June 17, 2024


The Techno Universe

Certify This

Within the scope of my career, the advent of technical certifications is possibly the worst thing that ever came down the pike. I have already written some material on this subject, but this practice has caused me so much anguish, I wanted to add more fuel to the fire. If one is willing to overlook the fact that certification testing was originally introduced by software and hardware vendors as a means to produce additional streams of income, there are other issues that make this practice even more distasteful.

One analogy would be to imagine that someone was interested in hiring you to build a house. For purposes of making the story interesting, let us say you happen to be a master builder. Before you build the house for the customer, you must satisfy their confidence in your credentials by proving your skills before you are allowed to start work. You have agreed to take a test that was put together by other builders. On the day of the test, you have a general idea what the test will be about, and with your knowledge of house building, you decide passing the examination will not be much trouble for you.

When you arrive on the testing site, you are ushered into a room where you find a pile of materials. You are then told you will be required to construct a home using only the information you have in your head, and you are not allowed to refer to specifications, plans, tools or references associated with building the type of home the authors had in mind when they created the test. In addition, you will also have to know where each nail, screw, bolt, and fastener is recommended to go, and what angle is optimal for holding the structure together. You are allowed to make a few mistakes, but if the structure you build does not resemble the model intended, you will not pass the test. Also, you will have to complete the project within a predetermined amount of time, roughly equivalent to what the test creators determined as reasonable for kind of house you are assigned to build.

Of course, on the first try, you fail to complete the task successfully, but being a master builder, you take mental note of the various materials you saw while you were in the room. Your customer is willing to give you another try at passing the test, so you take what you can remember about the first crack at the assignment, and spend some time researching building plans before the next test date. You discover a set of plans that contains the same materials you remember from the test, and memorize as much as you can from the specifications you dug up in your research.

On the second try, you go right to the task, but discover there are now some slightly different materials included in the pile that were not there the first time, and decide the plans you studied were perhaps not the correct model for your project. You have failed again.

Using all the knowledge you gathered from the first two attempts, you are expected to take the test one more time. Your research before the test shows two slightly different models are possible from the materials you have memorized from your tests, and depending on the presence of a specific kind of guttering, you will be building one type of model or the other. On the third try at the test, you manage to struggle through completing the structure, and successfully complete the test with a passing grade, despite some errors you made in the design.

Feeling very good about yourself, you are satisfied that your credentials for building houses have been satisfactorily verified. Just before your customers agree to hire you for building their home, they suddenly have some real questions associated with their particular job. They decide you must also be equally qualified in how to build boats, automobiles, telescopes, and small aircraft as well. After all, building is building isn’t it? They ask you if you would be willing to pay for the tests to prove your acuity for building the other items associated with their dream home, and if not they will just have to go on looking for a master builder who can satisfy all their requirements.

At this point in the negotiation, you smile, wish your potential customer luck, and push away from the table. Though certain aspects of this tale may be slightly exaggerated, welcome to the world of current technology expectations. The situation is enough to make you want to turn away from further interest in the industry, and ask those who participate in these practices to “certify this.”