Perl Certification

I have been asked to speak on a Perl Certification panel at OSCON this year. I have just spent the last couple of hours reading through various mailing lists that discuss this topic. It’s scary. There seems to be a huge outcry against the concept of certification.

I have been involved with interviewing Perl programmers when I didn’t know any Perl at all. Obviously I didn’t run the interviews by myself, I had a technical expert to help me, but it still wasn’t easy. Perl has so many different applications and no two people I interviewed at that time had the same sort of experience. This was strange to me. I had been an Ingres/Oracle programmer and I knew exactly the sort of questions you would ask to determine how experienced a person was in something like PL/SQL. But in Perl I was lost. And to confuse me even more there didn’t seem to be any standard type of education for Perl programmers. In fact, I came to the conclusion that most people were in Perl because they had managed to hack together a few scripts and thought that this made them a programmer. It’s not a language that any of the local universities recognised and I was stumped. In the end we came to the conclusion that we would have been better off employing programmers experienced in other languages and then teaching them Perl ourselves.

A few years later and I know that there are lots of really good Perl programmers out there and that it is a really worthwhile language to be skilled at. However, I also know that lots of companies are moving away from Perl because they can’t get skilled staff and don’t know where to look. Some have a body of unmaintable Perl code that they have decided to re-write.

Believe it or not there are loads of companies out there that don’t know that there is a Perl community. They have never heard of The Perl Foundation or YAPC or CPAN. I attend quite a few events in the local business community and I haven’t yet met a person who has heard of the O’Reilly Open Source Conference or even the Perl programming language.

I believe that Perl is the best language for some projects. I don’t know what we have to do to get the word out but maybe certification could help. And yes I know that lots of certifications are really bad but this doesn’t mean that they have to be that way.