Sandi is the author of the “SAM Starter Kit” published by The ITAM Review.
There will always be a debate about the value of certifications over experience in the world of IT. There is the train of thought that without certifications to provide an educational audit trail one cannot as easily prove their value as a knowledgeable technician on a resume, especially when experience is limited. Then there is the opposite view that experience is what really counts and all the certifications in the world cannot measure up. What I want to know is why there are such opposing views and why can’t we meet in the middle?
In all aspects of IT there are opportunities to learn through vendor sponsored training programs as well as college and university courses. The courseware varies; some are more focused on the academic side and some on the more practical side where training actually happens in a lab. These people all have the opportunity to gain certification and can hopefully apply that knowledge in a production environment.
On the flip side, there are many times that IT people are expected to learn on the job, through whatever means are available, such as reading red books and manuals, installing and troubleshooting on test machines and shadowing colleagues. These are all great means to learning, but may leave gaps in a person’s knowledge that they won’t realize are there until they run into problems they cannot resolve.
When I started working with SAM, there weren’t any educational options available and few networking opportunities like we have today. I gained knowledge by talking to vendors, reading contracts, asking questions, helping clients through contract renewals, and looking for ways to help my clients save money and manage their ever growing inventory of software titles. When I finally found a certification program, I jumped at the chance to fill in any gaps in my knowledge, find out what everyone else was doing and add some credentials to my resume. It turns out I was doing everything right, but there were areas of management I hadn’t considered that rounded out my expertise nicely.
I’ve worked with quite a few companies that didn’t have the SAM education who tried to develop a management program between installing workstations and troubleshooting network problems. I have seen a lot of time and energy wasted in trying to piece together an audit trail and management plan without taking the time to learn best practices. The worst case scenarios often include more than a year’s time to accomplish what they could have done better, in a few months with proper guidance.
I see the certification programs as having two benefits:
1) Provides credentials and legitimacy to work experience to show that not only has a person learned on the job, and worked through processes to create an effective ITAM solution, but that they learned best practices along the way, which could then be applied to optimize their ITAM environment.
2) Provides a great learning opportunity for someone who is getting into the field and needs to find out what they need to do to get started.
In my experience, the majority of IT Asset Managers start out somewhere in the technical field and are handed the responsibility to make sense of their assets, often with no experience and no opportunity to learn in a controlled environment from people with field expertise. You would never hand a network over to someone without some education and experience and say “hey, do some upgrades and keep the place running”. You would make sure they’d at least taken a course, had some reference materials and have someone work with them to learn on the job.
Sandi has been in the software business since 1991 and was one of the first Software Contract Administrators in Canada.
She has been providing consulting services since 1996, helping hundreds of clients to understand their obligations and rights under a myriad of contracts, and comparing licensing programs to find the most advantageous options for her clients.