August 13, 2009

enKryptik observations - Linux - To Cert or Not Cert? That is the question...

I recently read the article on Linux .com about the value of Linux job skills. The author gave a link from a site called Datamation that addressed Hot IT Skills. I can easily say that even with the current recession and dismal economy, that Linux is truly in demand. It's not unusual for me to receive 3-4 contacts during the week from employers wanting to talk to me about current opportunities they have with respect to Linux positions. Now, I'm very happy where I currently am. My boss is the type of boss that backs his engineers, fights for the team and knows how to effectively kick someone in the pants if needed. However, it does show that the skills I do have and am capable of bringing to the table are high in the desirability category.

I got involved in Linux 8 years ago out of curiousity. The OS appealed to my natural tendency and desire to break things...apart that is...and build. I decided to explore information technology as a career and did what everyone else was doing in the early 2000s...getting certified. After reading that article, I found it interesting that Linux was the number 2 hot un-certified skill and did not make the list for hot certified skills. There are Linux certifications out there (I have one), so why is it that it is considered a hot un-certified skill? 

Here's my thoughts. It's about the community. Linux developed out of the community, not a corporate practice and sales force...say like Microsoft or Cisco. Large conglomerates want you to buy their goods and in an age of "titles" it sounded professional to be able to pitch to the customer something like "...and there are professionals that we certify through a rigorous training and testing program to understand and service our goods". Linux was more about the raw power of being a part of something bigger than yourself. It allowed for one to sharpen skills, learn, create and develop without the necessity of paying some company or group for the privilege of getting access to the equipment and doing so. 

In the beginning the certification processes for IT skills was a good thing. It was not intended to grant "guru" status, rather to equip the person with a strong foundation in the concepts and technology of the product. I utilized the certification process to get my feet in the information technology field. The problem was that these large companies got greedy and sloppy. They realized the amount of money they could earn by offering certification programs. It became its own industry just to generate materials, tests, training centers, books, and expiration-retest requirements. Soon a person could go through some training academy, study for a test, take said test and earn a certificate granting them instant "professional" status. The problem became that it diluted the skills. It became about taking the test rather then learning the technology. Shortly after the craze of certification began, the "paper certs" showed up. You know what I am talking about if you work the industry. You have someone who presents credentials saying:

 And that's it. They quickly added to the problem instead of helping resolve it.

Linux is more about giving the power back to the community. One learns on the level of their interest. The more interest you have, the more you yearn to learn. And learning is the one thing that Linux will give you ample opportunities to do. It makes no difference if you are an administrator, engineer, developer or hobbyist...Linux affords you the level of "certification" you desire to achieve just by being Linux. You essentially gain your certification by being involved with Linux and using it. In the end, you don't need to pass some certification test to prove you have capabilities in Linux. If you are contributing to the community and using Linux to solve your computing needs and are continually advancing your skills, than you have earned your cert.

That does not mean I disagree with certifications. They do have their place and I've earned more than one myself. However, I personally believe that certifications are not required to be an effective, capable and knowledgeable professional. Especially in Linux. In fact, most of my friends who work the craft carry a cert...however, their skills have come from doing rather than testing.

If you desire to work for the corporate world I would say it is a positive thing to certify in Linux. The tests are difficult and not just "paper" oriented where you pass the written and you are granted a crown and wand. Most Linux certification require a lab portion that are difficult if you are relatively new to the penguin. But don't make the skills about or from the certification. Make the skills about and from Linux.

 Cheers - Kryptikos

*Note if you are interested in Linux certifications here are the primary groups that offer respected certifications:

Red Hat : http://www.redhat.com/certification/rhce/

Novell SUSE :http://www.novell.com/training/certinfo/

Linux Professional Institute (vendor neutral) :http://www.lpi.org/eng/certification/the_lpic_program

SAIR/GNU (vendor neutral) :http://www.linuxcertification.org/

Click Here!