Friday, July 30, 2010


I recently studied for (and passed!) my exams for MCITP Database Developer certification.

In the past, I've always glanced askance at certification. I've run into too many people in my career with a lot of letters after their names and not much sense or experience in their heads. Conversely, some of the smartest people I know in IT have no professional schooling or certification.

An old joke comes to mind:
Q: What do you call the person who graduates last in their class from medical school?
A: "Doctor"

Passing your boards and completing your residency doesn't make you a good doctor. Years of experience, ambition, passion, and curiosity generally do. But, would you take your sick child to see a doctor who "never really got around to getting licensed"?

Getting IT certification shows the world:
  • I care enough about this skillset to actually study for and pass the exams
  • At one point or another, I read and understood something about all the topics in this area, not just the ones I use every day.
Cynically, I'd say that most anyone can cram enough facts into their head to pass a test, and then never actually apply that knowledge and really learn it. But assuming you're not a complete phony and you actually do know your specialty pretty well, being forced to study for exams benefits you in a lot of ways, even if you forget a lot of the facts shortly after.

Here's what I got out of it:
  • I demoted a lot of "unknown unknowns" to "known unknowns." It's kind of like going through your toolbox and learning what some of the more obscure tools do. You still might not ever use your double offset ring spanner, but at least now you know you've got one and what it's for.
  • I got a good solid dose of humility. In my little work world, I'm the SQL guru. But really I use a subset of SQL's features, and there's always plenty to learn.
  • On the opposite side, I got acknowledgement that I do really know my stuff on the "known known" topics. I'm pretty good at writing complex queries, and tuning them, and those questions were a snap.
  • I was able to put a few things to work right away. I've just recently started using recursive CTE's, and lately I'm finding all kinds of things to do with CTE's. I knew about them, but until I started playing with them, they never entered my go-to lexicon.
  • I reaffirmed how much I like working in SQL. The Microsoft exams give you a "real" business scenario that you've been hired to implement, and then ask you about various aspects of the project. It was actually kind of fun digging into an interesting problem and thinking about how I'd go about tackling it.

Next on my plate: MCITP Developer 2008.

No comments:

Post a Comment