Opening Doors through Certifications

In my last post, I started a topic on the value of certifications, highlighting one of the strongest benefits of certification: structured learning path.  In this post, I’ll look at how the pursuit and attainment of certifications can open doors to new opportunities.

It’s widely believed that having a certification on one’s resume can get a foot in the door for an interview.  Recruiters and hiring managers often scan a candidate’s resume and the mere presence of a certification can certainly grab their attention.  Likewise having a certification listed on one’s LinkedIn profile can provide the right keywords when recruiters are scanning the site searching for potential candidates.

Of course, as mentioned in my previous post, having a certification doesn’t guarantee that one can do the work.  The technical interview in fact is designed to determine whether the candidate has enough technical depth to perform successfully in the role.  Experience will far more often provide that depth and is a better indicator of whether one can handle the workload.  That said, getting the interview is the first step, and sometimes simply having that certification can make the difference.

Additionally, some consulting companies and service providers search for candidates who have specific certifications to maintain vendor partnerships.  Having a consultant with these credentials can certainly help when bidding for new customer engagements, so these companies are motivated to find and keep individuals with existing certifications.

But what about your own company?  What opportunities can come up with your current employer?

Learning a new topic will never come back void.  For most managers, seeing one of their direct reports pursue a certification indicates a level of drive, self-initiative, and vision, especially when that pursuit was self-driven.  These are key traits for any manager to see in their employees and thus, managers will often reward those employees with new growth opportunities as they become available.

I’ve experienced this several time in my own career.  Pursuing VMware certifications early at my company showed my boss that I was serious about this new technology we had recently introduced to the organization.  Soon after, I found myself at VMworld for the first time, which by far opened my eyes to a whole new level of knowledge, enthusiasm, and a thriving community around this technology.  Without a doubt that made the largest shift in my own enthusiasm around the product and set me on a new course in my career.  It certainly cemented my position as the go-to VMware guy on my team.  When I think back, this was 2009 when the economy was still in a slump after the recession and most companies’ training budgets were trimmed back.  I believe that my certification was a contributing factor in the approval for me to attend the conference.

Another early example was my earning the ITIL Foundation certification a couple years later.  I had just taken on a management role on an operations team and I was searching for a good methodology for world class IT operations.  ITIL was exactly what I was looking for at the time.  I learned the lingo, read some books (including “The Visible Ops Handbook”, one of Gene Kim’s books before his “Phoenix Project” and DevOps fame), and I attained my certification.  I shared the news with my boss, who until that time had not known I was working on this, and he admired by pursuit and initiative.  Noting my initiative, he sent me to the upcoming Gartner Data Center Conference where I rubbed shoulders with other IT managers and influencers within the Infrastructure/Operations space.  And I had one-on-one meetings with Chris Wolf and George Spafford who both expanded my understanding of key areas in operations management.  All because I went after a certification.

More recently, I’ve displayed my interest in cloud service offerings, and I’ve focused my current learning pursuit on AWS.  My company, Syntax, is a managed cloud provider, offering services on-premises in our data centers as well as managing workloads and applications in the public cloud.  I happen to be on the on-premises team caring and feeding our large VMware environment, but some of my colleagues are working deep in AWS and Azure.  Since we partner with AWS and Microsoft, I knew it would provide value to add another certified AWS employee to our partnership. And by gaining an AWS certification, I also proved that I had the drive to learn and gain a proficiency in this service offering.  My boss has seen this drive and has sought out opportunities to provide me production experience working with our AWS team.

Those are a just a few examples from my own experience.  Sometimes the opportunities have been more subtle and sometimes they’ve led to other experiences that truly opened the door wide open.  I can honestly say, the attainment of a certification has never come back void from an opportunity standpoint.

For anyone serious about their career in technology, keeping a mind for learning is crucial.  One can certainly learn with no certifications attached.  But there is something tangible about a certification that shows a manager the level of focus and drive in your own career, as well as a competency that can most certainly translate into new opportunities that will provide experience and set you on a whole new path to growth.

In my next post, I’ll round out the topic of certifications by looking through the lens of personal growth. Stay tuned!

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