To Certify or Not to Certify: What can an experienced IT professional gain from taking a certification exam?

In today’s IT world, almost all software, hardware or service vendors offer some kind of skill-based certificates that require you to take a pass/fail exam to obtain said certification. When considering an improvement of career or looking for professional development, many IT professionals find themselves asking “should I get this certification or not.”

Certifications and their corresponding exams have become a validation tool for the industry. Many professionals proudly brand their resumes or online profiles with certifications to boost their levels of qualification while IT giants like Microsoft list a certain number of employees with technical certifications as one of the criteria of becoming a partner. Esri, a market-dominant geo-spatial software vendor, has also been pushing its own GIS-technology certification program.

What can an experienced IT professional gain from taking a certification exam?

A few weeks ago, an experienced developer on our GIS team began preparing to take the Microsoft Programming in HTML5 with JavaScript and CSS3 and Esri Web Application Developer Associate certifications.  

Does the old adage “Can’t Teach A Old Dog New Tricks” apply? Not Quite! 

Their first thought was that preparation would be boring since they had been living in a GIS-focused web dev world for a while. However, while studying, they reported learning quite a few new techniques and was able to apply the new ideas to one of their in-progress projects.  

What can you discover while preparing for exams like these?   

The Power of CSS3

Web developers often use CSS3 to style user interfaces and view CSS as a decorative touchup at the end of the development cycle or on a finished product. In preparation for the exam, our developer discovered additional uses for CSS. For example, animation.

Previously, they would write JavaScript code or use 3rd-party libraries to create eye catching animations.  

Surprisingly, using a simple snippet of CSS to accomplish the same task was more efficient and fun!

In the example below, the color of the ball gradually changes from red to yellow over 4 seconds.


And, now let’s make it dance a little.


Handling Binary Files

Another fun find was filling in some knowledge gaps on the best ways for handling binary files over the Web. While preparing for the exam, they ran across the new (at least to them) Blob object for the HTML5 File API and was even able to use it in an ongoing project.

In this case, the user makes a series of selections in a Widget, sends those parameters to Safe Software’s FME Server and the server returns the binary file result. The problem was that FME Server returned a random string of numbers as the filename, required by FME to keep the file names unique. Technically understandable, but not very user friendly.

Rather than making the changes on FME Server, which could have been done, they were able to take a clean and simple approach with writing a JavaScript function to trigger the process: downloading the file, storing the content into a blob object and then changing to a user-friendly file name.


Are you thinking about getting certified?  

A few weeks ago, our developer passed both exams! Though they were able to answer most of the questions based on years of hands-on dev experience on real-world projects, the preparation taught them new things and was a good reminder on the fundamentals. 

Keeping your skills fresh through certifications is highly recommended (even for experienced developers)!