What does certification (whether industry, tertiary education or other) mean to you? Is it one of the key tools to demonstrate that you are now a black belt in Technology (x)? Is it a stepping stone to help move to a new job; the next pay rise? Or maybe you simply love learning and it’s a way of extending yourself? 

There is a more cynical take on certifications however - with some employees feeling like they’re being forced to jump through hoops, employers feeling like they need to pay for these hoops, and vendors looking at the hoops as a nice way of tying up organisations and the individuals into their ecosystems.

Personally, I do believe the continual professional development in our industry is important, and not just up-skilling on your technical prowess. Nothing I enjoy more than playing around with new technologies and testing their limitations. 

From an employer’s perspective there are a couple of issues. Firstly - is it actually going to result in a tangible benefit? Will my staff perform better at their job? Will they be able to solve more difficult problems or allow us to undertake new types of work? Will we get brownie points with vendor (x) that get us discounts or more intangible benefits such as better access to engineer-grade support? Secondly, it can be an expensive investment - not only for the staff time required to complete the training and exam, but the actual course itself. And it’s an investment that walks with the employee - you only get the vendor benefits while they remain with your organisation.

So what is the best way forward?

Obviously ongoing education is key to being effective in our industry. How many of the technologies that you work with day to day even existed 5, 10 or 20 years ago? I mean… think about how many of the APIs you use with your preferred cloud provider changed yesterday / last week?

The sheer rate of change means that both individuals and organisations both need to keep learning and adapting - or get left behind. 

There’s many ways to go about learning - whether it’s hands on time with a product or system; tertiary education such as Undergrad / Postgrad / diploma courses; and vendor or third party courses. If you’re looking to grow and advance - have you looked how this is going to impact everyone in the puzzle? How much time are you expecting staff to invest in this? Why? What will my employer need to justify this investment in my education? 

There’s no one way to learn, and there’s no one pathway that’s right every time on the education journey. A certification journey that’s there purely to tick a box is unlikely to be the right path however - regardless of whose box it ticks. 

A healthier education ecosystem would be better for everyone. What would that look like for you?