Published on

Presentation for LISA 2011.

Published in: Education, Technology
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide


  1. 1. Playing the Certification Game (No Straitjacket Required)Dru LavigneChair, BSD Certification Group Inc.LISA, 2011
  2. 2. a.k.a How to BecomeCertified Without Becoming Certifiable
  3. 3. a.k.a. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of System Administration Certification ExamsLets start with the Bad and the Ugly, then workour way towards the Good... (dont let the badand the ugly scare you off, stick around for thegood, it does exist!)
  4. 4. The Bad: “Paper” (MCSEs)
  5. 5. The Bad: Braindumps
  6. 6. The Ugly: “Official” Training Required to Pass ExamInformation needed to pass the exam is onlyavailable from the certification vendors “official”training programOf course, said training costs several thousandsof dollars in addition to travel costsTraining doesnt provide knowledge or skills, butrather how to answer the exam questions (in otherwords, an expensive braindump)
  7. 7. The Ugly: Who Needs Psychometrics?Choose all that apply (from a list of a-n)Read through three screens worth of irrelevantinformation in order to find the fragment of asentence which contains the actual questionbeing askedDecipher the meaning of a grammaticallyimpossible question written by someone whosefirst language was obviously not EnglishQuestions are technically inaccurate and soundlike they were written by the sales team
  8. 8. The Ugly: “Hot” SellsSought after certification programs are rarelyabout content but rather about the current hottrendCertificants often end up taking exams that do notincrease their skillset, force them to memorizeirrelevant info, or to learn yet another newmarketing spin on old terminology or another setof meaningless acronyms
  9. 9. The Ugly: CostsPsychometrics is expensive to achieve and notmarketed as a valueExams are expensive to maintain which can resultin one version of the exam and/or questions thatrarely changeMany programs force you to re-certify (ka-ching,ka-ching) in order to maintain certified status. Newproduct versions with new certifications provide anever-ending “what features do I have tomemorize this time” certification path
  10. 10. Recognizing the Good: Value of CertificationThere is value (to both employers and certificants)in quantifying the tasks that comprise a skillsetThere is value in learning about the bigger pictureand in learning the skills you missed along theway because your experience thus far didntrequire themThere is value in being a member of a communitythat shares a proficiency in a well defined skillsetThese values are the hallmark of a well designedcertification program
  11. 11. Recognizing the Good: What to look for in a certification programAre the exam objectives available? Are they skillbased?Does third-party information about the programindicate that the exam adheres to the publishedobjectives?What forms of training and study materials areavailable? (hint: a lack of materials is notnecessarily a bad thing)
  12. 12. Playing the Game: how to gain from any certificationKnow your end goal: are you trying to pass theexam, learn new skills, or a little bit of both?Recognize that few training programs are gearedtowards skills, even if the exam itself isRecognize that your own lab setup is a givenGain a network of skilled friends and look for usergroups that provide an environment for learningthat specific skill
  13. 13. Playing the Game: how to gain fromany certification (even the bad and the ugly ones)While the lack of technical merits may grate onthe geek in you, some certifications will make youremployer, support vendor, or HR happyEven if the exam concentrates on features andirrelevant info, there is no law preventing you fromlearning the skills youll need to wrangle that darnproduct into submission
  14. 14. Reinventing the GameThe first generation of sysadmins didnt go toschool to become sysadmins:Instead, they were the ones who were good at“that computer thing” and figuring out how to keeptheir employers systems up and runningSkills were learned in the field, on an as neededto know basis
  15. 15. Reinventing the GameHow will the next generation of sysadmins learntheir skills?Post-secondary education isnt known for itsplethora of skill-based sysadmin programsWhile certification programs have improved sincethe 90s, there are still plenty which are vendor-specific, study what we want you to know (asopposed to how the product actually works or inunderstanding the world that exists beyond avendors particular product)
  16. 16. Changing the GameLook for and promote/contribute to qualitycertification programs, they do exist!Integrate good programs into larger post-secondary programs (they define skills which canbe taught)A good certification program provides a tool whichcan be used to bridge the post-secondaryknowledge-skill gap or to bring new hires up tospeed
  17. 17. Additional ResourcesWhy Certification Exams Suck: Introduction to Create a Psychometrically ValidCertification Examination Certification Website
  18. 18. Contact & Questions Contact: dru@freebsd.orgURL to slides online: