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Lots of experience but no certs. Cert path advice please?

Discussion in 'Training & Development' started by Inspiration, May 21, 2010.

  1. Inspiration

    Inspiration Bit Poster

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    I wonder if someone may be able to offer some advice please. I've posted before but it was a year or so ago (exactly a year ago actually, spooky) and I suspect a lot has changed since, such is the way with IT.

    I shall try and include as much information as I can.. but to sum things up as best I can:

    I'm in what may be a rare position of having 14 straight years of IT roles but no IT qualifications or certifications. It's partly my own fault for not self progressing really. You get a job, the days turn into weeks, weeks months, months into years.. and before you know it 14 years have passed by.

    To sum up my 14 years of roles:

    - 1st, 2nd and 3rd Line Internet Support
    - Web & Hosted Server Support (Linux, Windows Servers, bit of Unix)
    - Office IT Support
    - Database Developer

    Which is where I am now. For the past four or so years I've constantly developed & managed a pretty big database system & coded it's front end used by an office full of people.

    I have knowledge in a lot of areas, for example I could setup a domain, I know active directory, IIS, lots of stuff really. I'm certainly not a novice, but not really specialised either.

    I am rather concious and concerned that if I were to drop back into the job seekers ocean, either by choice or not by choice, I would have a fair bit of experience.. but the experience is rather scattered and I've no IT quals or certs to compliment it.

    This is where I'm currently a little stuck.

    I want to get certifications so I've extra ammo on my CV, but I don't know which path to aim for and which path would best help me in the future to locate a new role.

    And while I'm being honest about it, I'm not even sure what part of IT I want to be in moving forward. For example the database role I'm in now, I sort of fell into by circumstance. The company wanted a database developing and I happened to be around and learnt alot in the process. But again, no certifications. But does database administration/development really float my boat? I'm not quite sure it does.

    I suspect the advice may be "Decide what you want to do first and then come back", which I can appreciate. My worry is I will just sit in the undecided camp and waste time when I could be at least doing something to help my prospects.

    Does anyone have any words of advice on this?

    I've been told that IT is all about specialisation now and less about being a man/women of all trades? Is this correct? Is it vital that you focus on one single area these days?

    Thank you to anyone who read this far. :) I fear I've repeated myself from a year ago and I hope no one minds that.
     
  2. westernkings

    westernkings Gigabyte Poster

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    Sadly, it is a case of what do you want to do? You seem to have blotted around your career and not really followed a path. For instance, a fairly common path is;

    1st Line Support < 2nd Line / 3rd Line < Service Desk Leader / IT manager (you get the idea)

    Can you see the logical straight forward path there? now you don't have to follow that one, but I think you do need a path.
     
    Certifications: MCITP:VA, MCITP:EA, MCDST, MCTS, MCITP:EST7, MCITP:SA, PRINCE2, ITILv3
  3. BosonMichael
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    BosonMichael Yottabyte Poster

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    Not at all. I've been a jack-of-all-trades for 12 years now, and it hasn't hurt my career one bit. Plus, I much prefer the variety that being a JoAT brings. For example, although I can administer Exchange, I think I'd go mad if I had to do NOTHING but administer Exchange all day, every day.
     
    Certifications: CISSP, MCSE+I, MCSE: Security, MCSE: Messaging, MCDST, MCDBA, MCTS, OCP, CCNP, CCDP, CCNA Security, CCNA Voice, CNE, SCSA, Security+, Linux+, Server+, Network+, A+
    WIP: Just about everything!
  4. SimonD

    SimonD Terabyte Poster Moderator

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    Nope I am with Michael on this, being the Jack of All, Master of none actually stands you in better stead than specialising in something specific, it means you're more adaptable and able to do lots of things, sure it may take you time to do it but because you have such a diverse range of product knowledge you're more likely to know things that others don't.

    As far as certifications go, like the others have said you do need to decide on the path you want to take but for starters I would probably look at just getting a couple of certs on your cv, something like the A+, N+ and a client cert (Vista, Win 7), I would probably also look at maybe an SQL MCTS there as well.

    Take the time however to decide which kind of direction you want to go in because that way it will give you a better idea of certs to aim for (whether it's MS or Linux or even going down the DBA \ Web Dev work).
     
    Certifications: CNA | CNE | CCNA | MCP | MCP+I | MCSE NT4 | MCSA 2003 | Security+ | MCSA:S 2003 | MCSE:S 2003 | MCTS:SCCM 2007 | MCTS:Win 7 | MCITP:EDA7 | MCITP:SA | MCITP:EA | MCTS:Hyper-V | VCP 4 | ITIL v3 Foundation | VCP 5 DCV | VCP 5 Cloud | VCP6 NV | VCP6 DCV | VCAP 5.5 DCA
    WIP: VCP6-CMA, VCAP-DCD and Linux + (and possibly VCIX-NV).
  5. Inspiration

    Inspiration Bit Poster

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    Thank you for the advice folks. Very much appreciated. Time to have a good think about where I want to be. It's good to hear that you don't have to be a specialist in 2010 IT. Reassures me my experience won't all go to waste. I've never given much thought about A+ and N+ before but I'm sure both can fill in some gaps in my knowledge.

    Time to do some thinking.

    Edit: I see you can no longer get trial versions of SQL 2005 or Windows Server 2003 (Not 2005 that I originally posted that doesn't exist, doh!). Should I take this as a hint that I should focus on SQL 2010 and Windows Server 2008?
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2010
  6. supernova

    supernova Gigabyte Poster

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    Depends i see all versions day to day, however, it would be easy to move from 2005 to 2008 to 2010 if you wanted to work your way through and be methodical. I actually used to be a database developer as well and like you i didn't bother with certs until fairly recently.

    there is no such product. latest is server 2008 r2 , however, personally i have seen very few places using it, i still see alot of places using 2003 and a growing number using 2008 (original). Server 2003 trial is still available with some MS press books eg 70-290

    again probably with ms press books, however, you can download the full copy (as well as most software) from technet plus subscription (or msdn subscription)
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2010
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  7. nugget
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    nugget Junior toady

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    Hate to throw a spanner in the works but I do think you need to be a specialist these days. It's great to have a lot of experience in other areas but it's also good to have that one area of speciality too. You need to find what you like doing the most and maybe specialise in it. Then you can expand your jack of all trades experience into certified areas.
     
    Certifications: A+ | Network+ | Security+ | MCP (270,271,272,290,620) | MCDST | MCTS:Vista
    WIP: MCSA, 70-622,680,685
  8. BosonMichael
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    BosonMichael Yottabyte Poster

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    How can that assertion be true when there are plenty of generalists who are doing quite well? After all, if we NEED to be specialists, then we generalists should be worse off... but we're not.
     
    Certifications: CISSP, MCSE+I, MCSE: Security, MCSE: Messaging, MCDST, MCDBA, MCTS, OCP, CCNP, CCDP, CCNA Security, CCNA Voice, CNE, SCSA, Security+, Linux+, Server+, Network+, A+
    WIP: Just about everything!
  9. Phoenix
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    Phoenix 53656e696f7220 4d6f64

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    You might also like to point out that your current role, and the previous one, are very specific roles that benefit from that 'jack of all trade' which at a push might not even be considered 'IT Pro' jobs :)


    the general industry trend is actually two fold
    in the corporate space, very specialized roles are declining, and by that i mean, the bank that kept a CCIE on hand to play with their handful of routers
    support roles are increasing, as are roles that are not pure technical in nature (IT Project Management, Service Desk Lead, ITIL/Business Process type roles)

    The reason for this is that outsourcing complex support and projects is becoming cheaper and easier, and it moves a substantial amount of risk out of the companies hands

    in partner world, specialization is very important still, but plenty of partners out there want 'Master of All', you know, a CCIE, MCA, JCIE, EMCIE, etc
    this is not as uncommon as it sounds a skillset to have, as technology converges, many people in my situation are very multi disciplined, the so called 'Data Center Engineer' is a master of datacenter technologies, that includes server hardware, networking, virtualization, storage, and the interconnect fabrics that tie them all together
    my level of networking doesn't need to be CCIE level though, data center networking isn't always complex L3 stuff, its all about latency and bandwidth at that point, so switching reigns supreme

    One thing i would suggest, pick a side of the fence, developer or IT pro, some overlap is indeed useful and a great career booster (what I wouldn't give to be able to program a few handy bits and bobs) but focus on one side of the fence, apart from that, you can indeed spread your wings a bit, but don't spread them too thin and shallow, pick complimentary technology and learn it well, and pick some certs around that
     
    Certifications: MCSE, MCITP, VCP
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  10. michael78

    michael78 Terabyte Poster

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    With your experience I wouldn't do A+ and N+ as you will probably gain little from it. I think if you want to do some certs then you will have to pick a path as certs tend to lead you down specific routes. That doesn't mean you can do several in different areas.

    As for what you do I think it also depends on what industry is in your area to what opportunities are open to you. I'm going to start to specialise in a couple of areas are there isn't the work in my area to support me doing 2nd/3rd line support the rest of my career.
     
    Certifications: A+ | Network+ | Security+ | MCP | MCDST | MCTS: Hyper-V | MCTS: AD | MCTS: Exchange 2007 | MCTS: Windows 7 | MCSA: 2003 | ITIL Foundation v3 | CCA: Xenapp 5.0 | MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Administrator on Windows 7 | MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Support Technician on Windows 7
    WIP: Online SAN Overview, VCP in December 2011
  11. Rover977

    Rover977 Byte Poster

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    I think your may be under-estimating the value of your experience. I think its worth more than what a lot of paper-certified wannabees have got to offer. The cert industry creates a lot of hype that can make people with good experience and knowledge feel they are somehow not good enough in some sense and they need to get some certs to somehow prove themselves worthy.

    Though study for certs can be valuable, the fact is they are not the be all and end all. I have spoken to Managing Directors of successful IT outfits on several occasions, and they say categorically that the appropriate experience would outweigh any collection of certs that any candidate could present. Despite that they do also say that certs have some value, but just not as much as experience.

    Think about it - what does an employer need, somebody to set up, configure, maintain and troubleshoot IT equipment, or carry out actual design and development, or to have a knowledge of a certain set of facts required to pass an IT exam ?

    The most important decision you have to make is to decide what direction you want to go in. You have to think about whether you really want to change direction or is it just the hype and glossy advertisements that are influencing you.

    You could already have a basis for a good career in place already, and experience others are scrambling around desperately to get.

    If you're sitting in the undecided camp worried about wasting time, then that's a good time to learn some new skills, maybe complimentary to what you are currently doing. I think in IT the wider range of knowledge you can get, the better.

    So choose something that sounds interesting, eg it could be Cisco networking, or it could be web design with HTML, CSS, and Javascript, or database technologies related to the web eg. MySQL, and related web technologies such as PHP or Ruby. Or explore more design related areas like Photoshop, or Illustrator, or Flash. The kind of experience you have would give a good basis for studying web technologies - for example use your IIS experience to go to Apache, (which is much more widely used).

    It all depends on what you want to do. Basically you've just got to start somewhere, and then go from there. But be wary of any TP salesmen who can prey on your current uncertainty and concern about you future career - that’s how they make their money!

     
    Certifications: A+, Network+, Cisco CCNA
    WIP: Maths
  12. Inspiration

    Inspiration Bit Poster

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    Thank you for all the replies folks. Some very interesting comments. Regarding A+ and N+.. I suspect I'd get more from N+ if it explains how networking works and covers IP ranges etc. I've never got my head around that side of networking and routes. I've not checked if it goes that deeply into networking yet.

    Rover977: It's interesting you should mention web technologies actually. That is one area I'm considering. I've played around with MySQL and PHP in the past and I quite like the idea of working in that particular area. I began to learn Java and enjoyed that. Perhaps I should listen to that gut feeling and head in that direction as best I can.

    It's certainly reassuring to hear that experience always counts. :) Thanks again folks, this forum and it's posters are awesome.
     
  13. nugget
    Honorary Member

    nugget Junior toady

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    BM, Ryan seems to have a knack of saying it like I can't. I don't mean that you only have to have your speciality, just that you do need to have one.
     
    Certifications: A+ | Network+ | Security+ | MCP (270,271,272,290,620) | MCDST | MCTS:Vista
    WIP: MCSA, 70-622,680,685
  14. BosonMichael
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    BosonMichael Yottabyte Poster

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    Eh? My previous TWO roles were as a senior network admin. I dunno what planet you're from, but where I am, that's an "IT Pro" job. :rolleyes:

    Further, I currently do IT support on the side for a few small companies. I'm pretty sure that's still in the "IT Pro" arena as well.
     
    Certifications: CISSP, MCSE+I, MCSE: Security, MCSE: Messaging, MCDST, MCDBA, MCTS, OCP, CCNP, CCDP, CCNA Security, CCNA Voice, CNE, SCSA, Security+, Linux+, Server+, Network+, A+
    WIP: Just about everything!
  15. BosonMichael
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    BosonMichael Yottabyte Poster

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    But... you don't need to have one. I didn't have a specialty, and I did just fine. I'm living proof that you don't need to have one. And I'm not an exception... most of my techie friends are the same way.

    By all means, if you want to specialize, then specialize. But you don't HAVE to. I won't likely ever specialize... I enjoy the variety.
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2010
    Certifications: CISSP, MCSE+I, MCSE: Security, MCSE: Messaging, MCDST, MCDBA, MCTS, OCP, CCNP, CCDP, CCNA Security, CCNA Voice, CNE, SCSA, Security+, Linux+, Server+, Network+, A+
    WIP: Just about everything!
  16. Rover977

    Rover977 Byte Poster

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    Its a good area, I like it because it combines creative thinking with the design aspect along with programming, and I have a background in C++ programming which is good foundation for learning any new languages. I just started reading a book on Java, and over the past 16 months I have studied the Adobe products (basically all of them that pertain to web design), along with PHP, MySQL, Javascript, CSS, Apache, Linux, Perl, and SEO.

    Whatever direction you decide to go in, the same career choice issues will apply, eg. geographic relocation, competition for posts, salary requirements, amount of time you have to commit to study, and job security, etc etc. But of course if you are interested in the work then its a big plus. :)
     
    Certifications: A+, Network+, Cisco CCNA
    WIP: Maths

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