This post is going to piss some people off, if they read it. I love the infosec community as a general statement, but there are things that get under my skin. I understand people have opinions and thoughts, but sometimes the “rockstars” can go too far.
Dan Tentler, @viss on twitter, recently went off on certifications and using the letters after your name. If someone who is respected wants to go ahead and unfollow people and not communicate with them because they put CISSP or GCIH or OSCP after their name that is his prerogative. Slamming people for wanting to show off their hard work, especially on a more professional social media platform like LinkedIn, that is something that bugs the hell out of me. Other professions, say Doctor, Lawyer, Professor, will put those letters that they worked hard for after their name, and rightfully so, without anyone shaming them for it. Why should our profession be any different?
I know that there is a lot of controversy about certifications. I know some like the CISSP might not be thought of highly inside our profession. Still we have a lot of us who have not only gotten these certifications, but actively work to keep them through CPEs. Some certifications are thought of as mills due to them just being about memorization, yet those same things that are supposed to be memorized are, in a lot of cases, the foundations of understanding security. They are not the be all end all, but are an important building block.
The next thing about using the certification letters after your name, it allows people to see you accomplished something. Looking at the ISC(2) site as of January 1, 2018, in a world of a few billion people, there are 122,322 CISSPs (based on ISC(2) showing how many members have that certification). Over half of those are in the U.S. (79,617). Now you put it in different spots on LinkedIn and it becomes easier for recruiters to find you. It also shows you had the initiative to get training, and see it through to completion. That is big in the world of HR, especially considering how many of us do not have college degrees or degrees in something other than IT. Even then, we still posh people who have not come up through the ranks at times, but I digress. The point is that a certification can differentiate one from others, give them a leg up on getting a job.
Final point for this rant is personal vindication. The amount of times I hear/see people, including myself, talk about imposter syndrome. The amount of low self esteem in our industry is amazing. Working hard to get a certification, any of them, is something the individual should be proud of. Recently, not only I, but a few others I know of have gotten or are studying for the CISSP exam. Two of us passed and both had the same thing, we were exhausted after the exam. The four of us have been averaging 3-6 months of studying for the exam. That is a lot of work and effort for a “mill” exam. The people I know who have been working on and getting their SANs cert take the class and then take another month or two at least before taking the exam (I have seen 6 months sometimes) and those are open book exams. Why should we be ashamed of showing we worked hard to achieve something? We should be proud of it, and not afraid to show it.
Yes there are people out there who should not have X certification and have it anyways. There are people who should not be Doctors, Lawyers, Nurses and more who have passed the requirements an are one. You should evaluate each individual on their own merits, not shove them or praise them just because of the letters they have earned that are after their name. We say we need more people in our field, we talk about mentoring, but when we turn around and then decide that we look down on people who have a certification, we defeat our purpose.