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Sharmon Noel

I coach awesome development teams in ways to Trust the Process and create speed to value with their products. As a previous developer, leader, and now consultant I provide value from my experience of being in the shoes of your team members, understanding their need for business agility. I utilize my expertise to create better teams, organizations, and achieve better business results. 

  • Writer's pictureSharmon Noel

Your certifications don't really matter.


Recently, while attending a User Group meetup the facilitator was giving an introduction of himself while jokingly noting all of his certifications and stating: "My certifications really don't matter". The presenter of the evening, and also good friend of mine, followed suit during his introduction as well. In an effort to also brand himself and keep up the humor, ease, and relaxation of the meetup event he went to a slide on his presentation showing all of his credentials and said "and also my certifications do not really matter either."

Of course this created a good laugh. We all are professionals in the field that probably have seen many individuals with the highest of credentials and last names that have been annotated with an alphabet soup of degrees, certifications, or special achievements on Linkedin behind their name. Trust me when I say this because I was one of those professionals on LinkedIn that did this as well. However, during that time in the meetup I noticed one of the attendees, looked uneasy, disgruntled, and not really sure if he agreed with the joke about the certifications. I honestly, didn't think much of it because I knew what the joke was referring to, what it meant, or what was taken in context of it. Context of joke below:

A certification or any instrument used to measure knowledge does not necessarily state that this person is an expert of said certification. Kind of like the old saying "just because a person can get all A's in school does not mean they are smart, they could technically be an expert at test taking."

However, many professionals in the technology space joke about this all the time in regards to being heavily certified and still not truly being an expert. We say this as a way of humility because we are never truly experts in the ever changing world of technology that is moving and adjusting every minute. Just for the record, if you are a doctor, especially my doctor, it would make me feel more at ease when I am in your office for a visit and see all of your degrees, certifications, PhD's, and DDS', etc added as the salutation or suffix to your name to the many plaques and framed certificates on the wall. To be clear, my point is not to degrade any highly certified professionals that are continuing to invest in themselves to become more valuable to the consumers of said expertise. I am still one of those professionals branding and pursuing many certifications as well.

The point I am making come to mind because I thought of this particular incident with a change of heart that was not in such a joking manner this time. A few days ago another good friend of mine and IT leader wrote this quote on his LinkedIn page.

"Believe in yourself! Invest in yourself! You are worth it!"

Let's go back to the person that I was observing at the meetup. After thinking about it more, I agree with him. Or at least I agree with the disgruntled look that he had on his face. Even though I truly understand the context of the joke and know the individuals stating the joke was not in any way meaning to offend, discourage, or prohibit anyone from investing in themselves with further education, certifications, classes, etc. At one point of my life that joke probably would not have been funny to me either.

I have a couple degrees, a few certifications, and years of experience. As someone who has invested time, hard earned money, long nights, or in some cases Paid Time Off to get those degrees and certifications that many others tout are not important. I had to obtain those degrees and certifications as the only available resources for me "to get to the door."

Notice I did not say "get through the door". Showcasing the talent, experience, and invested time on your resume, such as degrees, certifications, bootcamps, etc are what get you to the door. It is up to you to prove your knowledge, worth, and experience when you are presenting yourself in the interview to "get through the door." Sometimes "getting to the door" can be difficult if you do not go to thru traditional educational route, do not have the highly touted but sometimes joked upon certifications, or do not have the years of experience that some employers want you to have.

Getting through the door will allow you to show that the time and investments that you made, were well worth it. They will allow you to exhibit how you are truly an expert in your craft. How you are a reliable, yet great addition to your organization, and is worth the investment that your employer has made in you.

On the latter side of this topic here are a few things that you should think of when investing in your education either it be thru a degree, certification, or bootcamp.

1. Use your edcuation/certifications as a rubric to show your expertise not just as way to show that you are smart. Once again, some people can just be great test takers. Does that necessarily make them smart? Use the invested education as either a starting point to get to the door, if you need to, or to show proof of the work that you put in to exhibit your expertise. Additionally, in some professions, your certifications, degrees, abbreviations on your name are enough for some employers to want to give you a shot and see what you are made of.

2. Find your niche. One of my mentors would tell me to always understand what I want before investing time, energy, and money into it. I was once talking to a coworker of mine and he stated how he wanted to become a Project Management Professional (PMP), Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), all while being a Java Developer. I personally do not know how all three of those roles could be related however, I did point him to PMP and CISSP certified individuals that could give him insight on how he could tie them all together. However, even though those certifications are in great demand within Information Technology my advice to him was to not reach for them just because they were high in demand. Find your niche and invest in yourself that supplements what you want to do.

3. Trust in your investment. I say this because there may be an instance where someone is not joking as my cohorts were in the User Meetup. They may be serious about that fact that your degrees or certifications does not hold any value to them or other respected individuals in the field that you are in. Believe me, this was not my first time hearing that statement and even though I kind of laughed it off because I understood the context. That does not mean that the context of the joke was given off that way by the others that have said it. Some individuals have a way of speaking their truths behind jokes. Be sure that you are committing all the way with what you are doing. Yes, I too, have a certification that I wasted time and money on because I was once unsure of what I wanted to do in my life but thought it would make me more valuable. Yes, it got me to the door, but can I say that it really was worth it if that is was not my true passion or what you want to do in the long run? Lots professionals have different thoughts on that. What are yours? (comment below)

If the certifications you are investing in works for you then by all means continue to obtain them, use them to your advantage, and be sure that they are supplementing the goal that you are looking to obtain that will get you to the door. Remember, I am with you, I am one of you, I am cheering for you to "Believe in yourself! Invest in yourself! You are DEFINITELY worth it" Your certifications DO MATTER!" By the way, in regards to all the doctors, lawyers, technologist, that has a list of certifications, degrees, and abbreviations longer than a CVS receipt behind your name on LinkedIn. Once again, I used to be one of those people so no shade here. However, just do not be this guy.

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