A few days ago I unexpectedly received an email from Databricks congratulating me for passing the Databricks SQL Analyst Accreditation. “Good work!” some might say, but in this case I hadn’t actually passed it. Yes, I took the un-proctored online test months ago and didn’t pass. I didn’t actually study for it if I’m honest, I had access to a range of Databricks training on their University site which I was working my way through and saw this test and thought “let’s give it a go”. Suffice to say I failed it (I did email to ask what happened…)

Databricks SQL Analyst Accreditation

I did end up taking the test again after some learning and did pass. But not before I’d brushed up on working with SQL functions like EXPLODE, TRANSFORM, REDUCE. Functions that I do not use day-to-day as I do no use Databricks day-to-day, but they are now in my toolbox if I ever need them again (or if I forget, I know where to go to re-learn…)

I ended up taking the test after doing the learning required…was is useful? Well, I did learn something new so perhaps yes.

All this then got me thinking about badges and certifications…do we need them? Why take certifications?

For The Right Reasons

I have a few Microsoft certifications around Data Engineering, SQL Server, Machine Learning, Power BI etc and often wonder if they are worth it. I’m going to say “yes” but that in part is because it’s a route to becoming a Microsoft Partner (Silver, Gold etc). But what about other reasons? Are certifications useful for landing a job, getting paid more money, the love and adulation of your peers? I have hired (or not hired…) data professionals in the past. Some have certifications and were experienced in their field, some had certifications and were not. Would I look solely at certifications to hire? No, I would not look at the certification as the only criteria to hiring someone. I certainly do not expect to be hired based only on the certifications I hold.

It’s About You

When I look at certifications/badges I ask myself “what will I get out of this?” and the first thing I always go to is…knowledge. What will I learn and how can I apply this in the real world. For me, when I look at certifications I have a couple of perspectives:

Validate My Current Knowledge

When I’m looking at taking a certification in this way I’m looking for validation from Microsoft themselves. Ultimately I’m hoping that this will also validate me when job seeking, seems a bit strange for me to say that when I stated earlier that’s not my primary reason for hiring someone! When looking at taking a certification, it’s not just as simple as going in with your existing knowledge and hoping it’ll be enough.

Microsoft certifications have a document for each exam which will tell you what skills are being assessed. As an example, for the Azure Data Engineer associate even though I use a lot of the platforms being assessed in the exam, I do not use all of them, I therefore need to augment my knowledge by learning. But for the most part I’m comfortable enough. What I get out of taking this certification is I actually ended up learning about areas I was less comfortable and experienced in, and now feel I can bring those areas to the table in solutions.

Learn Something New

An example of this would be the Azure Data Scientist Associate certification. Now, I’m not a Data Scientist (I think I need to print that on some t-shirts…) but I have an appreciation and when it comes to the Azure Machine Learning Service I firmly believed understanding how to work with it would be very beneficial. Beneficial in-so-far as understanding how it integrates with other services, how to get data in, data out, which types of machine learning model creation were supported.

So I took the relevant Learn modules, worked my way through the material, cross-referenced all that with the skills being measured, took the exam…and passed. Would you hire me to work on Data Science projects if I waved that certification around? Probably not, but for me I learned it so I could better understand the service and that was useful.

The Badge

Well, here it is in all its glory. Will you now hire me to work on Databricks for a handsome hourly rate? I very much doubt it. But let’s take a minute to think about the journey it could take me on, perhaps now it’s a spring board onto more Databricks learning, perhaps even Spark and dare I say it…Python.

For me, well that would be something…

References

  • https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/databricks/getting-started/free-training
  • https://github.com/databricks-academy

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