The other day, floating in the pool, I had one of ‘those moments’. The “Ah Hah” moment. It was a small one. Yes, they come in sizes. Some grand and deep. Others shallow and small, but still refreshing. The spouse has credentials. Lots of credentials. She does not have “Early Childhood Education” so can’t teach preschool; but has K-12 with single room schoolhouse endorsement, so can be put on her own running a one room school with K-12 and not much support at all. She has a variety of “Special Education” credentials and has taught several levels of it. (No, I don’t know the specifics. It’s the usual government alphabet soup of unenlightening acronyms and I just don’t have it ‘stick’ in the brain. One she taught was SED – Severely Emotionally Disabled. How that differs from RSP and the others TLA’s (Three Letter Acronyms ;-) she’s racked up is something I’ve not quite mastered ;-)
At any rate, the spouse is looking for a job out here. She was interested in doing something other than teaching, having done that for quite a while now. No Joy. Loads of resumes. Not much response or action. A 3 week gig teaching ESL English as a Second Language to Brazilian kids. (They get ‘immersion’ by spending a month or so at Disney and related parks while having ESL classes each week day for about 6? hours. Oh, and it counts as credits to their degree back home.) Bottom line was that a lot of folks look at a resume that says “teacher” and don’t see “clerk” or “administrative assistant” or “secretary” or “what ever they have”. She is “siloed” into the Teacher silo.
At work, there are more silos. Only a DBA person can do the Data Base Administration. They are certified in it, and not much else. Only the Application folks can do applications coding. They are certified in it and not much else. Only the Project Manager can do PM stuff (and they want a PMP or similar Project Management certificate). Etc. etc. etc… So a load of folks are stuck in their silo and can not step over the line to learn what the other side does. That is only if you go out and get a certification. Where you spend a few hundred to $thousand dollars to a certification agency to learn the BOK Body Of Knowledge, and the ‘received wisdom’ as controlled by them. The end result is that a lot of understanding gets lost when a product has to cross silo boundaries…
Recently an application was brought up in the Disaster Recovery site. Could not get the backups to restore. The Application folks can’t look at it. It isn’t the application. The DBA can’t fix it. It’s not a database issue. The folks who do restores (an outsourced service provider runs the operations) can’t fix it as they just ‘do the prescribed restores’. The ‘Solution Architects’ are the ones ‘certified’ to make solutions, and they made this one, so it is there baby. Except… They just design new solutions, not fix old ones… So we have opened a full on project, including project numbers and sign offs and all, to “design a new backup / restore process”. Which resulted in another month or two delay as folks needed to horse all the bureaucracy around that is involved in a project. Just to get backup data read in to disk in the new location. (In reality, there are a few more complications involving chip sets, backup formats, and different backup software standards at the two sites, but those are technical not organizational issues.) Organizationally, we have entered a kind of ‘Analysis Paralysis’ based entirely on silo structure of the organization, and certification mandate mania. Nobody can just “go fix it.” This stands out to me as my time in Silicon Valley was dominated by “Just DO IT!” organizations where you just fixed it. My resume includes DBA, networks, routers, applications, operations, hardware installs, sales, support, compiler QA, software production and fulfillment, teaching at the Community College level, and more. In a siloed world, I could never have done 90% of it.
Today, to get “certified” in all the things I can do would cost about $2000 per scrap of ‘turf’, and there are at least a dozen of them. Then it would take another $2000 (average, some are more) per year to ‘maintain the cert’. Also a bunch of CEUs (Continuing Education Units) for each. In short, somewhere between $24,000 and $50,000 per year (depending on just which certs I’d collect – they multiply faster than rabbits…) and then I’d be spending all my time maintaining certs, not working. So I’m slowly being defined out of existence by the Certification Bastille. It is not possible to ‘become me’ in that world. The generalist who learns a new area in a week, and does it very well. The guy who parachutes in to a company and ‘fixes what is broken whatever it is’ even if never seen before.
But what about pools?
So what does this have to do with swimming pools?
The Epiphany Moment came while floating in the resort hot tub. Another ’50 something’ couple was in the spa with us. We were talking about finding jobs. The guy said he got hired ‘same day’ at Disney. (The spouse has been trying to get hired there for 3 months now with ‘no joy’). How? We asked… “They needed a pool guy and I am a Certified Pool And Spa Operator.” They wanted a Cert, and he had it. Yes, a Certified Pool Boy.
Now I learned how to do pool maintenance some time back. On my own. About 3 hours all told. Fixed the Florida Friends pool chemistry and did some ‘shock’ to clean out the green. If you have any grasp of basic chemistry, it’s nearly trivial. BUT, I could not get a job at a large company as “Pool Boy” since I’m not a certified pool boy. The ‘opportunity’ is closed to me, even if I wanted to do it in my retirement years.
We are becoming a nation (world?) where opportunity closes as soon as you get your first certification and where choices, both for the person and for the organizations, are eliminated. You are put on a ‘track’ and forced into a silo; there to remain until you don’t have enough ongoing CEUs to retain your cert. (Then you are deemed no longer competent – for reasons that are a mystery to me… and discarded. There is a catch-22 in the end game. For many certs you must maintain the cert or lose it, and to get the cert again you have to be employed in the field, but you can’t be employed without the cert, so… I’ve looked at a couple where I’m very qualified, but having not worked in that particular area for the last 5 years, can not even apply).
So why the rant?
Simple. Loss of freedom.
The Certification gives some minimal assurance that the person has some clue about the job; but it does not guarantee morality nor competence. Mostly it functions to restrict supply and raise wage rates for those in The Guild. Initially this can be a generally beneficial effect. My Dad sold real estate prior to Real Estate Licensing. He then got his license. He could have grandfathered in to a Brokers license, but didn’t bother. My college roomy did get his. AFTER 4 years of college, a bunch of mandatory additional real estate classes, and a few years working for a Realtor / Broker. He was no better a real estate guy than my Dad. It cost him a lot of time and money to get there. It made the Broker richer. It raised commission costs and helped to assure a closed guild with high costs and lower productivity.
In computing, the Cert Racket is making $Millions for the likes of Micro$oft, Oracle, et. al. At a couple of $Thousand per cert, and several levels of cert, how much can you rake in if ever person working on your product has to pay out $5000 / year to keep their job? (I looked into it, for the cert levels I’d get, it would take about $5k / product to keep up the ‘couple of certs’ each). It keeps the ‘riffraff’ out of the job market for those in the guild, so a DBA doesn’t need to worry that some smart ass Applications guy will offer to do both. But…
In the end, you have highly siloed organizations with nobody who understands the whole picture, who has worked all sides of the issues. The process ossifies. Prices rise greatly. The whole thing starts to freeze up as the BOK does not welcome innovation. And personal freedom is cut short. The spouse has now accepted an offer of being a substitute teacher as they want her and her certs, even though she very much wanted to have change in her life. We are all impoverished, both by higher prices and by fewer choices with less liberty. All in the name of a ‘certainty’ that the certificate does not supply.
If you start looking at the list of certifications and licenses needed for simple things, it will start to curl your hair. Speaking of which, curling hair is one of them. If you want to braid or curl hair, you need a license for that… Sigh. The whole goal being to develop a local monopoly for The Guild in each field. To eliminate choice, and the freedom that goes with it. While racking in cash for government licensing agencies and corporate Certification mills.
Here’s a link for one of the Pool Boy certs I found on a first look:
CPO® certification courses are designed to provide individuals with the basic knowledge, techniques, and skills of pool and spa operations. The Certified Pool/Spa Operator® certification program has delivered more training than any other program in the pool and spa industry since 1972, resulting in more than 375,000 successful CPO® certifications in 93 countries. Many state and local health departments accept the CPO® certification program.
So is this how societies age and ossify? It is at least a part of it…