CompTIA: How to Choose a Certification That Your Boss will Love – with Rick Bauer

by Mirek Burnejko

Rick BauerThis is an interview with Rick Bauer from CompTIA.

Rick is the Director of the CompTIA Research and Development team. He develops new certification products and credentialing solutions for CompTIA.

There is no better person to talk with about actual IT certifications and plans for the future.

In this interview you will find:

  • Why Strata Fundamentals is good for people who don’t have a great deal of computer background?
  • Why you should start today with CompTIA Cloud Essentials?
  • Why CompTIA Storage+ Powered by SNIA is a game changer?
  • Why Project+ with some good technical experience can be better than the much more expensive PMP?

IT Certification Master: Hi Rick. I am so excited with our interview. I hope you enjoy the questions 🙂 Your company is one of the leaders in the certification industry. Tell us something about you and your role in CompTIA.

Rick Bauer: Miroslaw, thanks for the opportunity. I think I have the coolest job in the world. As a former CIO, technology director, and data center manager, I get to look out 3-5 years in the IT workplace and see what skills need to be validated, and how. If they are vendor-neutral and technology-inclusive, it’s something that CompTIA is interested in. That’s when I get to work, designing and helping with our team to build new certifications.
ICM: Before questions that help our readers tell us something about the history of CompTIA. What was your first IT certification?
RB: Wow, did they have certifications for slide rules? (my first calculator was a slide rule, in 1973 while I was a cadet at West Point). Seriously, I trained and certified on Netware, was a trainer in one of the first Microsoft MCSE programs in high schools in America, and have picked up my share along the way. I am a big believer in education, with Masters degrees in business, computer science, and English & Technical Writing. I tell my students, my colleagues, and the folks who work for me:

“always take care of your own tool box. No one else cares about it the way you should. Take care of those skills, and those skills will take care of you.”

ICM: Let’s start from the basic level. Why someone should think about Strata IT Fundamentals. Shouldn’t we start with A+ or Network+ instead of that?

RB: If you can start with A+, that’s a great foundation. We have the Strata Fundamentals out there for folks who don’t have a great deal of computer background. Let’s face it, we all have to start somewhere. I have seen doctors and nurses who are now immersed in technology, electronic records, etc., and never got any real training on what networks, workstations, etc., are—they have found the Strata series just the right fit. Of course, if you have the background, A+ is still a great foundation, and we keep improving it each year so it is always validating current skills for today’s hardware platforms. The reason why you can always download free assessments, exam blueprints, and practice tests at CompTIA’s new certification website is so you can make sure you’re preparing for a challenge that you can reach, and you can prepare adequately.
ICM: How about CompTIA Cloud Essentials? Is it a good step before a cloud certifications from vendors like HP, IBM or Cisco? What is the difference between this certification and certifications from Arcitura like Certified Cloud Professional?

RB: CompTIA Cloud Essentials is a great validation if you are new to cloud computing. It’s kind of like Strata—not necessarily geared to the techie who is already into virtualized servers, desktops, and provisioning cloud services. It’s really focused on the folks who are going to do cloud computing in their businesses. It’s for the folks selling cloud services into an organization, and for the business people who are purchasing those services or moving applications to the cloud.

We wanted everyone to be on the same page in the organization—when I am sitting down in a meeting, and someone starts talking about an SLA for a hybrid cloud configuration, the CEO wants to make sure that everyone is understanding what’s being talked about.

Of course, it’s where CompTIA starts—foundational conceptual knowledge, based on global standards that prepare you for whatever you want to do in cloud computing. We’ll be releasing other certifications in Cloud Computing in the future—rest assured, we will be doing a deep technical dive into virtualization, cloud storage, virtual networking, SLA’s, security, and best practices for deployment. With the growing commoditization of the hypervisor, we think the time is almost right for a vendor-neutral, standards-past, technology-inclusive certification that will validate all these skills for the IT professional. And we’ll do it, rest assured.

The CompTIA certification family always blends well with vendor-specific certs—I think you need a good foundation in a technology, and then you validate skills on the particular hardware and software sets that you want to work with—so Cloud Essentials would set you up well for the cloud-related training and certs from VMware, Microsoft, Citrix, you name it.
CompTIAICM: You have an storage certification powered by SNIA (Storage+). What is the benefit for engineers with this cooperation between CompTIA and SNIA?

RB: Since I know more about that subject. I am a big storage networking geek, being the first chair of SNIA’s End User Council about 10 years ago. My last job was with SNIA as their Technology Director, and I wanted to see a top-flight certification in storage networking managed by the leading certification body in the world, CompTIA. So I approached the good people at CompTIA, we had some meetings, did some work, and designed what we think is really a game changer—“CompTIA Storage+ Powered by SNIA.” I was so impressed with CompTIA that I took a job with them!

This new certification is already the gold standard for people working in storage networking today and tomorrow, and is a great foundation for anyone going on to get vendor specific certifications from all the major storage vendors.

It’s been a lot of fun to build this cert, working with the absolute smartest guys in the data center and in the industry. That’s the power that SNIA brings to the table. Our folks at CompTIA can flat make good certifications—the ones that get global ISO validation, the ones that get you that new job or that promotion. And we are really excited about the growth in Storage+ so far.

ICM: Why Project+ and no PMP? Or maybe Project+ and PMP?

RB: Project+ is the greatest certification that no one knows about. Seriously, if more people knew about Project+, we would have much better IT projects. My wife, who is a teacher, is taking the training and this exam—these are simply great skills for any professional to have in that toolbox! PMP is certainly the gold standard, and I have a great respect for a lot of PMP’s I know—but you don’t need all that terminology and nomenclatural overkill to run basic projects.

Project+ gives you all that good knowledge without making you jump through what I think sometimes has been called “the PMI way”—common sense principles being overruled by a slavish devotion to only one model or methodology.

Each certification has its value, and we have been trying to align our certification as a foundation with PMI, but they don’t seem to be interested. I keep calling them, but apparently no one is home. It’s sad, but some vendor-neutral organizations seem more concerned with multiplying their own certifications than aligning them more coherently in the market.

Of course I am biased, but I think Project+ and some good technical experience is better than the much more expensive PMP, especially if you are in the beginning of your career. All these certifications are pretty confusing to people out there, which is why we are introducing a lot of career guidance tools on our website over the next few years. Take a look at our career roadmap—it’s one of the coolest things we’ve done in a long time (CompTIA needed a coolness upgrade, and we have some folks who are really bringing it). Look at the roadmap ; you can pick your field, look at all the certs that are out there to get ahead in that particular field (both vendor-neutral and vendor-specific). We name them all, and we give you links back to their websites. No one does this but CompTIA:

we think this world of IT certification is too confusing, and sometimes folks are just out there to sell you a cert, even if you don’t need it. The roadmap (and some super-roadmaps that are coming soon) will go a long way to eliminate that confusion.

That was the part one of our interview with Rick Bauer from CompTIA. Next time we are going to talk about Network+ as a starting point, CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner and about plans for 2012.

[This is part of the Interviews with Vendors Series]