As a trainer, I often ask participants why they are attending a course. Some are looking to improve their CVs, others have managers who feel they should deepen their knowledge and a few are seeking the theoretical foundation for what they have been practicing for years. Different motivations, but in the end, each student wants to come away with a certificate.
We are not just talking about a handful of keen individuals. According to SwissQ’s Trends and Benchmarks in Software Development 2016, more than 50% of requirements engineers and business analysts in Switzerland have a CPRE Foundation Level certificate. Certification courses are not only recommended for specialists, they are also relevant for people interested and directly involved in projects, such as project managers, product owners and software developers.
The Foundation Level course provides a good overview of the topics involved in requirements engineering and is suitable for establishing a common understanding of the subject matter. Succeeding at the certificate test can be likened to passing the theoretical test for one’s driver’s licence; you are familiar with the basic theory, but without the corresponding practical experience, you are not yet fully qualified. The test itself is no walk in the park and consists of a number of multiple-choice questions of varying levels of difficulty. It is possible to sit the exam without taking a course, but not without intensive preparation. In addition, you will miss out on the chance to meet participants from other industry sectors and with different career backgrounds. During the course, participants (and also the course leader’s) share and discuss practical experiences. Topics can be examined from different viewpoints and you can share the knowledge you already possess with others in the class. But even after attending the course, some self-study will still be required.
The modules of the Advanced Level course build on the information provided in the Foundation Level, going into more detail on individual topics. A prerequisite for the Advanced Level is several years of professional experience in the subject area.
My contribution as a trainer
The role of coach is a welcome, but also demanding change to consulting work. Depending on the class, the group may be comprised of professional co-workers with long-standing professional experience who wish to obtain the certificate. One of the greatest challenges is to get participants actively involved in the course and to make use of the knowledge in the group. In this sense, each course is unique, yet they all aim to successfully prepare the participants for the certificate examination.
It is also important to point out the difference between theory and practice. Each company has a different context and degree of maturity and uses different terms and procedures. Returning to the driving test analogy: the theory is the same for everyone, but in practice, how one drives must be adapted the environment. The way you navigate a mountain pass is not the same as how you drive through downtown Zurich.
Do I need a certificate?
Whether or not a certificate proves that you are familiar with a subject area is a matter of debate. It is indeed possible – at least at the foundation level – to achieve certification through intense memorization of the materials. The courses provide participants with a variety of methods and techniques for their toolkits. Ultimately, how much one benefits from the course depends on the individual participant making the link to practice, i.e., picking the appropriate tool for their particular situation. And yes, it never hurts to add a certificate to your CV.
More info can be found at Swissq Academy