I’m not that kind of smart

AKA: Why I haven’t gotten certified.

I have never really been one to worry about how many acronyms you could tag after your name. And to be quite honest it never really mattered to me how big those letters actually were, because at the end of the day you put your pants on the same way I do every single morning. But that isn’t what I want to post about.

I have been asked before why I don’t spend some of this current free time working on getting certified. All this time I have deferred the question and made up excuses I really never thought it through until recently. Last week someone that I care about, you know the kind friend you listen to, a true friend. Well he asked me this very question. It wasn’t till then that I really sat down and thought about why I was so hesitant to take the exams to be come certified. I thought about how Christina Leo had posted earlier this year she was studying and then how she took the test and passed them all. I thought about that time while at Purdue that Chad walked into the office and said to Kerry “I am going to go take a Microsoft exam and we have one more free coupon want to come?” Kerry went and they passed. Yeah Kerry went cold turkey and passed.

So what is my hang-up? I don’t test well, that was my #1 answer. But why? Why can’t I do these things I kept thinking. I looked back over all the test and studying I had done. Passed the insurance license exams for life & health and property & causality (okay to be fair I had to retake one of them but for the life of me I can’t remember which one). Heck I even studied for 1 full week and passed the 6 & 63 securities exam with the highest score that office had ever seen. After sleeping on this for a couple days I decided that I am not that kind of smart. You see I don’t commit all that much to memory and have a hard time doing so. I can’t remember a phone number long enough to dial it on the phone I just read it off of. I believe that I am the “figure it out” kind of smart. I know a lot of little things about a lot of stuff.

You’ve heard that saying “There is shit you know, Shit you don’t know, and Shit you know you don’t know.” The idea being that as long as you know you don’t know it you can figure it out. Well I like to think that I am just well indexed and just know how to figure things out. These test scare the living daylights out of me. I don’t know the answer, I know how to find the answer. And there kids is why I don’t have any certifications. Hearing really smart engineery type folks talk about taking test outside their skill set and passing doesn’t actually help; it only reaffirms my theory.

So what do I do about it? Hell if I know. I know that as a general rule of thumb I am not afraid to try anything. I do deep down inside know that when I put my mind to something I can figure it out. Building things, making things, taking things apart or fixing things. But the mere thought of taking a certification exam scares me to death.

So what is your excuse why are you not certified? Or if you are certified and remember being afraid; how did you talk yourself into doing it?

2 comments to I’m not that kind of smart

  • Jay

    Even when I was CIO of a small Health Plan, I never put much stock in certs (especially Microsoft) as they really just an indication of how well you test. I had a guy working for me that had been in IT for about 6 months, read some brain dumps on line and was an MCSE in 3 months. When I was looking to move back to Austin I did a phone interview with a very promising company. After an hour, they said they wanted me but then asked how current my MCSE and MCDBA were. When I told them I didn’t have any certifications they thanked me for the call. I was bummed. Two more instances of being turned away due to lack of certification even with 25+ years of IT I decided it was time to certify. I too don’t test well in a closed book environment so I was really concerned. I spent the next 6 months studying and testing and end up with a whole string of letters available for my business card: MCP, MCSA, MCSE, MCDBA, MCSD, CHP, CHSP, CSCS and CISSP, proving if you put your mind to it, you can do it.

    What did it gain me? 12 years later I have not gotten an interview because of the certs or a raise. In my mind, a waste of time and money. I only keep the CISSP and HIPAA related certs current as there is where my real passion lies.

    The best advice I think I ever got in college came from a Statistics professor. First day of class he went over the syllabus. He let us know when we would have tests and that there would be a quiz at the end of each class. We all panicked, every class? He then told us all quizzes and test would be open book, open note because we will never be in the real world and hear “Go solve this problem and don’t use any resources” for our bosses. It’s more important to know what you need to do rather than how to do it since you can always look up how.

    Bottom line, you already know how, certification may help get you in the door but it’ll only get you so far. The guy I was talking about above isn’t in IT any more and I’m in year 0x26. 🙂

  • Mala

    I am certified on 2008. Not had time to upgrade to 2012 (on sql, obviously). My reason is that certification gives me a goal to study towards..i can’t study in a loose way..i know people who read books and then go and try stuff and then more books or blogs and so on. I just don’t learn that way. I need a focus to work towards – like objectives, Q&A and so on. Certification gives me that. Plus, a lot of companies that are gold partners like certification and give you extra points when hiring. Those are my two reasons. I don’t judge anyone by certification (unless it is the mcm which no longer exists) and don’t expect it of anyone I work with or hire.

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