It has been years since I stopped taking certification exams and lately I decided to get back to that adventure. In September 2020 I passed exams to be recognised as Microsoft Certified Azure Solutions Architect Expert.
Before and after passing the exam, I asked myself the question which I have seen many people ask as well; Are Azure Certifications valuable? I believe the question is applicable not only for Azure Certifications, but in general for any industry certification. Are they valued by the community and employers? Do they make a difference in your career? I have also written about this topic in the past, and yet it seems the same questions are still coming up. Let me share my updated opinion with you.
From the motivational perspective, it is very important to clarify the answer to those questions so we know why we are putting all that effort to learn and prepare for the exams. I also think these questions should be rephrased with a reversed perspective. Before we modify question, let us first discuss about the value itself.
What is the value and who defines it? Who can tell if a certification is valuable? I think think there is no single source of truth for that. From experience, I have encountered employers and peers who value a certified professional more than someone who is not certified. I have also seen opposite. As someone who have interviewed more than 100 candidates so far, I can say both can be right and wrong.
I have met certified candidates who have not been able to defend their title with knowledge. So I have met people who were not certified on a topic but were more knowledgeable than their certified peers. I have also met certified people who were subject matter experts and knew their topic in detail, kind of detail that we do not easily learn by randomly playing with the technology.
When I reflect on my late Azure certification journey but also on my previous certifications for .NET and Java, what I remember is that while preparing for the exams I have often learned hidden details about the topics which I have not encountered during the daily work. Those hidden details then later have quite often have saved me time or effort and enabled me to bring better solutions into life. This in itself is a value for me.
Considering this, the revised question I think we need to ask ourselves would be:
What do we gain from this certification?
In my opinion, we should not get certified so other people value us more because we hold that title. We should do certifications to learn better the technology we like. Of course one can do that without taking the exams and without getting certified. It’s just that taking the exams pushes you to follow a certain curricula which is reviewed by experts and that often gives more structure to the learning.
I have been using Azure for years and have quite some experience deploying and running web applications on various forms of workloads, containerised and non-containerised. Yet, when I took the late exams for Azure Cloud Solutions Architect Expert certification, I learned a lot about some not so familiar topics to me, like migrations of Virtual Machines from on-premise datacenter to Azure, about backing up Virtual Machines, or about Express Routes. Taking those exams pushed me to learn more about those topics which probably I would not in my daily work.
As a conclusion, in my opinion industry certifications are valuable as they push us to get better at that topic and this inherently will make us a more valuable contributor to our team, company and community. When we do that, whether the certification is valued by our potential future employers plays a smaller role in answering this question.