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A warning to Java Certification seekers

Stephen Cowell
Greenhorn

Joined: Feb 07, 2002
Posts: 22
I wanted to share my story as a cautionary tale to others going for certs. I have all 4 Java certs, along with an IT Masters and 13 years IT experience. In 4 months of searching I have had not a single client interview for a Java job. It appears that Java certs barely get me into the office of an agent. Because there are so many experienced Java programmers out of work at the moment, if you have Java certs and no commercial Java experience it appears you're wasting your time.
Manish Hatwalne
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 22, 2001
Posts: 2578

If you have IT masters and 13 Years of IT experience, who cares for Certs? The reason you may not have job is probably because they can't afford your salary. For a person with approx 2 years exp or less, I think the process of getting certified might give a good knowledge of basic Java, which should help in getting a Job. More than the cert itself, the process of getting certified and the learning it invloves is more valuable; and it should be valid for any certification.
- Manish
Stephen Cowell
Greenhorn

Joined: Feb 07, 2002
Posts: 22
No, it's 13 years IT experience, but none of that in Java. I'm trying to break into a Java job with no luck.
Greg Neef
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 16, 2003
Posts: 82
I have 18 years experience and am out of work too. I am also trying to switch to Java from doing other things (most recently Siebel) and working on my first certification. My view of the certifications is that IF the market improves (which it must... only I may be dead of old age first) and IF I can get another IT job, then the Java will be invaluable in KEEPing my next job and being prepared for the next new thing. This unwanted hiatus in working is an opportunity to get the training there is never time for when you are working (usually 50 - 70 weeks). As to salary, I can't speak for you but I would take a big pay cut over what I was earning to be getting hands on Java experience. I know I can work my way back up again salary wise to at least something reasonable. As you have probably discovered, companies seem to be very hesitant to offer people less than they were making before. I personally am following the advise at http://www.job-hunt.org and keeping my previous cushy salary quiet.
[ July 29, 2003: Message edited by: Greg Neef ]

SCJP 1.4
Tim Holloway
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Jun 25, 2001
Posts: 16145
    
  21

It has been said that the only people that companies want to hire are those with the exact same experience and skills as those they just laid off.
That's been my problem. Not that I can't work with Oracle or DB2, but that the demand is that I have been working with Oracle or DB2 for 5 years, and I'm not the kind of person to lie and say I have.
Note also that 5 years DB2 experience cannot be used for credit if the employer wants 5 years Oracle. Or vice versa.
But the REALLY depressing thing is when you visit their websites and the $#@#$# things are done so sloppy!


Customer surveys are for companies who didn't pay proper attention to begin with.
Svetlana Koshkina
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 08, 2003
Posts: 108
Originally posted by Tim Holloway:
Note also that 5 years DB2 experience cannot be used for credit if the employer wants 5 years Oracle. Or vice versa.
But the REALLY depressing thing is when you visit their websites and the $#@#$# things are done so sloppy!

I was always wondering, is it really necessary to have 5 years of Oracle or of anything's experience? I thought 1-2 years will do just fine because 5 years is way too much, once your learning curve approached its max in a given field there will be almost no difference to be bothered with. It's like 35 and 40 years old: they are almost the same as adults.
But there is one catch. I know that for H1 visa job posting should be put out for about 3 weeks(?) so that Americans could apply and compete with H1 visa candidate. Usually it is absolute formality because the job requirements are formulated so that nobody ever will be able to fill it except for initial candidate (who most likely was already working there on another visa and is meant to continue).
About certs I'd agree that many people have really no other way (as me, for ex.) to get foot into the door. So, everybody aware of that but I'd honestly say that learning experience was great while I did my developer cert. And I certainly won't regret that even if it won't land me job. I only know that if I'd found job, this cert played its role even if the employer did not respect it.
Also, I am working two fronts now because I need to exploit my biology education too and apart from programming I have to learn bioinformatics which is kind of away from areas i've been working in. So, there so many problems, wow... All these 5 years of Oracle exper. requirements are really annoying. Maybe HR parasites are writing those requirements, so that 5 years-experienced head will be more rewarding for them commission-wise?
I don't know what to think. This forum is so depressing, honestly. I'd probably better of not visiting here at all. No offense, but my spirit is very very down after visiting couple of times.Can't help it.
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Svetlana Koshkina:

About certs I'd agree that many people have really no other way (as me, for ex.) to get foot into the door.

We all know that they key to getting an interview is to have your resume stand out. How many people have certs?* More importantly, what fraction of the people applying for this job will have certs? Are you really going to stand out by having a certification?
I know there are some comapnies which require it (although they still seem to be very few), but even then, it's certainly not going to make you stand out.
The point is, whatever benefits you may consider certs to have, signalling rarity is not one of them.
--Mark

*I've asked Sun for this information, and they keep saying they'll get back to me.
[ July 29, 2003: Message edited by: Mark Herschberg ]
Sam Kebab
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 23, 2002
Posts: 104
Yeah but are there not 3,000,000 developers in the world.
So if you have 100,000 certified developers ... that's 3%.
Although this is not java - MCAD's (i.e. certified developers for the .NET platform) number 6k only.
http://www.microsoft.com/traincert/mcp/certified.asp
[ July 29, 2003: Message edited by: Sam Kebab ]
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Sam Kebab:
Yeah but are there not 3,000,000 developers in the world.

Personally, I'm very skeptical of the 3,000,000 number. But I'm willing to lowerbound it at 1,000,000; maybe there are event 2,000,000.
In any case, that's why I emphsized, what fraction of the people applying for this job will have certs?
I would suspect most of the people certified are probably in the US. I would also suspect senior people are less likely to have certifications. In other words, even if the general populace is 3%, I suspect for many of these junior positions, the rate is closer to 20%.
Isthere anyone currently involved in hiring who can shed more light on this? What have you seen?
--Mark
[ July 29, 2003: Message edited by: Mark Herschberg ]
shay Aluko
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 01, 2002
Posts: 167
For someone with more than 10 years experience, i am not sure a java developer position would be the best way to go. Why not showcase your leadership abilities and market yourself as a project manager?.Getting the PMP certification might help. As contrasted to Java certs, the PMP is universal, project management is the same whether you are building bridges or software. Just my $0.02
Billy Tsai
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 23, 2003
Posts: 1304
Its time to consider relocating, India, China or North Korea maybe....


BEA 8.1 Certified Administrator, IBM Certified Solution Developer For XML 1.1 and Related Technologies, SCJP, SCWCD, SCBCD, SCDJWS, SCJD, SCEA,
Oracle Certified Master Java EE 5 Enterprise Architect
Matt Cao
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 03, 2003
Posts: 715
Hello,
I go with Shay on this. At this level you should aim for management level or at least see the manager's view.
For the fresh meat, my logic goes like this if something new and you have it, you have an edge. If something are not new and you have it, you are a follower, likely to be used and likely to be toss aside when done.
Regards,
MCao
Matt Cao
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 03, 2003
Posts: 715
Hi Tim,
I think your point is the approach my company practicing called changing the hand of luck. Instead of changing the house or dealer, it changes the players. The new players will make less money and bring in new attitudes with new views on the project at hands.
Regards,
MCao
Kevin Thompson
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 04, 2001
Posts: 237
Stephen,
I guess I am jaded and it shows.
The very first thing you have to give up is your honesty.
How exactly do you think people get "commercial experience"? I know people who say they have 5 years of "commercial experience" who know squat. THey obtained their "commercial experience" by making it up out of thin air.
Just yesterday I seen a resume on the internet - the guy called himself "an information architect and web interface engineer" - but all he knows is Flash. Of course, this is pathetic - but this is how things work now.
Kevin
Matt Cao
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 03, 2003
Posts: 715
Hi,
Within 5 years if working closely with business people, you could understand how the business operates within a company, if the company is small to medium. The larger company will take longer to grasp because the structure are fairly complex.
Curiously I would like to see his resume too. If the guy could land job like that, all of us have reason to worry.
Regards,
MCao
Michael Ernest
High Plains Drifter
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 25, 2000
Posts: 7292

Originally posted by shay Aluko:
For someone with more than 10 years experience, i am not sure a java developer position would be the best way to go. Why not showcase your leadership abilities and market yourself as a project manager?.Getting the PMP certification might help. As contrasted to Java certs, the PMP is universal, project management is the same whether you are building bridges or software. Just my $0.02

That advice makes sense to me. Saying you want a job as a programmer when you have 10 years IT experience seems to me like saying adter 10 years designing server hardware you'd like to work in tech support. You're aiming in the direction directly opposite to the ones people think you're most suitable for.
The fact that you have no programming experience isn't mitigated by your certifications, I'm afraid. All it would suggest to me, if I didn't know any better, is that those exams can't be very hard is someone with no experience can pass them all.


Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen.
- Robert Bresson
Lance Duncan
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 28, 2003
Posts: 39
warning?
we all know cert is not as strong as experience, but more is better than less, less is better than nothing.
so the matter of the question is money, which is same as timing, because you will get that exam money eventually.
Stephen Cowell
Greenhorn

Joined: Feb 07, 2002
Posts: 22
Originally posted by Matt Cao:
Hello,
I go with Shay on this. At this level you should aim for management level or at least see the manager's view.
For the fresh meat, my logic goes like this if something new and you have it, you have an edge. If something are not new and you have it, you are a follower, likely to be used and likely to be toss aside when done.
Regards,
MCao

Good advice, except I hate doing management work, and I should know as I've done it before. It seems there isn't much room for a career techo, especially one who hasn't had commercial experience in the area they want to move into.
Billy Tsai
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 23, 2003
Posts: 1304
I have exhausted all my money on certifications, the last one I passed is SCEA part1 and i also have purchased the part2 assignment but I dont have any money left anymore. I have been declined and ignored for many junior and graduate positions it is not funny anymore, i have also changed the writings and the format of my resume many times with different cover letter. So far I have got nothing.
Tim Holloway
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Jun 25, 2001
Posts: 16145
    
  21

I got reminded the other day that last year, for the first time in history, there were less US IT workers than there were when the year started. Breaking into a shrinking market can be really rough.
Even in good times, I've seen employers make impossible skill demands. I've known talented people who lied to get the job, crammed to aquire the skills, then done a sterling job. I just don't want to lie myself.
You can be disqualified for being underqualified, overqualified, insufficient in academic/professional credentials, excessively endowed with academic/professional credentials - it just doesn't matter.
With all this going against one, it's not hard to despair. If there's any other non-offshorable profession that you enjoy doing more than IT, seriously consider it. It's likely to be a long time before the world adjusts to globalization and the current state of the economy doesn't help either.
However, for those of us who just have to work with computers, there are certain things that help. The foremost of which, alas, is working on social factors. Many of us (me included) who work in IT aren't what you'd call outgoing sociable people. However, the power of networking is indisputable. If it's really true that you can contact any person in the world through no more than 6 intermediaries, you can see it's a mathematical certainty that if there's anyone anywhere who'd like to employ you, then tapping those connections will help.
Problem is, what connections to tap? I used to rely on headhunters, but they're almost totally useless anymore. When joblessness was regionaly, we could at least argue why I didn't want to move to Fargo, ND while waiting for something local. Now headhunters generally don't even see you as a person and there's no place to move to. You're as likely to find something close to home as across the continent in most cases (the new Federal jobs excepted).
In this part of the country, IT professional organizations have never had a reputation for being a good place to look for a job. However, strangely enough, I have seen a few leads come out of amateur organizations. Things like the local Java and Linux user groups, 2600 and slashdot meetups, that sort of thing. The job market (I repeat) stinks, so they are precious few, but they get you a better shot at that inside connection than anything else I know of these days.
Alexandre Ferras
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 24, 2003
Posts: 51
Tim,
Perception and motivation influence social networks. The idea that a person can be linked to a complete stranger via a handful of social contacts - the "six degrees of separation" - has been confirmed in a global mail experiment.


Time is an excellent teacher; but eventually it kills all its students. <br /> <br />Alexandre Mottin Ferras<br />SCJP 1.5 <br />SCJP 1.4<br />SCWCD 1.3<br />SCBCD<br />IBM Object-Oriented Analysis and Design with UML
Al Newman
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 30, 2003
Posts: 716
Originally posted by Stephen Cowell:
I wanted to share my story as a cautionary tale to others going for certs. I have all 4 Java certs, along with an IT Masters and 13 years IT experience. In 4 months of searching I have had not a single client interview for a Java job. It appears that Java certs barely get me into the office of an agent. Because there are so many experienced Java programmers out of work at the moment, if you have Java certs and no commercial Java experience it appears you're wasting your time.

Got it in one, Steve, sorry to say. If you have any flaws in your background right now it's difficult at best. What I'd do if I were in your shoes is look for a job in the 'sweet spot' of your skill base, with the possibility of moving into Java. Sell what you have good experience in.
A contract gig may be the best bet right now, because you sometimes can nose around and see whether you can find any Java work to do, or perhaps if you are assigned something you can elect to do it in Java.
Java Certifications tend to help people like myself pretty well. I had industrial Java experience, but not a ton of it in a market where a lot of people have 5-6 years Java experience and where there are a lot of Java 'fakers' in my experience band (people who know a little Java but not enough). What certifications did was allow me to market myself more convincingly as someone who knew his way around.
It also gave me a talking point with recruiters. Many recruiters don't know what certifications are. So when I rang them up I emphasized the certs. They naturally asked what the cert is, which gave me an opportunity to do a little selling. Of the certification(s), not myself this time. I told them what the process did for me.
The recruiter would then talk to potential clients, many of whom don't know certifications. But the recruiter tells them 'I have this really good candidate, he holds two certifications and sounds really good. You have to interview him!...'
Two things are key right now. Market to the recruiter and market your strengths. Java is not yet a strength, Steve, but you can use it as a supporting skill.
OR..... One more thing you can do is prove your skill. Put up a working website using free tools like Apache or JBoss. I would write up some white papers or maybe some well-written (personally done) program listings for content. If you know Ant, Weblogic/Websphere, and JUnit/XDoclet etc, make that part of your content. Get it publically hosted somewhere, then add the URL to your CV and to your cover letter. Mention it to the recruiter. Even though only 1% of recruiters will be able to make heads or tails of it, most will be impressed. And they will in turn emphasize it to their clients.
Moreover they will remember you (the guy with the website) and may call you whenever anything remotely relevant comes up. I have a friend who calls me even when it isn't relevant! I take a little time to explain what it is and why I'm not the best bet for this one.
This is useful. Extremely useful. A busy recruiter can get you working,,,,,


SCJP1.4, SCWCD
Matt Cao
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 03, 2003
Posts: 715
Hi,
It would be nice, if the website is not for the whole freaking world to see because some of them look so disappointed.
Regards,
MCao
Donald Nunn
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 11, 2000
Posts: 200
I've noticed a lot of disappointment with the Java certifications. Well don't feel bad. As everyone's aware the Java market is flooded and has been flooded for a long time. As several posts have indicated the rewards from getting certified are valuable. Maybe you should look into .Net and C#. I made the move over a year ago and it's been sweet every since. I was one of those guys with 17 years of IT experience and a BS in CS, and a MS in Software Engineering and I attempted for a long time to move into the Java world and it never happened. So, one day a .Net/C# opportunity presented itself and the rest is history. If the java trek would have happened, then I suppose I would be doing Java.
[ August 14, 2003: Message edited by: Evan Donaldson ]
[ August 14, 2003: Message edited by: Donald Nunn ]

<b>Donald Nunn</b><br />Sun Certified Programmer for the Java 2 Platform
Al Newman
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 30, 2003
Posts: 716
Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:

We all know that they key to getting an interview is to have your resume stand out. How many people have certs?* More importantly, what fraction of the people applying for this job will have certs? Are you really going to stand out by having a certification?
I know there are some comapnies which require it (although they still seem to be very few), but even then, it's certainly not going to make you stand out.
The point is, whatever benefits you may consider certs to have, signalling rarity is not one of them.
--Mark

*I've asked Sun for this information, and they keep saying they'll get back to me.

I partially disagree, Mark. The key to getting interviews is not having your CV/resume stand out. The key is getting attention in some manner! A standout CV can help get attention. But really it's being a standout candidate which is the key. This is not synonymous with being a standout software engineer, BTW. A perfectly ordinary software engineer can be a standout candidate, or conversely an outstanding SE can manage his/hers/it's campaign in such a way as to hide their light under a bushel.
What is needed are ways to stand out and communicate stand-out qualities. One example is the personal web site which I have advocated that candidates use as a tool.
The fundamental question many potential employers are asking is can this one do the job?. Or possibly Is this the best one?
Formal list of qualifications are the tool employers use to get an answer to these fundamental questions.
The problem with certifications is that many people try to use them as a single-source 'silver-bullet' answer to all their skills problems. They simply don't WORK that way. As Fred Brooks wrote in a famous essay, there Is no Silver Bullet!
Certification can be used to provide a partial answer to the question 'Are you good enough?' They are supporting evidence, not a 'golden key' to the job market!
I had a small skills gap problem, and my certifications helped me bridge that gap. People with a larger skills gap (lacking commercial Java experience, for example) need to take a much more radical approach and attempt to answer the fundamental questions I mentioned above directly. Certification alone cannot get you the job in this case.
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Alfred Neumann:

I partially disagree, Mark. The key to getting interviews is not having your CV/resume stand out. The key is getting attention in some manner! A standout CV can help get attention. But really it's being a standout candidate which is the key.

Well, I think it's mostly semantics. Good things on your CV helps you stand out. A link to your very cool website, i would argue is part of your CV. If my book does well, hopefully that will make me stand out. I was considering saying something like "XXX copies sold" part of the CV event though the book is clearly external to the CV. Likewise a phonecall which makes the hiring manager actually look through the pile makes your resume stand out--even though the phone call is external to the CV. In any case, I think we're basically saying the same thing.
Originally posted by Alfred Neumann:

The problem with certifications is that many people try to use them as a single-source 'silver-bullet' answer to all their skills problems. They simply don't WORK that way. As Fred Brooks wrote in a famous essay, there Is no Silver Bullet!

Although I understand the anaology, I want to make it clear to other readers that Brooks was not talking about certifications. Rather he was talkng about methodologies, processes, and tools, saying none of them can offer a factor of 10 improvement. He makes no mention of education.
--Mark
Al Newman
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 30, 2003
Posts: 716
Well, I think it's mostly semantics. Good things on your CV helps you stand out. A link to your very cool website, i would argue is part of your CV. If my book does well, hopefully that will make me stand out. I was considering saying something like "XXX copies sold" part of the CV event though the book is clearly external to the CV. Likewise a phonecall which makes the hiring manager actually look through the pile makes your resume stand out--even though the phone call is external to the CV. In any case, I think we're basically saying the same thing.

Mark, I don't believe we're fundamentally disagreeing at all, though the technical term for what I am describing is a Marketing Campaign. That is what marketing geeks call it. People who fall outside of the parameters of the 'perfect candidate' need to think out of the box. They need to concieve a strategy to beat the odds. The first thing they need to identify is what question(s) the people who make the hiring decision are
really asking. That question isn't really 'do you have 20 years of Java experience?'. It's 'can you fill my need(s) and are you the best candidate available?'.
Websites, books, cold calls, certification, and networking are all possible parts of a job marketing strategy. In this case the marketing strategy doesn't need to be a 50-page word document. It should at most be a few short paragraphs describing your answer to the hiring questions you have identified. Revise and change freely as you learn more.
I used certification as an answer to two narrowly-defined problems I was having. First, I'm an old fart and there is an urban legend that old fart's cannot know Java. Second, I bodged some early interviews because I was too vague on the details. I learned very quickly that 'I'd look it up' doesn't cut it. Even when you know what your doing.
The memorization part of certifications may be BS as far as actually doing the job, but what it CAN do is help you ace the tests they make you take. And ace (part) of the technical interview. I am an experienced SE with significant Java experience, but before certification I wasn't even getting to the part where I can shine (the what I can do for you) part. Because I was tripping on small details.
Plus (as I have written) you can turn a cert into a marketing point if you emphasize it and tell people why you did it and how it enhanced your value....
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Alfred Neumann:

The memorization part of certifications may be BS as far as actually doing the job, but what it CAN do is help you ace the tests they make you take. And ace (part) of the technical interview.

It can only do this inasmuch as their tests and technical interview mimic the cert test. What first alerted me to the trouble with certs is that candidates I interviewed couldn't answer the important questions. The could only regurgitate information from the test, but I didn't consider that sufficent for a hire.
--Mark
Bear Bibeault
Author and ninkuma
Marshal

Joined: Jan 10, 2002
Posts: 61434
    
  67

Is there anyone currently involved in hiring who can shed more light on this? What have you seen?

OK, last time I brought this up I got flamed big-time (and was even called a nincompoop, which I probably am, but has nothing to do with the subject at hand). So remember, I'm only the messenger!
In my past three jobs, certs were actually considered a red flag during hiring. And the more certs one had, the worse it was. It was generally considered that they were worthless and that anyone who'd spend that amount of time and money on something so useless had serious decision-making problems. And those with a whole slew of certs to their name were considered uber-geeks who needed to get a life and couldn't possibly be expected to interact with humans in any meaningful way.
Let the flames begin! But please direct them appropriately... I can give you the name of two of these companies (the 3rd is deservedly bankrupt)!
My current position is in a group that is completely ambivalent towards them. They are thought to be meaningless, but I haven't sensed any antipathy towards cert holders. As someone put it, it's like putting "likes to deep-sea fish" on your resume. *
bear
* Except for college hires, of which there is darn little of. In that arena, certs get a higher score than fishing.


[Asking smart questions] [Bear's FrontMan] [About Bear] [Books by Bear]
HS Thomas
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 15, 2002
Posts: 3404
And those with a whole slew of certs to their name were considered uber-geeks who needed to get a life and couldn't possibly be expected to interact with humans in any meaningful way.

That is a terribly narrow-minded view to take. If you treat it as a piece of paper that is all it will be. But I know some who take the trouble to read books relevant to the subject and take trouble over producing quality work to get their certificate. As Alfred says, it is up to the cert holder to sell themselves, or the process of learning. The fact that there are so many cert holders is neither here no there. You still need to work for that extra Ooomph to get you spotted. If you see yourself as a walking piece of talent with a couple of certs, you should be laughing.
There are jobs out there. Just don't expect the cert, the piece of paper to sell itself. Networking is the important thing.
regards
Greg Neef
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 16, 2003
Posts: 82

Originally posted by Donald Nunn
Maybe you should look into .Net and C#. I made the move over a year ago and it's been sweet every since. I was one of those guys with 17 years of IT experience and a BS in CS, and a MS in Software Engineering and I attempted for a long time to move into the Java world and it never happened.

Having bet against Microsoft several times in my long career and lost (Borland C and PowerBuilder) I was very hesitant to do so again when confronted with learning the latest new thing. However, I did a survey of job postings in my area over a fairly broad range of job websites. I found the Java jobs outnumbered COM+/.Net ones by about 10 to 1 so Java is what I am studying.
It may be that deep sea fishing would be as useful a pastime. Better yet maybe hustling pool, at least that has some prospect of bringing in some money in the foreseeable future.
[ August 15, 2003: Message edited by: Greg Neef ]
Al Newman
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 30, 2003
Posts: 716
Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:

It can only do this inasmuch as their tests and technical interview mimic the cert test. What first alerted me to the trouble with certs is that candidates I interviewed couldn't answer the important questions. The could only regurgitate information from the test, but I didn't consider that sufficent for a hire.
--Mark

Great point, Mark. This is absolutely true - or was. But we're both traditionalists I wot.
The problem is that multiple-choice testing is increasingly substituting for the technical conversation with a person with deep knowledge. At least as the first stage. I was botching those before I even got in to see someone I could persuade. Note that this only happened a few times before I got the message. Memorize or perish. And while I was at it I might as well earn a credential I could use in the marketing campaign....
One can either rail at fate or adjust to the world as it is. I chose to do the latter. And I learn some things I hadn't known, perhaps because I approach certification as a learning experience, not merely rote memorization. I tried to deepen my knowledge of the technology rather than merely beat the testing center.
Certifications can also serve as a syllabus of sorts for a learning campaign. The questions can alert you to corners of the subject which you hadn't encountered before. There is also a reverse danger that the exam syllabus will lead you to omit important topics not on the exam.
Al Newman
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 30, 2003
Posts: 716
Originally posted by HS Thomas:

That is a terribly narrow-minded view to take. If you treat it as a piece of paper that is all it will be. But I know some who take the trouble to read books relevant to the subject and take trouble over producing quality work to get their certificate. As Alfred says, it is up to the cert holder to sell themselves, or the process of learning. The fact that there are so many cert holders is neither here no there. You still need to work for that extra Ooomph to get you spotted. If you see yourself as a walking piece of talent with a couple of certs, you should be laughing.
There are jobs out there. Just don't expect the cert, the piece of paper to sell itself. Networking is the important thing.
regards

Of course there is a problem too, HS.
Reading improving books doesn't do that much to help you to get certified. Or through 'gotcha' pre-interview tests. Even working through books on Java or Servlets/JSP/Tag Libraries doesn't help that much in passing a relevant certification test.
There are lots of skills which will never be even remotely measured by any certification. I'm coming to the POV lately that knowing Ant/XDoclet/JUnit and related open source tools is going to make one a more effective developer than anything currently covered by a certification today. There are other lacunae even within subjects well-covered covered by certification exams.
A perfect example is the SCWCD, which fails to cover Struts and Javaserver Faces. A current SCEA holder has been tested on the EJB 1.1 specification rather then the current working standard (though to be fair it's possible that their design project was done with the 2.0 specification).
Anyone who lets their skill development strategy be entirely driven by certification is going to miss big chunks of important things, which is why I have been critical of certifications in the past.
I have changed my mind. Certifications have been abused but they still can hold significant value. I will certainly read CVs with attention to interesting project work description(s) first, but with everything else equal I will bring in the certificate holder first for an interview or for a phone screen. Of course one of my questions on the phone screen will be about any good books one has read lately, so if the candidate has only read certification manuals they will have a problem.....
And as I've pointed out, certifications can help a job seeker overcome certain practical problems which have arisen in recent years.....
leo donahue
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Joined: Apr 17, 2003
Posts: 327
Originally posted by HS Thomas:

That is a terribly narrow-minded view to take. If you treat it as a piece of paper that is all it will be. But I know some who take the trouble to read books relevant to the subject and take trouble over producing quality work to get their certificate. As Alfred says, it is up to the cert holder to sell themselves, or the process of learning. The fact that there are so many cert holders is neither here no there. You still need to work for that extra Ooomph to get you spotted. If you see yourself as a walking piece of talent with a couple of certs, you should be laughing.
There are jobs out there. Just don't expect the cert, the piece of paper to sell itself. Networking is the important thing.
regards

I agree with you, but there are still many "narrow-minded" employers out there. Usually those types of employers hire people with chips on their shoulders so big, you can't even have a conversation with them.
I agree with you when you say that it is up to the cert holder to sell oneself. I also agree with Eleanor Roosevelt when she said:
"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. -- Eleanor Roosevelt. "
But when you are selling yourself unknowingly to one of those employers that feel as though your cert is worthless, what do you do? I had an employer once tell me that programming is merely a lesson in typing and that anyone should be able to program in a matter of minutes, if you can think logically (translation: if you can think the way they are thinking)


Thanks, leo
HS Thomas
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Joined: May 15, 2002
Posts: 3404
posted by leo donahue :
I had an employer once tell me that programming is merely a lesson in typing and that anyone should be able to program in a matter of minutes, if you can think logically (translation: if you can think the way they are thinking)

Duh! He/She sounds like an idiot. This isn't the sort of employer anyone would be trying to appeal to. By now ,any employer who doesn't understand that programming is a craft and not a science should not be in a hiring position for programmers.
Alfred , what you say about relevant skills being measured as shifting goal posts is very true. Try getting more employers to think your way and give credence to the ones who do try to keep up. I can't see why these certifications do not get accepted as a Professional Qualification like the British Computer Society exams. Is the jCert initiative more recognised ? I'd say the BCS exams are more recognised worldwide
(well, countries making up the Commonwealth mainly but also in countries that had a British Embassy) but I think they are a bit behind times . What you get tested on a certification will take some time (years) to show up on a BCS qualification.
For that matter, I think University qualifications may be behind times.But University qualifications are much broader.A degree holder is able to do some research , A cert holder may not be capable of research. The cert tests a fraction of the knowledge required, in depth. It is up to the cert holder to gain that breadth and depth by combining the certification with something else, practical and useful. Experience and certs is one very powerful combination.
Perhaps certification holders should club together and show the good works thay have done with the process of certifying. This should be one of the tasks of a Java User Group to benefit the local communities by applying (certified ) technology. If certifications do not get more recognition they will die out ! And that will be a great loss!

For what do we go to College--information or atmosphere? At first, one is inclined to say information, but thoughtful teachers usually concede that atmosphere is more important, because atmosphere instills principles, ideals, friendships, high standards, which cannot elsewhere be got, whereas information can be dug out of books.
A similar remark applies to camp life. Summer camps are virtually summer colleges. One may learn there to swim, to paddle, to know the trees, but one is a larger gainer if one get good methods and traditions that will serve through life.
As I have studied the work and studied the camps, I am impressed by the fact that not a little of the formative, helpful atmosphere is created in camp by little customs. A hundred things which in themselves seem unimportant, are the breeders of the subtle something that we call atmosphere.

Value of Little Customs
Organisations may also start looking to build that kind of Values-breeding atmosphere. It wil certainly benefit Big Multi-National Companies worldwide as well as small ones..
regards
[ August 16, 2003: Message edited by: HS Thomas ]
Mark Herschberg
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Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Well, obviously I'm no fan of certs. I agree with you bear. My tendancy is that certs are a bad sign. However, I try not to hold it against people, since I've seen many smart people (good programmers) who aren't good at career management.
One can either rail at fate or adjust to the world as it is. I chose to do the latter.
Or remake the rules. I use this as a reverse filter. If the company doesn't know how to conduct a good interview, i.e. if they can only/primarily evaluate based on certs rather then reading resumes and interactions, then it's probably not a company I want to work for.
--Mark
HS Thomas
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Joined: May 15, 2002
Posts: 3404
posted by Alfred Neumann:
There are lots of skills which will never be even remotely measured by any certification. I'm coming to the POV lately that knowing Ant/XDoclet/JUnit and related open source tools is going to make one a more effective developer than anything currently covered by a certification today. There are other lacunae even within subjects well-covered covered by certification exams.

I am sure if you take the trouble to trawl through IBM's product certifications you'd find a match for Ant/XDoclet/JUnit and related open source tools certifications. I have the impression they use some of their certifications as substitutes for training. CD-based on-line training. IBM is really reaping the awards for sowing some early seeds. Anyone can take some of these administrative certifications to get an entry-level administrative mind-bloggingly stupid job.

Funnily enough, there is more demand for people with such skills.But it can get you a job.
As far as the SCWCD and SCEA they are updating it soon to include Struts and JavaServerFaces and the SCEA to include things like Web Services, I believe.
If you want to start on these earlier try getting involved in some open-roles with companies doing early adoption of these technologies. Here you need to go all out to sell youself, too.
regards
[ August 16, 2003: Message edited by: HS Thomas ]
HS Thomas
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Joined: May 15, 2002
Posts: 3404
Value of Little Customs
Organisations may also start looking to build that kind of Values-breeding atmosphere. It will certainly benefit Big Multi-National Companies worldwide as well as small ones..

Trouble is, I am not sure how local values are going to hold good anymore in creating these Values of Little Customs .
"Think globally ,act locally" is a common saying.
What does that actually mean ?
Perhaps it means that your customers are more likely be your friends, neighbours , colleagues at work . In summary, people local to you.
Now if those values still hold globally you've potentially got yourself a larger slice of the pie. (It needn't be American pie, but for the 250 million American middle-class , I'd Americanise it as much as I can. But now I can also Russianise, Indianise, Chinesify, Central Europeanise , Auzlandise that pie with today's technology.This idea isn't new . It's also known as MacDonalds. )
Businesses ,and hence Software Development, are being MacDonaldised.
Incidentally, I've never had a MacDonalds that tasted the same in all my travels in the US , Europe, Far East, South Africa. I think I prefer the English Big Mac. It had something to do with the local finishing touches - Tomato Ketchup that's so thick it has to be whacked out of the tub, the napkins, knives and forks(albeit plastic) , the very unAmerican comparative rudeness of the service. And I think to myself ,I'm HOME.
Try whacking Chinese Ketchup with the same force and it'd probably follow a trajectory a missile would envy from Peking to Moscow. And you can't compete a Chinese waiter for rudeness - only in China it's not perceived as rudeness but an eagerness to serve 650 million customers in a hurry.A much-upheld local value.
Bye! I'm off to bake a pie or flip burgers or take a course in that mind-boggingly stupid admin course!
regards
[ August 16, 2003: Message edited by: HS Thomas ]
Al Newman
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Joined: Mar 30, 2003
Posts: 716
Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
Well, obviously I'm no fan of certs. I agree with you bear. My tendancy is that certs are a bad sign. However, I try not to hold it against people, since I've seen many smart people (good programmers) who aren't good at career management.

Mark, up to about 2 years ago I felt the same way. What helped change my mind whas joining my local JUG which meets in the City (London financial district). I have met many good programmers who swear by certifications. And many employers in the City are aware of certs and assign plus points for various certifications. Particularly the Sun Certifications. My new employer is split about 2/3rds for and against certs.
Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
One can either rail at fate or adjust to the world as it is. I chose to do the latter.
Or remake the rules. I use this as a reverse filter. If the company doesn't know how to conduct a good interview, i.e. if they can only/primarily evaluate based on certs rather then reading resumes and interactions, then it's probably not a company I want to work for.
--Mark

When I was on the selecting end I gave certifications no weight. Then I found myself out of a job, and circumstances changed some.
I agree that a company who puts in a completely mechanical cert-driven procedure isn't worth working for, but I haven't seen any such yet. What is more common is to see them give plus points to cert holders, which would be reasonable enough in decent economic times.
In the current job market there is a surplus of competent people and a lot of CVs washing around. If companies are giving plus points for certifications and you don't have one or two, that factor alone can easily be enough to completely eliminate you from consideration for many of the good jobs. Or so I have found.
The certifications come into consideration during the screening phase.
Now that I'm back on the consideration end, perhaps I can start remaking the rules.
[ August 17, 2003: Message edited by: Alfred Neumann ]
Jonathan Hendry
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Joined: Aug 16, 2003
Posts: 32
Mark Herschberg writes: "One can either rail at fate or adjust to the world as it is. I chose to do the latter."
The problem is that the business world might not allow you to adjust. Take offshore outsourcing. They might want to pay drastically lower salaries, but they probably won't be interested if you've "adjusted to the world" by lowering your salary expectations and your standard of living. If you do that, you're automatically suspect. Recruiters seem to be hiring with the same assumptions as if the world has not changed at all.
Regarding certifications, Mark, have you taken any of the project oriented
certification exams?
I've always been skeptical of certifications, seeing them as being primarily a means for getting revenue by selling training and the tests themselves. I can't see any other justification for the online practice SCJP exam costing half as much as the real one.
That's been my preconception, and it wasn't altered by my experience with the SCJP test which I passed on Aug. 8th. I don't know how someone could get a 52. I got out of there in less than an hour with an 88, and only used the scratch board once.
But project-based exams like the SCJD seem challenging enough, if they grade as hard as one might hope/fear. The threat of automatic failure, and the 80% needed to pass, suggest pretty harsh grading. I should think it would at least flunk the worst candidates, who fail to even meet the project requirements. If Sun grades light, then that hurts the validity of such exams. But at the very least they establish a certain level of ability with the material covered in the exam.
Consider the alternatives for evaluating a candidate. Performance reviews and corporate advancement can involve politics, distorting inter-personal dynamics, favoritism, nepotism and other problems, which you're not likely to find out about. So a candidate's job history might be pumped up a bit. References from former employers can be pretty vapid and noncommittal, in order to avoid legal trouble.
At least a certification involves evaluation without these kinds of conflicts of interest. (If Sun were grading to increase revenue, wouldn't they want to fail more people, so they'd retake the test and pay again?)
I'm doing these two certifications because I'm out of work, have been for a very long time, and am in summer break between trimesters of an MSCS program. Being in a studying mode, it seemed natural.
I'm hoping it'll shore up my background a little. I have lots of experience with OO, via Objective-C and OpenStep, but nobody hires such people except Apple, and I'm not interested in moving to Cupertino. Recruiters have no idea what Objective-C is, so I figure they ignore it and look only at the 10 months of Java work I had at my last position, a dot com from which I was laid off. Not many recruiters are looking for people with 10 months of Java experience.
(Back when Java came out I was doing the independent NeXTStep contractor thing, and played around with it, but that's hard to quantify in an interview. And it's not recent. And I wasn't doing production code for anything. At best it puts me up to a year. But I expect interviewers and screeners to ignore that experience.)
There's not that many other options, really. I'm skeptical of the value of working on open source projects, unless you manage to become a prominent participant in a project which produces something a potential employer actually uses - and that assumes that the people at the employer who are involved in hiring actually pay attention to the largely political interactions of the project and who's who in the CVS logs.
Individual projects, likewise, aren't a lot of help, especially when you're looking for work involving server technologies. I frankly have little use for a home J2EE project, and no databases that inspire me. Telling an interviewer I've got a J2EE-based web database of my book collection at home isn't likely to get me a job, and is even lamer than a SCJD certification.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://aspose.com/file-tools
 
subject: A warning to Java Certification seekers