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Author's profile photo Santosh Vijayan

Certification versus Experience

I remember the last day at SAP TechEd Bangalore 2006 where I saw scores of people sitting in the lawns of the exhibition center and preparing as if they were going to write an exam. As it turned out, they were really going to write an exam and it was the free SAP Certification exam which is granted for full attendees of TechEd. But what was on display that day was the obvious craze for Certifications. And that is what this blog is about. I also have Certifications – infact I have three of them – one from IBM (MQ Series), one from Microsoft (VB .Net) and one from SAP (Root Cause Analysis). But do we prefer Certification more than the knowledge which comes from experience? Does a Certification really mean expertise in a topic? Should we not consider experience as a much credible parameter than a Certification?

Any Certification without proper knowledge on the subject is just a piece of paper. Certifications are meant to test the knowledge level of the candidate and certify that the candidate has relevant knowledge in the subject. But some people clear Certification exams without having any experience on the topic. How? You just have to use the Google search engine to find out how. There are hundreds of websites which offer potential questions asked in Certification exams and some Websites even have the answers to these questions. You just have to build up a nice collection of question and answers and from then on clearing the Certification exam is just a question of testing the memory. Such a certification is of no use.

Needless to say, there are thousands out there who really deserve a Certification. But the very few who practice things as mentioned above bring down the credibility of Certifications. And if the credibility of a Certification comes down, there is no point really in holding a Certification even if you are a deserving candidate. What becomes important then is experience. Experience in working with a certain product means expertise to a certain extent on the functioning of the product and various details of the product. And a Certification in a product without proper experience in working on the product does not make any sense. One can survive in today’s world with experience alone. But then the market is becoming intensely competitive and sometimes Certifications give just the extra inch required to get ahead of others.

There is no denying the fact that Certifications are important. But Certification coupled with appropriate experience is what will really help in the long run. As one candidate said during one of the interviews “Do not take me because of my Certification, but take me because of what I have done before and after I received the Certificate”.

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      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Well Santosh,

      It's good if you are certified and experienced.

      It is a misconception that all certified persons can get jobs in the market. I have interviewed hundreds of them and found lacking in numerous parameters and hence had to reject them. What i mean to mention is that not all certified people are good at work.

      When it comes to experienced persons, take my own example, I am not certified, but I have eight solid years of experience in SAP.

      So, now you tell me, should I get certified? What if I don't pass through? Is there a honourary system of distributing certificates by SAP upon validating and verifying the experience?

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Its a very interesting topic...

      I believe more than individual benefits of getting a job or good salaries..(I can vouch that nobody will select someone with certification after a pathetic interview). Companys encourage employees to get certified to grab projects and place their resources with the client.

      Infact I believe a company can be a certified SAP partner only if certain number of its employees are certified... may its one way of making money 😉 correct me if I am wrong....

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Hi Ramesh,

      you are indeed wrong 🙂 The company where I work, already has a Powered by NetWeaver certificate. How many people in the company are certified? None. Not one. I was involved to a very great extent in the certification of our software - and I was a student at the time working on my Master Thesis.

      I still have no interest in getting certified because of one reason only - in my short one and half year stint as a software developer, I have already noticed that certifications are as important as toilet paper as far as customer projects go.

      All we talk about with customers in meetings is how we can solve their problem (score 1 for experience), not how many certified people are working on the project (score 0 for certification).

      Certification in my opinion is like an added bonus, but not an important criteria, either for jobs or for your normal work day. If you have one, cool. What matters at the end though is if you can solve a problem. Maybe I will not be able to get through the certification exams, but if you are really looking for a solution, give me a few days to work one it and I will try and find a solution. You don't have a multiple choice in real life 🙂

      Good blog though, I hope more of those "I-am-frantic-for-a-certification" guys read this and the discussion.


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Santosh has summed it all in his blog, I can only see that other people are trying to interpret or write in the manner that they understood the topic. Three cheers to Santosh for writing a sensible and rational blog on certification.
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Yes U R right, I've seen some candidates while I was conducting interviews, they'll talk about only certification as their greatest achievement, not at all about the subject. In my last project, due to the lack of experience of the certified candidates, the project has been delayed for 6 months. Our company has gone for fresh recruitment. Lot of stories like this...

      I don't know why the managers are behind the certified candidates only. They should think "Certification is a benchmark" of the knowledge/experience. That’s why the “certification” is one of the business sources (pure commercial) for every service provider.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Hi People,

      I am a technology consultant who have worked in projects involving:

      - system administration
      - networking (admin, firewalls, etc.)
      - database administration
      - etc.

      In the last year or so, I've noticed there are more SAP available projects and thought that I would give it a try. The problem, money.

      Based on what I have read in this blog, if I invest in the Netweaver Basis courses, I still won't get a job because of experience. I remember the days, 20 - 30 years ago, employers seek people with experience, but there are none. You apply for the job with no experience and you are turned down. So, we have to ask the question, how does one get experience if you don't can't get hired?

      I joined the SDN get educate myself on SAP system administration. I don't have the funds or time that I can spend 30 or more days in a SAP course. Besides, as you all state here, I wouldn't get hired because I have no experience. That means thousands of dollars/euro/rupies have been thrown out the window.

      So, my solution is first to work with the trial system using the available documentation, eLearning and visits to blogs. When I am finish I will attempt to get certified. If I don't get certified or hired, then I've only lost a few hours of my free time and not the cash.

      I find experience is super, but even when you work for a company no one wants you in their project because you have no experience. The companies today won't invest the money to send you for training either. Why? ROI! You get the training paid for by them and the basis experience and leave. Therefore the only course of action is to invest your own income and time in getting trained.

      Then there are people who are hiring that are looking for something like:

        - lots of years of experience

      One would think that those with many years or experience and experts are fully employed and are not seeking employment.

      As a self-employed consultant, there is a very large monetary risk. Not to sound arrogant, but I am good at my job. To include analysing a problem, finding a solution and implementing the solution. However, if what is commented here is true. A newby should forget working with SAP, except as a volunteer because he/she has no experience.

      Lastly, I would like to say that this blog does raise a good question; however, everyone has to start somewhere. So, my question to you all is:

      What does a Starter/Newby do to get started working with SAP? Where do such individuals get the experience?


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Whenever we recruited for our projects we found that certified people had absolutely no clue on how to implement it. We always ended up hiring people with experience. Bottomline-Experience trumps certification. Would never go for a certified candidate who does not have the relevant experience. I also agree with the other gentleman, what if you are experienced (but have no certification), where does that leave you? You cannot certify experience, experience comes through painstakingly understanding business processes of a particular industry combination and implementing solutions. You don't get certificates for this.
      Author's profile photo Christopher Solomon
      Christopher Solomon
      I think the problem is that most certification around SAP is all "product certification", meaning that it just really says that a person has been certified on all the functions/features of a product (or similar). What menu paths to take, what buttons to click, where to enter this or that, etc. However, it does not mean they know how and when (and when not!) to IMPLEMENT the product. That is where experience comes into play.

      This discussion of "value of certification" has been making many round in the Coffee Corner forum. Search over there for some really great discussions as well. (Be warned....there are some real "characters" over in the Coffee Corner though. haha).

      Author's profile photo Arun Varadarajan
      Arun Varadarajan
      My take on certification is that ....
      1. You understand the product fully...
      2. For achieving your end - you will be able to take full advantage of what the product has to offer
      3. Once you understand the tool fully - design flaws / issues can be identified easily.

      I do agree that certification does not guarantee the above - but it is fortunately / unfortunately a criterion for many a project. Also in many cases certification is a desirable quality.
      Also once you say you are certified , the person becomes responsible for his/her approaches - in case of any flaw ...  the customer is likely to ask ... " As a certified consultant ... I expected much more!!" which is kind of embarrassing and also puts that rigor to develop the person's experience in that direction.

      My 0.02

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      I have over 8 years of SAP experince and have intervied various candidates for SAP positions within my company.  Some of these candidates showed me their Netweaver Certifications but when I started to ask them questions on the topic, they were not able to answer them. I had a candidate that had an XI certification who did not know what the sceens looked like.

      What certification allows a candidate to do is get their foot in the door for an interview. That is about it.  I would never trade a good SAP resource with 5 years of experince for someone who was certified.

      At this point intime the market is saturated with consulatnts with SAP certifications and in my personal opinion Certifications do not count for good old 'honest' experience.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      I've been in IT for over 30 years - and in my experience, experience is everything. Certification is useful if one wishes to employ a trainee, no more, no less.
      My current specialty is BW, since 1.2B, and I've performed many projects for many customers. But based on the BW Certification questions that were once foolishly posted on the web, (and, rightly, quickly removed) I doubt that I would pass a certification exam. For example, who cares how many dimensions an InfoCube can contain? - in real life no-one approaches that limit (or rather they shouldn't). So I don't retain that, and much other non-important information, in my head. Give me a piece of paper with multiple choice questions, and I'll fail. But give me an empty BW system, and I'll pass. 95%? (humour).

      So, Gustavo, when you say "certification allows a candidate.. to get their foot in the door for an interview" - unfortunately, we'll never meet!

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Very Well Said.
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Well If Expereince is something which everyone is tilting towards, then Certifications would have less crowd. One would think if I have so much or so many years of expereince why should I do a Certification. So the question then comes is that when is the right time to take the certification. Well looking at the new technologies coming in the market each day, I prefer 1 or 2 years of owrking knowledge in a technology should be the right time to take the Certification if you will gaining some more knowledge out of it.


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      If you have 2 candidates

      1st 3yrs exp + SAP certification
      2nd only 3yrs of similar exp

      whom will a company recruit?
      This is where I feel certification holds value.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Very interesting thread with some very valid feedback - in fact it mirrors the feedback we got when we first surveyed the SAP community in 2006 to establish where we needed to go with the SAP Certification Program. You (or your peers) told us then that we needed to increase the relevance of the certification and that it didn't validate experience - which is the basis on which we relaunched the program last year. All of the new Associate and Professional level certification tests are now built on the basis of a job task analysis - no longer just product function & feature to your point... The Professional level exams are now designed to validate project experience for consultants with several years out in the field - it's not about distinguishing between the red button and the green button - these are scenario-based questions written by Professional level consultants for their peers and based on real life experience ...That all being said, I couldn't agree more with the initial idea - I don't think anyone (not even me :-)) would want to see certification win against experience ... but it's not an either/or situation. In our recent survey in January 82% of the managers we surveyed said that they now used certification as a benchmark in their hiring decisions - but I have yet to meet the hiring manager who would use that as the only criteria .. certification is an extra feather in the cap and should play an important role alongside testimonials, references - and of course the interview - in the recruitment process -- otherwise we wouldn't need hiring managers 🙂

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Dear Santosh,

      It was delight to see someone touching this topic.
      This is indeed a tough question for someone who have to judge people based on their half an hour interaction for any important job. Very much like references, certification adds credibility to profile and assure you a bare minimum you may expect from the person. Though ones with great experience and without any certification should not be neglected. At the end i guess what matters how individual provides a business solution and how well is their understanding of solution.

      Certification can be stepping stone to make a solid experience 🙂


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Should we not consider experience as a much credible parameter than a certification?

      It is not an 'either/or' situation as Ms.Susan Martin has put.

      To elaborate on it,I would see it as follows:
      There are three parties involved.The employer,the individual,the certificate provider.

      The employer has specification for a role.
      This includes requirements for knowledge,skill and attitude.
      Knowledge generally is reflected in the evidence of studies undertaken by the individual, proved by 'certificates'.
      Experience is reflected in the number of years of service and evidenced by answers to questions.
      Attitude is reflected in the behaviour at the time of interview.

      The possibilities for the individual are:
      Have paper certificate.  Have paper and knowledge;
      Have years. Have years and experience!
      Have attitude. Donot have the attitude.
      The individual may try to 'act' ,not being real one, in any of the three too.
      Various combinations are possible.

      The certifier may give genuine certificate or only a paper too.

      The company's interest is of prime consideration when all these aspects interact.
      The employer must surely overlook certification if the individual has evidenced capability, but suggest for certification. They also must have an evaluation of certifications.
      The individual should always try to refine his/her experience by studying for certification. He/she may not have a claim of complete knowledge without a certification.
      And the specification would remain with certification and experience as the requirements.

      I think this what is meant when it is said that it is not an 'either/or' question.
      Ultimately the answer appears to be that  capability evidenced by genuine experience must win over mere certification!