Digging through my old emails, I came across a conversation I had with a colleague of mine a few years back. The conversation was mainly on certifications and what are the best certifications to get in order to advance our careers further. This is a good question and there could a few answers as it all depends on your current situation and where you’re looking go. I just want to say that this is just my own opinion and my comments are based on what I’ve experienced throughout my career.
My First IT Job
I’ve always believed in obtaining certifications that pertain to my career and experience. When I started out working in IT, one of the first certifications I obtained was CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Network+, these certifications are considered to be entry level and if you ask me, I think these are great certifications to start with. Obtaining these certifications actually helped me in obtaining my first job. You might ask me, how did they help? Well it demonstrated to my employer that I am serious about my career, I am always learning new technology, and also helped me with my technical interview. And guys, lets face it, we can’t know all the technical terms but knowing enough to understand how to solve a problem is essential. The A+ and Network+ helped me build a technical foundation for me to grow from.
Three Years Later
Now let’s fast forward 3 years. At this point in my career, I’ve accomplished quite a bit, in fact, I was practically promoted from Desktop Support to a Systems Administrator within a year of starting my first IT job. After which, my technical knowledge has grown a lot! The year was 2008 and we just started to work with VMware. At that point, I’ve already achieved an MCSA 2003 and was working towards MCSE 2003. For those that have been in IT for a quite some time or even those that are starting out, I am sure you’ve heard about the famous MCSA/MCSE certifications from Microsoft. Ever since we’ve deployed VMware in our infrastructure, I was hooked! I knew that this is the technology I want to work with and I knew that I had to put in a lot of effort not just in my job, but also after hours. This meant reading books, labs, reading blogs, conversing with colleagues, etc. After about year and half I started to really understand ESX/ESXi, vCenter, etc really well. At that point I decided to pursue the VCP certification. Unfortunately for me, I was not able to obtain the certification because I needed to do the course and my work could not send me. Eventually I ended up doing the VCP5 exam and successfully passing.
In the present day, I am always studying and trying to pass exams that are geared towards my career. I’ve come across a lot of forum posts and articles where people who are new to IT try and pass advanced certifications like VCP or VCAP and simply have a hard time because they don’t have the experience. It is important to really understand the technology you’re working with before attempting to pass the certifications. When people ask me what do I recommend they do for certifications, I always ask what experience they have and what they are looking to achieve. I believe that certifications are supposed to give the IT professional credibility, they’re supposed to demonstrate that the IT professional is capable of designing, implementing, troubleshooting the technology they’re certified in. If you’re new to IT and you just decided to do advanced exams like VCAP/CCNP, etc with no experience, how can that demonstrate that you’re proficient in these technologies if you have no experience? There’s a good saying, that patience is virtue and that we have to take one step at a time before we can run. When I was moving up the latter, I was learning a lot and taking certifications that were pertaining to my career, which in turn made my achievements and experience look good to my employers.
My advice to those that are working on certifications is to think about where you’re looking to go with your career, what technology you’re looking to work with and what experience do you presently have. Answering these questions will help you with choosing the right certifications to take and build up your career.