Certified Jedi-Master or Not

Posted: 23rd November 2010 by gutomaia in Career
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Certification is always controversial theme. There will be the ones who defend them and the ones who repudiate them. A growing scale on both sides of the balance. However what really intrigues me is the equilibrium on both sides. As The IT market increase the pursuit for certified professionals, the other side, the community, just improve their hate for it. Why?

This article intend to take steps on both sides of the fence. This is a opinion that I have been supporting for the last two years, what I believe is right and wrong about certification and the whole miss-concept that surround it.

What is a certification? – A minimum Knowledge.

Usually there is only one step to take in order achieve the certified status and it is a test. After the test there is just the result, with the capital letters passed or failed. Therefore the certification is a test, and nothing more. I’ve been already criticized by that conclusion, some colleagues had the opinion that the certification is the result of the test. I disagree ’cause if the intention of it, above all, is to improve professionals, and not to simply put barrier line to make them apart. You learn more when you fail then when you pass. That might be how the market sees it. We will catch that point later on.

As a regular test, it can only proof what you don’t know.  A question mark or even a open question with a twenty-line answer doesn’t give the full picture . Knowledge can’t be putted in a contained frame of a test, that could lead us to a long debate about new teaching methodology that I might do it a future post.

Recently I’ve been asked: “If you believe that, why do you have so many certs?”. That’s exactly why. ’cause I believe that it is just a test and it proves that I have the minimum knowledge about something. So what I had is a bunch of nearly 15  “minimum knowledge” about several things. When I first said that, I was challenger at least to proof my point.

I like certifications. Some readers, may think that I’m more against then In favor of it. I just don’t like the overvalue that is put on them. When you get certified, you don’t became the pope, it is just a baptism. Some corporations tend to see like this and their professionals put some soap letters before their name as a title. What is funny, is that they are more than that title. They are more than the minimum knowledge that was demand by the certification. They shouldn’t put their name after it.

Why do we need a title? – ’cause they doesn’t know our name.

When I saw for the first time “The Karate Kid”. There was a scene near the end of the movie that call my attention. Daniel San is worried when he enlist the champion and says – “This is open division, it’s only for brown belt or above.” and then Mr Miyagi answer – “Boy black belt.” – and gives him the black belt. Since I was eight , it took me years to understand, but I never forgot that scene. At the beginning, I though that he was cheating, giving the boy a black belt and one day I figure out that the belt was just a title as the championship was just a test.

Searching about the history of black-belt, how the west use it as a rank system as in Asia it nothing has to do with mastering. The belt system was first used to graduated students about the knowledge from their master, then the practice and exercises was for technique. When I was a child I’ve practiced Judo, at that time, one thing that I noticed was that the moves that I learned was dictated by the color of my belt, at least with that teacher. I wasn’t allowed to learn or perform new moves until I rank up. From the reduced perspective of a Street Fighter player, knowing the moves, wouldn’t make me master. That what I would accomplished, If I achieved the black-belt then, I would only knew the moves. I wouldn’t have a style. Therefore, a rank system is a title system based on moves and technique.

Take Einstein for a example. What title can we give him? Nuclear Physics Atom Killer? No, we don’t have to give any, it’s Einstein we’re talking about, he is a master. His name is bigger than any title. So mastering is relative, but can be only relative to you. You can be your own master. Ok, Einstein can be titled as the most famous funny tongue :P.

Actually, the certified status and the title given by them,  is seen as a easy path to create a name. Any minimum knowledge doesn’t create a name, and also doesn’t make you a master. If you’re a master in something your name must be reference about what you do. Like Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the armies of the north, general of the Felix Legions, loyal servant of the true emperor. He is not just a Gladiator. You see, anyone could be certified as a Gladiator, you just have to enter on the arena. Surviving the field is about mastering.

Why the overvalue? – ’cause they doesn’t know where to look.

In the beginning of the eighties, video games were pure gold. A small four month project with a bunch of nerds could end in a millionaire return of investment. There was a believe that every developer was a midas, then they could do anything, at any available time, well that part doesn’t change that far, developers still suffers from the lack of planning. The costumer weren’t really important, only the product was. Sundely there was a (space) invasion of crap games without any polish. The costumer was unable to identify the good games among the bad ones, so they use major publishers to avoid bad games. The burst of the bubble was the lunch of ET, a really bad game by a major publisher. The number of returning copies was so big, that most of them was burried in the desert. What end up in the video game crash of 1983.

After the crash, videogame companies, like Nintendo, try to protect their costumers using a quality seal and licensing the game publishers. That way, they could control the offer according to the demand. And the demand will grow if the offer is good.

Now a days, most of corporations*  are using the certification as quality seals. A way to filter their search among professionals profiles. Unfortunately , some good uncertified professionals, are paying for that. However, corporations can’t control the offer and the demand of professionals,  especially the good professionals. You doesn’t have search much, to find high position job offer unfilled for more than six months.

* Not all corporations are following that pattern, there is a trend for new values. Take a look on Manifesto 2.0. Let’s suit this values on other post. I’m just paint an ordinary picture. It’s not a master-piece!

As the moon rises over the sun, the light pitch to dark and the waves shift up. In Brasil, there is a announce of a TI blackout, it is expected, that the amount of job offers will suppress the professionals available. There might be several repercussions when the wave change. Good professionals switching jobs, and more high/specific positions unfilled. Therefore as the top-job offers go up, it doesn’t mean that it will be filled. It means that the corporations would have to search more.

IT Professionals should be more prepared if they’re willing to surf. More jobs doesn’t mean that every one will be playing on high stakes. Regular players will be playing on regular tables. There will be lots of empty chairs on the good tables. Although career is not about gambling, it’s not luck. It’s about drop the big wave. There will be a perfect time, pretty soon. Are you prepared?

Preparation is a dilemma. If you really are, and certifications are the minimum knowledge. You don’t have to get worried about them. Why you never give them a try? Every Gladiator is willing to take a chance, but you gotta win to reach the prime arena, the Coliseum. After the doors, there is blood river.

There is no championship after the main gate.

StartUps, corporations and even the Coliseum, needs good professionals. They all have real problems and real lions, and you have to deal with both of them. The minimum won’t fit here. Certifications paths could provide a good start point. A fundamental knowledge base so you don’t base enter a specific field with a narrow view. That is how I use them, you doesn’t even have to take the real test, just use the content. I don’t overvalue or support the myth of the certified status. However if they ‘could help open the door of the arena just be careful with the lion or the consequences of being a unpolished ET and get berried in the desert.

Make a name, not a title. Even if you had a black-belt, you won’t be Chuck Noris, neither you should challenge him. Also, not all corporations are following for a title. Some even make jokes about it on their job offers with the terms “Jedi-Developer” or “PHP-Ninja”. Who give those titles? Master Shinobi? Master Yoda? Look again the name of the article. Doesn’t matter if you are certified as Jedi-Master or not, you still need to be one in order to face Vader. Take your path, with or without the help of a test.

Be your master, and in your self-mastering, trust in your knowledge, exercise your technique and with reason and  judgment listen to other masters. Start listen to Miyagi…

Daniel San - You told me you fought a lot.
Mr Miyagi - For life, not for points.