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Why you need to think carefully about DevOps certification training

A certificate can be a career blessing, but the wrong one can be a curse. Expert Bob Reselman explains how to make the right choices for DevOps and other areas.

These days, as the modern-day IT landscape broadens and technologies emerge at the snap of a finger, more certifications keep popping up. But how do we know if a particular certification is worth anything? If you’re thinking about DevOps certification training, it is worthwhile to be thoughtful about the process.

Getting a certification that counts in DevOps

While many DevOps shops value demonstrable experience over paper, the reality is having DevOps certification training is useful, if for no other reason than you do have to acquire some baseline knowledge. For example, getting certified as an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certified DevOps Engineer is real work. The exam is almost three hours long.

To make the undertaking less laborious, Amazon offers multiday DevOps certification training courses that get you up to speed for the exam. Also, one of the certification requirements is you need to already have a foundational certification, similar to having a bachelor's degree before you can get your master's. As I said, getting AWS-certified is real work.

Red Hat has a DevOps certification program that is real work, too. The Red Hat certification requires five other certifications in order to qualify.

But, for now, if you’re looking for a DevOps certification that you can take to the bank, vendor-based certifications seem to be the way to go.

As of this writing, Google offers Cloud Architect and Data Engineer certifications, but as of yet, there are no offerings particular to DevOps. On the other hand, Microsoft is planning a DevOps certification exam, Implementing Microsoft Azure DevOps Solutions, due in March 2018.

Be advised there are a number of independent certification authorities emerging that are trying to get credibility in terms of DevOps certification training. But, for now, if you're looking for a DevOps certification that you can take to the bank, vendor-based certifications seem to be the way to go.

But that's not to say it's not worth pursuing other certifications to boost your career. If you want to go beyond DevOps certification training to consider more general certifications, how do you choose? Conventional wisdom says the value of a certification is determined according to the organization backing it. These organizations tend to fall into three categories: vendor, association and academic. Let's take a look at each.

Vendor-backed certification

For many professionals, vendor-backed certifications are quite valuable. Being a Microsoft Certified Professional means something because Microsoft administers the certification process. It does the testing and keeps track of the certificates awarded. The same is true for other vendor-based certificates, such as those from the likes Amazon, Oracle, Cisco and IBM.

Professionals like vendor-backed certifications. They essentially attest to the fact that the bearer has the knowledge and skills necessary to work a company's products. Vendor-backed certification make things a bit easier to get hired in shops dedicated to a particular technology. If a company is an AWS shop, hiring someone with AWS certification in a given product at the least ensures the hire has some degree of familiarity in the vocabulary and techniques required.

Association-backed certification

When it comes to DevOps certification training or any other training, it's worth thinking about association-based certifications. An association of professionals, independent of any company or vendor, determines the criteria by which a certificate is awarded and administers the certification process.

The value of the certificate is reflected by the association's certification process and prestige of the association. If the certification is from an association that nobody has ever heard of, the bearer of the certificate had better be able to describe in detail what the certification entails, provided that he or she gets past the gatekeepers in HR to make their case. Otherwise, a certification from an unknown, unverifiable association holds little value.

Academic certification

Lastly, there are professional certifications issued by colleges and universities. Right now, I am working toward becoming Hyperledger-certified. The certifying authority for the Hyperledger certification I am pursuing is edX. Founded by Harvard and MIT, edX delivers the coursework and administers the testing. The content of the course required for certification is verified by the Linux Foundation.

Help wanted: Defining DevOps no simple task

Three companies went out and searched for a DevOps engineer. What they found is illustrative of the often nebulous identity of DevOps and how it works when put into practice.

Creating transparency with Open Badge

Whether you're interested in DevOps certification training or not, it's clear more standards would be helpful. The Open Badge Specification is an attempt to bring standardization to the digital certificate domain. Digital certificates backed by Open Badge allow access to information about the issuer and the recipient, as well as the evidence and criteria by which certification is awarded. Companies such as Credly and Accredible promote the use of Open Badge.

When you view a digital badge issued under Open Badge, you get to go beyond prestige and name recognition to get a full sense of the experience and knowledge required to get the certification. However, as useful as Open Badge is, there’s still a ways to go to make certification a unified, reliable process. The certification space is still pretty fragmented.

Determining the value of a certificate

So, then, what is the value of the certification? To cite the often-used quote, "It's not the destination; it's the journey." It’s about adhering to the DevOps principle of continuous learning. No matter what, I am taking the time and doing the work required to learn something in a structured, verifiable manner. As a result, should being a Hyperledger-certified professional open the door at a company with blockchain technology, at least I'll know that I know enough to not be dangerous. For me, that's value enough to justify the work required to get the certification.

This was last published in December 2017

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