People who are reluctant to take a certification exam are usually reluctant due to fear. Fear of failure, fear of taking a test, fear of having others learn their scores, or fear of being judged or ranked. I totally understand these fears! The first thing I want to stress about certification exams is YOUR SCORE IS CONFIDENTIAL TO YOU. Sure the score is captured by a computer system and is sent to IBM to be stored in a DB2 database, but we are governed by very strict privacy laws that prevent any of this information to be given to anyone except for the candidate who is taking the exam.
This should give you a sense of comfort that you can take the exam without anyone knowing. So if you fail, feel free to try again! Use the score report to help you strengthen your knowledge in the areas where you didn’t do so well. If you do pass the exam, you must tell your managers, customers, clients, etc. Only you can brag about your certification!
Another thing that you should keep in mind is that each exam has a cutscore assigned to it. You can think of a cutscore as the mark you must reach to pass the exam. To come up with a cutscore, we have a team of experts take the exam and then rank each question in terms of difficulty, importance to the job role, and frequency that the task is performed. As an example, the cutscore for Exam 731 is 59%. Since there are 64 questions on the exam, you must answer 38 questions correctly to pass the exam. As a result of passing the exam, you will be sent a certificate stating that you are now IBM Certified. Your certificate will look the same whether you score 59% or 100%!
I also suggest that you don’t play the “score” game. I’ve heard conversations where people are bragging about their score or candidates who are pressuring themselves to score better than one of their co-workers. I can tell you that most of the people bragging about their score are embellishing slightly! It’s best to not discuss your score in the first place.
One of the biggest benefits of passing a certification exam is that it proves that you are very proactive at keeping your skills up to date. Anyone can say that they know about the latest features of a product, but by passing a certification exam, you have validation that you do indeed understand the latest features. Although DB2 certifications are very popular and still growing in numbers, the number of people who actually [i]have[/i] a certification is a fraction of the number of people who [i]could[/i] have a certification. If you are certified, consider yourself as part of a relatively small group! A second benefit is that studying for a certification will expose you to areas of the product that you wouldn’t normally care about. Very few people have hands-on knowledge of EVERY feature in a product, so when studying for, and taking the exam, you will be exposed to more features than you normally use. Perhaps you’ll discover a feature that will really help your application or in the usage of the product.
One of the benefits that I mention to the developer in the Toronto Lab who create the DB2 product is that it will allow them to see the product as our customers use it. Not many of us in the Toronto Lab work as DBAs, so by passing the DBA exam, it exposes us to the tasks that DBAs must perform in their daily jobs. It seems to me that this will help IBM create better products! The same is true for those who are writing about the product, supporting it, testing it, or even selling it.
A team of us are trying to scientifically determine the actual benefits of being certified, but in the mean time, my team ran an informal survey asking what the benefits were. Here are some of the responses:
- Certification adds credibility when addressing customers
- Certification is a partner requirement
- Certification gives my company a business advantage
- Certification helps me pinpoint problems faster
- Certification gives me confidence and respect
- Certification gives me credibility with younger workers and my peers
- Certification gives me leverage and job security
- Certification led to my membership in a competency network
- Certification gives me professional recognition
- Certification helps me set up a training plan to keep my skills current
- Certification is valued by management
- Certification earned me better performance ratings
- Certification helped me earn a promotion
- Certification earned me management recognition
- Certification gave me additional skills
- Certification led to a raise
What do you think? Have you experienced any of these benefits? Are there other benefits that you experienced?
I’m looking forward to hearing from people.