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I can’t believe 2019 is already over 2 weeks old! how are those New Years resolutions progressing? Waning yet? I do hope not.

When considering goals for the year why not take a fresh look at certification. Long ago certification was considered a poor cousin to diplomas and degrees or even on-the-job-training. Now in the fast moving world of technology disruption, of micro-credentials and MOOCs (massively open online courses) – certification has gained a whole new lease of life. For the most part certifications are accessible online, are affordable, are broken into parts to enable progression over time – meaning the study demands have lowered – and importantly are now recognised by employers as important validation of your capabilities.

Here at OptimalBI we value certification for personal development and as a means of providing our customers with the assurance we have invested time and effort into really understanding a product or methodology. The team here is certified in a wide range of things – TOGAF (The Open Group Architecture Forum), Data Vault, AWS (Associates and Professionals), Oracle Administration and Development, Microsoft Administration, Development and PowerBI, QlikSense, SAS Administration and development, Scrum, Prince2, MongoDB – the list does go on these are off the top of my head, not to mention the many (like Wherescape RED and Attunity) who have extensive training with no certification at the end of it.

Technology Certification

The last technology certification I held was OCP – in a distant past!

If you are a technologist then certification for the product(s) you specialise in is a good call, especially if your employer is supportive and enables you access to technology resources and time to undertake the training required to gain the certification.

Many technology companies have adopted micro-credentials eg: SAS has “badges” now, which break the certification demand down into smaller manageable chunks providing a sense of achievement for each step as well.

The big red flag for technology certification however is the need to certify and re-certify, as the versions or modules of the technology vendors product(s) change often (sometimes annually) and these vendors expect re-certification or upgrade certification to be completed. The cynic in me sees this as a money making scheme, well, by the longer standing technology vendors who repackage and update their offerings in a slick manner anyway.

If you are not a technologist ie: if you don’t actively work day to day with a technology then opt for the methodology certification path. As an employer I do question people who have a technical certification with no corresponding experience in the same tech. My advice is if in doubt elect to pursue a methodology over a specific technology, this leaves you in a stronger position to apply that experience across a range of project contexts.

Know nothing about coding but want to learn? Check out the resources offer for children learning to code – adults can do these projects too and they provide a great starting point.

Methodology Certification

The scope of methodology certification is wide and varied so making a decision on what’s best to invest your time and energy into could be quite challenging. Professional bodies, inventors of methods, training organisations and universities, including ivy league ones, now offer a wide range of options.

To be more specific if you work in the project space then Agile (of the flavour relevant to your organisation) or Prince 2 are the obvious choices. If you work in the data world the range is phenomenal from John Hopkins Certificate in Data Science which takes 8 months to complete, through to a range of short form Udemy courses which give you a certificate like Complete Introduction to Business Data Analysis. I can’t comment on the quality of the latter but do know the John Hopkins Certification has proven to be excellent here.

Methods of practice do also change and evolve over time and eventually fall out of favour (remember when we were all 6 Sigma and RUP certified). The pace of change methodology wise isn’t as rapid as technology, these concepts, practices and processes tend to lend themselves to work in a range of contexts and endure trends for a reasonable period. Skills and experience in methods will enable you to move between organisations who work in different industries or work with different technologies – and can extend to a real range of roles like Sales, Marketing, Project Management, Management etc.

For these reasons this is why we have chosen to invest in learning, using and training others in BEAM – Business Events and Activity Modeling, Data Vault and AgileBI.

Why Consider Certification?

There are two reasons – for yourself, your own development and progression; and so your employer sees you in a positive light. Indulge me on the latter for a moment.

When I first became a manager we were taught (by our HR department) to look out for the “ideal employees” those who exhibit enthusiasm, initiative, communicate openly, collaborate and bring their best selves to work every day. One of the key flags we were told to look out for (and reward) was those who asked for career development – and the real gold was finding an employee who took initiative and undertook training in their own time. This isn’t unusual in corporate environments, so if it’s news to you consider the employee segmentation below and which category you fall into? Your manager will certainly be advised by their HR department to consider this (this is an indicative HR dept segmentation, source here):

  • Climbers. Individuals who seek advancement in their organizations by asking for varied assignments, working long hours, networking and seeking greater visibility.
  • Hedgers. Individuals who use all career tactics available to advance in and outside their current organizations.
  • Scanners. Individuals who monitor the job market closely and are poised to change jobs, if not organizations, as opportunities arise.
  • Coasters. Individuals who do little to seek career advancement.

Whichever category you are – investing in yourself with time and advancing your knowledge with training and certification is a great goal for 2019. Talk to your manager – you need to ask them about training budgets and training plans anyway I expect – and help them see you in a new “ideal employee” light! Best of luck. Vic


Victoria spends much of her time focusing on Digital Inclusion, Digital Literacy and Digital Rights.
You can read her OptimalBI blogs here, or check out some of her other blogs which are published on Medium.

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