In an era where technology can change the fortune of a company almost overnight, proof of one's IT skills could be a passport to a high-paying career.
IT companies and workers interviewed by ZDNet Asia said while industry reputation and experience could be given weight in certain roles, the general rule is that an IT certification could deliver that needed edge for an employee eyeing a technical job.
For Globe Telecom, which is owned by Philippines conglomerate Ayala Corp, a certification is almost an indispensable requirement for its network operations as well as its software and solutions business.
"For network operations, it's important for an employee to have CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate), while a software guy should be equipped with ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library)," said Gil Genio, head of international and business markets at Globe Telecom.
Genio pointed out that IT-certified employees command a higher premium since a certification is like a seal of approval that a person has undergone the necessary training and possesses the minimum skills required in the performance of a job.
"This model also works for the IT vendors since each of them have their own certification programs," noted Genio.
Indian IT professionals, according to the executive, have flourished in this type of environment since Indians are very process-oriented and the country's school system is skewed toward certifications. This, he said, has pushed global IT professionals, Filipinos among them, to acquire certifications in order to compete in the job market.
The Philippine National IT Standards (PhilNITS) Foundation, a non-profit organization that is implementing a certification program based on IT standards adopted from Japan, agreed that there are obvious perks and incentives available only for certified professionals.
"Since PhilNITS has signed a Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) with Japan, PhilNITS-certified IT professionals get preferential treatment for [getting hired] in Japan as well as employment in local Japanese multinational companies operating in the Philippines," said Maricor Akol, president of PhilNITS.
With regard to the kind of IT certifications that carry the most value in today's competitive environment, she said this usually depends on the company's hiring policies and requirements.
"For new hires, a generic certification on the basic requirements of the job would be of most value... There are also vendor certifications for specific job requirements like Cisco Certification for networking specialists, Oracle for database specialists, Java for programmers and mobile applications, and so on," Akol said.
IT certs "not for everyone"
The Philippine subsidiary of Taiwan-based PC maker Acer, too, said certifications are coveted by employees working on the technical or after-sales part of its business.
"But, for sales and marketing functions, experience is valued more because they have the connections and they already know their way around the industry," said Manuel Wong, country manager of Acer Philippines .
Carlo Subido, business development manager of Intel Philippines, shares the same view, noting that technical certification is useful for technical roles as it measures one's skill "whichever country you come from".
"[B]ut I am in the sales and marketing field, thus certification is not as important. Besides, there's no certification that I know of that can measure one's experience in sales and marketing," said Subido.
IT veteran Jojo Ayson said he also believes in certification, but stressed that "it isn't for everyone" as there are employees who don't do well in tests, yet are highly skilled and knowledgeable. Ayson used to be the top security executive at Microsoft Philippines, but is now an IT consultant for food and beverage giant San Miguel.
"For people who don't need to prove themselves, certification isn't seen as necessary. In fact, a person who is known for his skill by reputation is far more valuable than one whose proof is a certificate," Ayson said, "But we are not all that lucky."
Akol also pointed out that some companies prefer to hire uncertified people whom they will train and sponsor for certification in order to tie them down to a specific number of years in the company.
Ayson emphasized that IT certification must be taken for the right reasons, though.
"First, in the pursuit of certification, one strives to prepare with the appropriate technical skill and knowledge required to make the certification test. Second, the certification, when achieved, is the official 'bragging right' that is an acknowledged proof that someone has a specific set of skills and knowledge," he said.
Taken in the proper spirit, Ayson said certification is a valuable tool to both the IT professional and the company. "I do, however, frown upon those that circumvent the process and cheat their way to certifications. It's a lose-lose scenario... again, for the person and for the company."
Melvin G. Calimag is a freelance IT writer based in the Philippines.