Certification Outside Technology2 |
You’re an accomplished technologist. You have several highly sought-after technical certifications. Perhaps you’re a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE), a Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) or an Oracle Certified Professional (OCP).
You have a few years of experience and have taken on progressively more challenging assignments.
Now, you’re considering what options you have as you pursue training for the next step in your career. Technical certifications are certainly critical, and they’ve likely been a big part of your success. But why not consider broadening your skills with a nontechnical certification? You might want to consider this for several reasons:
- Moving into management.
- Obtaining a leadership position.
- Becoming better aligned with the business.
- Broadening your potential customer base.
- Differentiating yourself to employers.
Technology might be your core skill, but many companies and consulting firms seek individuals who also have broader experience in applying those skills to some difficult business problems. No IT endeavor can be successful without skilled — often certified — IT pros.
It is important to have knowledge and skill in the broader business context of implementing technology. After all, technology is a tool of business, not an end unto itself.
Obtaining a nontechnical certification and applying it to your work can deepen your understanding of the link between the objectives of business and technology, which can lead to greater exposure to the businesspeople in your organization and prepare you for leadership or management positions.
There are a variety of nontechnical certifications. Similar to their technical peers, these certifications usually require a course of study, exams and sometimes documented work experience. Often, professional organizations offer them.
Although many technical certifications are linked to vendor technology, nontechnical certifications are vendor-independent. They are sometimes linked to an industry, however. This is particularly true of certifications that address regulatory requirements.
Project Management Institute Certifications
Project management is key to the effective implementation of any project — it’s more than financial accounting, resource management and scheduling. Effective project management helps teams ensure the project produces a deliverable response to the requirements. It also helps identify and mitigate the issues and risks that a complex project inevitably encounters.
When done well, project management helps build team unity and maintains a high level of focus and productivity. It’s a tool that serves the project team. The overall effect helps ensure budget and schedule, and it produces a quality product that meets the needs of the customer or business.
As you progress in your career, you no doubt will be asked to take on project management responsibilities. This might involve designating a team or project leader, lead developer or project manager. Being prepared with the right knowledge and skills will be critical to your success in this role.
Or maybe you have had many project management successes and are looking for the opportunity to lead larger or more high-profile projects. The Project Management Institute (PMI) has certifications that can help you get the right skills. It offers three credentials: Program Management Professional (PgMP), Project Management Professional (PMP) and Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM).
CAPM is the entry-level credential. It requires a high school diploma and either 1,500 hours of project management experience working on a team or 23 hours of formal project management training to sit for the exams. The training can be PMI classes, college courses, distance-learning programs or internal company programs — self-study is not accepted. The exam includes 150 questions with reference material in “A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge” (PMBOK Guide).
Individuals who are already headed down the project management path might consider PgMP or PMP certifications. The main difference between these certifications is that the PgMP addresses the issues regarding program management (which involves a collection of related projects that must be completed to achieve a business objective).
These projects likely will be related in time and have dependencies, and they might involve overlapping resources. An example is a financial system conversion that takes place because of a company acquisition.
There might be several related projects, including data cleaning and conversion, application development, user training and capacity planning. The successful execution of the conversion will require the coordinated delivery of these projects.
In contrast, PMP’s focus is on the management of individual projects. These credentials have different prerequisite eligibility requirements, depending on whether you hold a bachelor’s degree.
- A PMP candidate with a bachelor’s degree will need three years (4,500 hours) of project management experience and 35 hours of formal project management training. Without a degree, a candidate will need an additional two years (3,000 hours) of project management experience. The eligible candidate will then sit for the exam, which is made up of 200 questions that cover project initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and controlling, closing, and professional and social responsibility.
- A PgMP candidate with a bachelor’s degree will need four years (6,000 hours) of project management experience and four years (6,000 hours) of program management experience. If your bachelor’s degree is from a university accredited by PMI, you get 1,500 hours of credit toward the experience requirement. Without a degree, a candidate will need an additional three years (4,500 hours) of program management experience. Assuming you’ve met the eligibility requirements, you’ll need to pass the exam, which consists of 170 multiple-choice questions. The exam covers six areas: defining, initiating, planning, executing, controlling and closing the program.
Additionally, PMP is not a prerequisite for PgMP. SANS/GIAC and ISACA Audit Certifications IT audit and compliance have become a greater concern for businesses of all sizes. This is due to the ever-increasing laws and regulations that govern the confidentiality, integrity and availability of data entrusted to, or managed by, companies. These include Sarbanes-Oxley, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
One way IT professionals can broaden their skills and differentiate themselves is to obtain an IT audit certification. Often, internal audit and compliance groups focus on financial audits and might not have the technical expertise to properly assess compliance of systems and their configurations. Because audit departments often work with a company’s core business units and executive management, having some common ground with audits is a good way to get greater exposure to the businesspeople in your organization.
Another benefit is that, although most IT pros are aware of these issues, they don’t understand them in the context of audit and compliance requirements. This can lead to building noncompliant systems, hence, receiving negative audit findings that could have been avoided.
Having knowledge of audit requirements and the audit process will help set a context for some of the IT work you perform, whether it’s system design, administration or application development. Additionally, it will bring you closer to the business and help you avoid making mistakes that could result in audit findings on systems for which you’re responsible.1 | 2 |