Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

NewBridge College IT Manager and Network Engineering Lecturer Lennard Korsten highlights the many benefits of gaining relevant industry certifications rather than spending years working towards an IT degree.

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

We spend a lot of time online. Our modern age is all about being connected via some form of digital technology. It’s seen in almost every aspect of modern life.

A recent study done by We Are Social and Hootsuite highlighted how South Africa’s Internet population has changed over the past months.

According to the report, South Africans spend the 6th longest time online, staying connected for an average of 8 hours and 25 minutes each day across their devices – compared to the global average of 6 hours and 41minutes. Via computers only, we are the world’s 2nd biggest Internet addicts, spending an average of almost 5 hours a day glued to our screens.

But why? Well, in today’s society information is paramount, and, more importantly, information technology influences all kinds of human activity. I believe one of the best things that information technology has done– and one of the biggest benefits of technology in general – is increase productivity in both work-related and personal tasks.

Do you enjoy information technology, being online, being connected, and keeping up with the latest advances in the field of IT? If you are, you have considered turning that “hobby” into a career.

Traditionally, in your pursuit of a career, you would go to a university, register for an IT course and get your degree after 3 years – although as many as 80% of students take a year or two longer. Here’s the snag: by the time you get to the end of that 3rd or 4th (or maybe even 5th) year, a lot of the content you have covered will already be out-dated and irrelevant. Remember, the rate of technological change is exponential, and you must keep up with the fast-growing pace of the field to remain relevant. Today you might learn something new, but tomorrow you may need to unlearn it and start again.

Make way for certifications!

There are many reasons you should seek a certification in several IT-related programmes, software and skills, rather than a formal IT degree. With that in mind, I would like to share three reasons why a certification path is BETTER (yes, you heard me) than a degree path.

  1. Credibility

IT certifications are testaments to your skills and proficiency in a certain area. For example, becoming a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert in Productivity tells hiring managers, companies and clients that you have the experience and skills needed to effectively create, design, manage and maintain multiple Microsoft-related technologies from Windows Server to Windows 10 to SQL. This is one of the biggest reasons that IT professionals pursue certifications rather than a degree – it validates your skills and expertise in your current job.

  1. Marketability

There are certain certifications that are appropriate for your current position in your career path, ensuring you are best prepared for the next step. For example, new graduates will more easily land entry-level positions if they pursue basic certifications such as CompTia A+, Microsoft Certified Professional, Certified Internet Webmaster Associate, Sun Certified Java programmer, Certified Ethical Hacker and Cisco’s CCNA.

These certifications validate skills and can make up for not having the “right work experience” for the job. In fact, no matter where you are on your IT journey, certifications will almost always give you an edge over non-certified IT professionals. Certifications do more than just validate your skills and experience; they demonstrate your commitment to the field to potential employers, as you spent the money and time required to obtain your certifications. It doesn’t stop there, though – certifications further ensure you are prepared to continually upgrade and update your skills and knowledge to keep pace with the evolving tech world, making career advancement more likely.

According to Rich Hein at CIO.com, the right certifications could mean anywhere from an 8 to 16 percent increase in your pay, making certifications relevant to compensation. Lastly, certifications are a must in certain sectors within IT – consultants and people who are self-employed would be wise to obtain certifications, as this will gain their clients’ trust. Additionally, many government IT positions require certifications for you to be eligible for hiring.

  1. Personal and Professional Development

IT is a dynamic field, and new technologies are introduced every single day. Certifications are important to make sure that you are on top of these developments and that your skills are up to date. Certification training can help you cover new areas while further reinforcing the skills you already have. Think of it as a refresher course that can help you identify and overcome your problem areas.

Certification helps with networking with other IT professionals. Your next job or project could very well come from someone you met at a study group or technical conference that is related to a certain certification exam. Heading down a certification path will give you access to resources that would not otherwise be available. This includes access to online forums, training materials and other learning resources that are provided by certification providers such as Microsoft and Cisco. Certification can help you meet IT professionals who have similar interests and specialities to you. There’s also something to be said about the personal satisfaction that comes with “acing” an exam that validates your expertise.

Studying something you love will give you a great sense of personal achievement and accomplishment. You’ll learn new ways of doing things and, if you’re really fascinated by the technology world, you can always take it a step further – what better way is there to turn a pastime into a fulltime career?

In his commencement address at Stanford in 2005, Steve Jobs said: “Stay hungry, stay foolish.”

Your brain needs food too – always be prepared to learn and seek opportunities for growth. Choose certifications that align best with your interests and get the tools you need to get where you want to be.

Lennard Korsten, 2019


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