How I got a second degree and earned 5 developer certifications in just one year, while working and…
Beau Carnes
5.5K245

I think you’re a fool. An admirably dedicated and hard-working fool, but that’s not exactly unheard of, is it? You’d have so much more to show for your effort if you expended all of that time and energy working on deepening your understanding of programming and doing real work instead of constructing this elaborate paper dragon. It’s not your fault; the entire certification industry– including many cash cow programs in respected non-profit universities– exists to convince people like you that to succeed, you need a paper dragon, and their certificates/diplomas make the best dragon-building materials. 
The fact that you’re trying to sell this as a model for others to follow, however, betrays your inexperience. In our current tech climate your setup might be good enough to draw you a paycheck, but the very second the economy takes a dip or the tech bubble bursts, all of the paper dragons get blown away. Who keeps a place in a rapidly shrinking tech industry will come down to one thing: who generates the most value for their paycheck. Hint: people who spent time accumulating purchased cred are very rarely those people. It wasn’t those people in the .com bust, it wasn’t those people in 2008, and it won’t be those people whenever this all flops.
The fact that you can study to pass the cert test or even get a technical degree while reading 20%(!) of the material is the reason that savvy companies think all that stuff is a total joke. Development is fundamentally meritocratic. (Well, that’s true for men of European and Asian descent, anyway.) Those credentials probably wouldn’t even get you a bump in salary if you landed a developer job at a good company. (To be fair, they might get you some cred in an entry-level hourly IT job– like Jr server operator or Jr desktop support– if you can even find one of those jobs these days.) What they _are_ good for is granting you entrance into any flash-in-the-pan startup coding sweatshop which is content squeezing 80 weekly hours of ‘acceptable’ code out of you and just grabbing someone from this quarter’s hoard of unemployed boot camp graduates when you burn out. Those opportunities will almost instantly vanish in an economic slump.
To get a good tech job, however, you only _need_ to have basic networking skills and solid, provable development knowledge. You certainly don’t need those certs or a dubious degree from WGU to do it. No, WGU is not a diploma mill per se, but it’s nowhere close to as rigorous as top-tier comp sci programs, no matter who recommends or accredits. Hiring managers know this.
For example, in Harvard’s freshmen, first-semester 101-level comp sci class, the majority of your grade comes from the weekly coding problems sets, (some of which take many hours, it’s like a big project every week) for which you need to have a working understanding of everything taught that week. That’s tough, but it pays off: the _midterm_ has students “whiteboarding” (on paper) several sorting algorithms, debugging memory allocation problems, and working with advanced data structures like tries, all in real C code… That’s before you switch to Python 2/3 of the way through the semester to start building working web applications. Their second-semester 102-level class tackles functional programming and is taught entirely in OCaml. (For those who don’t think this stuff is real-world applicable skills in day-to-day web development, that also betrays inexperience.) No “introduction to IT” lecture class here. “Hello World” isn’t your homework for a class, it’s the first tiny piece of your first problem set.

So these top-tier companies like Facebook, Google, and even the savvier startups mostly hire people from top-tier comp sci programs, but it’s not because they have that fancy piece of paper– it’s because those graduates give the most bang for their buck. That’s why you also have particularly smart and dedicated self-taught programmers working side-by-side with those Ivy Leaguers. If you’re a great developer and have the requisite knowledge, they’ll find a spot for you. You’ll have a pretty hard time finding a (recent) single professional cert, online non-comp-sci dev degree, or boot camp cert among them though. You could have enough certs and online degrees to fill the great lakes, but when they start asking you coding questions in the interview, you better believe they’re not skimming the top 20%.

Of course, it’s not all black and white– there are many software companies in between Facebook and bullshitproduct.io, but the same principles apply. People who prove they can get the job done get, and keep the job. People who pay companies to say they can do the job are expected to prove it just the same. If you spend your precious effort studying for a test nobody consequential cares about, you’re wasting your time.
Put the foundation of your career before the window dressing.

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