Certification for tech professionals: is it just a piece of paper?
There are always various opinions on certifications in the tech world, from engineers to experts and even employers. On one hand, there are those who say that being a certified specialist is something that can help you move forward. On the other hand, there will also always be those who believe only your job experience can show your working skills.
From a tester’s perspective, I would argue that the value a certification brings you, your team and your company is always well worth it. I’ll begin by highlighting some of the benefits.
Benefits of certifications
Not only does a certification demonstrate your knowledge, but also it exhibits some important personality traits, such as your capability to learn, responsibility and capacity for improvement. And, truth be told, it really is better than nothing.
As a tester, I can say that just doing many clicks isn’t enough from an experience perspective. You have to keep learning and trying new things. You have to keep growing. One of the best ways to do that is to prepare for certification exams, which includes things that are specific to your job. Of course, you can learn every day without trying to pass an exam, but an exam is a pretty good way to motivate yourself.
The International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB) proposes various exams for QA specialists. In the material of a foundation level test, you’ll find many fundamental concepts about testing, including testing models and main testing activities, for example. This exam also includes roles descriptions and practical tasks. An advanced level exam, on the other hand, is more practical. You must solve many exercises based on testing techniques. The best way to pass these exams is in parallel as you advance in your career, but if you're already experienced, is not always too late.
But what do those who oppose certifications say?
“It’s only a paper.”
That depends on your values. If you’re looking to get certified just to check off a box on your life or career “checklist”, then yes. For you, it’s only a paper. But if you work hard and master the skills required to pass, then its far more than a paper. It depends on your attitude and what’s more important for you. A certification doesn't replace your job experience and is not the only indicator to show that you know what you’re doing, but all that new knowledge you've gained can still be incredibly valuable.
Let's take an example from a real life situation:
You search for an IT specialist for your company. In a job interview scenario, you have two similar candidates. They have the same level of experience, they both match your requirements, and they both do well with your interview questions. But only one of the candidates is certified in a desired skill. Which would you take? In this situation, is a certificate really only a paper?
“Exams are too expensive.”
Yes, getting certified can be expensive. But it is possible to prepare exam material and questions on your own to cut down on expenses related to prep. For example, the ISTQB official website provides some materials. While it’s true that there are exams out there that aren’t prepared well, but you can find a negative in any situation. You can always choose another exam you want to take and the knowledge you gain will be more valuable than the price of exam.
“Exam materials are out of date, useless and impractical.”
Rapid innovation means that technology is always advancing. I’ve noticed working in an Agile environment that this constant change means you’ll never lose interest in what you do. However, when I started to work as a tester, I was browsing the Internet hoping to find some material for testing beginners. I found the ISTQB foundation syllabus material – even though it wasn’t completely up to date, it was really helpful in getting me up to speed.
During preparation for a foundation level exam, I was learning about various methodologies (v-model, waterfall) outside of Agile. That doesn't mean that the material is already out of date. Yes, we're working in an Agile environment, but knowledge about other methodologies is never a bad thing when it comes to having a firm grasp on the internet and becoming an expert.
For another example, when I was trying to understand the main difference between a QA Analyst and QA Engineer, I found the answer by preparing for a certification exam. Now, I'm really enjoying the fact that I can discuss concepts and ideas with more experienced people, understand common concepts, and grow within the organization. Of course you can find many theoretical sections in exam material, but how you can be helpful to your team if you don’t know the principals of your job?
Sure, you can gain all of these things through years of experience, working in various projects. But why would you not want to improve quickly if you have that possibility?
Opportunities at Devbridge
Devbridge provides plenty of opportunities to improve. You can choose the training sessions you want to attend, you can attend conferences, and you can organize and participate in workshops with your team. Certifications are not required at Devbridge, but certified people are preferred.
The important thing is that you have to have the desire to learn and enjoy the learning process. You can learn without taking an exam, but the exam is like a final step. Do you remember when you were in school? It was such a great moment to get a diploma, right?
I believe that you can grow only when you move out from your comfort zone. You try, you fail, you find success. Start challenging yourself and you'll see that it's an amazing feeling when, step-by-step, you're learning. You bring new opportunities for yourself, for the team or even the entire company.