Certified And Inexperienced: The Kiss Of Death

Ask someone that has hired a DBA which is more important: real world experience or education? To be fair, most will say their ideal candidate has a good mix of both. But if you can't get both, what matters more? Without hesitation, the overwhelming response is "Give me the candidate with experience." Why is that? Why is the combination of inexperience and certification the kiss of death?

If you've never taken a certification test before, take a quick look at the range of skills that are measured for Exam 70-761 (Querying Data with Transact-SQL). This is one of the "easier" certifications for SQL, btw. You think you could go in blind and pass it? How many years of experience would you be drawing on in your quest to pass? If you needed all those years of experience to get a passing score, shouldn't you be impressed by someone who accomplished it with no real world experience at all?

If you're good enough to "make it" as a DBA, the real world experience is inevitable. But the things learned earning a degree or a certification aren't. It eludes some data professionals in the real world. You may know of some of them: the ones that don't know the ACID properties, set theory, or a design pattern, for instance. They're the ones that reinvent wheels (often badly) and use the same small set of tools to solve every problem.

And here's the thing I don't understand about those of you that do the hiring: the topics a candidate learns about when prepping for certification are the same types of things that are important to you. They're things that interest you. Things you want to share with others. I know because I see it when I read your blog. I hear it when you give a presentation at a user group, a SQL Saturday, at PASS Summit, et al. Hell, some of you are authors and I read about it in your books!

Let's be clear: there's no reason to discount the value of real world experience. And training is a viable option no matter how far along the career path a candidate has traveled. But if you have an opportunity to nab an inexperienced entry-level or junior DBA that's earned a certification or two, why would you immediately dismiss them? We don't discriminate against the experienced. We shouldn't discriminate against their counterparts either.