OSFY reached out to its Facebook community, Linux User Groups and hiring managers for answers to the above question….
First, a candid admission: a story on FOSS certification wasn’t really on the cards for this issue. So, why did we, at OSFY, contemplate assigning space to a topic that did not seem to be particularly ‘hot’ in the open source circuits? Well, if a topic is measured by its newsworthiness, this one sure generated a buzz on our Facebook page. In response to a question we posted, “How important are certifications related to FOSS when it comes to the job market?” we were bombarded with a flurry of diverse opinions.
While we stayed glued to the engaging conversations and the live debate happening on our wall, we decided to encapsulate the essence of the discussion into an article, to be shared with OSFY readers. When we subsequently posed the same question to members of the various Linux User Groups (LUG) and to some industry leaders to gauge their reactions, the debate got livelier.
So, do certifications help?
With the increasing adoption of open source on a global scale, the significance of certifications related to FOSS is also growing. Alok Srivastava, CEO, Network Nuts, who is also an RHCE, believes that FOSS certifications do augment one’s career prospects, as they did for him. “Certifications are objective assessments of your skills and help the hiring managers select candidates with potential from the vast talent pool. Compared to my peers, I was quick to get an interview call from a noted IT company. That’s the major advantage of possessing a certification. Being certified also boosts your self-esteem,” says Srivastava.
While Srivastava feels FOSS related certifications are valued in today’s IT scenario, Puneet Chhabra, an active member of our Facebook community, doesn’t think so. In response to our question, he wrote, “Certifications are good for freshers as they might work to their advantage, but for experienced professionals, it’s not that helpful. I have always loved open source, and that prompted me to become an RHCE. Being in the testing domain, people hardly ask me about my certifications until they see that I have the relevant experience in the field.”
Ash Sethi, another enthused member of our Facebook community, is quick to react. He feels that, “IT professionals have two tracks in their respective careers—one related to their jobs and another to their interests. IT is so dynamic that you cannot resist the new stuff coming into the market. So you are forced to have an aspiration track too. For example, I am a full time Linux data centre solutions architect but I have an interest in security too, for which I got a couple of security certifications. Also, I completely disagree with Puneet’s statement that certifications are helpful only for freshers and not for the experienced. I did my RHCE when I was four years old in the field. Certifications means certifying your skills and experience; they should not be treated as a simple computer course done prior to seeking a job. Being a member of the tech panel of a reputed Indian MNC, I rate experienced people with certifications higher than freshers with certifications—the biggest reason for that is their exposure in the field.”
The LUG community’s verdict!
While the debate on the importance of certifications continued on our Facebook portal, members of the LUG community floored us with their interesting comments.
Some members of the LUG community felt that it makes no sense in getting certified as a developer or a programmer, as certifications that cover programming languages and application/Web development frameworks are merely an eye-wash.
Chandrashekhar Babu, an active member of ILUG, Chennai, quips, “Most candidates who get recruited in this domain are generally interviewed and evaluated by technically competent personnel (preferably a tech-lead or a hired technical consultant) in at least one of the evaluation spins. Certifications might not necessarily help in improving the employability of the candidate in this regard.
“Programmers and developers are best evaluated based on their track records and their problem analysis and solving skills. Having said that, developer/programming certification, if taken seriously by the candidates themselves, would help them in learning the technology well, though it might not guarantee their employability.”
Echoing similar thoughts, Karthikeyan A K, another member of ILUG, Chennai, shares, “Personally, I think certification does no good in the open source world. All it boils down to is one’s interest. I have seen people flaunting their certifications, but at times, they are junk.”
On the other hand, Sankarshan Mukhopadhyay from ILUG Chennai refrains from taking a stand. He writes in jest, “My employer provides a fairly well-known and diverse set of training offerings and it would be difficult for me to keep adding caveats for everything I say. However, consider this aspect—employers are commercial entities that provide services against contracts. Contractual obligations require that a specific set of skills be certified by passing an examination. And, hence, there is a reason why employers do place some emphasis on certifications and their ratings.”
Certifications are useful in systems and network administration, in general, and in FOSS, there are numerous certification programmes provided and supported by companies. “For instance, there’s the RedHat Certified Engineer (RHCE) programme from RedHat Inc (apart from other similar certifications from the same firm), the Ubuntu Certified Professional programme from Canonical Software, the Novell Certified Linux Engineer (NCLE) from Novell Inc, the LPI series of certifications from Linux Professional Institute, etc. Most of the above certifications cater to administrators. This makes sense because administrators are employed in companies with operations that are beyond the IT domain—like banks, hospitals or schools. However, it might be a little difficult for recruiters from non-IT organisations to evaluate or gauge the skillsets and technical competency of candidates that they might be recruiting as administrators, especially in current times where FOSS technology awareness in the non-IT sectors is still low,” adds Chandrashekhar.
A Mani from ILUG Chennai says, “Certifications can help in situations where employers want to employ people in order to demonstrate the existence of an IT infrastructure in their organisation. In these situations, ‘otherwise under-qualified’ but ‘certified’ people can be paid less for more work. Competence may not come into the picture and certifications can have just a face value. It happens in private universities.”
Another member of ILUG-C, Suraj Kumar, who has worked at Yahoo!, Amazon and InMobi, and has been doing business with many start-ups in the Internet space as a talent sourcing consultant feels that companies powered with open source give preference to those who are self-learners rather than those who are certified. “I can also vouch for the validity of this policy, because typically, we’ve found that engineers whose resumes have a certification logo tend to have shallow skills. Most companies these days are also beginning to be open about what they look for in a person when hiring—they don’t care if someone has a B.E. degree or not, nor do they care if the candidates cleared their exams. What they really care about is, “Can you think and can you actually do things?”
What the hiring managers have to say
We then went on to ask some industry heads to share their thoughts on the subject. Satish Gidigu, CTO, redBus, a company that has 60 per cent of its staff as open source professionals, says, “Personally, I do not believe in certification. There are lots of talented people who do not essentially choose to go in for certification. I have a perfect blend of certified and non-certified open source experts in my team and all are doing well. I don’t look at certification as a must-have in the recruitment landscape. What matters is aptitude and oral understanding. While hiring, we look at engineers who are more adaptive.”
Vibhore Sharma, CTO, Naukri.com, says certifications do not top his firm’s priority list when it comes to hiring FOSS professionals. “In my opinion, certifications only help when you have a hands-on experience in the open source domain. So, a candidate who has a healthy mix of both, features high on our wish-list. And that has to be backed with the right set of skills,” he says.
So, while we bring you the thoughts of the open source community on what they think on FOSS related certifications, the final verdict is always yours.
The author is a member of the editorial team. She loves to weave in and out the little nuances of life and scribble her thoughts and experiences in her personal blog.