[nSLUG] Linux Certifications

D G Teed donald.teed at gmail.com
Wed Apr 14 11:19:47 ADT 2010

On Tue, Apr 13, 2010 at 8:26 PM, Adam Hartling
<adam.hartling.ns at gmail.com>wrote:

> I have to ask, other professions have certifications and courses, some
> required to work in certain professions and for job advancements. Why is it
> that certifications in computer related professions have a reputation as
> being unnecessary and somehow beneath qualified people? My partner is a
> teacher and he had to take courses and certifications to advance in his
> career, and I recall my Aunt having to take an exam to earn a certification
> in her loan officer position to advance as well. Aren't certifications and
> the like just a normal part of a professional career?

I think exams are generally just shallow.  In the real world one
has to recall commands and syntax and methods from many
different operating systems, as well as a plethora of applications
big and small.  e.g. The Redhat exams might ask you something
about sendmail or postfix, but I'm certain they would not
touch anything about the more practical and very common
application of postfix + amavisd-new + clamav + spamassassin.

Exams test mainly for stuff you can cram in there
for medium term memory.  Psychology tests have shown that only about
60% of crammed learning can be recalled in the longer term.

Stuff you use every week or month can remain in memory,
but other stuff gets side-swiped by new information.
We use notes, bookmarks, emails to ourselves and google to
get through the day.  Organization and intelligent use of
these isn't part of any test.

Thinking on your feet isn't a part of any test as well.  This is
something you'd only learn from experience and developing
a good understanding how the different parts inter-relate.
This is especially true of dealing with hardware issues.

One reason certifications are useful is when the employer
has little idea how to tell if a person is knowledgeable.  I
saw someone brought on who somehow made the
association between an edit to /etc/hosts and hardware
disk I/O errors going away.  The next time the I/O
errors popped up, they were unable to get into /etc/hosts
and this was how they announced the system problem to
others!  They had 3 years experience running a single Redhat
machine for one web application, but had really gotten by
with making associations between things, without really
understanding.  Other *nix people knew the person's level of
understanding was minimal, but I suspect the person hiring simply
looked at number of years working with a Linux box.

You can imagine in some workplaces such a thing
could be a disaster, so they would want to bring in
certification as a requirement, in response to something
like this.

For interviews, I can make up a test with just a few questions
to tell if someone has a basic grasp of life at the command prompt.
Unlike Redhat, I'm looking for knowledge of where to go next,
or what tools to use, not always specific syntax correctness.

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