Yes, You Need IT Certifications

Certifications are often lambasted as “worthless pieces of paper” and “experience is more important.” But for some people, certifications are more important than experience.

A substitute for experience

Newcomers to the IT world face the classic problem: how do you get experience without a job? Sure, you can tinker around on your own time, but how do you prove that experience? That’s where certifications come in.

Certifications show a prospective employer that you care enough and have the initiative to spend your own time and money to become a better IT professional. You might have tons of experience with IT as a hobby. But how do you prove that?

With a piece of paper.

Certifications get you hired

They are what get your resume looked at, instead of being tossed into the shredder by HR.

They are what get you the interview.

They are the tie-breaker between you and that other equally qualified person who doesn’t have a cert.

If you have a stack of certifications under your belt, you’re going to be a step ahead of the naysayers who think certifications are a joke, a scam, or a racket.

Certifications mean higher pay

My first IT certification was the CompTIA A+ in 2002. That helped me land one very low paying job. During that time, I also got my Microsoft MCSA.

Fast-forward a few years. I got a job at a local technology reseller where I earned my Network+, Cisco CCNA, CCDA, and finally my CCNP, all within a year. Shortly after that, I was able to get a job that almost doubled my salary.

A couple years later, I got my Citrix CCA. My salary went up by 50%. It increased a few percent each year thereafter.

Oh, and I forgot to mention: no college degree.

You’re always a beginner

Even if you’ve been in the field for 20 years, you’re always a beginner when it comes to emerging technologies. You can work your tail off to get experience with the latest and greatest, but if you want to turn that experience into a raise or new position, you have to prove your skills.

When you put in your resume against someone fresh out of college – and they have that highly sought after certification and you don’t – well, you can guess who’s getting the callback.

The Coming Citrix-Microsoft Merger?

The one theme that I keep hearing from those who attended Citrix’s yearly conference (Synergy) is that they weren’t sure if they were at a Citrix conference or a Microsoft conference. Citrix’s ties to Microsoft run deep and have for a long time. But just within the past couple years the Citrix-MS relationship has started to look less like a partnership and more like a full-fledged integration. Microsoft has its own application virtualization product called App-V, which at first glance looks curiously like a competitor to Citrix’s XenApp application virtualization solution. Of course, since the technology is licensed from Citrix to begin with, Citrix profits regardless. Then there is the new group policy integration with XenApp policies that puts yet another nail in the coffin of the old Presentation Server console. All pretty innocuous changes.

But it’s not the technical changes that are really concerning. What has so many hardcore Citrix fans on edge is the appearance that Citrix is taking a backseat to Microsoft, and eventually will be swallowed up by them. Microsoft certainly has plenty of reason to merge with Citrix. Currently Microsoft pays licensing fees to Citrix for every terminal server license Microsoft sells. Now with App-V, Microsoft is paying even more. If you know anything about the history of MS-DOS, you know that this is not the Microsoft way. Sooner or later, Microsoft will seek to break free of its licensing obligations to Citrix, and the only way to do that is to buy them out.

But so what? This really didn’t concern me all that much at first, although I’d be very disappointed to see Citrix just become another division of Microsoft. The consequences of this didn’t really hit me until I was listening to the “Security Now” podcast with Steven Gibson and Leo Laporte on Laporte’s TWiT podcasting network. Citrix is a staple sponsor of the show, advertising their one-off remote access and collaboration services like GoToMeeting and GoToAssist. Gibson frequently (as in every episode) points out security vulnerabilities and poor security policies in Microsoft Windows, and his company’s website does not sugarcoat Microsoft’s past indiscretions. Putting myself in Microsoft’s shoes, I would imagine that they’d want to put the quash on Gibson’s comments. And if Microsoft buys out Citrix, they suddenly are in position to control the content of the show by threatening to pull sponsorship. And not just “Security Now” but other shows on the TWiT network as well. I believe TWiT could easily survive without sponsorship from Citrix, but it raises a difficult decision: Change the content to appease a sponsor, or sacrifice much-needed ad revenue for the integrity of the show?