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Thread: Career advice

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2010

    Career advice

    I am needing some professional career advice.

    First, my background: I have many years of self-taught experience with developing and managing databases (starting with dBaseIII+ in early '80's and into SQL Server 2005), but I do not have a technical degree. Furthermore, my experience has been in libraries and research, not in business or formal IT departments. However, I believe data modeling is where my passion lies and I am at a point where I need to decide how best to get there. I have been pursuing advanced degrees in public health, but I have lost interest, largely because I do not see a future for me in research and there isn't much in informatics where I live (it's not in Atlanta, DC or a state capital). I currently work as a statistician for a clinical trial, but my position is being reduced to 50% in the next few months, so now is the time to make the change.

    My current skills are creating & maintaining moderately large databases using SQL Server 2005 and MS Access. I also have experience using XML to integrate data from multiple resources. In creating the databases and the programs to interface with them, I have used UML to model data and processes. I have used Visio to graphically represent the models, but I don't have experience with formal data modeling tools (e.g. Erwin). I have developed and written specs & requirements based on user-driven application development. I have programmed interfaces in ColdFusion and VBA (for Access interfaces).

    My career goal is data modeling - I really enjoyed evaluating systems and processes, breaking down their data elements, defining the data, and creating or implementing new systems. My library experience & education provided me with the foundations of metadata (that is what a catalog is, anyhow).

    My constraints are time - I need to find a job within 2-3 months and I am tired of going to school, so I'd rather pursue online or self-learning options - and money: I can get my tuition deferred at public schools, but not private, and I don't have a lot of money to invest.

    I am considering a technical certificate program to bolster my resume. First, would a certificate (versus another masters degree) help my resume be considered more seriously? I am considering a certificate in health care informatics.

    Second, would it matter the level or institution? I'm also considering the local community college's DBA certificate program. What about the commercial technical schools (e.g. Devry/Keller, Phoenix, etc.)? State schools just are not offering much in online certificate programs.

    Third, should I pursue technical certification (e.g. MSITP)?

    Finally, my experience has been in Microsoft products, but I'm wondering if Oracle would provide more options in the future?

    I know many people won't have a lot of time to invest in responding to this post - all I really need to know is your opinions on certification and graduate certificate programs.

    Karen Harker

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    In front of the computer
    keep in mind that you've asked for our opinions, and I'm offering mine. It is an opinion, and we all know the jokes about opinions.

    A certificate is a great tool for getting past the "flappers" that filter resumes and applications. For the folks that simply look to see if a particular string of letters is in the document in front of them, certifications are very important. This means that a certificate is part of the "cost of entry" into organizations where you have to clear "HR" before you're considered by the decision makers.

    Relying upon the certificate as evidence that you're qualified will cause the decision makers to ignore you whether they have "flappers" or not. The decision makers tend to have hysterically funny stories about applicants that are certifiable or certifiied but also absolutely worthless in practical terms.

    It sounds to me like you've already got some great practical experience. I'd recommend that you follow that up with some flavor of degree or certification to help you get past the flappers, but I wouldn't lose any sleep over getting it. For your purposes any degree or certification will do, a local community college and MIT aren't significantly different to flappers and the difference between them probably won't matter a lot to the decision makers because they'll rely on their own opinion.

    In theory, theory and practice are identical. In practice, theory and practice are unrelated.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    How many years of experience do you have? Can you actually write the SQL and T-SQL code? I have 8 years SQL Development experience, I used to be a recruiter back in 2000-2002, and also went to DeVry as a coincidence. I am w/ Pat, the servers don't give a damn where you learned your technical skills so unless you really want a Computer Science Degree which will take you a lot longer than a couple of months so I don't believe it matters where you go either. I completed my degree in CIS but I didn't have experience that you have. I think your focus should be on getting that first job close to the Data Modeling title you seek then try to merge into it. I asked about your SQL coding ability bec that may be one avenue. It sounds like you are more of a functional person though. I only know of one person who has gotten to Architect w/o really being an in depth SQL coding person so it can be done, darn hard to do though. I would consider titles such as Business Analyst, Systems Analyst and even Project Manager if I understand you correctly. I would try that angle as Business Analysts do process modeling and perhaps you can tie in w/ the database people and offer to dive into any data modeling they may have. I passed two of the Oracle cert exams and never finished but it was a valuable divit on my resume going through DeVry. I wanted to separate myself from the other students and establish a "floor" for my skills. I was in a different situation though going through school and having the time to self study and ramp up gradually. I even used to take my Oracle books w/ me to birthday parties and hide for awhile until my wife finally hunted me down. One thing it does do imo is that if all things are equal it gives the hiring manager/recruiter something to cover themselves with, ie "Well she did pass a couple of exams where the others didn't" fwiw. MS exams appear to be more difficult to me. They seem to be more comprehensive but maybe it's just me. I would only take them if you have the passion to do so but I would be much more focused on contacting local recruiters w/ your latest resume. Also I would post all over the place, Dice, Monster, CareerBuilder, Craigslist and remember to update frequently as the latest updated resumes get viewed first. Also I would tie into your local SQL Server User groups if there are any in your area. I don't see the advantage for you to switch to Oracle as opposed to SQL Server. I always loved Oracle and I do believe their guys still get paid more but SQL Server is so prevalent out there.

    Good luck


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