Recently, I have been having many conversations about the value of advanced and expert-level certifications and what you should focus on as an IT professional in the SDDC space. This got me thinking about how I would distill this into a general strategy that a fresh graduate could use to leverage and enhance their career in Information Technology.
The Career Certification Strategy
This strategy is really about balancing depth and breadth over the course of your career and allows you to have a working knowledge of the entire enterprise with expert-level knowledge of a few key areas.
Some people are certification junkies and others cannot stand the pressure of the test and the certification tread-mill. Regardless of your preference, using certification blueprints to guide your learning has great value, even if you skip the test. The blueprint provides the breakdown of what you need to master for that particular skill-level and technology area.
Breadth is more important than depth, when you are starting out. Focus on Associate-level and Professional-level learning and certifications so that you can be a “jack of all trades” (eg. CCNA, CCDA, MCSA, VCA, VCP, AWS Associate, GCP). As you develop those skills, you will find which areas you enjoy the most.
By this time, you will have worked out what you enjoy and started to develop a deep level of expertise in at least one area. You can further validate that knowledge by pursuing Advanced-level learning and certification in that particular silo (eg. CCNP, MCSE, TOGAF, VCAP/VCIX, RHCE). Do not forget to continue learning new things; keep adding Associate-level and Professional-level skills to your game.
You are now established in your industry and skill-set of choice. You will have worked as an operator, administrator and possibly a technology architect in a number of areas. Now is the time to be recognised as an Expert through certification (eg. CCIE, CCDE, CCAr, VCDX, NPX). Never stop educating yourself; keep on expanding your knowledge with Associate-level, Professional-level and Advanced-level skills.
My Personal Experience
I achieved my CCNA and CCNP at the 9 year mark of my career, and it definitely helped me with career advancement; it allowed me to switch completely from telecommunications to enterprise IT.
The VMware certification route I accidentally fell into, through taking VMware training for work and then achieving VCP to set an example for the team. At that time, I had been working for 19 years and I figured why not give VCDX a shot? Previously, I had always aspired to go for CCIE since the 90s, however, I felt that virtualisation and cloud had more value than networking in 2013.
In recent years, I have been expanding that skill-set, going for breadth and depth across the enterprise. My guiding principle is to have a good functional understanding of a technology silo, where I can have an intelligent conversation with an SME.
With online learning and free certifications/accreditations offered by many different vendors, and the plethora of online documentation, whitepapers and hands-on-labs publicly available, there is really no excuse to not be upskilling in 2018. Come up with a plan for the year and execute, then rinse and repeat.