What's a Professional Certification Worth?
July 10, 2008 12:01 AM   Subscribe

Is someone with approximately one year of college and an Adobe ACE cert in Flash CS3 employable?

And when I say employable, I don't mean flipping hamburgers. I mean as a Flash or ActionScript designer/developer.
posted by sluglicker to Work & Money (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
if you have an awesome portfolio—and i do mean mindblowingly awesome, not just not one that shows that hey! i know how to do stuff out of a textbook!—there are companies that will take a chance on you, but you're not likely to get in the door anyplace big enough to have an hr department. certs don't mean a thing unless you have work to back them up, and a lone year of college will give people pause.
posted by lia at 12:11 AM on July 10, 2008

What you need isn't a degree. A degree in "multimedia design" doesn't mean anything to me, or any other serious creative house. What you need is experience, a body of work that's pretty damn nice and a passion that you demonstrate by building things just for fun, researching what's new and edgy, and clearly taking the initiative to learn on your own and continue to do so.

We hire people almost entirely based on what we perceive are their ability to learn and absorb new concepts and even more importantly, their passion towards doing so. You have to live, eat and breathe this stuff. You have to work hard to stay a step ahead of the crowd. And you run into a lot of issues that you have to be willing to work through to solve.

You shouldn't be *just* a "Flash developer." You need to be an expert at HTML. You should know CSS. You should kill in Illustrator and Photoshop. And you need to understand the underlying technologies behind it. Make yourself marketable. Become awesome at JavaScript—ActionScript is based on it so they're very similar in syntax and structure, except that you're referencing the DOM instead of a stage.

Become awesome at other things. Read lots. Learn more. Keep learning. Try new things. Build projects. And keep going.

If you're *truly* passionate about this, you'll show it through your personal projects, your portfolio and your zeal to learn more. The single year of college is fine if you prove you're otherwise completely insane about learning this stuff.

So get going.

Some blogs to get you started:

HTMList.com (Self-link; run by my web-dev company.)
Six Revisions (Good web developer chatter.)
SpoonGraphics Blog
Vandelay Web Design Blog

Et cetera. You gotta drink this stuff up.
posted by disillusioned at 12:35 AM on July 10, 2008 [8 favorites]

An Adobe cert only shows you know how to use the package and took the trouble to get certified. For a novice, it's vital to show you've built something and have the enthusiasm and talent to learn more. For someone with experience, that experience and their portfolio should make any qualifications largely irrelevant when dealing with employers that have any sense.

So someone with approximately one year of college and an Adobe ACE cert in Flash CS3 may or may not be employable; it depends upon their other attributes.
posted by malevolent at 1:44 AM on July 10, 2008

Seconding disillusioned and malevolent, but don't be discouraged.

I've been a Flash/Actionscript developer since 2000. Admittedly I have no certificates from Adobe/Macromedia, but I've been there since Flash 3.

I've worked on Flash sites for all kinds of clients from Warner Music to Citibank. My last job title (before I went freelance) was 'Flash Developer'...

...yet I would have been far less employable without usable skills in HTML, Javascript, CSS, PHP, SQL, Photoshop and so on. Most Flash developers working for web or marketing agencies are all-rounders who just happen to be able to do amazing things with Flash. You need to be able to use Flash in context (for example, to be able to construct a Flash front-end with a supporting back-end system) if you want to be highly desirable as an employee.

A portfolio of work, both Flash and non-Flash, is a definite asset, although that can be hard to develop without a current job in the field; but you could put together a 'lab' of Flash experiments and demo pieces if you have some free time - that would certainly go some way towards convincing an employer that you can do the job. My first job offer in Flash development came when I got an out-of-the-blue email from someone who'd seen a small tutorial site I used to run. That may be another path worth considering.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:13 AM on July 10, 2008

Thanks, all. I was very discouraged, actually. Then around 5 pm (EST) today, I got an email from a guy in San Francisco who had seen this thread. He wanted to know if I was interested in interviewing for a position.

le morte de bea arthur , I like your 'lab' suggestion. May I email you with further details and get your advice?
posted by sluglicker at 7:20 PM on July 10, 2008

Just to give some perspective, in case anyone else is interested in this, here is the reply to my email to the guy who offered me an interview:

This is the advice I can give you: We interview a lot of "flash developers" how are more or less good designers and more or less good coders. They usually don't make it. We prefer to hire very good designers and help them get up to speed with basic flash stuff, mostly working on the timeline and optimizing graphics for size and speed. And we like to hire good programmers, even if they are not super experienced in actionscript. Pick a side.

Another important consideration; if you want to be productive, you must be able to work in a team with designers, web programmers, database people, etc. you must be able to understand what they do and be able to communicate with them. You must also be as good at debugging as you are at writing code. Get familiar with a source control package (SVN is what we use here), some database basics (mySQL is free and easy to get started with), command line environments (bash is a popular shell, you must learn to use vi or emacs, to do ssh, ftp, etc.. from the command line, basic stuff like grep, regexes, etc...), learn some server side stuff (PHP is popular, learning Python is really good). All this sounded scary to me at the beginning, I am not an engineer, but it took me about 3 months to become competent enough to work with a team of pros. (On re-reading your email, I see you already do some of this stuff, you would be surprised at how many candidates we interview who have no idea that this exists)

A cheap, easy and interesting way to learn all this is to get hosting with a provider that gives you a shell (I use nearlyfreespeech, do everything command line from my mac's terminal), and set up a website that has a flash front end, some server side processing, flash-javascript communication, etc... Everyone I know in the business would rather hire someone with less years of experience and a smaller portfolio if they are familiar with this stuff. Experiment a lot, find interesting classes in the actionscript documentation and play with them.

And finally, the best way to learn is to read good programmers code. In the actionscript side, I recommend you check out stuff by sephirot, kirupa, mook, davies, and the actionscript libraries released by google.

Hope this helps.

BTW, Adobe certifications are worth the paper they are printed on if you don't go out there and do some experiments.
posted by sluglicker at 9:53 PM on July 10, 2008

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