Do you know a Good Mechanic?

Have you stop to notice how people usually get a good mechanic for their car? 

When was the last time that you asked for the professional certificate of a Mechanic? 

We do not ask that kind of question, do we? Most of the time getting a mechanic is a matter of word of mouth. Nothing speaks better than a running engine with a smooth and consistent sound. If your friend got her car up and running by the time you asked, that mechanic would likely get a recommendation, and another customer. A bad sound on that engine and both the reference and the new customer may fly away. 

However, at first sight the IT industry may seem to revolve in a pretty different way. There are certifications for every technology you can imagine under the sun. There are Microsoft certifications, Oracle certifications, SAP certifications, Cisco certifications, Governance certifications, I.T.I.L certifications, Project Management certifications, Security certifications, C.O.B.I.T certifications, you name it. The path to a new position usually seems to stop by at least one of those tiny little papers. 

Professional certifications are indeed a widespread method to demonstrate knowledge in a given field today, to provide a common jargon which facilitates professional interaction, and to achieve recognition from peers and upper managers. However we shall not forget that their ultimate goal is to demonstrate professional exercise and practice hours. 

Similar to the analogy about mechanics, a professional certification can work pretty well on top of a respectable expertise and a proven success track in your field. But a professional certification may not succeed covering up an expertise which falls short to the demands of a given position, or a poor field performance. 

In fact, attempting a certification in such situations is an effort prone to failure, potentially causing yourself and your company loses in terms of time and money. Even if you achieve it, you will find out soon that the actual practice provides insights and a learning process that the hours of study and practice tests simply cannot provide. 

So, this doesn't mean that you should not pursue a professional certification. This means that you should keep it in perspective, focusing on the expertise and professional knowledge that it demonstrates or that it should demonstrate. 

Sooner or later you will come into a colleague that for a reason or another may not be certified, but which still will be a top notch practitioner of the discipline. You will also come into a colleague whose certification will not do very much to favor a lack of real life skills or the lack of drive truly required to thrive in the professional field. 

Till next week,

- Sergio Calvo.

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