back to article This is your final warning to re-certify, Red Hat tells tardy sysadmins

Red Hat has told certified admins they need to re-certify by Christmas – or else. A Monday post by director of certification Randy Russell pointed out that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Linux-slinging outfit extended the validity of certifications and allowed cancellation and/or re-scheduling of exams. The IBM- …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    CPE

    Does the Red Hat cert not come with a CPE option?

    Not that it would help, I have a Cysa+ that I need to earn CPE for, but there haven't been enough CPE events the last 2 years for me, especially the last year, so not sure what I'm going to do.

    I reckon there's going to be a lot of lapsed certs with no renewals moving forward. The process needs to adapt and change.

  2. Mike 137 Silver badge

    If and only if ...

    "Vendors' counterargument generally suggests that individuals and services organisations that claim expertise in a product or technology should be willing to invest in certifications to prove their skill"

    That's a reasonable argument, provided the said certification does actually "prove their skills". I don't know the Red Hat ones, but most I've encountered, in general operational IT (and particularly in the security field), definitely don't. About the only really adequate ones at least used to be the Cisco hands on ones, as the proof was in the resulting configuration, but powerpoint based computer marked certs are, pretty much across the board, a complete waste of time and money. I say that advisedly having both regrettably taken, and (even more regrettably) delivered and authored them under contract.

    Even supposing you can impart usable knowledge via slides in one week, it's impossible to test real competence using multiple choice tests, as the real skill is the ability to work out what the question is before answering it, but multiple choice not only provides the question - it actually prompts the answer. So all you get for your money a is a certificate of the ability to remember at best some formulaic concepts for around four days.

    A certification of real value would require either a verified practical (as for Cisco) or a requirement to explain a topic. That means of course free form questions and subject-competent folks to mark them. Not only is that expensive to run, but there is evidence that these days a lot of candidates can't cope with that type of question regardless of their subject knowledge, as they have difficulty expressing their ideas clearly. So there's a problem for certification providers. Unless a high enough proportion of candidates pass, the cert goes out of favour and they lose the revenue. The practical solution is therefore to make it easier to pass, and that means multiple choice. As it's also cheaper to run, there's no argument against.

    As with mainstream education, the ostensible outcome (of delivering capable people) has effectively got lost as other considerations take precedence.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. UHA

      Re: If and only if ...

      Absolutely. And it's one reason I haven't bothered to renew or progress my LPI exam.

      A job in the VFX sector came up recently and they sent over a "questionnaire" (well, a quiz) prior to *any* telephone or video calls that contained a list of technical questions that they expected you to answer. All of them could easily be looked up on the internet, including diagrams and a GitHub repository of Ansible playbooks to do what they asked. I find these things are a hindrance and are designed only to test's one Google-fu rather than actual knowledge, skills and experience.

      I told them in no uncertain terms that I wasn't interested as a result. Bearing in mind that this is a company that I've been trying to tell for several years to put an SSL certificate on their Wordpress site, especially when they collect candidate information via a web form (you can't just email them).

      Good luck to whoever gets that job.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: SSL cert on Wordpress

        Takes a few minutes of someone's time. It has been made very easy in later versions of WP alongside that getting a cert is simple these days.

        If I can do it for my own blog (self-hosted on an RPI-4) then any decent IT company should be able to do it.

        Well done for telling them to shove their job where the sun dare not shine (outside of Pronhub etc)

    3. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: If and only if ...

      There's another issue here, too, which is that expensive certification is a barrier to competition: if people are heavily invested in a particular manufacturer, there's a strong incentive to stick with them and you get to the point where businesses are buying Product X because it's easy to find staff with X knowledge.

      It also adds to a myth of sophistication: if Product X requires a training course, but product Y requires only that you read some documentation, it can be used to imply that Product X must therefore be more capable.

      If you can get away with it, though, it's a great way to get your customers to pay you to write your documentation.

    4. Eecahmap

      Re: If and only if ...

      The RHCE exam is a practical exam - receive a broken VM, fix it in ways that the check script can detect. The NDA and the haze of years prevent me from giving much more detail than that.

      It is definitely not a mulitple-choice test.

      Still, RHEL 7 is still current, and my cert for it expired a few years ago, presumably because Red Hat consider the certification arm a profit center.

      I am not interested in renewing it with my own money. If someone wants to pay for it on my behalf, I'm listening.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If and only if ...

      "but there is evidence that these days a lot of candidates can't cope with that type of question regardless of their subject knowledge, as they have difficulty expressing their ideas clearly."

      Not to be snarky, but wouldn't that get them rejected at most job interviews anyway? If you can't express ideas clearly and coherently, how can you "sell" yourself to the interviewer?

    6. keithpeter Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: If and only if ...

      "As with mainstream education, the ostensible outcome (of delivering capable people) has effectively got lost as other considerations take precedence."

      Metrics that measure pointless things because no-one is prepared to trust the teachers(*). Budgets spent on consultants advising on dashboard designs to display current metrics (the ones that change twice a year) in 'real time' to senior managers who attend conferences about strategic development.

      (*) Can't trust? Don't hire.

      OK: I'm calming down a bit now. Good luck.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If and only if ...

      Agree on the cybersecurity stuff. The certs I've seen either test your pen testing skills which is a small part of cybersecurity (and very subjective) or your ability to manage cybersecurity and/or grep logs etc. None of them test your ability to think laterally or your ability to adequately explain a vulnerability.

      It's not necessarily the certifications fault though as we have some pretty dumb standards in our industry that just waste our time. Like CVS scores etc. They make sense to us, but to the people we work for it's abstract bullshit. Trying to simplify it with a number makes it even worse.

      There is also the constant contradiction. You might find a vulnerability with a score of 10 but it might exist on a box that has no exposure to the internet and is completely offline which puts you in a position where you have to report a serious vulnerability with zero risk attached, that you probably can't patch because doing so exposes the box or it just isn't possible. So in the same sentence you put the exec on high alert whilst trying to calm him down...and he'll make a mental note of that vulnerability but not the context so every fucking time there is a problem that "serious" vuln will be thrown in the ring?

      "Does this have anything to do with that vulnerability you mentioned 28 months ago?".

      Which leads to you explaining it again, refreshing the data he burned into his brain ready for him to mention it at the next meeting without context.

  3. Dwarf Silver badge

    Time to stop the gravy train

    Each country's national certifications from schools, colleges and universities last a lifetime, so why should technology certifications be any different ?

    The only reason expiry dates exist is to generate a constant income stream for the company, but this is counter-productive since nobody in their right mind would do x courses that need renewing every couple of years. The individuals wouldn't want to commit that amount of personal money and the companies they work for will not spend that amount of money unless there was a guaranteed way to make significantly more money from their spend.

    As we all know, experience beats certification hands down each and every time.

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "individuals and services organisations that claim expertise in a product or technology"

    Are people who go to client site to do their jobs.

    If they're not good enough, their claim is in the gutter and they won't be hired again.

    A certification is not going to help, and I have known certified people who couldn't code their way out of a paper bag.

    1. Mike 137 Silver badge

      Re: "individuals and services organisations that claim expertise in a product or technology"

      "I have known certified people who couldn't code their way out of a paper bag"

      Indeed, but their CV/application form probably got past the HR "rejection" round.

      I'm have over 20 years in data protection consulting, but because I haven't taken (and won't take for ethical reasons) a 4.5 day plus pub quiz "qualification" there are many opportunities where I could be really useful for which I don't get considered.

      It's mostly because the people doing the hiring - and often the people a successful candidate will report to - don't feel they know enough to judge candidates on their real merits and can't be arsed to get help to do so.

      Some time ago I had to select a penetration testing service for long term engagement with a large company. As it really mattered to get it right, I set up a multi-round selection process culminating with a scored interview between representatives of the final round candidates, myself and the CTO. A t the end of that exercise I received the CTO's scoring sheets and for every candidate every question was marked middle of the range. As a result the final decision rested with me alone. This wasn't a dumb or lazy CTO. Far from it, but he just felt unsafe making decisions in a technical area he wasn't expert in. Sadly, at that stage, technical expertise had already been largely tested - we were supposed to be primarily testing business acumen and bullshit rating, which he could have ranked reliably.

  5. 2+2=5 Silver badge

    Car mechanic analogy

    It's a bit like being trained as a BMW technician. Punter brings the car into the garage; you know how to attach and operate the diagnostic computer; and if it tells you to replace the exhaust then you know how to do that. But if the diagnostic computer says there's nothing wrong but there clearly is then you're stuffed.

    IT industry certs are the same: if you want someone to build EC2 instances all day; or implement snapshot backups on a RedHat file system then getting someone with a certificate helps - and even then only if they have no other experience to prove they know it.

    But if you want someone who can tell why the car starts in the cold but not when warm; and cuts out when coasting after accelerating hard then a certificate is not going to remove the need to be able to read and understand someone's CV.

    1. Flak_Monkey

      Re: Car mechanic analogy

      "But if you want someone who can tell why the car starts in the cold but not when warm; and cuts out when coasting after accelerating hard then"

      That'll be a faulty lambda sensor in the exhaust.

      1. quxinot Silver badge

        Re: Car mechanic analogy

        Or vapor lock.

        More important is the understanding of the system, so that you can actually apply troubleshooting.

    2. RegGuy1 Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Car mechanic analogy

      Push the choke in.

      What's that? They have automatic chokes these days. Really? :-)

      1. Pirate Dave Silver badge
        Pirate

        Re: Car mechanic analogy

        I once had a '79 Ford Courier (rebadged Mazda B2000, iirc). It had a valve for the choke actuator that ran off of suction from the crankcase. Once a year, it would go out and I'd have to replace it ($15, I think, and took about 5 minutes). Younger me never thought to try running a bicycle brake cable into the cabin so I could activate the choke manually. No, younger me liked wrenching on that little 4-cylinder engine whenever the opportunity presented itself.

  6. ColinPa

    Are skills questionnaires useful ? Feel the weight of my certificates.

    We had a skills questionnaire come round the department to see what skills we had, and what skills were missing.

    We had to rate ourselves in about 100 areas from "Know nothing" to "expert" on a scale of 0 to 10.

    I answered many questions as a 5 because I knew how much I didnt know. My colleague (who often used to come to me to ask questions) put himself down as 8 for many topics.

    We discussed the scores in a team meeting.

    The conversation went a bit like

    Me: Are you familiar with configuring xyz from scratch?

    Him: No

    Me: Do you know about the abc command to display error information

    Him: No -- I didnt know there was one.

    etc

    Me: So when you said you were an 8 ... you are more like a 2.

    Him: Possibly - but you are a 10...

    Me: No.. I dont know much about...

    Our boss decided this was adding little value.

    We came up with a skills rating

    0 - Never heard of it

    1 - I know enough to do my job

    2 - I know how to configure and debug it

    3 - I could prepare and give education on this topic.

    When we came to discuss what skills the department wanted - we got lost in the weeds again. eg TCP

    Do you mean

    1) Use of Ping command

    2) Writing a TCP send and receive program

    3) Configuring TCP

    4) Tuning TCP

    5) Diagnosing TCP problems

    er - yes and no.

    We found people who were certified could usually do what it covered, but often could not handle the bigger picture.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Are skills questionnaires useful ? Feel the weight of my certificates.

      I'd be tempted to think you worked at my same media company, because it sounds familiar AND LOOKS familiar

      A skills questionnaire asking you what you know, and how your rate yourself is fine, for the first bit only... on paper.

      But, you usually find that if you profess knowledge OF ANY SORT, you usually become the SME irrespective of your experience.

      Asking you to rate yourself is less useful because you have two types of people generally.

      1. The type who rates themselves as a rockstar (but isn't)

      2. The type who IS a rockstar, but doesn't know it/appreciate it and dumbs themselves down too much.

      In my experience, this was sent round the tech staff, and was never heard from again - no followup - nothing..... so what is the point?

  7. cjcox

    I remember when...

    I remember when I liked Red Hat as a company, and even wouldn't mind the cert.

    The world is huge now and Red Hat is just another proprietary lock-in style old school Microsoft-like software company.

    Sort of hoping that they get ZERO takers. But, somehow, pretty sure Red Hat would not understand the message.

  8. devin3782

    Certification is fine, but that still doesn't mean the certified person is going to be useful and find the problem. But then how do you certify someone has problem solving skills and knows what to check first.

  9. Tron Bronze badge

    Hmm.

    There are lots of people out there on Britain's roads who are 'certified' to drive. Many of them do so like a lemming on meth.

    I'd rather employ someone who was good than someone who was certified. For anything.

  10. paddy carroll 1

    Never

    Hire someone based on certifications or qualifications.

    I got a degree because It was the only way to get ahead when the company was promoting useless individuals based on paper qualifications. When I became a hiring manager I made sure that experienced journeymen made my team, not to the exclusion of promising college kids but the chances of landing a dud with paper qualifications and naught else are respectably high in my experience.

  11. Potemkine! Silver badge
  12. spireite Bronze badge

    Certs - worth it?

    I'm not so sure....

    I used to work in the Salesforce ecosystem for a very short while some years ago.

    Very quickly I got Certed up from nothing.

    On leaving the company, found a surreal world of hurdles

    Recruiter

    Q: Ok, you have experience - do you have the certs to prove knowledge

    A: Yes

    Employer Interview

    Interviewer: Before we can proceed, I'd like to stipulate that is necessary to have the official certifications to prove knowledge

    Q: Do you have certs to prove your knowledge - can you give me the URL to verify with Salesforce online

    A: Yes - <provided url>

    Q: How long have you worked in it

    A: < 1 year

    Q: Is that all?

    A: Yes

    Interviewer

    Certificates alone are not enough, you don't have enough real world usage.

    ...

    After I left the company, I dutifully maintained the certs - 6 a year, at my cost - to remain 'current' for 2 years.

    Now you can argue, and I always have that real world usage trumps certifications.

    But, this gave me the realisation that certification is only a box ticking exercise, and a potentially costly one at that. I've known people who have very little personal life who collect certifications like confetti, and still know diddly squat about the tech the certification pertains to in a real world context.

    They are literally a revenue generator 99% of the time.

    The only certification I have genuinely 'admired'when earned are those held by the Cisco types.

    Plus of course, you have the 'non-expiring' certification that does expire.... Mictosoft especially seem to be fond of these in the cloud days...

    1. Pirate Dave Silver badge
      Pirate

      Re: Certs - worth it?

      I used to trust the Novell CNE certs. Back in the 90's, those guys generally knew their stuff inside and out. Then MS came out with their paper MCSE's in the early 2000's, and that bunch, well, some of them just weren't all that. Some were, though, but it was hard to sift them out from the guys who just knew how to take tests well.

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