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Forget Certifications: Real Resumes Boast Man-Hours

Ten years ago, sets of magic three- and four-letter acronyms were the golden ticket to a promotion, a better IT job or even your first IT job. MCSE. CCNA. CNE. MCSA. OMG! Today, many organizations' HR departments still rely on these TLAs and FLAs as a sort of filter, meaning resumes lacking these special character sequences don't even end up in front of hiring managers or department heads.

It's a pity.

We all know that the certifications associated with most (if not all) of these acronyms were, at best, a pretty minimal indicator of technical expertise. "Paper MCSE" became common enough to earn a place in may urban dictionaries, spawn hundreds of online and magazine articles and to generally put a cloud of derision over that particular title.

Today, Microsoft's made a lot of attempts to restore some glamour to its top-end IT Pro title (which was until briefly not the top end, of course; the retirement of the company's "Master" certifications brought MCSE back to the limelight). Whether they've been successful really doesn't matter, or shouldn't.

Remember that the whole point of those titles was for Microsoft to demonstrate to companies that the world housed plenty of people qualified to support Microsoft's products. Ergo, it's safe to buy Microsoft products, because you'll be able to easily find people to run them. That, of course, means Microsoft really never had a huge stake in making the MCSE rigorous –- it just needed lots of us to jump through hoops. Today, that whole business driver seems a lot less relevant. Plenty of companies already bought Microsoft software, after all, and any company that doesn't use any Microsoft software sure as heck isn't going to be swayed by the existence of a lot of MCSEs, paper or otherwise.

I'll argue, then, that HR should drop or de-emphasize acronyms on their list of low-level resume filters. Hiring managers should give those acronyms less weight. And IT pros should perhaps worry less about including them in the first place. Sure, list 'em if you've got 'em, but I've got something better.

Man-hours.

"Hi, my name is Don, and in my last job I eliminated an average of 4,000 man-hours of manual IT labor annually." Follow that with your education history and hobbies or whatever, and you've got a compelling resume that the most important bullet point would fit on a business card: reduced manual man-hours.

Regardless of your gender, each carbon-based lifeform in an IT department represents up to 2,400 man-hours annually; less in countries and organizations with more-generous paid-vacation policies. If you're good enough at automation to reduce manual man-hours by any significant chunk of that, then you're a major asset to any IT team, regardless of the three- and four-letter designations you may or may not have.

"I can, through my powers of automation, free up or replace two human beings per year" is another way of saying, "I saved 4,000 man-hours annually." That's a huge deal for IT organizations strapped for resources and unable to expand their ranks. That's people to go work on new projects. It's also an almost ironclad guarantee that if layoffs come around, your name won't be on the list, you person-reducing person, you.

So how do you affect this change? How do you document it for your resume?

Dig into your help desk ticketing system, and do some analysis on time-to-close. Find tasks that get repeated fairly often, and figure out how many man-hours are involved in closing those tasks per year -- pretty basic information from a decent ticketing system. Those tasks, and their man-hours, are your target.

Your weapons are PowerShell. System Center Orchestrator. VBScript. Batch files. C#. Whatever. It truly doesn't matter what tools you use to automate -- although certain ones will obviously be more suitable for some tasks than for others, which is why I've always cultivated in myself a fondness for many technologies. Like an action movie hero carrying knives, ninja stars, a 9mm handgun and a grenade launcher, I like to be prepared for a variety of automation situations. In the end, it's not about the tool I use -- it's about the hours I save.

When you're an automator, everything is a button, or ought to be. I go looking for tasks where my fellow admins spend hours, repeating the same sequence of actions over and over in a GUI or whatever. I then create a button -- some automation unit, like a PowerShell script or an Orchestrator runbook -- that accomplishes the same task automatically, with as little intervention as possible. Hellz yes, I'll jury-rig when I have to. The goal is saving hours. Then I'll document that task -- even if only on my resume -- as hours I've saved.

When the time comes to argue about raises, or a new job, or a promotion, or whatever -- I've got my ammunition. Don't think I need more than a 2 percent raise after I made two of my team members superfluous? Maybe I should float my sk1llz around the other companies in town and see if any of them have more value for an automator.

Remember, back in the good ol' MCSE days, when you could change jobs and get a 20 percent boost in salary? You'd be surprised how many organizations will still offer that kind of bump -- just not for four letters. For man-hours.

Posted by Don Jones on 10/14/2013 at 11:00 AM


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