09 January 2017


Underinformed tech professionals turning to social media platforms for help


Channel partners all over the U.S. are eager to find new talent. From cyber security and on, it seems resellers, VARs and MSPs are struggling to find the right skill sets they need to maintain or grow their businesses.

Of course, a good solution provider will always aim to make sure they hire workers with actual knowledge and expertise in the required areas and technologies.

And while certifications aim to provide proof of just that, for some solution providers, the certification process is is flawed when it comes to producing such candidates.

According to Raj Goel, CTO at New York City-based MSP Brainlink International, there is too low of a barrier to entry into the industry, and the field has developed a habit of not properly training staff.

“We don’t have a culture of certification or required knowledge,” he tells Channelnomics, while pointing to issues in the various training programs currently being offered to IT hopefuls. He says vendor certifications have grown from a reliable few to being “debased” as a phenomenal revenue stream, with the result being that most certifications do not have much value.

Further, there are vendor certifications being offered to high school students that are “very similar” to professional certifications, further devaluing the field, according to Goel.

Contrastingly, Cheryl Cook, VP of global channels and alliances at Dell EMC, explains why she sees value in vendor certifications.

“The reason we value them so much is…it should be valuable and marketable to a partner to differentiate their level of expertise and proficiency around our portfolio with these credentials. That, I think, is the value to them,” Cook tells Channelnomics.

She adds that another key aspect is the impact certifications have on customer experience.

“Making sure [partners] can develop and design robust solutions [and also] have the technical expertise and the expertise within their architecture team to go design these solutions so the customer experience is the best as possible is the real rationale and reason [for certifications],” Cook says.

But there are also challenges coming from non-profit and tech education programs offering weeks-long and months-long training courses for certifications like CCNS, Security+, Network+ and more, according to Goel. He says that over the last three years, he’s met applicants from such programs who are not informed about the specifics, and Brainlink has even blacklisted a number of IT training programs and schools.

“They can’t tell you what a simple netmask is or how you get a default gateway on a network. They can’t do the basics, much less the complicated stuff,” Goel says. “At one point training used to be for professional development. Now it’s pretty much becoming a job training program… The quality of technical education is really, really terrible.”

The problem is so that bad that Goel says solution providers hunting for IT advice via social media platforms like Reddit or Stack Overflow is common.

This was brought to the world’s attention in September, when it was reported by The Hill that the House Oversight Committee, in relation to the Hillary Clinton email scandal, was looking into a post on social media forum Reddit that asked how to change the containings of “VERY VIP” emails. The posts were said to have connections to Platte River Networks, the MSP at the center of the controversy.

This all goes back to the industry’s training issues, according to Goel.

“You can’t cut hair without going to training school and getting a license,” he notes. “You don’t see hairdressers going online and [asking] ‘how do I bleach hair?’. You don’t see cardiologists Googling ‘how do I do a heart transplant?’.”

And the quality of information a technology worker receives from such social media posts is dependent on the quality of the question asked, the respondents and the site being used, according to Goel. He says, therefore, that experienced IT workers will usually go to forums with an idea of what the answer to their question will be. The bigger trouble with forums comes from the other end of the spectrum – when someone new to IT posts a question, Goel says.

“They’ll ask a generic question and get a generic answer,” Goel tells Channelnomics. “We see this a lot in development…they’re not mature enough…to ask the more detailed, right questions. And so they’ll get 30, 40, 50 different responses and will cut and paste whatever they think will work.”

Unfortunately, the users prone to using forums for their tech questions are those who are least qualified to be asking such questions, Goel says, adding that the risk in this is exacerbated by the “dangerous” variation of quality between different tech forums.

“If you are fishing with a very large net in a very large ocean and don’t know if you’re looking for dolphin or tuna fish or mackerel, you really can’t tell if the answer you’re getting is a goldfish or a shark,” he says.

In addition, graduates from today’s IT education programs are coming out with a misguided view on compensation, Goel says, pointing to people entering the field expecting a $56,000 salary to start and $100,000 in two years.

The MSP, lamenting the lack of value placed on things like the apprenticeship and skills development seen in industries including medicine, legal and accounting, says it’s time for technology to “professionalize”.

“It should no longer be acceptable for professionals – or even interns – in the field to ‘Google’ basic knowledge about their industry. If cardiologists can’t Google ‘how do I do a heart transplant?’, technologists shouldn’t be allowed to Google or go to a forum and [ask] ‘how do I wipe out a hard drive?’,” Goel says.

Source: http://www.channelnomics.com/channelnomics-us/analysis/2473616/clinton-email-msps-potential-reddit-highlights-techs-larger-professionalism-problem