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Perl Certifications and/or Professional Development

by jerrygarciuh (Curate)
on Apr 07, 2002 at 18:29 UTC ( #157293=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Fellow Monks,
An aquaintance who is a 'real' programmer recently advised me that if I want to continue to program without a CompSci degree that I should get certified. As a Java guy he didn't know what certification I should pursue. Considering that Perl is my only language what does the community feel I should do to gain expertise (first and foremost) and thereby credability as a Perl Professional. Please bear in mind that I know I am not advanced in my skills and that by no means do I consider myself a hacker (or even a solid novice some days). I just want to begin seeing a path toward professional coding in Perl.
Think a race on a horse on a ball with a fish! TG

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Perl Certifications and/or Professional Development
by dws (Chancellor) on Apr 07, 2002 at 19:07 UTC
    An aquaintance who is a 'real' programmer recently advised me that if I want to continue to program without a CompSci degree that I should get certified.

    Nonsense. I've hired a lot of developers, and I pay zero attention to programming language certifications. In fact, if someone claims several, it raises a warning flag. I've been hiring in places where people don't get screened by Human Resources (HR) first, so your mileage may vary.

    Lack of a comp sci degree can hurt you at places that place a lot of value on academics (e.g., places that were started by academic types), or places where you have to pass through an HR filter first. I give relatively little weight to a degree, and more weight to what someone has actually done, and how they think and express themselves.

    If you want to gain credibility as a Perl professional, develop something that you can write about, and get your name in print. Or, contribute to a visible development effort.

Re: Perl Certifications and/or Professional Development
by mattriff (Chaplain) on Apr 07, 2002 at 19:16 UTC
    The Certification Foo node has some interesting opinions in this regard.

    My advice would be to find an application you think needs written and write it. :) Share it with people, solicit their opinions, and keep making it better.

    If there's an existing project that you're really interested in, then try getting involved with that, too. (The added benefit there is getting experience working with a project team.)

    The general idea is to build a body of work that shows what you can do.

    - Matt Riffle


    Just for fun, I poked around with Google a bit looking for more opinions on the worthlessness of certifications.

Re: Perl Certifications and/or Professional Development
by vladb (Vicar) on Apr 07, 2002 at 19:14 UTC
    I've been studying CompSci at a university for 2 years before I chose to drop out and actually do some applied 'hacking' in a real environment (as a company employee). I should say that the real job is sometimes more gratifying ;).

    However, I too don't see how a certificate would be of much help. I've seen a few folks with certificates whose skills left their employers (or potential bosses) wish for more. For the most part skills on your certificate are hardly adequate for any job. What really does count is how good of a problem solver and how dedicated to the cause of hacking you are.

    I also know too well a number of people without any formal certificate (nor a degree for that matter) who earn significate cash (therefore i assume their skills are being valued etc.) This doesn't make me very excited when I think of pursuing an academic degree. Although, I guess I might have to do that only when I get bored with my current job (as perl hacker, NO WAY! NEVER! :).

    "There is no system but GNU, and Linux is one of its kernels." -- Confession of Faith
Re: Perl Certifications and/or Professional Development
by trs80 (Priest) on Apr 07, 2002 at 19:09 UTC
    This is subject to the type of work/employment you are seeking. You need to ask yourself how the certification/development is going to help you in those terms.

    I feel that demonstrating through your code and actions that you are confident and capable of applying the language to solve real problems and the ability to articulate your solutions will benifit you more then a certificate.

Re: Perl Certifications and/or Professional Development
by Maclir (Curate) on Apr 08, 2002 at 00:44 UTC

    What type of job would you like? A succession of "programming technician" jobs, interspersed with periods of unemployment while you try to become certified in the next favourite language of the month? Why not get certified in Java? No, VB / ASP . . .wait a minute, .NET will be really hot in a few months, get some certification in that.

    Alternatively, if you want a long term career in the information technology arena, designing and developing software, go to a good quality university and get a proper computer science degree. Don't treat it as a meal ticket to a super high paying job when the dot coms take off again. And while you are at university, study material other than just programming. History, english, philosophy, writing, economics, some law and government.

    You will notice I have used the (archaic) term University, not college. A university is a place where, among other things, you will learn how to learn. A college churns out the cannon fodder for industries current needs. Of course, not all instutions follow those rules when deciding their title.

    There have been many discussions on the Monastery about the benefits of a proper computer science education. But as an employer, I look at paper certifications for entry level tech support people. If I want top quality application developers, designers, analysts, I expect to see a relevant university degree. I would not go to a medical practicioner who did not hold a recognised MB/BS; or a lawyer without an LLB.

      My only disagreement is we shouldn't focus on computer science. Mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, these all teach you how to think and solve problems. Even logic, philosophy, and other liberal arts majors can be useful.

      As I said in my other post on this topic, I knew a astronomy Phd that was shaping up to be a solid software engineer. But she wasn't a computer scientist. That her degree wasn't relevant to software design shouldn't stop someone from hiring her.

      Not all writers and artists hold english and art degrees and not all software engineers need computer science degrees.

Re: Perl Certifications and/or Professional Development
by Marza (Vicar) on Apr 08, 2002 at 16:44 UTC

    As one provider of certifications once told me "Certifications are for dumb managers who don't know what to ask in interviews."

    Does that make them worthless well not really. If you have the skill think of it as a garnesh to make you look nice.

    In an interview setting. If you equal in skills with another candidate, a cert or two might give you the edge.

    That at least shows the employer that you complete things.

    My .02, keep plugging at a degree. Bachelors are turning into high school diplomas. It won't do much for you, but you are expected to have it. At the moment I don't have one and I don't have problems finding work but I am still plugging away at one....

Re: Perl Certifications and/or Professional Development
by rbc (Curate) on Apr 07, 2002 at 21:50 UTC
    Degrees and Certificates are a rip-off.
    The field of Computer Science/Software Enigneering/Information Tech.
    changes too fast to make a 4 yr degree that valueable and
    certificates a complete jip. There are employers out there
    that might insist on a degree of a certificate. I would consider
    such employers to be unconcerned with you as a individual and that
    they would treat you like a piece of furniture in the long run.
    I never completed my degree and am doing quite well. Yes maybe
    if I had completed my degree ( not my studies ) I would be
    making more money. But then again maybe not.
      Degrees and Certificates are a rip-off. The field of Computer Science/Software Enigneering/Information Tech. changes too fast to make a 4 yr degree that valueable and certificates a complete jip.

      First off, let me say that this is in no way a condemnation of rbc personally, just that this subject is one that keeps irritating me more and more each time I see or hear it.

      To all of you who believe that finishing a degree is a waste of time: what do you think that tells a potential employer about your personal committment to long-term projects?

      I grow more and more tired of hearing people say that 4-year degrees are a waste, have no bearing on "real-world" jobs. Did you actually enter a university thinking that the only reason for being there was intensive, exclusive training in one field? A 4-year degree program is more than just job training, or at least is should be. It covers a good deal more than just the chosen field. But most of all, it represents a committment followed through to the end. And when you are interviewing with someone who would potentially be your project manager, I would think that you want them to believe that you can finish the long-term tasks you start.

      The belief that anything taught in your field-of-study classes is hopelessly out-dated also amazes me. The fields of Finite-State Machines (regex's, lexical scanners), Push-Down Automata (parsers), Algorithm Analysis (sorting, anyone?) haven't changed so much since the "invention of the Internet"1. You wouldn't learn everything there is to know about those topics, but you aren't supposed to, any more than you would expect a singe page of results from a Google search to cover any of those topics in a comprehensive manner.

      Education is not just a good idea in the general sense, in my opinion it is critical. It's more than the sum of the classes you take, it's the skills you develop along the way (study habits, teamwork) and the way it disciplines the mind itself. Some years ago, there was an article at (I think) talking about how the "new generation" of computer professionals had a large contingent of people who felt that they were best served by skipping college and going straight into industry. They even interviewed a prominent Red Hat employee for the article. But think in terms of the high-schooler who thinks he can blow off education because of his surety that he'll take his football or basketball career straight to the pros: For every one of you who has managed to get a good job without education, how many people are there who failed to?

      My time at OU (the University of Oklahoma) wasn't just about CS classes. Those amounted to less than half of the semester-hours I took (not by design of the degree program, but because I took a lot of extra classes in the music department). I'll grant you that the wider pervasiveness of broadband connectivity and higher profile of the Internet mean that more information is generally available to you than was available to me in 1986 when I graduated high school. I entered my freshman year thinking that the thousand-line Pascal program I had written as a senior project the year before was a serious piece of code2. If I were a high-school senior today, I'd know better. But I'd still benefit from the other things that skool taught me-- wanna know what an ant feels like? Be one member of a 300-piece marching band, performing in a stadium in front of 76,000 football fans. But if you think than being so ant-like means you are insignificant, see what happens if you don't turn where you're supposed to!

      My point is: education, like so much in life, is exactly what you make of it. No more, no less. And I while I feel some sense of sympathy for those who did not find formal education to be of any benefit, I also have to wonder what their expectations were when they approached it. As for me, when I evaluate a potential programmer candidate, I am of course going to be looking at his job history and code samples first and foremost. But if I am looking at two otherwise equal contenders, the person with the shingle gets the job. That person, I know, has finished at least one project that took 4+ years.


      1 Of course I'm being facetious here. And Perl is a lot older than the WWW, too, by the way.

      2 This particular self-illusion actually lasted almost 3 days into my first semester, until I befriended someone who showed me his previous-semester's Compiler Theory final project. That shit haunted me for weeks...

        I'd like to jump in and agree with rjray here. When I was going to college, my grandfather told me an interesting observation: The degree isn't necessarily the important thing; it's a union card. I have found that to be true. It doesn't matter that my degree is in Theoretical Mathematics and not Comp Sci. It doesn't matter that I never took a file structures class or coded a compiler from scratch. What I've seen employers look at is that I completed a degree program.

        Personally, I wouldn't worry too much about whether you should get a CompSci degree. Getting a degree should be the goal. Learning how to think, how to learn, how to understand. Those should be your goals. Get a degree in something that interests you, something you will want to give your best to. If you enjoy what you are doing, that pride and excitement will show through.

        One of the more promising programmers I knew actually had a Phd in astronomy. She discovered programming while finishing her doctoral thesis and caught the coding bug. She didn't know all the algorithms and theory, but she knew how to think. That was what was important. And she got her job because of it. There were candidates with more programming experience but she had the maturity and training to know how to solve a problem and not just think up the next cool thing to try. We knew we could count on her to be with the company in 2 yrs, not off to the next cool startup.

        In summary, learn to think. Ask questions. Have fun. Strive to enjoy a career, not just get a job. Take pride in what you do. Show you can finish what you start; Don't just take the money and run.

        I agree. When you're self-taught, it's too easy to learn just the things you're interested in, or just enough to do the current job. But even the worst four-year program in Computer Science should give you minimal familiarity with the underpinnings of this field, and teach you the things that, though they may provide no immediate reward, provide a framework for the rest of your learning.

        Impossible Robot
        The biggest regret of my life has been not getting my degree. At the time I was too much of a stubborn a-hole to put up with their BS. ( unlike how I am now ;-) ) Now I've got a resume filled with companies that have been wiped off the map. It just means that I have to hustle that much harder.
          `                                                   ` 

        About the only think I could add is that some universities are offering generalized certs (like this one or this one). While I would think twice about someone with a vendor cert, I would like highly upon someone who in their spare time acquired one of these types of certs.


Re: Perl Certifications and/or Professional Development
by natebailey (Acolyte) on Aug 18, 2004 at 08:09 UTC
    We regularly advertise for perl programmers. We get about 40-50 responses. 30 of these have little or no perl experience (some don't even list perl on their resumes, others say things like PEARL). For my part, a basic certification would say "Ok, you know how to use modules, how to write modules and the basic concepts of OOP, great -- you get through to the 'seriously consider' pile."
    In terms of degrees, I definitely concur with the comments made by others -- unfinished degrees don't speak well for your longivity/tenacity/commitment to finish things you start -- which after work ethic and team skills, is probably the next most important skill for an employee. And whilst a degree helps you learn how to think, I think the best thing a degree gives you is what you learnt *outside* the classroom, when you were hacking code in the labs with your mates. Friendships, shared experience and rapid learning about new stuff.
Re: Perl Certifications and/or Professional Development
by BUU (Prior) on Apr 07, 2002 at 22:27 UTC
    My perspective on this is that, while a degree/certification may not be neccessary, it certainly cant hurt. In worst case, you can impress the 'head hacker'(whoever he may be) with your 'mad l33t programming skillz', and impress the HR department with your shiny little certificate. Cant hurt you either way, if you need it, you have it, if you dont, well then, your good to go.

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