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Which Is More Important To IT - Certification or Experience?

Author: Steve Ragan

It is an age-old question: When you hire IT staff, is more consideration given to IT certifications or experience? Perhaps your company wants both. The Tech Herald recently posed this line of questioning to various companies to see what they had to say on the topic.

When it comes to IT, there is a high degree of mental ability needed for the job; not just for problem solving, but also so you can deal with stress as well. However, critical thinking and problem solving are something rarely taught, these things are instilled in each of us in one form or another. Some will be better at it than others, and this mix can help IT teams thrive.

There is also the granular expertise that is needed in IT. Most IT departments have team members who are, as an example, Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCP), and, depending on their area of focus, have proven they have the ability to manage Microsoft-based infrastructures with ease. There is also the argument that they have also proven they can memorize sample questions and answers at a local MCP boot camp -- but that's a completely different issue.

However, each of these MCP certification holders will almost certainly know about more than just Microsoft. For example, some are likely Apache experts because the company uses that platform to run Web services. This mix of skill is required because of a few reasons, the largest being adaptability. Not every company can afford to hire a Linux/Unix system administrator, so the present IT staff has to adapt to the systems in use and know how to operate them.

There are IT teams where none of the staff has single certification, yet they run circles around certified IT people all the time. These 'jack of all trade' types are pure geeks, and know just a little bit about everything. What they do not know, their passion for technology drives them to learn and adapt to. With this type of IT team there is rarely a problem that cannot be solved. Research and information are their business, and business is good.

When asked "When you hire new IT staff, which do you consider more: certifications or experience?" most executives are split on the question. Some want both, some say it would depend on the job the person is being considered for, and others say one or the other. While most agreed on a few points, all of them showed that no single company sees things in the same light as another.

As one response put it: "While most technologists see things as black or white, choosing someone with a specific certification versus someone with specific experiences isn't so binary."

Author Steve Ragan
Date 2008
Copyright © 2008 The Tech Herald. All Rights Reserved. The Tech Herald Reprinted with permission.

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