Certifications Aren’t Always Bullshit

Sometimes when you finish the last video on a Udemy tech course, you’re given the ability to save a certificate describing that you finished the course. There’s 0 testing in asserting what you learned; just get to the end of the last video. I’ve seen folks on LinkedIn actually posting these certificates (yet somehow still unable to land offer letters), but that’s all I’ll mention on meaningless certs…

Whether the certification is a college degree, revolving around a specific technology like the highly regarded CKA (Certified Kubernetes Administrator) or CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate), you might hear conflicting opinions on whether they’re helpful or not, or even valuable.

I’ll start by saying no, I don’t think that you need a college degree to serve the responsibilities of a Software Engineer, or most other jobs in tech. Not that it doesn’t help, but it’s all about stimulus, the kind of experiences that will get you to where you want to be.

It’s What You Go Through

Tech bootcamps tech you just enough to get started in the industry. It’s my opinion that you can find the same content for free online, but I digress. Bootcamps give you direction, comraderie, and possibly some benefits in regards to opportunities in networking.

Some of the smartest people I’ve worked with who don’t have degrees found sufficient stimulus themselves. You might hear stories about how some people were making money in college and High School, teaching themselves tech skills, monetizing it, and then eventually gaining enough experience to thrive and make a career out of it.

I was able to transition from Software Engineering to Devops because my responsibilities as a dev pretty much forced me to learn things like Kubernetes and Linux. There’s still so much that I have to learn, but I have a strong confidence in that landing my current position as a Senior Devops Engineer with merely about a year and a half of professional devops experience is based on what I went through.

The sacrifice, sleepless nights, and moments of intense pressure where I was basically the only one who could push things forward, there’s so much of my life that put into my career in that year and a half. I’m not saying that pushing yourself to these points is what you need to do, but that the stimulus presented to me in a short amount of time was what pushed my growth.

Years of experience is bullshit. Do the work, know that shit well, and be able to convey it. Use your experiences to boost your own productivity along with those around you.

Certificates can be Helpful

A certification is an assertion of your merit, of what you’re capable of. In many cases, the context of a certificate can do some real good for you. Say, if you had some certificate for AWS, employers who know what that cert is or individuals who have that same certification can make some pretty positive assumptions on what you know.

Now let’s bring up stimulus again. For certifications that can promote professional competency, I appreciate them because they help to push you to get the stimulus you need.

Kubernetes is an extremely powerful tool and has such strong momentum as a solution for serving applications in production. Fun fact: Pokémon Go is powered by it!

Before jumping into it full time, I had a few tasks at work revolving around kubernetes but never really did a deep dive, both at work and on my own time. The topics outlined in the highly regarded CKA exam gave me context in what I thought I needed to know; I got the right kind of stimulus from the training material.

On the self learning path to getting a job in the Software Engineering / Tech industry, the road isn’t really laid out, is it? You may often rely on courses, articles, and the experiences of others for direction. I belive that certs help you do the same thing.

Beating Real World Experience is Hard

While the CKA certification is something that I worked hard to get, there was so much more experience that I went through professionally that I would have liked to be expose to in my learning. Maybe the exam could be more thorough, but that might be wishful thinking. You can’t be prepared for everything. This is something I personally keep forgetting.

Sometimes the best thing to do is to jump right in and reap the experience, both good and bad. Friends I’ve worked with who now have jobs as engineers took the plunge and started applying for jobs well before they thought they were ready. One person basically had no other choice, he wouldn’t have been able to provide for his family.

Keep Going. Be mindful of the stimulus you set yourself up to experience.