In today's fast-paced and ever-changing tech industry, gaining knowledge and skills is essential to stay ahead of the game. While certifications can provide a structured learning path and recognition of skills, it is not always necessary to begin your tech journey by focusing solely on certifications. In fact, starting with a more organic approach and building foundational knowledge and experience can be more beneficial in the long run. I say this as someone who thought starting my tech journey through getting certifications was the right path for me. And I soon learned this was not the case at all. I struggled a lot with studying to pass certifications. I failed several CCNA certification attempts and several AWS SAA certification attempts. I even remember failing to pass one of those by less than 2%. Yes, 2%. I can’t even recall which one it was but all I remember is feeling absolutely gutted over it. And after that, I decided to just stop wasting money on certs and instead concentrate on gaining knowledge.
The Limitations of Certifications
I see a lot of tech newbies make the same mistakes I made. What most of them fail to understand is that most certifications are tailor-made to solely educate you on how to use a certain vendor’s products. Very few are going to educate you on the basics and the fundamentals that you will need. One might argue that certifications are good for getting a proper course outline and as a learning guide. I agree with that too. If you need to use the certification to get a grasp of what you’re aiming to understand, the better. But don’t cram them and think they will help you land a proper job. That is a false narrative. It will just make things harder for you in the long run. And in tech, everything builds off one another. So would you rather have a specific skill set that you do not understand in-depth or have a good fundamental understanding and build off of that? Trust me, you don’t want to be that guy with several certs and can’t even do a simple task practically.
The Organic Approach
So if you want to get into tech, I recommend that your primary agenda should be gaining knowledge, not passing certifications. Whether it’s through physical classes/self-education or online courses. This not only gives you a proper foundation for your journey but also helps you to know what you like and what you don’t like. Learning is a continuous journey, it never stops. Particularly in this industry. The sooner you come to terms with that, the better. Next on your list is gaining practical knowledge through bootcamps, projects or even open-source contributions. Practical knowledge helps one map the pieces together of what they’ve been learning. It’s very very important. Pick one project, and dedicate at least an hour of focused work. One day at a time, without waiver. And that will teach you more than you could learn in a classroom. After that, I’d advise you to start looking for attachments or internships. Ask for internship opportunities, request for freelance projects you could work on, even from friends and family. Remember, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take… Besides, you’d be shocked how many of these can lead to permanent job opportunities for you, just because of your work ethic and dedication. Lastly, now aim for certifications. With all that under your belt, it’s gonna be easier for you to study for certifications, not more than a couple of weeks, max. And all of this will not only get you a good chance of getting professional job experience but also assert to the recruiter/employer that yes, you are certified and have a lot to offer.
By starting with a broader understanding of the field and exploring different areas of interest, you can develop a deeper understanding of how various technologies interact and gain a more holistic perspective. This can also help you identify areas you may want to specialize in later on, making it easier to choose which certifications to pursue. Ultimately, combining real-world experience with targeted learning and certifications can help you build a strong foundation and advance your tech career. As I write this, I might not be where I want to be in my tech journey YET( as I am still not CCNA certified or AWS SAA certified) but I still acknowledge how far I've come as I continuously receive job offers from former colleagues I've worked with and employers I interned for. Soon, I look forward to getting certified in these two fields. Until then, I continue to prioritize my knowledge and work on being better at what I do.