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Don Burleson Blog 








Government licenses for computer professionals?

IT Tips by Donald Burleson


I have spent a great deal of my consulting career cleaning-up messes from naive, inept and unqualified computer professionals.  These reckless pseudo-professionals cost American business billions of dollars each year in lost productivity, and vetting computer professionals has become a costly nightmare for IT managers across the USA.  Today we cannot trust general certifications, nor the vendor-based certified professionals and especially not the honorary computer experts. 

The "honorary" vendor titles (Microsoft MVP, Oracle ACE) that are given without verified credentials and experience have become he subject of mockery in the IT industry.  I know of several Microsoft MVP's and Oracle ACE holders who are very, very dangerous, loose cannons who are virtually unemployable.  Some have no paid job experience whatsoever, and their ineptitude combined with an unjustified sense of accomplishment has led to serious production outages for anyone naive enough to believe that they are up to the task of managing a real system.  For more on these dangers, see my related notes on how Dangerous Dilettantes Destroy Databases.

Some Oracle ACE holders acknowledge that their ACE designation is "almost completely worthless".

"Most of them, in my experience, are your stereotypical glory hunters. The type who has to be the center of attention.

?O look at me, I wrote a book???
O look at me I gave a talk at an Oracle conference???
O look at me, I?m so underutilized at my job that I?ve had time to respond 5,000 times on OTN?.

Smug, arrogant, full of their own sense of self importance and quite irritating."

So, how can an IT manager find a "real deal" computer expert? Most state and federal occupational licensing boards have not caught-up with the times and recognized Information Technology as a legitimate, licensable profession just like engineers and CPA's.

It would not be hard to create a valid computer certification, and many have tried. Back in the 1980's a private company called the ICCP (the Institute for Certification of Computer Professionals) tried to create industry certification standards.  I became a Certified Systems Professional (CSP) and earned a Certificate in Data Processing (CDP), but ICCP certifications were not widely accepted in the data processing marketplace.  Today we see other independent certifications such as A+ attempting to qualify computing professionals.

A forty dollar saddle on a ten dollar horse?

The vendor certifications suffer a bad reputation for a number of reasons, foremost the fact that they don't verify work experience or an upstanding reputation.  They used to call this "putting a $40 saddle on a $10 horse", and I've noted more than a few "shady characters" who have been awarded these vanity titles by trusting software vendors who don't want to be burdened with background checks of job experience and personal character.

One of the first Oracle certifications was the Certified Oracle Masters (COM), a designation that only required that you pay for and attend five classes from Oracle University.  No tests, no vetting of knowledge, just pay-up.  Ten years later, Oracle re-vamped this with the Oracle Certified Masters (OCM), which includes a real practicum test that measures real-world ability.

Some older vendor-based certifications used to verify the work history of the applicant and the Chauncey Oracle7 certification required signed documentation proving that the candidate possessed more than three years of full-time, paid work experience as an Oracle DBA.  But that was back in the 1990's, and today people can become "certified experts" without a single day of paid work experience!  It's a recipe for disaster.

When a vendor honors someone as an ACE or MVP without verifying their work history and reputation, they are putting their reputation on the line, not to mention opening themselves up to litigation. Read here about a questionable MVP who riled-up the database community

The certifications entitling high school dropouts to call themselves an "engineer" are also very disturbing, especially in areas where the title "systems engineer" actually means something.  I've met Microsoft Certified Systems Engineers who could not find their butt with both hands.

A sample of questionable occupational certifications

In some jurisdictions it's against the law to call yourself an "engineer" unless you are licensed to drive a train, and most people hate fake engineers.

Expert Certifications?

Before vendor certification, the only was to be legally declared an expert was by a judge, and people working in Oracle Forensics were entitled to call themselves expert because a judge had decreed it.  But there is a much bigger problem with self-proclaimed Oracle experts, many of whom hide the fact that they have very little paid work experience!

Read here about a phony Oracle expert who duped people out of $30,000 before he was discovered.

Even more onerous are the "vendor certified expert" programs whereby candidates pay fees to take classes and test to become vendor certified experts.  Some vendors expert certifications require no paid job experience!  Most real experts agree; it's impossible to get expertise without years of full-time paid job experience.

But how well do these vendors check-out their illustrious representatives?  Not to well, IMHO. A quick Google search reveals that there are many unsavory people holding vendor-honored certifications, and some who have been publicly accused of criminal activity.  

The high cost of verifying credentials

Resume' fraud is epidemic and IT managers cannot trust job candidates anymore forcing departments to resort to expensive online services to allow them to verify the credentials and reputation IT job applicants.  As a IT management consultant, I rely heavily on these services to find trustable professionals and weed-out the posers.

But background checks are both time-consuming and expensive, and it would be great to let Uncle Sam license computer professionals.

When people want to build a house they seek a government licensed contractor, and even mundane occupations (Chiropractors, Farriers) require a license in some states.  States have extensive occupational licensing boards already, so it's not to much to ask for a regulatory body for computer professionals.  I have a pilots license, an auctioneer license and even a radiotelephone operators license, why can't I get a license for my real profession?

Across America, IT managers are clamoring for the right to hire government licensed programmers and administrators, but the government bureaucracy impedes this critical issue.  Why can't we hire a licensed programmer?  Let's take a closer look; the answer may surprise you.

Are computer jockeys "real" professionals?

Law changes slowly, but I expect that the high costs to society will pressure lawmakers to regulate the computer industry.

After all, computer people earn as much as doctors and lawyers (and in some cases, far more) and it's a crime that they have no licensing.  What the IT industry needs are computer industry-specific Federal or State licenses, just like people in similar professions.  Professions have licenses, why not computing.  Doctors, lawyers, Software Engineers, CPA's, Actuaries and even Chiropractors and kindergarten teachers require licenses.

A model for licensing IT and computer professionals 

We need to look no further than existing regulatory bodies to see that computer professionals can be easily and fairly licensed.  For example, consider the license requirements for a software engineer.  The National Council of Examiners has a great summary of the requirements to be a professional engineer, but it's missing one factor, a criminal and credit check:

STEP 0 - College Graduation - The first step is graduating from an ABET-accredited engineering college.

STEP 1 - FE Exam - The first exam in the licensure process is the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE).  . . Once you pass the exam, you are classified as an intern, also known as Engineering Intern (EI) or Engineer-in-Training (EIT).

STEP 2 - Verifiable Work Experience - After passing the FE exam, you will continue your journey toward professional licensure by gaining engineering experience. Many jurisdictions have specific requirements about the type of experience you need to gain. Most require that you gain experience under the supervision of someone who is already licensed, and that your experience involve increasing levels of responsibility.

STEP 3 - PE Exam - Once you have gained the appropriate experience required, you can take the second exam in the licensure process, the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE). This exam is given in a variety of engineering disciplines.

Now, all we have to do is add a requirement for a criminal and credit check, and a professional IT license could easily be created.

How important is a good reputation?

In North Carolina, even mundane occupations are governed by auctioneers must be licensed by a state auctioneering licensing board who are charged with doing an extensive background check (including a nationwide criminal records search and a credit history report) steps to ensure that all auctioneers have "no acts of moral turpitude".  See my notes on how I help corporations evaluate the honesty of computer employees.

It's only a matter of time before state licensing boards expand their control over computer and IT occupations and we can only hope that having licensed computer professionals will increase the prestige of the profession and weed-out dangerous dilettantes and those with unsavory morals.



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Note: This Oracle documentation was created as a support and Oracle training reference for use by our DBA performance tuning consulting professionals.  Feel free to ask questions on our Oracle forum.

Verify experience! Anyone considering using the services of an Oracle support expert should independently investigate their credentials and experience, and not rely on advertisements and self-proclaimed expertise. All legitimate Oracle experts publish their Oracle qualifications.

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