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Don Plumley's Avatar
 
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IT Managers: MSCA, MSCE, CCNA, CCNP, etc - what matters for your hires?

If you hire people for an IT department, can you please help me to understand "what's essential, what's important, what's nice and what's stupid" for your entry level hires? I have not done entry-level hiring in a long time, so I wanted to clear my preconceptions and ask what is relevant today.

My son just completed a year's CCNA course at the local JC and will earn his first certification when he passes the exam. Due to the budget cuts, the other relevant classes don't seem to be offered next year. So I found a local vocational college that offers a specialized associate degree that at a baseline delivers an MCSA, then you choose a path for MCSE, Security or Linux focus. He is not on a four-year college path - it's not his cup of tea. But he does want to earn the appropriate certifications and gain the right kind of hands-on experience through internships, etc. to begin a career in the IT world. He did great in the CCNA course (A's) and it is great to see him truly interested in going to class and learning stuff after hating school all his life.

If you have the time to spare, would you mind helping me to understand which are the important alphabets to have? If you like, please pm me your phone number and a good time to call.

Many thanks in advance.

Don
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Old 07-08-2009, 06:18 PM
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I didn't get hired based on certifications--I didn't have any.

I'm in IT and honestly don't know what any of those you listed are. They may help you get an interview if a company has a specific need, but the real "qualification" is problem-solving skills. New hires need to understand that there are competing concerns for any solution--that the most efficient solution isn't always the most maintainable.
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Old 07-08-2009, 06:26 PM
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I would suggest buying the books, studying and then taking the tests. If you have the aptitude for IT stuff you really dont need classes for most certifications. If he needs experience buy some cheap hardware on ebay and build a basic lab.

However, I passed most of the ccnp tests without ever being in front of a router. That says something of their value.
Old 07-08-2009, 06:31 PM
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I have an MCP for Win2000 and an expired CCNA cert from Cisco. They didn't help me at all.
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Old 07-08-2009, 06:33 PM
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Those are network and systems engineering/administration certificates - I think legion is a programmer (do they even know what TCP/IP is?).

I am a CCNA, CCNP and CCDA - I'm working diligently on what until recently was Cisco's highest cert the CCIE - they recently introduced an even higher one but it's way out there.

I have maintained my CCNP cert for almost 10 years now. It has helped me get my foot in the door many times which is helpful but also the knowledge required to get it made me better (I think) than other candidates.

I have colleagues who are not certified or who have not maintained their certifications. These guys can either be good or lame. I won't say bad because I don't think they intend to suck - I think they want to be good but aren't willing to put the effort into learning - they are lazy.

The certificate isn't what makes you good but the ability to get it does. If you have the ability but don't use it on the certificate are you any better or worse? No - you aren't. The certificates are a measuring stick but not the only one. I have found that those who do not place any stock in certificates and think that they are bunk - at least in my line of work - are the folks who often (though not always) are too lazy to get them themselves or just don't get the material enough to do it. They may be passable at their job but the certs tend to be more advanced than your average job.

The Cisco certs have been good for me. The CCIE - Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert - is hard. It is a written test that generally covers the same material as the CCNP (which is 4 or 5 tests now) and more and an 8 hour lab. The lab is what I am studying for now - it's hard and expensive.

The Certs equal experience basically. A candidate with 1 year experience and the CCNA is better than the candidate without the cert but the same time or even a little more.

You want all you can get to stand out from the crowd and these days it is a crowd. In slow economic times it pays more to spend on education than try to 'work' harder I think.

I'd be happy to talk to your son about my experiences - I think there are a few other Cisco centric guys here too.

Most govt jobs in the field require the certs - no cert - no interview.
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Old 07-08-2009, 06:39 PM
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Yeah, I don't know hardware.

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Old 07-08-2009, 06:48 PM
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Mikester and the others give some good info.

The different certs that you list will apply to completely different jobs most of the time. Cisco-centric certs get you Networking jobs. Microsoft-centric certs get you server, workstation jobs. There are other certs too, linux, databases, etc....

Certs can get your resume looked at and help get an entry level gig. To me, it's very important that if you get your certs, it's because you KNOW the info, not because you've practiced sample tests til the cows came home. Those folks are generally easy to spot in an interview. If you say you have your ---- cert and I ask you a few questions, and you are clueless, I'm pretty much done with the interview.

The MCSE, M__ stuff is Microsoft, servers, laptops, desktops, etc... Lots of folks do it, some even make good money doing the Microsoft stuff, but personally, I'd avoid that area. I started out studying for those years ago. They seemed very tedious and boring the more that I studied. I ended up going the Cisco route like Mikester. It's been very good to me.

Entry level for the microsoft stuff will generally be doing work like password resets for the average corporate drone, backing up stuff, installing apps, fixing PCs when they don't work right. You can get into some deeper stuff, but based on what I've seen in the last 10 years, it's hard to climb out of the low-end hole that you'd start in.

Cisco stuff, networking, is more interesting to me. There are also several directions to go and several hot topics these days. Security or VoIP are really hot.

It might not be a bad idea for him to check out one of the basic Microsoft certs to see if he enjoys the subject, but if he were my son, I'd steer him towards networking (Cisco) and away from MS. He should understand how the MS stuff works, but I'd not want to see him supporting it.


If you're curious, here's a little extra background. I don't know that my results are typical, but they could probably still be had today.
I dropped out of college, so no college degree. I'd had a PC for several years and liked to tinker with it. I decided that I needed to upgrade from my job (bartending) to a career. I decided to get into the Microsoft stuff. With no certs and no training, I got an entry level position at $10/hr. I excelled, after 4 months when I could go perm, I did. I'd continued to study and pretty much fell into the lucky break of a lifetime supporting Cisco gear. It was the dot-com boom years, everything was golden that had to do with the internet and networking. I started at $32k and in 6 months was making over $50k. In another 6 months, I'd basically doubled that salary (if you count the sign on bonus) and gotten 2.5 certs (CCNA, CCNP, and CCIE written, I'd actually planned to skip the CCNP, but got that so I could get the sign-on bonus). Then came the 2001 dot-bomb. I got laid off. I lost some headway monetarily. I've been doing it for about 10-11 years and I make pretty good money (I think 6 figures is decent for a college drop-out). I could make a lot more if I was more driven and/or confident.

If he's hungry to learn more, good at learning it, and driven, he can make a decent living.
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Old 07-08-2009, 06:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by legion View Post
Yeah, I don't know hardware.

I create things with my mind.
Hahah.

It takes a special sort to be a programmer. I'm not that sort. Maybe it's because Fortran 77 scarred me in college.

I keep telling myself I'm going to learn Pearl, and maybe some java and that sort of thing, but other than dipping my toe in the pool, I'm not there yet.
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Old 07-08-2009, 07:01 PM
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I hold a lot of value in any CC__ cert.

MS__, not so much. They may be worth more now, but for a while you could get them out of a cracker jack box.

The CC__ was helpful (but not required) to get in the door, but it was a good interview process that made the decision.

Most of the interview wasn't about their current knowledge, other than a few "typical trivia" type questions to see if they passed the smell test. The interesting stuff was about how they kept current, problem solved, etc. Asking details about how they do those things tells a lot about a potential hire, and I've had excellent luck with the resulting hires.

Who cares what they know right now, it's all about how they're going to know what's important in 6 months when it doesn't exist now, or how they approach a problem in a totally unfamiliar technology stack.


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Old 07-08-2009, 09:42 PM
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I don't hire people with a pile of certs normally. It's all about your experience and how well you interview with us. It used to be that we were paid for certs, paid to take them, paid to pass them, then something just changed at some point.
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Old 07-09-2009, 06:06 AM
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Right, I've interviewed some folks with virtually 0 experience, but a handful of certs. Generally those folks have used one of the many Cert test sites to pass said tests and don't actually know the material.

Still, if you're just starting, especially, having a cert or two is something that can help to set you apart from the other 1,000 applicants.
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Old 07-09-2009, 06:11 AM
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Thanks guys - much appreciated.
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Old 07-09-2009, 06:17 AM
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Quote:
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I create things with my mind. I am an ARTISTE!
Spoken like a true liberal
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Old 07-09-2009, 06:29 AM
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I think his best training will be on the job. Call up the local msp/isp/sp's and get hired in their NOC/support center. He'll learn on the job and be in a competitive environment; lots of other folks will be working on certs and learning.

The certs might get you past HR in the process, but experience is key. There is no faster way to gain experience than working on a desk, that's all you do all day.
Old 07-09-2009, 06:37 AM
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Hmm This is good info. I've been working the helpdesk or NOC for the last 5 years, but don't have any certs. I was just never sure which way to go since I work on everything. Cisco Gear, Sun machines, Dells or IBM's running windows 2k-2008, linux or BSD and even a smattering of VMS. (I run the server/network monitoring system for a large state univ) I love what I do and have no intentions of going anywhere, but I worry about not being competitive in the open market
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Old 07-09-2009, 06:45 AM
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