DevOps Institute

IT Certifications Are Important — Particularly for DevOps


September 18, 2019

By Jayne Groll

There are some who believe that professional certifications in IT do not have any value, particularly as it relates to DevOps. They claim that DevOps cannot be codified, it is more of a philosophy than a framework and certifications would only commoditize the market.

Frankly, I am baffled at this ongoing debate particularly since continuous learning is at the heart of DevOps principles. DevOps is an umbrella that integrates, adopts, adapts and streamlines many other practices and tools including Agile, Lean, Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery, ITIL, SRE and a whole lot of automation. The principles and practices around DevOps must be taught — both collectively as DevOps and separately as competencies. Surely, if there is no resistance to training (which some of the naysayers lead), why is there such a resistance to testing and certification?

We test young children on their ability to spell, we test drivers on their ability to operate a vehicle, and we test university students until they prove they are worthy of a degree. Auto mechanics, hospital technicians, and insurance salespeople all get certified. Why is an IT certification any different? None of these certifications suggest the individual has real-life experience — the certifications provide evidence that the individual has demonstrated enough underpinning knowledge to be trusted with doing something more in real life. We would not let a 16-year-old on the road just because their parent (who has been driving for decades) deems them ready. That is actually dangerous. Certification separates those that studied core principles and those that dabbled. The range of DevOps and related certifications span general knowledge, tool-specific and related processes, and emerging practices.

It’s true that certifications may commoditize the market. Some contend that if anyone can get a certification, its value is diminished. I disagree. Humans take pride in their accomplishments (even if lots of other people have the same achievement). Employers promote their certified teams as a competitive advantage. If the entire IT community became certified in DevOps practices and processes, we would have trained a capable workforce that has a shared mindset, can be cross-functional, understands the “rules of the road” and can continue their learning journey through practice and experience. As long as the certification is based on a curriculum of accurate, timely and relevant content and is issued by a trusted and recognized authority on the topic, commoditized certification is good. As a wise person recently shared with me — commoditized knowledge makes it accessible to all.

Of course, I understand the concern about the diploma or certification mills that stand up certification programs without any substance or credibility in the community. Sadly, the market is seeing more and more of this type of money grab where the goal is to certify, not necessarily educate. I do not support certification for certification’s sake or teaching for a test. I too have disdain for supposed certification bodies that use the DevOps label as a lure but do not contribute to or support the community.

I am proud that the DevOps Institute has worked hard over the past four years curating emerging practices from a Collective Body of Knowledge (CBok) into our certification program. We are active in the community including membership in the Continuous Delivery Foundation, participants in the DevOps Enterprise Forum and have attended/supported dozens of local, national and international events. DevOps Institute advances the human elements of DevOps through our SKIL framework and funds community research, non-certification learning opportunities and other initiatives. We do not certify “experts”, “masters” or other generic terms. Our certifications are for actionable and hireable skills and roles. I dare anyone to look at DevOps Institute and question our commitment to the community or the quality of our certifications.

At a time when there is a well-recognized talent gap, where upskilling programs are being funded by large enterprises and where individual practitioners are being pushed to enhance their knowledge and their careers, certification is the only way of proving practitioners who have studied their craft enough to pass an exam. Experience counts for sure, but the experience is limited to the environment from which it was gained. Training, education, and certification expose the learner to higher-level concepts that are portable between tools, domains and environments.

Here’s my offer to those who reject DevOps certifications — be a part of the solution. If you question the value and content of the curriculum, then help us make it better. Reach out to me and I will engage you in our curriculum development and revision efforts at DevOps Institute as either a reviewer or a contributor.

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