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Is SCEA Valuable?

VamC Poondla
Greenhorn

Joined: Mar 20, 2004
Posts: 26
This is my opinion about SCEA as it is administered today and suggestions to make it better.

Disclaimer - I am not a M$ employee. Also I love Java platform. All are my personal opinions and I expect that it is taken in the right spirit.

1) SCEA has no experience requirements. This according to me is very bad.

Remedy - Sun should ask for at least 5 years experience and do some random checks to verify the testimonials.

2) Part 1 is not tough. If one mugs up all questions in various mock exams, part 1 is a cake walk.

Remedy - Make it tough. Ask some real world questions any architect may face. Test the candidate whether he has the right attitude and aptitude of an architect.

3) Part 2 Assignment is open secret.

Remedy - Create more architecture problems and test the candidates for solutions.
Also in the same problem domain change the requirements slightly. Make it a fool proof test.

4) Dont try to build a quick critical mass
Today there are around 4 million Java developers. May be Sun wanted to build certain number of Java architects. ( I am speculating here )

5) "Frog-in-the-well" view of technology :

Remedy- Encourage the architects choose solutions that will challenge the known facts. Let them use any platform, not J2EE alone. Let them conceptualize light weight architectures, J2EE, .Net, SOA, Web Servcies, OR Mapping ...etc etc.

6) Part III exam is routine.

Remedy- make part 3 a three hour exam and change the questions in such a way that the candidate has to think in that room alternatives. For example, what will be your solution if so and so use case is changed like this. What will be your solution if the API of so and so system is changed to accept a different protocol..etc etc,

I understand the cost implications of such changes. But, I think it will make the certification more valuable..not just something that increases one's monthly take home.

And finally let this certification live to its name - Sun Certified Enterprise Architect(SCEA) or change it to Sun Certified J2EE Architect(SCJA)

And see how Microsoft is coming with a much standardized certification
http://www.microsoft.com/architecture/default.aspx?pid=share.certification

[ November 09, 2005: Message edited by: VamC Poondla ]
[ November 09, 2005: Message edited by: VamC Poondla ]

Thanks,<br />Vamsi Poondla,<br />SCJP 1.2, SCEA, PMP
Santosh Pasupuleti
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 10, 2005
Posts: 97
Vamsee,

That's a very good criticism.

Regards
Santosh
Abiodun Adisa
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 17, 2002
Posts: 495
Originally posted by VamC Poondla:
This is my opinion about SCEA as it is administered today and suggestions to make it better.

Disclaimer - I am not a M$ employee. Also I love Java platform. All are my personal opinions and I expect that it is taken in the right spirit.

1) SCEA has no experience requirements. This according to me is very bad.

Remedy - Sun should ask for at least 5 years experience and do some random checks to verify the testimonials.

2) Part 1 is not tough. If one mugs up all questions in various mock exams, part 1 is a cake walk.

Remedy - Make it tough. Ask some real world questions any architect may face. Test the candidate whether he has the right attitude and aptitude of an architect.

3) Part 2 Assignment is open secret.

Remedy - Create more architecture problems and test the candidates for solutions.
Also in the same problem domain change the requirements slightly. Make it a fool proof test.

4) Dont try to build a quick critical mass
Today there are around 4 million Java developers. May be Sun wanted to build certain number of Java architects. ( I am speculating here )

5) "Frog-in-the-well" view of technology :

Remedy- Encourage the architects choose solutions that will challenge the known facts. Let them use any platform, not J2EE alone. Let them conceptualize light weight architectures, J2EE, .Net, SOA, Web Servcies, OR Mapping ...etc etc.

6) Part III exam is routine.

Remedy- make part 3 a three hour exam and change the questions in such a way that the candidate has to think in that room alternatives. For example, what will be your solution if so and so use case is changed like this. What will be your solution if the API of so and so system is changed to accept a different protocol..etc etc,

I understand the cost implications of such changes. But, I think it will make the certification more valuable..not just something that increases one's monthly take home.

And finally let this certification live to its name - Sun Certified Enterprise Architect(SCEA) or change it to Sun Certified J2EE Architect(SCJA)

And see how Microsoft is coming with a much standardized certification
http://www.microsoft.com/architecture/default.aspx?pid=share.certification

[ November 09, 2005: Message edited by: VamC Poondla ]

[ November 09, 2005: Message edited by: VamC Poondla ]


I do feel the SCEA is okay as it is , i mean its a Certification and not a College Degree. Its just "Basic" Knowledge that you have the "basic" Skills. The only thing i would want added is that to be an SCEA you have to do the SCJP and a developer exam. and concerning Microsoft why would i spend my whole time and energy just to become a Microsoft Certified Achitect, Please its a certification and not a Phd. Imagine doing interviews, Voting process. I can assure you that even a 3 year old kid would be able to count the number of MCA on the face of the earth next year, Because all their requirements are just not feasible

my two cents
VamC Poondla
Greenhorn

Joined: Mar 20, 2004
Posts: 26
I agree with you about MCA requirements. They are too tough and quite impractical.

But my suggestions about SCEA is how to make it more credible. All my above suggestions address that basic requirement.
Ajith Kallambella
Sheriff

Joined: Mar 17, 2000
Posts: 5782
Your comments are reflections of your thoughts. They are your opinions, but I'm afraid they are not facts. Here are my rebuttals to your points.

1) SCEA has no experience requirements. This according to me is very bad.
The converse is not necessarily true either. PMP has very stringent experience requirements however, I have come across project managers who cannot even write a single document without spelling errors. Adding experience requirements does not always result in a better quality of certification. Unlike PMP where experience is required to be grouped into functional( and well accepted) PM areas, the nature of a typical J2EE Architect role and the breadth of activities he/she performs makes it harder to enumerate the experience in temrs of a finite set of functions performed. Although experience is not an explicit requirement, solution to Part II often reflects upon the individual's exposure to real architecture. It is here that many come to realize that they ended up in the wrong place.

Part 1 is not tough. If one mugs up all questions in various mock exams, part 1 is a cake walk.
Very few people admit that part I is difficult, but many feel it is not easy. I have participated and organized SCEA study groups in the past and the breadth of objectives covered in part I is often intimidating to many people. Since the test comes in three parts, Part I is like a qualifying round. Easy/hard is very subjective, but Sun thinks that if you cannot crack it, then you are not ready to move on to the next levels. Sure one can memorize every single mock test out there and pass the test fairly easily, but many a such later get stuck with the assignment since it requires more skills - real skills that one can draw only from their experience.

3) Part 2 Assignment is open secret.
I hate to say this, but it is a truth that *we* are all responsible for making it an open secret. Every test taker has an obligation to ensure that the details are not revealed. But in practice, it is hard to enforce. Sun made SCJP tougher by randomly selecting questions from a larger pool so that test administered to each individual is unique. Two years later, we now know that every single question in the pool has been shared in public by test takers. Its a cat and mouse race.


4) Dont try to build a quick critical mass
Training and certification are avenues of revenue generation for Sun. It is how they make money. Its all about bottom line and they like it when more people take the test because they get more money. It is that simple. Have you seen how many *new* certifications came out of Sun in the last 3-4years?

5) "Frog-in-the-well" view of technology : Encourage the architects choose solutions that will challenge the known facts. Let them use any platform, not J2EE alone. Let them conceptualize light weight architectures, J2EE, .Net, SOA, Web Servcies, OR Mapping ...etc etc.
That list never ends. I have always told folks that certification is a piece of paper. It does not and should not limit your skills to ones that were validated during the process. As an architect, you are required to understand the broader aspects , and the newer technologies. You are an architect first, and then a certified architect later. Since it is a Sun certified test, they would like you to apply, use and promote technologies advocated and sold by Sun. That's why they don't test your .NET skills. In fact, your solution is required to be based on open standards and Java technology. It is explicitly written in the assignment document. And lets not forget that the best and elegant solutions to a problem are often the simplest solutions. The flight reservation system is a moderately complex assignment. However, the solution can be built using several simple, but collaborating components. Many agree with me that it is rather hard to achive simplicity and it is very easy to come up with a bloated design. With all the patterns, frameworks, tools and technologies out there, we tend to stereotype the solution to every single problem and start with an extremely complicated design. Although you are not graded on the simplicity of your assignment, but it becomes a point of realization for many test takers half way through the assignment. They realize that their design is complex, often unnecessarily complex, but they find it hard to make it simpler. In real life, if you are an architect building real systems, balancing the priorities, making tradeoffs and striving for a lean and mean architecture( in terms of cost, time to market, application footprint, hardware requirements etc) is your overarching mission. To do that, you need to learn to think creatively. Solving the assignment will help you measure your own maturity. Sun is not interested in that, but you should be.

6) Part III exam is routine.
I agree, to a certain extent. There are two objectives to part III. One is nonrepudiation - they would like to verify that *you* actually did the assignment. They do that by asking you to write narrative answers and correlating your narrations with the assignemnts you submitted. The second goal of part III ( IMHO ) is to test your written skills. Sure you can write a three inch thick architecture document, but can you explain specific aspects of your architecture with precision and brevity? Unlike *any* other Sun tests that I am aware of, part III of SCEA requires you to write narrative answers. Although the assessment can be subjective, I believe the evaluator can reduce the grades based on your Part III answers. This is one of the reasons why we see a few folks who fail the test, despite submitting a functionally valid solution to the assignment. My recommendation is not to take part III lightly. It is the icing on the cake, small but very important.


In summary, it is very hard for Sun to test every single aspect of being an architect. They verify the minimals and assume that the candidate understands the importance of other *required* skills and invests his/her own time to groom those skills. A successful architect is not only technically well versed with the broad range of topics, but knows how to present them. He/she should be a good writer, a good speaker, applies moderation, understands the tradeoffs, invests time to understand the business domain, acts as a patient diplomat, safeguards the stakeholder's charter, helps achive ROI, increases bottomline, helps the company maintain a competitive advantage, defines strategy, plans for growth and at the time of need, rolls up his sleeve, pulls up the IDE and debugs the code. This is not an exhaustive list, but it should give you an idea how comprehensive the test need to be to evaluate and accredit each of these skills. Every test taker should introspect their abilities during and even beyond the process of certification to measure their level of ability to actually perfrom these activities in real life. Just like every person on the road who passes the driving test isn't a good driver, every certified SCEA is not a good architect.


Open Group Certified Distinguished IT Architect. Open Group Certified Master IT Architect. Sun Certified Architect (SCEA).
VamC Poondla
Greenhorn

Joined: Mar 20, 2004
Posts: 26
Ajith,

You touched various aspects of the profession. I appreciate that.

Many consider SCEA as a passport to the architect role. And that is not correct. SCEA should be certifying those who already have the necessary skills.

Can a college grad architect a great solution. May be. But what is the probability? That is the reason why a minimal # of years of experience should be there. The probability that a developer with > 5 years experience can architect a better system is higher than one who has 1 or 2 years.

Part 2 and Part 3 could be of more variety and challenging. May be cost and other logistics is preventing Sun from making any changes here.

Like someone responded earlier - SCEA checks only *minimal* requirements. I think, it should check for *maximum* requirements.
Ajith Kallambella
Sheriff

Joined: Mar 17, 2000
Posts: 5782
I would seriously question the judgement of someone who hires a college grad or even with 3 years experience for an architect role just based on SCEA certification. Hiring managers do a good job of separating wheat from chaff.
peter cooke
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 16, 2004
Posts: 314
I.M.H.O These certifications supposed "ensure a person has knowledge up to some known standard and certified by an independant 3rd party (sun), and therefore a business will not need to spend resources to educate/train the person in those areas."

I beleive they are similar to a college degree a BS MS or PHD. The college and accreditation board agree if you pass the classes to get the degree you have knowledge to some level. No where does anyone ever say with a degree you can do it professionally on day one of your first job.


My 2cents- You have to learn the material anyway to continue your
career. If you pick up certs from some unbiases indepenant 3rd party, so much the better.


CIAO Peter M. Cooke
mark antony
Greenhorn

Joined: Nov 10, 2005
Posts: 8
Hi,
I agree with Ajit that completing SCEA does NOT make one architect.
I think the certification will loose its value, If people discuss the solution so openly. If you really want your certifcation (SCEA) to pay back, then retain the value of it by not discussing the assignment.
We should make use of this forum in good spirit - to learn and share experience in architecture space.

Tony
Lead Architect
[ November 15, 2005: Message edited by: mark antony ]
mark antony
Greenhorn

Joined: Nov 10, 2005
Posts: 8
this.wakeup();

VamC Poondla
Greenhorn

Joined: Mar 20, 2004
Posts: 26
An SCEA on the resume looks very attractive. Hiring managers/ Resource Managers - I heard funny stories of skill fit. (With all due respects to good folks.)

Anyway, my basic point is - is the certification easy to achieve with < adequate skills? Is the problem not too old? Are the questions not stale and predictable?
k.p thottam
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 29, 2001
Posts: 77
Hi All,

I agree that the barrier for SCEA is really low . Frankly I feel that the problem lies in the fact that design patterns are dealt with at the lowest and simplest level.

The GOF design patterns in my opinion are the very basic design patterns for any developer (architects definitely need to go beyond this basic). Design patterns like POSA and CJ2EE patterns should be included .

Another area that the SCEA is lacking in , is the technology breath,
Areas like web components , web services , portals , content management systems , workflow engines , document management systems , media streaming , LDAP servers , authentication / Single sign on servers , handheld platforms etc are just not covered.

As a practicing architect, everyone of the above (except for media streaming) I have had to tackle and have delivered solutions using them.

A third area that the SCEA is lacking in, is the area of network technologies and an understanding of the various that compose a network.

As an architect I spend at least 7-10% dealing with these aspects as my servers are a part of the network.


On the issue of experience I would disagree , you can either do it or can not do it. Let the test be the filtering point.

As for the assignment , this forum has made a joke of the assignment. And even those of us like me who have kept silent are to blame.


We all need to wait for the next iteration of this certification and hope it will improve.

thanks
kpt


K.P.Thottam (K.P.T)<br /> <br />Sun Certified Enterprise Architect,TOGAF 8 Certified,Certified Information System security Professional (CISSP),SCJDWS,SCWCD,SCJP,MCP
mark antony
Greenhorn

Joined: Nov 10, 2005
Posts: 8
I couldn't wake up the following topic. It's worth reading!

Topic: IMPORTANT - Position on real assignment (Part 2) questions

http://www.coderanch.com/t/150936/java-Architect-SCEA/certification/IMPORTANT-Position-real-assignment-Part
[ November 29, 2005: Message edited by: mark antony ]
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://aspose.com/file-tools
 
subject: Is SCEA Valuable?
 
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