Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Can certification DECREASE salaries? (part three)


We've seen that as a certification becomes more common in an industry, hiring managers begin to assume that the certification is present, and the additional value of the certification decreases. Perhaps this can be illustrated by the following timeline:

  • Initially, when Joe says, "I have the X Certification!" hiring managers will say "The what?"

  • Eventually, the HR magazines or consultants will start talking about the importance of the X Certification, so when Joe says, "I have the X Certification!" hiring managers will say "WOW!" and start to drool.

  • Time passes, everyone gets the X Certification, and it becomes commoditized. Now, when Joe says, "I have the X Certification!" hiring managers will simply nod, "That's nice."

  • Eventually the X Certification becomes yesterday's news, and is even considered irrelevant by some. Now, when Joe says, "I have the X Certification!" hiring managers will reply, "And I have a quill pen. Why did you waste your time getting the X Certification? You do have the Y Certification, don't you?"
Of course, any commoditization of a certification takes some time, so it's a matter of judging where you are on the timeline. Is certification X a relatively new cert that few people have, or is it a cert that everyone has?

Now regarding product management certifications, one can argue that they're relatively new, and that certification is therefore early on the timeline. However, Marty Cagan claims that it's TOO early to start certifying product managers, at least in technical fields:

I believe it is premature to have certification for our field, and that having a certification at this stage actually hinders the progress that is so critically needed. I have five key reasons for this view:

First, let’s please all admit that as an industry and a profession, product management is nowhere near the science that we wish it was....

Second, internet software product management is not like product management for a new type of laundry soap....Too many people mistakenly believe that they can leverage the same tools and processes from the packaged goods world....

Third, I argue that there is no single product management model that makes sense for all product software companies....A certification that effectively encourages a product manager to try to fit a square peg in a round hole is not helpful to the team or the product manager.

Fourth, mostly these certifications aren’t even covering product management in the sense that tech companies need, which is all about product discovery; instead they’re really much more about what most Internet companies would consider product marketing....

Finally, and most important, I argue that teaching and certification of old and failed techniques simply works to institutionalize the bad practices.

Reasonable people can disagree over whether a product management certification, or any certification, provides true value to an organization.
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