Saturday, August 3, 2013

Certifications - Filter, Catalyst, and Accelerator

Paul Borwaski, CEO of ASQ, recently blogged about the value of certification. The ASQ Salary survey, year after year, shows that certified professionals get better jobs and do well in them as well. How does certification help? As usual, I don’t have scientific evidence but am basing my ideas on having spoken with a lot of professionals, both certified and not-certified.

Certification is a filter – in a lot of career choices, recruiters and hiring managers use a certification as a filter. When a lot of applicants are likely to apply for a job it helps to have a filter. Now, this filter is no assurance that only the most suitable candidates pass it. It is just an exercise in narrowing the options. If you are keen to have a career as a Black Belt then a certification will help you in the race.

Certification is a catalyst – applying for a certification can catalyze applicants into being focused on a goal. This is good for applicants who have been floating in their career and haven’t had any focus for some time. Their self-esteem is boosted with a certification and that leads to better work.

Certification is an accelerator – High end certifications such as an MBB accelerate a career. The hard work that goes into getting an MBB keeps one motivated and interested in using the knowledge acquired.

What certifications do I hold? Early in my career, while at Qimpro, I had to acquire quite a few certifications to be able to conduct tutorials on them. I loved the knowledge in the Juran courses I could do in this period. I still think Juran’s courses in quality were absolute gems. The Facilitation Skills and Tools courses helped me build a foundation in quality.

I have one certification from ASQ. Certified Manager of Quality / Organizational Excellence. I got this in 2005 and have renewed it every three years since. This was called CQM earlier. I clearly remember this was one of the factors in my interview for Baldrige Program Head at Infosys in 2006. The interview took a different turn the moment this credential came up for discussion. This is one of the tougher ASQ certifications and not many India had attempted it in 2005. That helped me.

I have tried to align my certifications to my career. During my Infosys stint I was required to remain knowledgeable on Baldrige. I was already certified by the Ramakrishna Bajaj National Quality Award team for this and did not another certification. Conducting courses for select staff at Infosys kept my knowledge and skill sharp.

My role at ANZ required me to carry out Lean and Six Sigma projects and to mentor a team of Black Belts. While I had trained Black Belts as long back as 2001, I had not worked on my MBB certification. I knew it was important for my role and went ahead and worked for my MBB from Indian Statistical Institute. It did look a little odd that I was the oldest in my class. J

In early 2012 I realized a noticed a trend that a lot of Lean and Six Sigma projects needed more project management skills than LSS knowledge. I realized a Project Management Professional (PMP) will help and went ahead and acquired it. PMP was tough but very useful.

I have been convinced that completing certifications with no goal/purpose is both costly and could convey a feeling that you have a lot of free time (means no work?).