My Thoughts On IT Certifications

A few days ago, a former colleague asked me about IT certifications. They’re at a bit of a career crossroads and wanted to know whether or not I thought obtaining a certificate was worth the investment of time and money. Given their circumstances, I told them that I thought it would be worthwhile for them to learn about a specific piece of technology and take an exam. However, I was sure to specify that obtaining an IT certification won’t necessarily guarantee that they’ll get that big promotion or secure their dream job.

It’s important to note that every hiring manager is different. As a hiring manager myself, I personally don’t hold a whole lot of stock in certifications. I’ve had coworkers with a half-dozen certifications that were very unreliable when it came to implementation and troubleshooting. I have also worked with some extremely talented individuals that don’t hold a single certification. There isn’t necessarily a correlation between a cert and success.

Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely benefits to obtaining IT certifications. In fact, some organizations won’t consider candidates without relevant certs. During my most recent job search, I ended up getting more questions about my certs from VMware and Microsoft than I did about my Master’s degree. I’m positive that those little vendor logos went a long way to get my resume past HR and to the hiring manager. However, that’s only half of the battle when attempting to secure a position.

Certifications aren’t ever going to be a silver bullet. At some point, you’ll need to rely on your reputation and industry experience to advance your career. That being said, certifications won’t hurt you. They can expose you to technology that you may not get a chance to interact with on a daily basis. Every circumstance is different but if you’re looking to gain exposure to a new area of technology or feeling a bit stale, obtaining a vendor certification is the way to go.

 

Lessons Learned During My First Term As An Adjunct Professor

This fall, I taught my first undergraduate course. The class was an overview of Network Engineering and covered everything from the OSI model to DNS best practices. Despite a few hurdles, the students all passed the course and I really got a sense that a majority of them learned a lot in the process. As someone who struggled academically high school, the successful completion of my first college course as an Adjunct Professor felt like quite an accomplishment. My confidence was through the roof until a student informed me that they decided against a career in Network Engineering after taking my course.

At first, I was crushed. This student received an A and was very engaged throughout the course. I assumed this meant that I failed my first attempt at teaching. I suddenly began second-guessing the lecture material and lab content. I eventually asked the student more about their decision and was pleasantly surprised by their answer.

It turns out, I actually did the student a service. They stated that they really learned a lot throughout the course. They gained enough information about Network Engineering to decide that it wasn’t something that they wanted to pursue. It didn’t have anything to do with the content of the lectures or the structure of the labs. They simply didn’t feel passionate about this aspect of technology.

Looking back, I’m really glad this student found out what they weren’t passionate about without endangering their career. I will keep this experience in mind as I teach additional courses. As I help students embark on their careers in IT, I will encourage them to seek internships or job shadowing opportunities. This will help them identify if they are truly following their passion or just attempting to earn a paycheck.

Overall, I loved my first experience as an Adjunct Professor and I can’t wait to teach future courses.