Monday, 4 April 2011

Professional certification - curse or blessing?

In a past life, I wore an IT Project Manager’s hat. Simply put, I worked with IT Teams to identify, define, execute and deliver IT Projects.

The Information Technology (IT) industry is quite a fast-paced one, because everyone knows everything in IT becomes obsolete the minute it is publicly announced! This means you have to be constantly on top of your game and stay current with the latest industry trends, to ensure that all projects are delivering relevant technology to the end users.


I count myself very lucky to work in IT, as it is an extremely portable skill-set, and one of those rare ones that does not require any substantial retraining when you get to a new location.

The IT crowd are usually the same bunch of nerds/geeks, all in denial about being nerds/geeks. The job expectations are fairly standardised worldwide – regardless of where you are. (a PC is a pc is a pc – no?). You just need to cope with the soft skills – people, cultures etc

To increase your marketability in IT (and very likely take home a fatter paycheck), professional certification is highly beneficial. The need for certifications is fast creeping into the IT industry as a critical differentiator for prospective employers and recruiters. (The deluge of responses that employers get for any advertised job openings, has deemed it necessary to introduce specific differentiators in the form of professional certifications, in order to narrow down the potential candidates). The plus side though is that these certification exams are universal – can be taken by anyone anywhere in the world – and are not region specific. (for example, you do not need to be in the US to take the Microsoft Certification exams).

Some other professions are not quite as lucky. Doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers, engineers, accountants all need to retrain or be re-certified in most countries before they can work. This is mandatory and not a 'nice-to-have'. This is primarily because such professions already have firm and established guidelines (I hesitate to use the word – structure – as it would suggest the IT industry is unstructured. Such fallacy!) on methods of operation and what is acceptable, within each country. An in-depth knowledge of the country specific requirements therefore is essential before anyone is permitted to practice. Those in the medical field appear to be worst-hit in the USA, as each state has its own guidelines for practising in the state!

Can you imagine if you were the spouse of a Globetrotting executive and needed to retrain in each location you are posted to, in order to work? How frustrating will that be? Worrying about this will distract you from enjoying your new location and can very quickly negatively impact your relationship with your spouse... Besides, those certification exams don't come cheap either....

So what if you are not in IT, and you are already well entrenched in your career and really are not keen on retraining/certification, but you still want to work? There are other options which you could explore – volunteering, pro-bono work, internship, starting your own business...All topics for another discussion.......

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