What’s more important? Having certifications or being able to think analytically?

A generic certificate with a passing seal.

Managers responsible for hiring staff in technology-based roles such as developers or IT technicians are often focused on a candidate’s formal post-secondary education and certifications. Unfortunately, those who do well in such contexts aren’t necessarily the best candidates to fill technology-based roles.

Some of the most innovative people in the industry have little to no formal post-secondary education, they’ve simply had the vision and the minds to look at real-world problems in a different light in order to bring solutions that others didn’t see. Certifications, like most formal educational, focus on a person’s ability to retain information. Those who can remember the most tend to excel in certifications by scoring well in exams while those whose minds are more inclined towards knowing how to research and process information don’t tend to do as well in the same setting.

As technology changes faster and faster, analytical thinking is becoming the most important skill to have in order to be able to keep up. There is simply too much information out there for any single person to retain. As the world shifts towards the cloud, traditional certification paths have become out of alignment with the ever-changing landscape.

Microsoft, the gold standard certification path in the IT world, was the first to completely revamp their certification offering to better align with this new reality. I myself, an analytical thinker and problem-solver, never attempted any of those certifications since I am not one of those who excel in memory-based exams. However, now that they have shifted to role-based certifications which focus on the skills required for each role instead of a person’s ability to remember all of the material for a specific product, I’m interested.

I have over 30 years of experience with Microsoft products, starting in the early days when computing was a hobby and later on professionally through my evolving career. In that span, I’ve touched on three major releases of MS-DOS (4.0 to 6.22) and twenty major releases of Windows (Windows 3.1 through Windows 10 on the Desktop, and Windows NT 4 through Windows Server 2019 on the Server). And that’s excluding the plethora of updates, services packs, and point releases. And if I was to be evaluated from a purely academic and traditional certifications perspective, I wouldn’t pass the bar. I’ve always understood that learning how to study, analyze, and research a problem is far more important than trying to memorize all of the obscure details of a specific product.

As the world of technology continues to evolve, I continue to adapt and thrive because of my ability to address problems through analytical thinking and research. What are your thoughts on the value of certifications? Do you agree that Microsoft approach towards role-based certifications is better suited to realities of the technology industry? Do you value analytical thinking and problem-solving over education and certification?