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Old 2008-03-18, 03:22   Link #1
hobbes_fan
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MCSE's and other professional certification

There's no careers and employment forum here but I do know there are a few IT guys here. What's the general consensus on these? I do recall there was a time when having one meant you actually knew what you were doing but i seems that the reputation has now tarnished.

I'm pretty interested in getting some networking particularly relating networking VOIP, PABX(ancient but still useful) related certification. I'm also thinking about Cisco Systems CCPN whicj seems most relevant to what I want and Sun Microsystems SCSECA.
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Old 2008-03-18, 15:15   Link #2
Vexx
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As far as MS certs go, they're actually worthless from the standpoint of telling a tech manager whether you know much or not (I've taken the courses and they're 95% just advertisements or basic "how-to install and configure" rather than "what to do when this goes wrong". The last company I worked for actually had an educational section that taught MS and Cisco courses commercially). The Cisco certs are fairly useful in contrast since the classes on IOS and network analysis can be applied across product lines. I suspect the same for Sun thought I've not had a Sun class/cert (looking at their Java certs at the moment).

HOWEVER, the HR departments have totally latched onto certs as a way to cull the incoming applications. No cert? Doesn't matter if you have *years* of pertinent experience - into Limbo you go. The average HR wants to totally control the hiring process and yet they totally hate the idea of having to use any energy to research candidates so certs are golden to them. Hence the periodic whine by managers that there aren't any candidates worth hiring.

If you have a degree of some sort, you can probably avoid them for a while, but eventually...

If you know telephony/PBX/PABX/VOIP *and* have a Cisco cert --- you're pretty golden in some business sectors.
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Old 2008-03-18, 16:42   Link #3
Solace
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Certs open more doors for you. It's true that you don't *need* them, but like Vexx says many companies are very hung up on that paper regardless of experience level. I have a friend in networking that ran into that issue a lot when he was just starting out. Going through his certifications opened up a lot of companies that snubbed him previous to that.

Kind of silly, but that's just how it goes.
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Old 2008-03-18, 19:55   Link #4
grey_moon
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I think it depends on where you are. UK companies hire me really quickly because of my experience, but in HK coz my certs don't exactly match my experience I have to do a song and dance with a naked bear and then they still get all arsey about if my experience is real
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Old 2008-03-18, 20:05   Link #5
Epyon9283
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I have no certifications. In my experience they're a poor substitute for actual knowledge or experience. I don't mean to offend anyone here but people who list their certs in the email signatures are generally morons. I've done enough support work and taken enough calls from called network or system admins to know that just because you can pass the test doesn't mean you know what you're doing.

I've had MCSEs clueless on how to change a record in DNS or configure group policy. I shouldn't have to walk an MCSE through viewing the resultant set of policies for a user. I shouldn't have to tell them what workstation restrictions are.

Then there are the CCNA certified people who have trouble with subnetting. Ugh.
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Old 2008-03-18, 20:55   Link #6
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Originally Posted by Epyon9283 View Post
just because you can pass the test doesn't mean you know what you're doing.
Amen. But that doesn't stop companies from using that piece of paper as a checkpoint, and there are some companies that are so stubborn about it that they really don't care how much experience you have if you don't provide the certs. Unfortunately, it's also how idiots get those kind of jobs...but that's a failure in standards across the board.
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Old 2008-03-18, 22:32   Link #7
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Well, the alternative if you think like Empyon (which I tend to sympathize with) is to have an EXCELLENT professional "social" network so you can skip around the HR departments that haven't completely strangled their company's hiring process.
Sort by cert is "safe" and "thought-free", hence HR's love of certs. Apologies to anyone who works in HR but frankly the problem threatens the productivity of companies far more often than the "false positives" who slip through temporarily.
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Old 2008-03-18, 22:58   Link #8
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@Epyon9283 - Which country are you in? I've done UK (exp >>>> certs) and now HK (certs >>>>>>>>>>> everything including common sense). I was advised to add MSCE by an agency to make myself more sell able to the local market....
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Old 2008-03-18, 23:06   Link #9
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I have no certs for the time being, but I prefer working at more personal companies where they aren't as big a deal. (My present employer normally hires employees strictly on the basis of technical interview perfomance. Just recently, they broke that habit and hired some one based on his Cisco certifications, then let him go after a month. They're now back to technical interviews, and the certifications be danged.)

If you want to dedicate time and money to a USEFUL certification along your interests, Cisco is the place to start. Work on your CCNA, then build out from there.

The hardest of the "big" certifications to substitute experience for are from Cisco and Microsoft. In my experience, Cisco certification and experience elsewhere very often trumps other certification with experience-only on the Cisco end. The Cisco certifications will be of more use to you in "clued in" hiring departments than the Microsoft certs, and you'll probably learn a lot along the way.
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Old 2008-03-19, 01:14   Link #10
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Originally Posted by Kyuusai View Post
The hardest of the "big" certifications to substitute experience for are from Cisco and Microsoft. In my experience, Cisco certification and experience elsewhere very often trumps other certification with experience-only on the Cisco end. The Cisco certifications will be of more use to you in "clued in" hiring departments than the Microsoft certs, and you'll probably learn a lot along the way.
Totally agree with you there as out of all the main stream certs* I would only really give the CCIE another glance. With the MCSE an exam monkey can get as its like doing the CCNA a few times over. CCIE are specialist and actually test practical knowledge. I've had run ins with MCSE engineers who were getting paid my yearly salary (well the company they worked for was) who were stumbling over batch files

I'm a big believer in initiative > experience > certs > academia

Lots of people especially the ones I've been chatting to in HK find my opinion really strange as I've got my MSc in Data Comms, but all that means is I know exactly what academia lacks in the field.

Personally I did my CCNA just to show that the servers I maintain ain't going to bushwhack the network and more importantly so I could effectively manage the networking technicians in my previous role.

What ever is my opinion is, in end of the day the people who count are the ones that are hiring. Which makes researching the role as important as making sure you are hilted up, hence my continual questions about what country... Vexx actually hit one of my weakest areas in the HK market and that is my lack of social network. Asia business seems to be very friendship based. Which doesn't help me much as I have a huge hatred of "nepotism" which probably screams out via my body language

*Some role such as security they won't hire you unless you have a cert and one of the reqs for the cert is to have X amount of years of working experience in security... Chicken and egg neh

*edit*
One of the things that really boggles me is when consultants fail the google test. When someone says something can't be done or is really difficult/expensive I really don't like finding the solution on the first page of a google search....
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Old 2008-03-19, 01:47   Link #11
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Well, from an IT business owner standpoint, certs are mainly used as a selling point. Of course, if you're starting from just being someone interested with learning how the many of aspects of IT works, then you're gaining more than just certs to sell yourself. Either way, having certs tend to impress most of my clients more so than me telling them the things I know. Why? I guess it's because 1: It could sound like you're just blowing steam out of your ass, and 2: Most clients won't be savvy enough to know what you're talking about.

Last edited by Phantom-Takaya; 2008-03-19 at 04:01.
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Old 2008-03-19, 01:51   Link #12
grey_moon
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Originally Posted by Phantom-Takaya View Post
Well, from an IT business owner standpoint, certs are mainly used as a selling point. Of course, if you're starting from just being someone interested with learning how the many of aspects of IT works, then you're gaining more than just certs to sell yourself. Either way, having certs tend to impress most of my clients more so than me telling them the things I know. Why? I guess it's because 1: It could sound like you're just blowing steam out of my ass, and 2: Most clients won't be savvy enough to know what you're talking about.
Or the cynic would say they spend more time getting certs then doing their job
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Old 2008-03-19, 04:03   Link #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grey_moon View Post
Or the cynic would say they spend more time getting certs then doing their job
I hate to say it, but I may be one of those cynics. It felt (and still feels) like I was spending more time reading books to get more certs than actually having time to go around and do my job. That is... if those jobs weren't critical.

Then of course... there was the amount of money spent to take classes and the test... I just took the cheap and slow way by reading the books, then when I was confident enough, spent the money to take the test. Might be best for most people who don't have a lot of money to spend from the very beginning.
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Old 2008-03-19, 04:14   Link #14
hobbes_fan
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As I thought, I remember MCSE's in the early part of the 90's being good. It seems as though I isn't worth it now. For me I'm contemplating a career change. Unfortunately my my tertiary qualifications are irrelevant - an undergrad degree in Actuarial sudies - and my experience is limited 2 years level 1 helpdesk about 10 years ago. So in light of that I have to find a way to beef up my resume.
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Old 2008-03-19, 04:16   Link #15
grey_moon
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Originally Posted by Phantom-Takaya View Post
I hate to say it, but I may be one of those cynics. It felt (and still feels) like I was spending more time reading books to get more certs than actually having time to go around and do my job. That is... if those jobs weren't critical.
Going on courses are great I can't get my bosses to send me on enough of them, but the cert needs the extra 50 to 70% more work that is never used in everyday practice.

For example when I did my CCNA (I'm not a networker) I got the ExamCram books and marathoned them all within about 2 months. I passed with 849 first go, but at the same time a friend from another company took the exam with ~ 20 of his colleagues. They were all starting off on their careers and their company was trying for the Investors in People award so sent them on a week course followed later by the exam.

Now the only one to pass was my friend who does certs the same way I do (ie we exam monkey them) the rest failed and they all had at least 1 to 2 years setting up and managing Cisco kit for companies. All the cert showed was we had better exam techniques as I met some of my friends colleagues afterwards and they are pretty clued up with the practical use and implementation of Cisco kit. Also this was after Cisco changed the cert to prevent people just getting certed without experience.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hobbes_fan View Post
As I thought, I remember MCSE's in the early part of the 90's being good. It seems as though I isn't worth it now. For me I'm contemplating a career change. Unfortunately my my tertiary qualifications are irrelevant - an undergrad degree in Actuarial sudies - and my experience is limited 2 years level 1 helpdesk about 10 years ago. So in light of that I have to find a way to beef up my resume.
Oh they still are not to be sniffed at. As Vexx pointed out HR loves them, but also lots of IT Directors love them too. Basically the higher up they are the more shiny things impress them.

Also in regards to something like a masters (or above), in the UK your career experience goes a long way. I got on mine which required a 2:1 or above (I scraped my degree no honors, but a darn good time), but I got through on my work experience. I did mine part time via the place I worked for. You really got to keep on your feet about getting your work to put you on course. Bonuses are taxed, courses are not and the results can equal a lot more then just a few k at the end of the year
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Old 2008-03-19, 04:29   Link #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hobbes_fan View Post
As I thought, I remember MCSE's in the early part of the 90's being good. It seems as though I isn't worth it now. For me I'm contemplating a career change. Unfortunately my my tertiary qualifications are irrelevant - an undergrad degree in Actuarial sudies - and my experience is limited 2 years level 1 helpdesk about 10 years ago. So in light of that I have to find a way to beef up my resume.
Yep. grey_moon is right. They're still worth it. They're like shiny badges you can flaunt to all prospective employers, and even clients. When it comes to employers, what they're looking for with prospective employees are things that can be an incentive to the company. Certs tend to give that type of incentive. One reason is that they don't have to spend money on you for you to have the certs. Another reason, although this doesn't apply to all companies, such as my own (...since I'm the one who spend the time and money getting the certs, myself...), is that you may have certs that they don't already have, so that makes their company look even better. Employers are technically no different from clients. You flash them the shiny things and they're impressed.


Quote:
Originally Posted by grey_moon View Post
Going on courses are great I can't get my bosses to send me on enough of them, but the cert needs the extra 50 to 70% more work that is never used in everyday practice.

For example when I did my CCNA (I'm not a networker) I got the ExamCram books and marathoned them all within about 2 months. I passed with 849 first go, but at the same time a friend from another company took the exam with ~ 20 of his colleagues. They were all starting off on their careers and their company was trying for the Investors in People award so sent them on a week course followed later by the exam.

Now the only one to pass was my friend who does certs the same way I do (ie we exam monkey them) the rest failed and they all had at least 1 to 2 years setting up and managing Cisco kit for companies. All the cert showed was we had better exam techniques as I met some of my friends colleagues afterwards and they are pretty clued up with the practical use and implementation of Cisco kit. Also this was after Cisco changed the cert to prevent people just getting certed without experience.
Oh, I agree with you. Nothing beats having hands-on experience. So what if you (I'm not referring to you, you of course.) can study and take tests better? It doesn't mean it'll easily translate on the field.
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Old 2008-03-19, 04:34   Link #17
grey_moon
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Originally Posted by Phantom-Takaya View Post
It doesn't mean it'll easily translate on the field.
How many of you have had a server/service destroyed by a noob cert holder *raises hand*

Quote:
But the book says you have to click that button...
/me gets out cattle prod
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Old 2008-03-19, 04:55   Link #18
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Heh, I watched a newly-minted contractor "Novell Professional" (can't remember the certs for those anymore) hard crash a Novell 3.12 retail production system (that operated the CASH REGISTERS) after I told him not to perform ANY diagnostics on it during commercial hours. He insisted it wouldn't be a problem.... after the crash he tried to say I set him up.

The store operations manager fortunately knew me pretty well and he tore into the contractor, the contractor boss, the marauding VP and immediately took steps to remove the retail computation from IT control (on my offline advice, heh). Within a year of me leaving (oh yeah, the marauding VP paid me 4 months severance so I'd leave quietly) - the entire operation was totally balkanized as everyone took their critical ops out from IT domain. Totally flipping hilarious, the VP was lord of "nothing".

(these were buddy bozos that a VP had brought in during his "takeover" of the IT department from a VP who actually had an operational clue)

Maximizing shareholder value, my ass
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Old 2008-03-19, 06:43   Link #19
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@Epyon9283 - Which country are you in? I've done UK (exp >>>> certs) and now HK (certs >>>>>>>>>>> everything including common sense). I was advised to add MSCE by an agency to make myself more sell able to the local market....
I live in the US. So far my knowledge and experience (relative to my age) has gotten me jobs. I've been asked if I had certs but its never been a deciding factor.
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Old 2008-03-19, 06:53   Link #20
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LOL that's lunacy, I've been sequestered on system testing and nothing ever gets rolled out/system maintenance isn't run during operating/peak hours. That's just absurd. You're just asking for trouble. I guess what I'm really trying to get at is this - do the courses provide you the fundamental skills. Certificates even degrees don't mean you are an expert - I've worked long enough to know my degree has almost been next to useless apart from the very core concepts due to the changing environment. I guess that's what I'm really after - core concepts which in turn allow you to expand your skillset.
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