Navigating the VMware certification path
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After VMware announced a shift in its policy regarding certification for VMware Certified Professionals, reaction was mixed among the many VMware professionals this change will affect.
Previously, when you obtained VMware Certified Professional (VCP) status, you kept that title, regardless of how many years -- or software versions -- had passed. Proponents of the change have said the VCP recertification policy is a good thing because it keeps virtualization administrators current on new technology and bolsters the value of the VCP. Critics have said the two-year expiration is too constrictive. Others have said that people who passed the VCP exam should be allowed to keep their VCP version number -- for example, VCP4 -- rather than lose that title altogether.
We've asked several SearchVMware contributors and other VMware professionals for their thoughts on the expiration date and the consequences of the VCP recertification rule.
I personally feel having to recertify to bring the VCP up to current level is a good thing. Think of Automotive Service Excellence-certified mechanics. They have to recertify every five years. If VCP certification didn't expire, I could advertise myself as a VCP, even if that was for VMware Infrastructure version 3.5, which was released in 2008. Technology progresses and changes -- especially data center virtualization -- much faster than many other fields, so why wouldn't those in this awesome field want to keep up to date with their certifications?
I do think two years is a little short, perhaps three years would be reasonable. If you think back two years ago, say March of 2012, we were on vSphere 5.0. What if I got my VCP on 5.0 back then? VMware hadn't released vSphere 5.1 yet -- it came later the same year -- but vSphere 5.5 is out and exams are available. If my VCP on 5.0 was good for two years, it'd be expiring now, so an extra year to recertify to the current version would be good. I could recertify to 5.1, but I'd be better off jumping to 5.5.
That aside, I don't think it's a way for VMware to generate more revenue. If you're a VMUG Advantage member, you get a discount. It's likely you're an active member in the community and up on the current technologies anyway; why not take the next step with your certifications? You can continue your certification path by going to the VCAP within the two years. You don't specifically have to take a new VCP exam. However, if you want to stay at the VCP level, prerequisite course requirements are waived. That's a plus, since you can simply take a new cert every two years without having to take a new class.
I feel that VMware's migration to an expiring certification system brings it into line with most other vendor-based certifications. That said, a two-year window is a little on the stingy side. As some have noted elsewhere, one of the big issues VMware faces is that the exams are some of the most expensive in the industry. It would have been nice to see them take a cue from Red Hat and offer a discount for those renewing their certification.
Forcing renewal of the certifications also makes the certificate more valuable, as the technology does move on. It also proves that those who maintain their certificates are serious about what they do. I have seen a lot of people collect certifications as though they were stamps, with no real investment in the techniques and tools.
I fully support VMware putting expiration dates on their certifications. Doing so ensures that certified technicians or engineers haven't lost their edge. In this industry, I find that there is a bit of certification atrophy as well as "paper" certifications, where the recipient doesn't have any actual hands-on skills.
About 10 years ago, I was working with someone who had the same Microsoft certifications that I had. We were both Microsoft Certified Solutions Experts (MCSEs) and presumably had the same skills. The difference is, he had passed his exams by cramming right before the exam. After getting the certification, he didn't really use the skills. Shortly thereafter, his skills started to atrophy. If you were to put those exams in front of him even two years later -- let alone 10 -- he would have failed them.
What I really like is that VMware isn't forcing candidates to take the same exam every two years. Instead, they will recertify if you achieve certification in another track. For instance, if you have a VCP-DCV (data center virtualization) and then sit for and pass the VCP-DT (desktop) exam, then you get recertified for the DCV as well as the DT certification. This is important, because people who have multiple VCPs and VCAPs would need to sit multiple exams per year, which is onerous.
Certifications have really only have one purpose: to validate technical skills to make candidates more marketable and help employers easily sift through potentially hundreds of applicants and find ones that are likely to have the skills necessary to do the job. When a certification is too easy to obtain -- or gets stale -- it reduces the value of the certification for both the recipient and the employer. If having the certificate doesn't actually validate that you have skills, then what's the point in getting it? VMware has taken a pretty strong stance that they want the VCP certification to be meaningful, and that's good for those that have it, and those looking for people that do.
You can make an argument that VMware should have gone to three years, but if they had announced a three-year duration, the same people would be shouting that it should have been four or five. Every other year is not a hardship on someone doing the job day in and day out. Ideally, if they've been keeping at the craft after their VCP certification, they should be able to just sit for the exam whenever and pass it, probably with a higher score than the first time. Additionally, two years is plenty of time to research, train and pass a different track.
Finally, as often as this industry is changing, you'd be crazy to think longer than two years means you're "fresh" at anything. C'mon, two years ago we were all using BlackBerrys, very few people had an iPad and dinosaurs roamed the earth. A lot changes in 24 months.
VMware's new recertification requirements are a good thing for those who are certified and using the technologies on a daily basis. If you are using the knowledge tested in the VCP -- how to administer vSphere, for example -- then recertifying shouldn't be too difficult. Additionally, your higher-level certifications will apply down to your lower-level certs, like VCP.
I take this new recertification requirement as one of the numerous signs that VMware's education group and their certifications are maturing. By requiring VMware professionals to recertify, they ensure that those who have the certification are even more valuable
With the VCP recertification change, VMware has stated [that] the "business communities expect that VMware certified professionals are current on the latest technologies." To some extent, I agree with that. However, VMware is assuming that if a VCP does not recertify, that they are not current on the latest technologies. I don't believe this is accurate. Just because a person is certified on a previous version of software does not mean they know nothing about other versions that are available, including the current version.
People do not stop learning once they pass a test. To make that assumption is to undermine the type of people that worked hard to pass the test in the first place. This new requirement feels like someone is changing the rules to the game after everyone has already started playing. If VMware wants to institute a recertification policy, that is fine. However, it should be applicable to newly certified VCPs going forward; people who have already been certified with the understanding that their VCP does not expire should be grandfathered in as a nonexpiring VCP.
It is simple enough to append a version number to a VCP, such as VCP3, VCP4, VCP5, etc. I believe that should be sufficient, rather than stripping the VCP certification away from people who have earned it, with the understanding that they would be able to keep it, regardless of whether it is considered current or not.
To me, VMware is risking isolating some of their most important advocates -- the people who implement and support their products on a daily basis.
It doesn't make sense that someone who got his VCP certification many years ago can keep the VCP title. It shapes confusion on the market, and it means a diminishing worth of the VCP certificate.
From the perspective of someone who wants to hire a VCP, it is essential to know that the VCP has skills that relate to current environments and configurations. I'm 100 percent in favor of VMware's decision.
It would be nice if current VCPs that want to retake were not obliged to sit the class anymore, especially in an instance where a VCP is currently unemployed. It would be nice if VMware had a solution for those cases.
Certifications tend to be held a little closer to the heart by those that hold them. That's why when companies make these types of changes, it feels like a personal blow to the end users. Initially, I felt a bit upset about the changes VMware put in place; however, after letting it sink in, I can completely understand why they made them.
Technologies are changing fast in today's world. A 3-year-old VCP certification should not hold as much value as a current VCP. In the past, the course requirement was one of the most controversial and talked about requirements of the VCP. VMware usually had a grace period of six months for those that had met the course requirement to upgrade their VCP version. Under the new realm, we essentially have two years to upgrade our VCP without having to take the course. So, in terms of economics, some things have gotten easier.
While I recognize the drive to have anyone who claims to be a VCP get certified in the most current exam, I don't understand why VMware feels the need to strip those who have acquired a VCP of their certification status. If we've worked hard for a VCP3 or a VCP4, we should be able to claim that we have obtained those certifications. This is something I would like to see VMware address, whether they allow us to simply state they are expired or leave the number representing the version on them.
Other than that, I believe the changes made are definitely for the greater good, both for employers and employees.