Reflections on "Hadoop Certification – is it worth it" 18 months later

It has been over a year and half since I took the Cloudera Hadoop Developer Certification course and exam and posted my initial impressions of it on my blog. I have received more comments than I had expected, thank you for reading and sending me comments! There have been a few trends in the comments, some displayed, others kept private. The main ones are:

  1. People really want to get their hands on the Cloudera training materials
  2. People are very eager to get Hadoop jobs
  3. People are trying to transition into Hadoop from different (technical) backgrounds
  4. People want to know if they need to know Java to work with Hadoop
  5. People really want to know if getting a certification in Hadoop will land them a job.

Here is an update to each of these trends:

#1) I cannot share the Cloudera training materials with you, sorry. I wish you the best, but I cannot distribute these materials. They are also pretty old at this point, chances are some of the content is outdated by now. It seems like many of the people asking me for the training materials haven’t picked up any books on the subject at all.  So, please check out the available online resources or pick up some books (Hadoop, the Definitive Guide, comes to mind) .

#2) There is tremendous amount of interest in learning Hadoop (and getting the training materials) in India. If it
is hard to find experienced Hadoop developers in the US right now, I imagine it must be even harder in India (for now, anyway) and there must be many, many job openings right now. I can imagine the outsourcing firms trying to staff up to meet the unmet demand in the US and elsewhere. Almost all the comments and private messages sent to me for training materials were from India. I do not know how much a training course costs in India, but there are plenty of training options, in addition to Cloudera and Hortonworks’ online offerings.

#3) Career switchers (or more accurately, technology-platform-switchers) will need to impress hiring managers with their transferable skill sets and show (not tell) their passion for technology and big data. This is true for any job applicant.

#4) Regarding Java, yes, it is good to know Java to work with Hadoop, but it is not required. You can use other languages, such as python, through the Hadoop Streaming API. To work with big data, python is good language to know anyway (lots of companies are looking with people with linux/python background), so learn python while you are at it (learnpythonthehardway.com). If you know python you will also be able to use Pig to interact with your data. What language you will will be determined by the solution architecture and design. If the company you want to work with has designed a solution with custom coded java map reduce jobs, then you would need to know java. Other places may implement Hadoop Streaming API and use python, so it may be possible to get a job there if you know python.

#5) Having a certification in Hadoop won’t guarantee you a job. Most companies are looking for experienced Hadoop hires, which is hard to do unless they are poaching employees from other Big Data statups or tech firms (Yahoo, Google, etc.). When I interviewed technical job applicants, I was surprised (perhaps I shouldn’t have been) how poorly they interview. So please, please practice your behavioral interviewing skills (“tell me about yourself”, “walk me through your resume”, “tell me about a time you had to solve a difficult problem”, “why do you want this job”, etc.). If someone has 50 certifications and can’t answer these simple questions, I will not consider them for the role. I have heard that some hiring managers consider too many certifications as a cover up for lack of skill (superstar developers don’t bother getting certified / don’t need to be certified). For the rest of us, it can help, but it doesn’t guarantee success. The Cloudera Developer course is a good overview, but for it to be meaningful, you really do need a project to work on. Working on a pet project and being able to share code samples would help set you up for success when interviewing.

As for my own personal experience, I did not get a job working directly with Hadoop following the certification course, but I also was not only considering Hadoop developer roles.  I am now leading a BI implementation project where I interviewed and hired a team of developers and analysts. We are using Pentaho and Vertica (for analytic database) and I have been evangelizing Hadoop and other technologies at my company. I find it humorous when executives say the company needs to do more “big data” or “more Hadoop” without really knowing what it means. The certification course definitely helped me speak more authoritatively about this technology at my company and when networking with others.

Whether or not to take the certification course depends on your individual circumstance. If you are dead-set on getting a job as a Hadoop developer then it may be worth it to you, but make sure to follow up with a personal project to continue learning and practicing. Many people focus on Hadoop, and seem to forget the business applications of using a technology like Hadoop (data science, improved ETL, data processing). Brushing up on those skills and domain knowledge would make you a much more interesting job candidate over all.  Good luck everyone!

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