There are folks who believe certifications are meaningless.  That’s nothing new.

However, lately, there are some who seem to have taken it on as their life’s mission to rail against certification and even training in general. In fact, some have taken to mudslinging in their diatribes about training and trainers.

I get their point.

And, I tend to agree with some of the reasons why they are against certifications and training.  However, I do not agree with their “solution” which is not really a solution at all.  It’s more of a lack of a solution or disorganized inaction; a complete hands-off “let people just explore” approach with no standards at all.

(I also don’t appreciate the ad hominem attacks on and insinuations about trainers and our general character. Not cool.)

If I am a hiring manager, recruiter, or even a member of a Development Team responsible for filling a spot on my team, I don’t have time to talk to every one of the 1000-2000+ people who are interested in and believes they MIGHT be qualified for the single position we have open.  I need some kind of criteria for establishing at least a baseline for knowledge so that I can narrow the list down a bit. I would like to see some kind of preliminary proof that someone has taken an active interest in his or her career / lifelong learning as shown by their accomplishments; e.g. certifications, et al.

That’s only ONE purpose that certifications serve: they are kind of like maintaining a learning log, which is something else that I do and encourage others to do as well.  It’s not the ONLY thing that I find valuable, not by a long shot.

If the person I am talking to, who has several certifications, can’t articulate the concepts clearly by teaching it back to me with examples and analogies, etc. and they are unable to demonstrate how they have applied the knowledge, how they have grown since achieving the certification, how they see the limitations of the certification, and so on, then I would not be interested in hiring that person.

Let’s take a different view along this same perspective…

Assume that you are in the camp that believes in traditional medicine.  You would not seek medical advice or treatment from someone who is not at least an MD. (And, the law would agree.)  That’s just a MINIMUM level of certification that you require or take for granted.  You also look for advance certifications such as Orthopedic, OB/GYN, Cardiology, Gastroenterology, Pediatrics, etc. 

AND, even beyond all this, you look for doctors who fit your style, culture, and who have a great personality and demeanor (bedside manner); doctors who you can “work with” in addressing your health concerns.

Imagine you were “hiring” a doctor who specializes in Oncology to treat you and there were 1000s of doctors who applied. Would you simply start talking to each one in sequential order without at least looking to make sure that the applicants were board certified in Oncology?

Maybe you would. Maybe you would get lucky and only those who know Oncology would apply.

However, maybe some doctors who THINK they know Oncology would apply. Would you want that person treating you?

I myself majored in Pre-law in college. I have a deep interest in many matters of law. I follow court cases, read opinions, review laws very carefully, etc. (I watch Law and Order…) I am REALLY passionate about Law. Would you like for me to represent you in court? I promise, I will do my best.

They say: “A man who represents himself has a fool for an attorney.” You would be pretty damn foolish to hire me as your attorney since I never went to law school. I am not certified by a BAR Association; ABA or in any state. I might even be BETTER than some of the people who are certified by the BAR. But, still, I am not, and that’s the price of admission to the “party”.

When hiring for a ScrumMaster position in your organization, you can expect 1000s of applicants to respond who think they can do the job. Are you prepared to simply start interviewing ALL of them or would you maybe want to look to see who is a CSM first? Those folks have at least been through a two-day class and passed a test on Scrum. Maybe that represents 500 of the 1000.

What about looking at those who are Certified Scrum Professionals® (CSP) before you dive in with the CSMs even? That might be 50/1000 people. You know that those folks have not only taken a two-day training and passed a test but also have documented considerable experience in Scrum and have been keeping up with their community involvement and learning by obtaining Scrum Education Units (SEUs) with the Scrum Alliance.

I might further look to those CSPs who are in the process of pursuing advanced degrees in organizational development, change management, psychology, sociology, MBA, or some related discipline that they can use to make themselves more effective. That might be only 10/1000 people.

If I get through all 500 of the people that have at least a CSM certification, then I guess I would seek out the folks who have nothing…

Certifications are not the be-all, end-all in evaluating a person’s skillsets, worth, or potential. However, they CAN be a reasonable place to begin a conversation with someone.

Another point I would like to make here, because it seems like the right time and place…  If you are considering buying training for your organization but you don’t care about certification and think that you can use that as a bargaining chip to get a huge discount:  Think again.  The difference between certified and non-certified training is $50/person (for the CSM and CSPO).  That’s how much the registration fee is for each student.  The effort is exactly the same whether I am certifying people or not.  (Also, if your employer is buying training but not letting you get certified… um, well… WHY NOT???)

Now, I know some folks are sitting there reading this thinking “Of course you are saying this, Daniel, because you specialize in training and certification. It’s very obviously self-serving.”

Sure, you could interpret my support of certifications that way.

Or, you might consider that I became a Scrum trainer BECAUSE I believe in certifications as a baseline to begin with… and you would be correct.

I want to ensure that when someone walks away from MY class that they are passionate and on fire about learning and growing and that they understand Scrum as best they possibly can from a two-day workshop. I also provide other value-added services to my students well after they take my courses and get their virtual piece of paper (i.e. the certification). I like to help inspire them to keep learning and provide answers to the questions they may have.

Oh, just a bit of history and trivia for you…

My interest in certifications goes way back to when I was working at Project Management Institute and led the charge with developing the PMI-ACP, along with several other passionate thought-leaders of the industry; that is, back when I had no other vested stake in having people become certified at all.

Peace and blessings.