Which are today’s most valuable certifications for IT architects?

According to the latest report of Robert Half International Inc, organizations prefer to hire certified professionals, especially those who have college degrees and real-world experience to go along with them. The report also shows that professionals who dedicate time and effort to obtain credentials can expect larger salaries and quicker movement up the career ladder. It was nice to read that candidates with up-to-date knowledge, and IT certifications quickly help them to prove their mastery in a particular technology or practice — from help desk basics (i.e., Microsoft 365 – aka. Office – or Google Suite) to mastery of complex cloud environments. You can download the 2021 Robert Half Technology Salary Guide and Hiring Trends here.  

Candidates with up-to-date knowledge, and IT certifications quickly help them to prove their mastery in a particular technology or practice 

In my perspective, experienced professionals with certifications also have a healthy self-confidence about their skills and abilities. Still, are you not convinced yet? Then, here is another data point: 95% of IT decision-makers believe that certification adds value to an organization based on a report from Global Knowledge. 

95% of IT decision-makers believe that certification adds value to an organization 

Since I recently got the Distinguished Architect Certification (CITA-D) from Iasa Global, I want to share with you why I believe CITA-D is today’s most valuable certification for practitioners of the technology architecture profession. 

Who is Iasa Global?  

Established in 2002, Iasa Global (“IASA”) is a non-profit association and a worldwide community managed by technology architects for technology architects. IASA is focused on the architecture profession through the advancement of best practices and education while delivering programs and services to technology architects at all levels across the globe. 

The association is committed to improving the quality of the technology architecture industry by developing and delivering standards, education programs, and accreditation programs. Today, IASA reaches over 80,000 architects located in over 50 countries.  

Why IASA’s Certifications? 

IASA’s Certifications are completely technology provider-independent, designed by a diverse team of IT Senior Architects and conducted only by practicing technology architects. Their goal is to help us to assess, develop, and validate the skills, competencies, and experiences as technology architects.  

Based on their continuous research, IASA indicates that any architect to succeed in the real world must develop five foundational pillars: 

  1. Business Technology Strategy. The skills required for an architect to identify, design, plan, and support a technology environment that provides the basis of competitive advantage for an organization. 
  2. IT Environment. The skills in the functional and procedural aspects of technology organization to ascertain solution and organizational maturity. It is about an organization run things (maintenance, support, & government) and how new digital capabilities are created — nowadays, using cloud platforms such as Microsoft Azure. 
  3. Quality Attributes. It represents a cross-cutting architectural concern for a system of record, a system of engagement, or a system of intelligence. Examples of a quality attribute are reliability, performance, scalability, and availability. As you can see, these attributes should be measurable, monitored, and be practical to meet the purpose of the system. 
  4. Design Skills. These skills are crucial to deliver an architecture strategy and a system/solution to the business. To design we leverage proven methodologies, techniques, tools, and design artifacts such as patterns, styles, views, and viewpoints. 
  5. Human Dynamics encompasses the skills associated with managing and influencing people and their interrelationships in the context of an IT project or environment. Examples of attributes in this pillar include transforming the organization culture, solving conflicts, leading people, and presentation/writing skills. 

An excellent way to start is using the online self-assessment to help you to determine where you are in your career and to determine which resources and recommendations are most beneficial for you. 

The mentioned online assessment and a 129 pages eBook with an introduction to the IASA’s five pillars are complementary with the IASA’s full membership. You can find all the benefits here (including free or discounted online training modules). 

IASA provides four levels of certification which describe the major milestones in an architect’s career. Again, their certification program is designed to level-set architects based on a combination of criteria including education, experience and test-based examination of professional knowledge of architectural skills and management. 

  1. IASA CITA-Foundation (CITA-F): focused on the knowledge of the IT Architect in the five foundational pillars, candidates are evaluated via an onsite or virtual exam. 
  2. IASA CITA-Associate (CITA-A): Three days of an advanced training plus an online exam targeting professionals in one specialization. There are several categories available (Solution Architect, Infrastructure Architect, Software Architect, and Information Architect). 
  3. IASA CITA-Professional (CITA-P): Board review targeting professionals with 5-9 years of experience as a Technology Architect. 
  4. IASA CITA-Distinguished (CITA-D): Board review targeting professionals with 10 years of experience as an IT Architect. Usually, Chief Architects, Architect Managers or Chief Technology Officers (CTO). 

As an example, the IASA CITA-Distinguished certification is awarded to the leading Technology Architects after passing a set of interviews by a Board of Peers — usually, four professionals already certified in CITA-P or CITA-D. The board reviews the candidate’s breadth of architecture and industry experience. This method of certification has historically been the only successful process for professionalization, as can be documented by other professions such as Doctors and Building Architects. That is what makes IASA Certifications so valuable. 

Here are the pre-requisites for this certification: 

  • A minimum of ten years in the industry as a practicing architect 
  • A record of accomplishment of industry and enterprise-level contribution to architecture 
  • Completion of the CITA-D documentation set 
  • Completion of the recommended coaching sessions 
  • CITA-Professional level certification [recommended] 

More information is available in IASA website under the section “Training and Certifications“. 

What about Technology Provider’s Certifications? 

Technology Providers such as Microsoft, Cisco, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Oracle, and Salesforce offers a great and extensive selection of certifications covering a range of subjects based on their products, services and platforms. These certifications can help us to demonstrate our knowledge and skills to our employers and colleagues. 

Let me focus for a moment on Microsoft Certifications which are certifications based on industry-defined roles and on the skills needed to perform those roles. All the educational resources for certification at Microsoft Learn are aligned to these roles. Microsoft is the only technology provider offering role-based certifications. It demonstrates that we are proficient in the specific, real-world skills associated with recognized industry roles. It verifies that we know how to apply technical knowledge leveraging Microsoft technologies to solve today’s business challenges. And it helps us to keep up with industry changes, because the training is always being updated and new certifications are being added all the time. As an example, in my previous article “Accelerating Digital Transformation with Data & AI” you can find the learning paths based on the personas participating across all parts of the Data Supply Chain. 

If you work with Cisco related infrastructure products, you may want to explore getting certify in CCNA or CCNP to show that you are versed in the latest developments and best practices in networking. 

Technology Provider based Certifications are crucial for all IT architects to demonstrate our level of specialization in our areas of interest 

Let us face it, Technology Provider based Certifications are crucial for all IT architects to demonstrate our level of specialization in our areas of interest.  

In my case, I have been investing time part on Microsoft Cloud related certifications because is important for my career, and my customers expect a master level as a Microsoft employee.