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'Propeller Heads' Get New IT Professional Status

Industry consortium Open Group will unveil a new program to provide vendor-neutral professional certifications to IT experts who have depth of skills and experience in particular technical areas.

IT specialist is a fuzzy sort of title and job category. But early next year, a new professional certification will help better define what it means to be an IT specialist.

This week industry consortium Open Group will unveil a new program that will launch in early 2008 to provide vendor-neutral professional certifications to IT experts who have depth of skills and experience in particular technical areas. Those could include IT specialists with expertise in areas such as networking, business analysis, and a host of other, well, specialities.

"The specialist is often the geek, the nerd, or propeller head," Phil Stauskas, worldwide IT specialist profession executive and distinguished engineer at IBM, which is a member company of Open Group, said in an interview. "This is a professional certification" for those experts, he said. "We're not testing the speed of the propeller." However, the certification does validate the well-roundedness of the individual, including the understanding of technology, application of those skills, and professionalism.

Unlike most other IT certifications, which involve candidates passing exams, the Open Group IT Specialist Certification process focuses on "holistic assessment" by peers, said James de Raeve, VP of certification for the Open Group, in an interview.

The certification assessment process will include three one-on-one interviews by other experts who will drill down on the level of skills and experience an individual has in the particular specialty. Among those traits assessed are an individual's client-facing skills.

Assembling the application package for certification is about 40 hours worth of work, de Raeve said.

The certification fee will be about $1,250, he said. Open Group will provide direct certifications to individuals as well as provide accreditation to third-parties who can offer the certification. Also, some Open Group member companies like IBM and EDS also will offer the certification to their employees, although the certification isn't tied to any one vendor's technology or products.

The certification is "portable" to other employers, said Chris Moyer, chief technology officer for EDS Europe, the Middle East and Africa, in an interview. "It's a good career opportunity."

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