Certification? Not yet.

At PICC I may have sounded like I thought there was an urgent need to create a sysadmin certification program. While I did talk about what I thought it would/could/should look like, I don't think this is a good time to create such a thing. A long-winded version of this paragraph is below.

An open letter:

I wish to clarify a statement I made at the PICC conference and point those of us that think about the future of system administration in a particular direction.

It has become apparent to me that a certification program cannot exist until the educational standards that it measures are generally accepted. That is, a certification should measure conformance to an pre-existing educational standard.

At the PICC conference, part of my keynote made the case for another attempt at creating a certification for system administrators. In the last few months I've thought a lot about the issue of certification. I've also had the chance to talk with with people that are familiar with how the AMA created its certifications for doctors. While I was not advocating for the immediate creation of a certification program, I may have given that impression. Let me be clear that I do not think that the industry has reached sufficient maturity to warrant a certification program as I described. The AMA's now pervasive certification program came after they worked with universities to develop curricula and other educational programs.

It would be prudent to focus on creating educational standards for the profession of system administration. We, the wider professional system administration community, need to work with academic institutions to create curriculum standards for system administration programs. While there have been attempts in the past, I do not feel this has gotten traction because the profession is not taken seriously in academia. This is changing. A number of factors are leading academia to take notice of the importance of operational excellence in IT. I would be glad to discuss strategy and opportunities with interested parties.

Every movement needs to be, at its heart, an attempt to save the world. It is trite to say that society is more and more dependent on computers. Yet our dependence is staggering even to me. From the logistics of getting food from farms to tables, to providing services related to healthcare, governance, media, security and defense; all of these things are reliant on IT such that they can no longer exists without it. And yet I feel that the digitization of society is still in its earliest of stages.

What could be more a more important way to save the world than making sure that society's underlying IT infrastructures are professionally designed, maintained, secured, and operated? We can not leave these things to amateurs and hobbyists, nor bureaucrats and lobbyists.

Sincerely, Thomas Limoncelli

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in CommunityConferences

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Tom, I'd be interested in helping develop college level educational criteria with folks. I have several textbooks and course topics in mind just sitting here thinking about it for less than 5 minutes. :) There was a BoF at LISA'09 about Education of Sysadmins, but not sure what came out of it.

Why stop at a certificate? Why not think big and aim towards an actual curriculum for a college degree?

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