Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Agile Certification

In a recent post of a position paper on "Agile Certification" the chair of the Agile Alliance describes the various aspects of whether a certification for agile practitioners should be introduced or provide value.

I'm convinced that there will be people who believe that certification provides value to them for recruitment purposes. With the teams I work we use different means to determine whether a candidate fits the team. That by itself is already a statement: We don't look for certifications, we look for "good fit". Someone can have all the certifications on the planet, we will not hire that person if he/she is not a good fit for the particular team.

Just the other day we had an application by a candidate who used "throw new NullPointerException()" in the programming task. In this particular case we tried to imagine what would happen if we had that bit of code in a deployed system, and the exception fired off... No certification in the world can prevent that, and in the particular case we didn't consider the candidate any longer.

Here are some other things we do when we assess candidates:
  • Pair programming session
  • Programming task
  • Design session
  • Google search (if the candidate is claiming to be an active member of the community)
  • Peer interviewing by members of the future team
I'm sure that this approach is not perfect, but so far the results speak for themselves. For us, I don't believe certification would make a big difference.

In the teams I have worked with I have met accountants, biologists, former HR people, and many more different professions. All of them had degrees and certifications, most of them in areas other than software engineering. And still, all of them were excellent software engineers!

And then, there are the companies that get ISO9000 certified. Sometime people I wonder what that is good for except for becoming supplier for certain companies. Does it mean that the quality improves or the productivity? It might, it might not. The ISO9000 certification certainly doesn't guarantee that. There are companies that are ISO9000 certified and still deliver crab, and there are companies that are not, and they deliver outstanding quality.

Hey! I tried to lean towards the more provocative end of the spectrum in this post. So if you, my dear reader, have a different perspective, I would love to hear from you!

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