Career advice: The value of IT certifications

Ask a Premier 100 IT Leader

Page Petry

Title: Chief information resources officer for the Americas

Company: Marriott International

Petry is this month's Premier 100 IT Leader, answering questions about certifications, winning a promotion and more. If you have a question you'd like to pose to one of our Premier 100 IT Leaders, send it to askaleader@computerworld.com.

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I'm a network administrator who is committed to keeping current with technology. Lately, though, I've been hearing negative things about certifications. Are they worth my investment of time and money, or should I pursue another course? Rather than look at the certification as a unique event, think about what you want in your career. A career is a balance between education and experience driven by what you want to pursue. Education comes in a variety of methods, be it a degree, a certification or specific hands-on training provided by your company. Companies view all of these components differently, so focus on what makes sense to you, including what you are most interested in (learning is a lot easier when we are excited about it), how you learn (online or classroom), your financial situation (does your company provide any type of tuition reimbursement?) and what your company looks for when hiring (if certifications are required, then make sure you have them as part of your total portfolio of qualifications).

I'd like to become an IT director the next time the opportunity arises. What would best help me stand out among the candidates? Take the time to understand the selection criteria in your company for an IT director position. Take a look at other people who have been promoted in the company into those positions and understand the qualities that they brought to the table. Then take a hard look at your skills and experience and understand the gap between them and what is sought. Now you have ascertained the areas you need to focus on. Build a plan that allows you to develop in those areas. Also remember that sometimes the opportunities are not always upward but that you may benefit from lateral moves to gain experience.

I've been a systems administrator for a while, but more and more I'm interested in security (by way of very interesting interactions with our excellent infosec staff). Any ideas on how to move into that area? Take advantage of your information security staff. If possible, arrange some one-on-one meetings over lunch or coffee, or by phone if you are not located together. This will allow you to gain some insight into the group in regards to qualifications and experience. Determine if there are some projects or work assignments under way that require the involvement of your current organization with the security team. Speak with your manager and see if you can be assigned. Outside of your company, take advantage of local trade associations and organizations that focus on security. Attend their meetings so you can begin to network with others in the field to understand job opportunities and how to get prepared.

Read more about careers in Computerworld's Careers Topic Center.

This story, "Career advice: The value of IT certifications" was originally published by Computerworld.

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