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I've often thought working in the IT industry might be similar to being on a hamster wheel. There is this endless cycle where vendors try to get market share by driving innovation in new products, which means IT professionals must update their certifications to show they are proficient in these offerings. Then every now and then companies will update or revamp certification tracks to make things even more interesting, such as the recent VMware VCAP adjustments.
Why certifications are necessary
In most jobs, you acquire new skills over time. For example, look at a car mechanic. The cars they were servicing 10 years ago had four wheels, an engine, a steering wheel and doors. Today's cars have similar features, but they are more complex with electronic braking systems, traction control and automatic windshield wipers.
The same can be said for IT where you have an application that requires CPU, memory and storage. How these are delivered to the application have changed with abstraction from the physical layer, hyperthreading and storage -- either local or remote.
However, the biggest difference is certification. I don't know of any industry which focuses on the collection and updating of certificates as we do. I mean, we are pretty obsessed by it -- but with good reason.
Certification provides job security
No longer is there such a thing as a job for life. Companies can get bought, sold, merged, go bankrupt or relocate. Most of us require an income to pay for our houses, cars and living expenses. So how do we differentiate ourselves from the rest of the market? This is when certifications and experience come into play.
I've never worked as a recruiter, but human nature dictates that we normally go for the least line of resistance. Often a company will state a certain level of certification is required for a position. As a recruiter, what are you going to do when performing searches on LinkedIn or reviewing résumés? Applicants with the required certification will advance to the next stage while the others won't.
Certifications require investments
Obtaining a certification isn't just about achieving a certain pass mark, it shows others you are serious about your career. To gain the qualification, you will have either spent your own time and money -- or, if you are lucky enough, the companies whom you work for -- on the following:
- Books related to the subject
- Exam fees
- Home lab
- Time off work to take exam
- Personal time studying
VMware VCAP changing to VCIX
Around the time VMware officially announced vSphere 6 in February, the company also noted it made changes to its certification tracks, replacing the VMware Certified Advanced Professional (VCAP) certification with VMware Certified Implementation Expert (VCIX).
While not all the information is clear at the moment, we know:
- VCAP will be retired at some point.
- VCIX certification requires you to pass design and administration exams.
- If you hold a single VCAP, there will be an upgrade path to pass the remaining VCIX exam.
- If you hold both VCAPs in a certification track, an upgrade to VCIX will be available.
- Each VCIX exam will be two hours in length.
- Each VCIX exam will be the same price as a VCAP exam.
My view is that reducing the exam length from more than three hours to two hours is a good thing. Trying to concentrate for this length of time can be a struggle. On the other side, I can see a reduction in the number of people aiming for VCIX; you don't obtain the qualification until you pass both exams.
VMware professonals must recertify to keep VCP standing due to recent changes