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Do Certifications really help?

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Recently we introduced a new policy in our company. All our exisiting technical employees need to be certified (either in Java or .NET) and the new employees will also need to give the certification within a month of joining. I spear headed this rule because based on my experience I strongly felt that this step could seriously improve the technical knowledge of our developers and also expose them to much wider range of functionality in the domain they are working in. I had many arguments to make sure that the management agrees to this step:

1. Both MCP/JCP or higher certifications help developers get atleast the basics right. But many times these certifications are misused. It is easy to "buy" some remote centre and get scoring marks without even sitting for the exam. There reliability cannot be ascertained unless the developer has been certified by an authorized and "secure" centre (I had already decided on a couple of exam centres based on my experience with students). So even if the employee had been previously certified, we might encourage him/her to sit for another exam (a higher one) so that we can be sure of the capablities.

2. Even if a programmer is certified, his/her coding abilities cannot be judged on the basis of  the certifications. There are many other ways to clear exams besides "unsecure" centres, like mugging up "dumps" at the last minute etc. So the interview process will not be relaxed for the certified candidates and the certifications should only be treated as a neccessity rather than being evaluatory in nature. The idea is not to get just the certificate, but to go through the entire course contents atleast once.

3. Employees should be given trainings to clear their doubts while preparing for such exams. In order to cultivate an "always learning" culture, peer group evaluations would be encouraged. Also, certified employees showing good progress would be enrolled in a reward program.

I am hoping that this policy breeds a culture of studying while working and encourage developers not to stop their learning process altogether, which is a common practice these days as people start thinking that once they have finished with their graduation/post graduation, there is no real studying left.

Certifications alone might never judge the technical prowess of a person, but we can mould the process in a pre-prepared cast which could strenthen the exisiting capabilities in a positive way.

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