper Consultant & Solitaire Expert") because of a bet between me and a colleague from the Windows team. I was decertified 2002 because of prolongued disinterest in getting re-certified on my part. And i am still in business despite Microsoft writing me a letter which pictured my professional future without the certification in very dark colours.

**) the distinction is not good solutions work, bad ones don't because things that don't work are not solutions at all. A good solutions works AND is easy to maintain, well structured, uses the least possible resources, etc., etc. - a bad solution is a working kludge.
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# 11  
Old 09-29-2017

I have no Linux/UNIX certifications, though I do have a degree in Computing Science. The funny thing is that the degree basically turned out to be useless, for me anyway. I realised very early on that what I wanted to do was sysadmin rather than dev work, and a comp sci degree in the 1990s was purely focussed on hardware and software engineering. The landscape for University-level sysadmin stuff is far better now, but was nonexistent then.

What I did learn from though was the part-time job I had while at Uni, which was doing weekend and evening customer support for a small local Internet Service Provider. The guy who started the company had a DEC background, so most of the Web, e-mail and FTP kit were VAXen running VMS, with a smattering of MIPS boxes running Ultrix for NNTP and a few SPARCstations for RADIUS authentication. So it was a really great place to pick up the basics of all kinds of things. And it was what I learned there that got me my first proper full-time sysadmin job rather than the degree, no question.

As it happens I too had an MS certification forced upon me - I had to get an MCP in Windows Server 2003 ten years ago so that our company had its quota of certified staff for its Gold Partner certification. My job had for years involved a pretty even mix of *nix and Windows senior sysadmin work, which is why I was one of the people picked to go and sit the exam for the thing since the outcome was pretty much a foregone conclusion. I can't say my MCP was totally useless to me though - I ended up keeping the little laminated proof-of-MCP card in our car, so my wife could use it to scrape ice off the windscreen on cold mornings.

So personally, I value experience first and foremost, and any certifications, degrees or other qualifications come second. If two candidates were both sitting at the top of the pile then the certifications could be a decider in a tie-break, certainly. But for me, it's all about the experience rather than the paperwork.
# 12  
Old 09-30-2017
My long standing and constantly reenforced view is that certifications are basically worthless and certification companies are mostly just money making machines, pure and simple.

For example, I was a well known Internet security expert long before I took the time to get my CISSP certification. But I thought (one day, a long time ago in a spacetime far far away), hey! I'll sit for the CISSP exam so I can put "CISSP" behind my name and hang out with CISSPs.... haha

Honestly, I enjoyed studying for the exams and when I finally sat for the exams, I finished hours ahead of schedule to my surprise. I passed the entire CISSP battery of exams with flying colors and proudly flew the CISSP flag after my name for many years. For a year I was a featured ISC2 blogger on their site.

Then, I noticed that almost every CISSP I met had almost no operational experience, only textbook knowledge. I noticed that the world was pregnant with "certified experts" without any true operational experience against a real cyberattack and no general data center operational experience. Most of the certified people whom I started to associate with were "cybersecurity or IT arm chair quarterbacks" who talked such a great game but never had been on the field. This was amazing to me.

Then, I noticed that the organization that controls the CISSPs had a system of "professional credits" that were required every year to stay certified; and that much of these "continuing professional development credits" came from their commercial partners. For example, if you took a class from a partner of theirs, or you subscribed to a magazine (this is crazy!) in the "recommended magazines", you could get "credit" to keep your CISSP!

However, if you wrote a bunch of great blog posts about actual real experience defending the real world against real cyberattacks, or published a paper in a journal not directly associated, you got zero credit. In other words, the CISSP "system" turned out to be a kind of commercial enterprise which churned out a lot of unqualified, but certified people.

I finally just gave up on my CISSP cert because it was useless and a kind of a farce; as the more CISSPs I met, the more I met people who had a lot of book knowledge about cybersecurity but most, I would say 90 to 95% or higher, had no true hands on operational experience defending high value networks. Most had never even done any system admin on a critical server!

My advice has always been to get hands-on experience and stay hands-on and operational. If you are too inexperienced to get hired, then create your own project (be a doer, not a talker) or join a open source effort (volunteer and contribute); write code, write code, etc. Do sys admin. Never become an arm chair quarterback who claims to be an expert because they got certified.

On the other hand, I enjoyed all my studies when I prepped for my CISSP exam; and I did learn a few good things from my exam prep time; but only because I had many years of hands on operational experience to validate and apply the theory too. I have met a few CISSPs who were "operational" and great people (few and far between, however).

I can name very few people with hands on operational experience compared to the multitude of certified people who have ever worked in a data center or been a sys admin of critical infrastructure (but claim to be experts).

In closing, Certs are "OK"... if you want to do them; but nothing is more important than continued hands on experience at the system level, learning new skills, coding, writing solutions, building and securing systems.

In my very biased view, 100 certs are less valuable than a few years of hands on system level (admin / system programming) experience with mission critical IT infrastructure.

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# 13  
Old 09-30-2017
I agree with most of the sentiment already expressed so I'll keep this post as brief as possible. My history is in technology company ownership; corporate I.T. Systems supply and support, storage specialisation, and biometric security systems.

Certifications (or 'tickets' as I call them) are great to augment a university or college qualification as it shows motivation to specialise and improve. However, it will only help you get your first (trainee) job. Your first employment will be the main consideration for your second employment, not your tickets. When I was interviewing candidates, hard experience would always beat tickets; no contest whatsoever. A guy who'd run a support centre for 3 years but had no tickets and been made redundant through no fault of his own would win hands down against a rookie with tickets. Also, as we all know, a lot of the stuff you have to learn on these courses you will never use again.

Last edited by hicksd8; 09-30-2017 at 04:37 PM..
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# 14  
Old 09-30-2017
We had a trainee here, who'd accomplished some Cisco Certification (done via internet as it revealed later). Don't know exactly what it was. But she somehow managed to not even know how IPv4 works.

I read some offers here and there in the internet:" If you take our premium support offer you always get serviced by an >> LPIC Level 3 certified senior system administrator <<".

Especially the LPI Exams cost a lot of money if you want to keep them especially at a higher level. After 5 years you have to recertify.

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