Vendor mandated certs only degrade integrity

Published On 2013/07/10 | By Kurt Bales | Rant

I dont doubt that vendors have a tight line to walk when it comes maintaining their brand integrity. To build up a skill set in the market the certification teams put in many weeks developing a program that is relevant, useful and achieves the goals required. Followed by countless hours reviewing each of the certifications regularly to ensure integrity. There is the added benefit that these certifications build of community of loyal followers – The Cisco and VMWare certification programs are evidence to this.

I personally have been involved in the development, technical review, and exam rewrite process and I can attest to the effort that the certifications teams go to to ensure the validity and integrity of their offerings. Weeding out sources of brain dumps and NDA violations and other activities that threaten this integrity work becomes an on going commitment that requires many hours of dedication.

On the other side of the line is the requirement to have the partners representing the vendor to maintain a level of skills and customer satisfaction. This ensures that when the brand is represented in the market that it will be delivered by the most skilled people capable of delivering the best outcome from the products on offer. This ensures that the vendor brand is not tarnished by substandard implementation or post-sales response.

The easy option is usually to mandate that partners levels be broken into tiers and that each partner must maintain a minimum set of certifications as well as some minimum dollar commitment. And I dont doubt that this is effective in the short term. It’s an easy metric to graph and report on. Sadly it also has the exact opposite effect than the original desired business goal.

The problem usually comes about because various partners start requiring all new staff to get X, Y and Z certification. The number of people obtaining these certifications purely to get a job, and not to truly understand and learn the concepts increases. With this too is the growth of brain dumps and other practices that reduce the integrity such as brute forcing exams or engineers sitting in countless classes to achieve continued education requirements.

As a result meeting minimum number of certified people becomes the goal, and not the education of the suitable engineers capable of delivering the best outcome for both the customer and the vendor. Just as we saw with the CCIE program prior to v4 or the MCSE program in the late nineties and early 2000s – The market gets flooded with sub-par certifications and integrity is diluted or lost.

And in the end, everyone loses.

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About The Author

Kurt is a Network Engineer based out of Sydney Australia. He a the Senior Network Engineer at ICT Networks where he spends his time building Service Provider networks, and enterprise WAN environments. He holds his CCNP and JNCIE-ENT, and currently studying for his JNCIE-SP and CCIE R&S. Find out more about Kurt at and you can follow him on Twitter.