Elite training and certification authority shares his views
week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an exclusive interview with Ed
Tittel, a 20 year world-renowned expert in training, certification,
IT technologies with over 120 books to his credit, innumerable
articles, and an extensive background in program development, senior
management, speaking, teaching, editing, consulting and research. He
has been a featured speaker at major conferences including teaching
engagements at NetWorld+Interop Las Vegas and Atlanta.
began his career with undergraduate and graduate degrees from
Princeton and the University of Texas. Currently, Ed is president of
LANWrights Inc. (lanw.com); vice-president of content development &
delivery, CapStar LLC (capstarlearning.com); series editor, Que Exam
Cram 2 & Training Guides. He is also a contributing editor and
regular columnist for Certification magazine (www.certmag.com).
512-252-7497 fax: 512-252-8439 mbl: 512-422-7943
your international renown is singular. We appreciate you taking the
time out of your demanding schedule to speak with us.
Thanks, Stephen. It’s my pleasure to be allowed to communicate
directly with your organization and its membership (whose own
certifications are also not unknown to me).
have a remarkable and varied history. Can you share your most
valuable lessons and challenges and a story with a humorous angle?
guess you can say that I’ve learned to deal with technical matters
through a combination of elbow grease, good Internet search
techniques, and a willingness to read and understand large amounts
of material to bring myself up to speed. In today’s world, where our
knowledge bases turn over so often, keeping in touch with current
ideas, tools, and technologies has to become part of our work
routine for most of us to survive and thrive. An old mentor of mine
from the University of Texas told me in 1979 that if I wanted to
succeed at anything technical I would have to “stick to the subject
matter until it hurts.” Although I didn’t understand Dr. Brown’s
advice until a few years later, and the puzzled look I gave him in
reply made him laugh, it’s become a key element in my work
philosophy and writing habits.
Describe the services provided by your companies and where you see
your companies proceeding in the future?
group in Texas is a content development group. We essentially
develop and pitch content projects—meaning articles, books, courses,
newsletters, and so forth—and then manage the creation of those
projects for which we can find funding. The backbone of my local
group rests on my project managers, who hire the writers, tech
editors, and other professionals who help to write and craft the
content. We typically produce 35-50 books, 5-10 long courses, 30-50
short courses, and 100-200 articles per year, with a full-time staff
of four and a constantly changing group of contractors. Our parent
company, Capstar LLC, is an e-learning company that offers an
e-learning platform, content development services (including those
of my group), online delivery services, and whatever else is
necessary to permit large organizations and companies to offer their
employees and customers effective blended learning solutions. It’s
an interesting business, fast-moving and highly competitive, and
headed for major consolidations and shake-outs as organizations like
Capstar attempt to engage fully with Fortune 500 customers and other
is the current and future market status and trends of
education/training within organizations, and certification with IT
Great questions. Recent studies from IDS and Foote Partners show
that corporate spending on training and certification are down, but
not out, and also that certification is no longer an absolute
guarantee of success. Training companies in particular are hard hit:
most report revenues are down by 40%, many report they’re down by
50% or more since the certification heyday of 1998-2000.
Today, things are tough all over—with the possible exception of
information security jobs, but even there I’ve read recent reports
from highly qualified professionals who’ve had trouble finding
work—so IT professionals are seeking to preserve and protect their
current positions as much as they can. Until the economic recovery
changes status from “jobless” to “we’re hiring” I expect the
training and certification markets to stay flat and slow.
argues strongly that employers and employees alike should engage in
some old-fashioned ROI analysis on training and certification before
spending any money on same. Employees will have to convince
employers that real ROI exists in any case, as managers will have to
convince their superiors and boards that line items in their budgets
for training and certification are still warranted.
a move afoot, toward performance based certification away from rote
memorization or straight “fact recitation” in many certification
programs, including most leading ones. Performance-based
certification stresses testing real world experience and skills. As
such, it offers much better potential ROI on training and
certification than older models and methods ever could (while neatly
doing away with so-called “paper certifications”). In many ways, I
see this as essential to securing the ongoing viability of training
and certification in a lean, mean marketplace.
Could you share your study recommendations with our audience?
brief they would be as follows:
sure you research the subject matter background sufficiently to
understand all relevant basic concepts and terminology before diving
into the details.
the exam objectives guide your studies, and use them to compile
materials that will let you get comfortable with all the information
and activities involved.
practice tests to help assess your exam readiness and keep working
with same until your exam scores exceed required passing scores by
at least 5%.
as much relevant hands-on experience as you can while studying for
more specific advice, I (and sometimes others) do write regular
study guides on certification programs for Certification Magazine
(www.certmag.com). Each of these has a study strategies section and
can provide lots more details on how to prepare for exams in these
programs (in the past two years, they’ve covered all the majors and
Describe what you consider to be important technologies, their pros
and cons, trends and any recommendations?
assume you’d like my answer to pertain to IT certification, so
that’s how I’ll respond. I think simulations, online labs, and other
ways to interact with systems and tools are the best thing to hit
certification in years, and recommend such tools highly. Here again,
I’ve written in detail on this topic for Certification Magazine
(“Garnering Experience with Labs and Simulations”
so you may want to check that story out as well.
about vendors—where is the market going and who are the winners and
Although the numbers won’t support this for a while, I believe it’s
just a matter of time before Cisco takes the top spot in the IT
certification market. Other topics on the way up include wireless,
security, and ERP. Web technologies in general and related
e-commerce and programming stuff in particular seem to have taken a
major hit since the dot com bubble burst (though Prosofttraining
surprised the heck out of me by announcing their first profitable
quarter in 2 years during the first week of October; see
are your top recommended resources for both businesses and IT
the series editor for Exam Cram 2 and Training Guides from Que
Certification, I hope I can be allowed to stand behind my work and
recommend it to others. Beyond that, I’m sold on information
available from CertCities.com, CramSession.com, GoCertify.com, and
lots of other per-topic specialists.
you make a prediction about the next “killer app?”
Jokingly, my answer is: “If I could do that, I could retire soon.”
My more serious answer is that I think systems and apps are going to
start paying ever more attention to their user’s behaviors and
preferences and customize themselves to meet specific needs and
supply desired characteristics. If I could have any killer app I
wanted it would be a personal information management tool that would
let me catalog, organize, and search or easily reference all the
different sources I work with daily and all the writing work I do.
Alas, I’m not aware of any such thing that’s tailored for individual
or small scale use, and full-blown content management systems are
beyond my means (and take too much time to learn and use properly at
the personal level).
you were doing this interview, what three questions would you ask of
someone in your position and what would be your answers?
Is certification important or worthwhile?
A1: Yes, but you have to make of it what you can, particularly in
garnering experience and developing usable skills. It’s also
essential to learn how to talk about what you know and what you can
do in a way that makes sense to prospective employers, HR
professionals, and hiring managers.
Which is more important, certification or a college degree?
A2: This could easily be a trick question, but the answer (according
to most employers) is “both!”. A college degree is good because it
lasts for life (you don’t have to renew it before it expires or
worry about continuing education units) and demonstrates basic
learning skills and the ability to reach long-term goals.
Certification is good because it demonstrates current knowledge,
skills, and interests, and demonstrates the ability to reach medium-
to short-term goals. But when faced with otherwise identical
candidates, certification only matters if the holder can talk
intelligently about why it’s valuable to the job her or she is
Q3: Which is better, certification or experience?
A3: Without a doubt, experience beats certification
hands-down—especially relevant experience that speaks directly to
specific job knowledge, needs, and skills. Don’t neglect the
experience factor as you prepare for certifications (this is why I
always say it’s important to be able to tell others what you know
and what you can do). Go out of your way to garner experience when
you can, and document it so you can talk about it later.
you have any more comments to add?
a great general overview of certification read my book IT
Certification Success (with co-author Kim Lindros, Que
Certification, 2003, ISBN: 0789729237). For the best possible
self-education on certification topics, read Certification Magazine
regularly, and stay tuned to CertCities.com and GoCertify.com. My
certification coverage at InformIT.com is also pretty good, too.
Thank you again for your time, and consideration.
You’re welcome; glad to be of service.