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Hands On vs Certifications

 
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Hi Guys

There's always been a debate about Hands On experience vs Certifications. I would like to share my experience on this.

I graduated with a Masters degree in May 2003 and then got an offer from a small local firm making apps in VB and data analysis. I joined the firm with a view to prepare myself for the outside market. I had already got my certification for SCJP while doing Masters. In a span of 14months I cleared SCWCD, SCBCD and OCA certifications.

My certifications did help me in getting interview calls but failed miserably in the interviews mainly involving questions on real time development and about scores of Open Source tools. I lied in my resume of having 3yrs JAVA experience and about pseudo projects or else I wud'nt have got any interview calls. Now I am looking to do some real volunteer projects using the knowledge gained from the certifications.

So really speaking its very hard to achieve the right blend of Certifications and Hand On and in my view Hands On gets an upper edge than certifications.
[ November 15, 2004: Message edited by: John Daga ]
 
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Thanks for sharing that John. As someone with 17 years experience and no certifications I sometimes get frustrated the other way - the 24 year old MBA's who don't think I can do a job because, while certifiable, I have no certifications.

I agree that there is no magic combination. It depends alot on the stream of people you need to go through to get a job. If one person has one view but the next has another you might be doomed before you even sit down for the interview.
 
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I got my first certification in 1985, long before they became "chic". Here's what I've learned, which may or may not apply to anyone else:

The certification gets the door open wide enough to stick your foot in it. The experience gets you through the technical interview, and hence through the door.

Now that you have education and certification, you need to build that experience part. Because so many good Java-related tools are free, you can download them, install them, and practice on your own if you have the motivation to do so.

I'm possibly the last of a long-vanished breed, the engineer with no bachelor's degree, but 20+ years experience. I've yet to run into a problem for the lack of degree, except from Human Racehorse department drones who don't have a clue about how to screen an applicant. (There are some very good personnel department folks out there; my comment is aimed at the other bunch.)

Good luck, and go get those tools and learn how to use them!
 
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I think it depends on the company too.

If you are going for a consultancy position, then certifications and qualifications matter because the sales people will have to keep marketing you every 6-12 months. If a company is hiring you for long-term in the same project, then they will focus on your skills. You can usually tell for sure by the time you go for an interview(which might be late anyways). Consultancy companies will usually have a knowledge test followed by a personal interview, because they are more interested in a) checking whther you really know what you claim to know and b) your personality. Companies who are interested in your skills will usually have long interviews with lots of questions on your projects.

Also, smaller companies tend to be more interested in having a small team of really good and experienced developers. So, if you are applying in small companies you need lots of practical experience. Big companies tend to be divided into departments fighting for the same project. So, each department manager is interested in filling his staff with a) people with good qualifications and b)long-term employees who have a history of delivering in the company, so s/he can build a case for the department.

So, I feel it really depends on what you are targeting. And the entire scenario that I described is over-simplified. Practically, employers are interested in the right mix of practical experience and qualifications, with consultancy and bigger companies leaning towards qualifications and smaller companies leaning towards practical experience

I would advise a recent graduate to get the right kind certifications/qualifications first, get some volunteer/intern experience, and then try to get into a large company. Big companies usually tend to be more structured and process oriented, and it's easier to understand proper development methodologies. After you get some practical experience, you can move towards consultancy or smaller companies. I would personally prefer smaller companies because smaller companies tend to give you more exposure beyond just coding
 
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I suppose that you should combine everything to create a right mix:

- IT MSc
- MBA
- experience (SW development, SW architecture, SW project management)
- related certifications
- 2 major foreign languages
- related hobbies (e.g. robotics or AI; also some business overview ...)

Then you can find a job almost anywhere and anytime ...
 
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Originally posted by Jeff Bosch:

I'm possibly the last of a long-vanished breed, the engineer with no bachelor's degree, but 20+ years experience. I've yet to run into a problem for the lack of degree, except from Human Racehorse department drones who don't have a clue about how to screen an applicant. (There are some very good personnel department folks out there; my comment is aimed at the other bunch.)



No you're not. I've been about 5 terms from a BS for about 15 years now. Never been worth the time and expense to run the maze. For one thing, it gets in the way of keeping up my professional skills. And, no, I'm not being sarcastic, but I was teaching C locally before the major university down the road decided do do so.

My experience is that without a degree, the places that won't touch you are medical establishments, engineering firms ("real" engineering, not software engineering) and big, stuffy corporations. Ironically, once or twice, I've worked at places that instituted a no-degree/no-hire policy and been obliged to observe that that meant they wouldn't be able to hire me to fill whatever highly technical and responsible position I'd been doing for them for the last X years.

Actually, big stuffy corporations have been known to overlook my lack of wallpaper. And I can't blame the medical or engineering professions for not wanting to hire people who hadn't had to suffer all the way through just like them.

Most places that won't consider me, I don't want to work for anyway. I get paid well enough where I do fit in, and such places tend to provide me with the freedom I value more than I do a slightly fatter paycheck.

However, the opportunities at the ground level without a degree have been shrinking for years. I originally put my education on hold because I needed income just to live, saying nothing of paying for education. It probably wouldn't work that well anymore.

Then again, I hope I'd have the sense to major in a non-offshorable field if I was just starting out today, so the whole question would be moot.
 
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I lied in my resume of having 3yrs JAVA experience and about pseudo projects




If you're going to BS on your resume, BS well. Otherwise, you will be caught and never get a job offer.

I've seen many small start-ups who never bother to do background check or employment history verification, so it's possible to get away with lying/exaggerating on resume.
 
Jayesh Lalwani
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Originally posted by Damian FRACH:
I suppose that you should combine everything to create a right mix:

- IT MSc
- MBA
- experience (SW development, SW architecture, SW project management)
- related certifications
- 2 major foreign languages
- related hobbies (e.g. robotics or AI; also some business overview ...)

Then you can find a job almost anywhere and anytime ...



Forget a job, If you have all that and a decent GMAT, you can get into Harvard's MBA program!!!
 
Jay Shin
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get into Harvard's MBA program!!![




The Wharton school at University of Pennsylvania has better MBA program than Harvard.
 
Jayesh Lalwani
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Originally posted by Jay Shin:



The Wharton school at University of Pennsylvania has better MBA program than Harvard.



Ya maybe, but Harvard is definetly tougher to get into.

Actually, which program is better is a matter of perspective. I would say Wharton is better in some areas, and Harvard is better in others. Wharton is stronger in finance and technology, but Harvard is better if you want to be well-rounded. Plus, at Harvard, you get access to their alumni network, and there are people who would kill for that rolodex. It's much harder to get into Harvard because they have less number of seats, and many of them go to applicants refferred by alumni. Anyways, I would consider myself extremely lucky if I could get into Wharton!!
 
Tim Holloway
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Originally posted by Jay Shin:



If you're going to BS on your resume, BS well. Otherwise, you will be caught and never get a job offer.

I've seen many small start-ups who never bother to do background check or employment history verification, so it's possible to get away with lying/exaggerating on resume.



Around here, if you don't lie on your resume, you'll never get an interview because the the larger employers have their screens set for things like "15 years RUP experience" and "7 years Oracle 9i". And, of course "10 years J2EE".

And, no, I didn't get in that way. My present boss posted a "help wanted" in a Java newsgroup. He was more interested in what I could be doing for him today and tomorrow than in what I allegedly did yesterday.
 
Damian FRACH
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>> Forget a job, If you have all that and a decent GMAT, you can get into Harvard's MBA program!!!

would you like to elaborate on that? I do not understand what you want to say ... thanks
 
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Originally posted by Jayesh Lalwani:


Forget a job, If you have all that and a decent GMAT, you can get into Harvard's MBA program!!!



It takes more than a GMAT to get into a top school. I know plenty of 750-800 people who didn't get into Harvard, Stanford, etc.



Originally posted by Jayesh Lalwani:

It's much harder to get into Harvard because they have less number of seats



As for which school is harder, that's a matter of opinion, but Harvard has a slightly larger class size than Wharton.


--Mark
 
Jayesh Lalwani
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I know it takes more than a GMAT. I said if you have "all that" AND a decent GMAT. By all that I mean the list that Damian had in his post, which included

2 degress
lots of experience/certifications
hobies that include business experience
and exposure to foriegn languages

And regarding class size, for the class of 2006, 5622 people applied at Wharton, out of which 1,219 were accepted. At Harvard, more than 7500 applied, and only 900 were accepted. Here's the class profile for Wharton, and here's the admission brochure (pdf alert) for Harvard.
 
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