Opinion You know, figuring out when the universe is trying to send you a message is a skill that really comes in handy in life. Unfortunately, you can’t get certified in that kind of thing. But hey, maybe we should take a closer look at the common thread running through these three stories: Microsoft switching to open-book exams for certification, ChatGPT passing law exams, and the ongoing struggle to find skilled IT workers. Is it possible that the way we evaluate qualifications just isn’t cutting it?
And let me tell you, there are definitely cases where this is painfully obvious. If an AI like ChatGPT can pass a law school exam, then it’s pretty clear that there’s something seriously wrong with that exam. I mean, sure, multiple-choice exams can be aced by a computer program running on an old ZX Spectrum, but they still serve a purpose. However, when it comes to screening for professional ability in a field that directly impacts people’s lives, you definitely don’t want to be testing them on things that an AI hallucination with no grasp on reality can do.
So let’s bring it back to the world of IT. What do IT qualifications even mean in 2023?
Well, I’ll tell you one thing, they can save recruiters a lot of time and effort. If you have an automatic filter that screens out candidates based on their degrees or industry-recognized certifications, then you’ll have fewer resumes to sift through. But here’s the thing, you’ll also be missing out on a ton of talent. And if you think that’s an acceptable trade-off, then that talent is definitely better off going elsewhere.
This whole filtering system might explain why the bigger a corporation gets and the more rigid their hiring policies become, the more it turns into a pointless collection of corporate conformity. It’s honestly alarming to see this happening, especially in companies that were founded by college dropouts.
On the other hand, having a solid degree in science or math can open doors at plenty of places that value strong analytical skills. And there’s nothing wrong with that, except for the fact that it creates an ecosystem that doesn’t do much to address the needs of most organizations when it comes to IT.
Exams also reveal that a person’s ability to excel in a certain field doesn’t necessarily depend on having formal training in that specific area. The tricky part is that exams have to test something tangible. Back when knowledge was hard to access and change was slow, that made sense. But now that knowledge is everywhere, all the time, what really matters is being able to search, filter, and synthesize information.
And let me tell you, that’s crucial at all levels of IT. The rate of change is rapid and unpredictable, and if you specialize too much in a specific set of skills, they could become obsolete overnight due to a platform or vendor change. The smart interviewers out there know to ask candidates about the resources they use to solve problems or quickly adapt to new requirements. From Slashdot to Stack Overflow to Reddit, knowing the most relevant sources of information is key. On the other hand, a formal qualification may have kept a candidate stuck in a comfortable niche for a long time.
Microsoft’s move to open-book exams is a step in the right direction, although the books they allow are only the ones they provide. It’s great if the biggest industry requirement is knowing everything about Microsoft’s closed ecosystem, but it’s not so great if you’re looking for a broader perspective.
You can even think of your entire career as an open-book exam, just with more lenient grading. Open source projects are even closer to that idea, where your involvement and contribution can speak volumes to recruiters who know what they’re looking for.
Let them in
Now, I have to admit that the open-source world isn’t always the most welcoming place. If you don’t fit in or you lack the confidence to deal with its less nurturing aspects, it can be a bit off-putting. It’s quite ironic considering that it should be a purely meritocratic realm, but the lack of diversity is a clear sign that not enough people are joining a sector that’s desperately in need of talent.
What we really need is an on-ramp for talent that leads to a continuous pipeline of skill acquisition, growth, and documentation. It should be a platform that’s vendor and platform-agnostic, appealing to both young, curious minds and seasoned careerists. Picture it as an open framework for cultivating and nurturing IT professionals, complete with curated content, communities, learning pathways, tools, sandboxes, and showcases. By combining the best of human expertise with cutting-edge technology, we can create an education system that’s not as expensive as it sounds.
Let’s face it, we’re in a rich industry. Just look at Meta throwing billions at VR and Google’s countless failed projects that have zero value. With a tiny fraction of our tech revenues, we could build and deploy a new, universal, and truly remarkable education system with the help of the best educators out there. The result would solve the industry’s most pressing issue of finding talented individuals who can truly make a difference. And who knows, maybe it could even help us develop a legal system capable of distinguishing competent lawyers from insane robots. One