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The MySQL Certification Program

Facts and Viewpoints from the Inside

Interview with Ian Gilfillan of Independent Online...

LWM: Could you tell me about your work/development environment and why the MySQL certification was/is important?

Ian Gilfillan: Back then I was IT manager of Independent Online, South Africa's premier news Web site, and we used MySQL and PHP exclusively. With resource constraints, we had a small team of developers, and they needed to be highly skilled and productive to cope with the workload. The MySQL setup was reasonably complex, with a number of replicating servers, and the development environment was also fairly complex, with a number of different systems. A common problem was developers writing inefficient queries, which then impacted a number of other systems. I decided to provide an incentive to the developers to improve their SQL skills, in particular by offering MySQL certification.

Another reason was to relieve some of the workload off myself. I wrote the book Mastering MySQL 4, and I also write a regular monthly column for Database Journal, and most MySQL-related tasks tended to get left to me. As IT manager I was required to do other things, so I needed to make sure that the rest of the staff felt comfortable taking these over.

LWM: Did you notice any improvement in the employees' work after being certified?

IG: It's fairly difficult to measure, as the developers' tasks were not repetitive and varied widely in scope, and were therefore not easily compared. The staff themselves said they felt much more confident afterward, and recommended certification for all new staff. They were also keen to work toward the professional certification.

LWM: How would you rate it in comparison to other certification programs that you have sponsored employees for in the past?

IG: I have not sponsored any other certification programs, although staff have attended courses. The training for the MySQL certification was done on their own (with some company time allocated), and I was more satisfied with the results of this than all the training courses staff have been sent to in the past.

LWM: Would you as a company/manager do it again? Future hires?

IG: I would undoubtedly do it again. Future hires were also put through the same process.

LWM: What were/are some of the comments about the exam itself (easy/hard)?

IG: Almost universally it was seen as harder than expected, or quite tricky.

LWM: Do you as a company tend to offer individuals higher compensation for having achieved the certification?

IG: No, we did not offer higher compensation.

LWM: Has the result of the company sponsoring individuals for the certification helped you in your recruitment efforts?

IG: I believe so. I have mentioned the program to potential new recruits, and it was positively received. Whether this swung a candidate in a particular case I don't know, but it was another positive reason to work for us.

LWM: In addition, has it resulted in the retainment of your top talent?

IG: I'm not sure, as it's difficult to measure this. I believe it was a relatively minor factor among many.

Interview with Mark Nielsen of Google...

LWM: Could you tell me why you felt that it was important for you to achieve the MySQL certification?

Mark Nielsen: I am very picky about certifications, as most of them are a waste of time. Most certifications seem to be driven to make the parent company money and are not designed to truly test candidates. The MySQL certification seemed to me to be the right combination of cost, the number of exams, and reasonably fair questions. Besides enjoying MySQL, I wanted to be certified in some sort of database technology. The other DB certifications just didn't appeal to me. MySQL certification appealed to me on many levels, just like the Linux certification from LPI appealed to me for operating system certification.

LWM: What prompted you to move forward and achieve the Professional certification on top of the Core?

MN: The company I was working for at the time was going downhill and wouldn't make critical technological shifts toward MySQL for the databases and WhiteBox Linux for its operating system (now I support CentOS and Ubuntu Linux as well). In order to not be in a position where my recommendation to use MySQL would be ignored, I figured getting certified in MySQL would add credibility toward my ideas.

LWM: How would you compare the MySQL certification to other certifications you have achieved?

MN: The only other certification program that I enjoyed was the LPI certification program for Linux. All the rest were either too primitive - they just steal your money or overinflate the true value of their tests. Most certification programs are viewed with disdain by most true computer geeks because most certifications don't mean anything. But to me, the LPI and MySQL certifications are fun; they test your skills and support open source technology. If nobody would ever have known I was MySQL certified, I would still have taken the tests just for myself.

LWM: Do you believe that the MySQL certification has assisted you in landing the job(s) that you have had since being certified?

MN: Yes. Most companies need a DBA and a programmer at the same time. Having the MySQL certification can be used as a political tool to convince HR and non-technical employees to hire a candidate as a DBA, when really the candidate can be used for other purposes as well. I used to be opposed to all certification processes, but certifications are a good way to get past non-technical HR individuals and managers who don't know how to filter out résumés other than by looking at certifications. It's just a fact of life.

LWM: What do you believe to be the greatest benefit of being MySQL certified?

MN: Personal achievement. I use certification programs to enhance my knowledge and keep my skills updated. That's why I retook the LPI Level 1 certifications. I didn't have to; I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. Probably next year I'll get recertified in MySQL as well.

Summary
From these interviews, it's fairly apparent that the MySQL certification program is poised for continued success. The number of professionals that they are certifying continues to expand at an exponential rate. I personally believe that it's very smart of them to offer both a Core and Professional exam. Not only does it provide the corporation with an additional revenue stream but, more important, it increases our confidence in an individual's knowledge of MySQL since he or she has achieved the different tiers of the certification.

It was wonderful to learn firsthand about the benefits Ian has gained by getting his employees certified and how that has assisted him and his corporation in the recruitment of MySQL database professionals. I always applaud corporations that are willing to put the effort, both from a time and financial perspective, to better their employees by providing them with incentives to continue their education.

Last, it was interesting to hear Mark's take on how, by getting MySQL certified, it has assisted him in both a personal and professional manner. As he mentioned, we often get a lot of people telling us that they believe certifications are somewhat meaningless and a waste of time. However, as he pointed out, and truthfully I might add, whether you are in favor of certifications or not, corporations still value them. They are a means to demonstrate your knowledge and will never hurt you in your job search. If you are on the fence as to whether or not you think it would be a good idea to get certified, I always tell people to go ahead and do it, because it only can assist you in your professional career.

More Stories By Brent Marinaccio

Brent Marinaccio has been with HotLinuxJobs since its inception in early 2000. HotLinuxJobs is a recruiting firm that specializes in the placement of Linux/Open Source professionals. As director of open source recruiting, Brent has gained considerable insight in the subtleties of recruiting in the Open Source world.

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