Should your DBAs be certified?

If you require your DBAs to get certified, then you should be prepared to go all the way.

Should you require your people to get certs?  This is a topic that's been a near holy war for years now... esp with the Microsoft exams.  The problem is that it's really hard to protect an exam from cheaters.  So there are plenty of cheat sites out there where you can just buy the answers to the exams and after just a couple days of memorizing, you can pass a test with flying colors and be a real DBA... or a real Windows admin... or a real Oracle DBA, etc.  Of course, it's not just limited to Microsoft exams, but they've gotten the worst of it for some reason.  It's probably because they've got more exams and more exam takers than a lot of the other vendors.

So should you make your people get certified?  My answer of course is absolutely.  No, I don't have any illusions about the unscrupulous testing methods used by some, nor do I think that you need a cert to be good at your job.  What I do think however, no, not think... what I know is that no matter how good someone is, studying for a cert exam will force them to learn the more obscure aspects of the product and maybe even get better at some of the more common aspects.  I personally take the cert exams for SQL Server whenever they come out because they force me to get good at the new features.  So making your people get good at their jobs is a good idea, right?

A lot of people still don't trust the cert exams though.  They think they're far too easy to cheat on so they don't want any part of it.  And others won't even look at you unless you're certified.  Both sides are wrong.  Just because someone has a cert, that doesn't mean they cheated and they're not worth their salt.  And just because someone doesn't have a cert that doesn't mean they don't know their job.  I know plenty of people who are top-notch DBAs and they've never held any kind of cert.  That's the same as companies that won't look at you unless you have a degree in computers.  I know I've been a victim of that before.  I had a company refuse to even take my resume because my degree wasn't in computers.  And that's just the most foolish thing you could do.  So look at people individually and judge them based off of the interview, not whatever piece of paper you think they should or shouldn't hold.

Requiring your people to learn more comes with a couple responsibilities on your end though.  First, you have to pay for it.  Hey, if you're gonna require the cert then you have to pony-up.  Second, you have to give them time to study at work.  You can't run a ship so tight that they never have time to do anything extra, and again, if you're requiring it, then you can't expect them to go home and do it in their spare time.  And third, this is the big one now... you have to stop being so closed-minded and let them do some of the cool things they learn.  You want them to get certified for a reason, right?  I would hope that reason isn't so they can just keep supporting your same lame processes for the rest of their lives.  I would really hope that you plan to use that extra knowledge.  So getting certified people means more than just bragging rights.  You have to foster their education, not just fund it.  Allow your people the freedom to grow with the industry.  If you do, your company will grow as well. 

I've seen it many times.  The managers in a company are scared of new technology so they insist things stay more or less the way they are.  The problem with that is that they're not able to take advantage of a lot of the new features that actually save you time and money.  So in the long run they end up spending a lot more than is necessary just because they were afraid to let their people do their jobs.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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