First is Certification

The information technology and communications industry as a whole now views certification as a benchmark with acquired skill-sets the differentiator of the 'true' IT professional.

Certification has become important to customers, vendors and employees alike. Just as the IT industry has experienced rapid growth, so too has the importance of having skilled individuals in a particular job role become even more critical. As a result, the ability to prove skills and specialties through certification programs has become essential to advancing IT careers, gaining benefits and increasing job stability.

For Lorretta Elias' career certification has certainly helped to advance the KPMG deskside technician. Elias, who is a certified Microsoft professional, says that, in addition to providing necessary skills, certification shows employers you are willing to learn, dedicated and can bring extra knowledge to the organization.

Elias is now thinking of doing the Microsoft Office specialist exam, the ITIL infrastructure management exam and CompTIA's security certification. Although these are not role-related, Elias believes they will stand her in good stead for the long term. She is quick to point out, however, that just having the certification is not enough. You need to have the practical experience too.

"IT job functions are now well defined and critical skills are required to attain the position. Those skills are assessed via the certification process," explains Heather Colless, BEA education manager, Australia and New Zealand. "IT certification also contributes to increased productivity within the project team, and gives managers a way to assess the skills (and skills gaps) of their teams. Partners in the ecosystem can inspire confidence in their customers when certified to implement other vendors' technologies, leading to increased new and repeat business."

Keith Ross-Jones, Fujitsu's DBA shared services manager, who has Oracle certification training, agrees. "Customers are increasingly choosing consultants with appropriate levels of certification, vendors are assured that their products are delivering and employees are more marketable," he says. "Clearly, it's a win-win situation all round."

Peter Durie, services manager, Red Hat Australia and New Zealand, is finding that many enterprises now require IT staff to earn at least RHCT or RHCE certification if they are setting up and managing Linux systems. "And those that have completed the certification find that the skills they acquire are very much in demand," he says. "It's a win-win for the companies and students. Students gain valuable skills and job security, while employers can be sure their staff have the competencies to complete quality work without the guess work."

Employers often find it a less risky option to employ an individual with a certification than one that does not," agrees Mannix Aylward, Volante's national manager of infrastructure solutions. "There is often a higher comfort level that the individual is capable of delivering on expectations. Customers have an expectation and often demand that they are engaging consultants with appropriate levels of certification, which inherently makes individuals with certifications more marketable," he says.

IT certification is a key requisite for Craig Stones, Kaz technology services' Citrix practice manager, who is a Microsoft, Novell and Citrix certified engineer. "If you're going after consulting business today, certification is essential to give you the skills and credibility in the marketplace," Stones says. "Clients get a far better experience if the workforce is trained on the latest technology and has the certifications to back that. As part of their commitment to vendors, companies also have to keep up the levels of their trained staff."

Holding certification is also essential in the quest to maximize opportunities for career advancement. Citrix-certified Robert Wilson, NetOptions' corporate sales and business development manager, believes this is important both for engineering and sales staff, especially where a consultative sales approach has long been the norm.

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