Those Who Can, Do

Getting a certification like this is good if it teaches you new skills and you use them.

Getting a certification like this is good if it teaches you new skills and you use them.

There was a time I considered staying in college, getting a masters or PhD and teaching others. I still might follow that path at some point since I enjoy speaking and teaching others how to better work with SQL Server. At some point, however, I became frustrated with the theoretical approaches many teachers had. Like many 20-something-old students I tended to subscribe to the mantra “those that can, do. Those that can’t, teach.”

I was reminded of that by this piece: Those Who Can Do, Those Who Can’t, Get Ceritified. It compares IT workers to the computer systems they manage, and it points out that if all that’s required is to pass a test, that’s something a computer can do very well, perhaps even replacing those that can just answer questions in their daily work.

There’s some truth to that. I always wonder about a person that has 3, 4, or more certifications; do they have actual skills with the product?. Have they actually used the knowledge from those certifications in their work? Is the certification the goal, or is it a way to learn skills and knowledge that can be applied at work? If it’s the former and not the latter, then I’d say your efforts to advance your career through certification are poorly aimed.

However if the certification gives you structure and focus, if it allows you to improve the skills you have, and bolster the weak areas in your knowledge, it can be beneficial to your career. If you are taking that knowledge and using it in your daily work, or even in your spare time, then the certification is merely a stepping stone to something greater.

I don’t think that people who are certified are somehow incompetent at their jobs, but they have to showcase more than just the certification for me to believe they are valuable employees.

Steve Jones


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About way0utwest

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3 Responses to Those Who Can, Do

  1. rob sullivan says:

    I’ve found contributing to open source projects way more meaningful and educational than certs… of course it is also harder than getting a brain dump for a cert. In addition, a place that puts a lot of value on certifications is likely a place that you may not enjoy working at. We live in a very cool time when you can rent an armada of servers for a couple bucks and try all sorts of wacky things to really learn/hone your craft. We also have a really cool community always willing to help out with our wacky scenarios.

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  2. When I took my first certification it was to prove to myself that I could. Since then I’ve been collecting them slowly but surely and using them as a focus to learn. Well, that and to be honest I find it fun. I agree that a certification is no substitute for experience, but then neither is a college degree. Both do however prove two things. One that you have at least a basic and fairly broad range of knowledge and possibly more importantly that you have the drive and focus to get it done. I would never hire someone based on a degree or certification, but I will use it as a way to differentiate between otherwise equal candidates.

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  3. way0utwest says:

    Working on real stuff is a great way to build and showcase skills. I’d definitely encourage that, but not necessarily as an either/or with certs. It could easily be both.

    I took the 2012 exams this past summer, and they had me digging through more docs and experimenting more than I might otherwise have done.

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