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Experience vs Certification - who wins?

  • Certification has long been the ultimate holy grail for many IT professionals, but does it still have the same impact in today’s market ? Aside from MCSE and some fairly inconclusive security accreditation, the presence of a CISSP still seems to reign "“supreme”, and carries a lot of weight and respect in the industry.

    However, what does accreditation really prove ? Does it provide evidence that in a particular scenario, you’d know exactly how to respond, or what to do ? Not necessarily. Most exams these days are multiple choice - this was the case back in the early 2000’s when I decided to sit an MCSE and is still the case today. Real life scenario responses are not based on multiple choice, but on fundamental subject matter knowledge, and (most of all) experience. Back in the first part of this millennium, I worked alongside an MCSE ‘enthusiast’ whose depth of knowledge within the information technology field was questionable with even the most basic skill set either missing, or incomplete in most cases. However, he’d successfully completed an MCSE, and in his mind, this was enough to prove he understood the subject matter.

    Fair enough, but not the case in my view. Firstly, anyone can read a book and then take an exam - and in all probability, pass having completed braindumps previously. In a theory only exam, this is not a clear indicator that you know the subject matter inside out - it really means that you’ve retained sufficient information to answer the questions presented correctly. The real difference is when you sit an exam that has a practical element such as the CCIE. In this exam, it’s essential that you have a concrete understanding of the inner workings of networks and their associated topology requirements, and not just what you’ve read in a text book - this is nowhere near enough knowledge when it comes to trying to figure out what is causing black hole routing within your network, or why a previously removed firewall is still being referenced and preferred in an ARP table from an adjacent router for example. To resolve issues and find answers outside of what a textbook can provide, you either need external assistance in the form of consultancy, or in this case, experience.

    Now here comes the conundrum. You cannot gain experience without exposure, and it seems in today’s market, you cannot gain exposure without certification or a professional qualification. The ultimate vicious circle it would appear. Additionally, the CEH exam requires at least 2 years of experience with an employer (that is also subject to validation) before you can enter the exam. Admittedly, they may accept education as entry, although this is not guaranteed, and is handled on a case-by-case basis.

    I’ve never been a supporter of those institutions that require a minimum of a degree before you will even be considered for an interview. As you’ll note in the about page on this blog, I do not possess a degree - but it has never stopped me from achieving my ambition, or becoming extensively knowledgeable in my chosen field. No. In fact, it pushed me even harder in life as I felt I always had something extra to prove. I’ve worked in some organisations where there’s the misconception that if you didn’t achieve a degree, then you lack intelligence, or the required credentials to even do the job you are in.

    Discrimination ? Yes.
    Acceptable ? Not in today’s climate.

    I’m interested in comments and thoughts in relation to this topic.

  • I think that certifications can be useful on a personal basis to bring competence but it should not arise above the professional experience and especially the will of the person on the job.

    Because even without experience, if you have an iron will, you can be better than someone who has certification. With more work and effort, certainly, but does it matter?

  • @downpw I’m inclined to agree with the self-development - and the point you make about the lack of certification being seen as a barrier to enter professions.

    @downpw said in Experience vs Certification - who wins?:

    Because even without experience, if you have an iron will, you can be better than someone who has certification. With more work and effort, certainly, but does it matter?

    This is an interesting statement because I knew of several people years ago whom obtained MCSE accreditation, but had never sat in front of a real-life scenario before where they had to fix something - hence, the term, “Paper MCSE”. Essentially, this involves reading a book, then going to do the exam. Some people have that capability where they can retain a bulk load of information, and use that to easily pass an exam - yet have no practical experience.

    To me, it’s easy to identify these people. They can give you a text-book answer, but have no ability to prove it physically.

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    @crazycells if it does indeed materialise, then this could well be a landmark case that sets a precedent. But, I don’t hold much hope to be honest. I’d like to be wrong.

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    ah f5 need 🙂

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    @小城风雨多 I was a die-hard OnePlus user since the 6T, but my experience with the 9 series has left me extremely disappointed and I probably won’t go back now I have a Samsung S23+ which works perfectly.

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    @Panda Sorry - it’ll be there now. I am also using a “curse words” plugin that looks for a**, but also blocks “assets” - not very well written sadly…

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    Last September, I received an offer from Sam Altman, who wanted to hire me to voice the current ChatGPT 4.0 system.

    He told me that he felt that by my voicing the system, I could bridge the gap between tech companies and creatives and help consumers to feel comfortable with the seismic shift concerning humans and AI.

    He said he felt that my voice would be comforting to people.

    After much consideration and for personal reasons, I declined the offer.

    Nine months later, my friends, family and the general public all noted how much the newest system named “Sky” sounded like me.

    When I heard the released demo, I was shocked, angered and in disbelief that Mr Altman would pursue a voice that sounded so eerily similar to mine that my closest friends and news outlets could not tell the difference.

    Mr Altman even insinuated that the similarity was intentional, tweeting a single word “her” - a reference to the film in which I voiced a chat system, Samantha, who forms an intimate relationship with a human.

    Two days before the ChatGPT 4.0 demo was released, Mr Altman contacted my agent, asking me to reconsider. Before we could connect, the system was out there.

    As a result of their actions, I was forced to hire legal counsel, who wrote two letters to Mr Altman and OpenAI, setting out what they had done and asking them to detail the exact process by which they created the “Sky” voice. Consequently, OpenAI reluctantly agreed to take down the “Sky” voice.

    In a time when we are all grappling with deepfakes and the protection of our own likeness, our own work, our own identities, I believe these are questions that deserve absolute clarity.

    I look forward to resolution in the form of transparency and the passage of appropriate legislation to help ensure that individual rights are protected.