A controversial firm that "rents out" the services of engineers and technicians certified for platforms including Cisco and Microsoft is defending itself against charges it is helping unqualified VARs game the system, saying it provides options for companies looking to bulk up on talented staff in key situations.
"Rent a Cert," which provides what it says is "the most inexpensive way to add certified individuals to your team to obtain partner status and your customers' connfidence," says it scans and pre-screens job candidates who are have certified status. It suggests solution providers can sign them up them to meet vendor qualifications for contracts and program status.
But Susan Underhill, Hewlett-Packard's vice president of global certification and partner education, lashes out at Rent a Cert in an item on her corporate blog.
"Needless to say, I'm very troubled by the concept of Rent A Cert," Underhill wrote, in an item that appeared Thursday. "The net result is that a VAR claims to have expertise on staff when, in fact, it doesn't. Who gets cheated? Certainly Cisco and Microsoft do, but more than anyone, the end customer suffers the repercussions. A customer selects a 'Gold status' or 'Silver status' value-added reseller to work with because he believes that VAR has the requisite knowledge and skills to deliver a desired outcome. Presenting rented credentials to attain the Gold or Silver status is the same as intentionally misrepresenting your qualifications to do a job."
Rent a Cert, on its web site, says it provides certified professionals for work in "New York, the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Boston (and) Miami," and says it will be expanding to other areas. The company says it provides customers with four easy steps to meeting the need to list qualified professionals on its staff:
"1. You place a request for the specific certifications you need to have associated with your company.
"2. Rent A Cert goes through its database of hundreds of certified professionals to find people with the credentials you desire.
"3. Your company is matched with the certified professional and you are billed a flat, low monthly fee.
"4. If at any time the certified professional leaves your company, we will work to find you an immediate replacement, long before your partner status is reviewed."
Underhill said she wasn't impressed.
"As you can imagine, there are a lot of people who are plenty upset about this 'business model' and the damage it does to the value of real certification and honest partnership," she wrote. "And worse, what about the customer who thinks they're dealing with certified technically competent IT professionals?"
For now, Rent a Cert is a faceless, largely nameless organization. The company has a web site that provides only a general email box for contact information. An email sent to Rent a Cert, asking for response to Underhill's comments resulted in an email from "Jon C.," who listed himself as executive director of Rent a Cert but who declined to provide his last name even when asked. The firm's web site is listed as registered to New York-based company 12 Inches Around Corp.
"We appreciate Ms. Underhill's concerns and feedback," Jon C. wrote in his email response. "Our goal isn't to lower the value of certifications or the salaries of those holding them. We're IT guys too, and being recognized for the credentials we've worked for is important to us. That said, we hope that the effect of adding direct monetary compensation to being certified will be that the certifications are even more valuable as a result. Certainly, we feel that it will be a great incentive for those that have been in the field but never took the time to get certified to study and fill in the gaps, and then get the credentials."
For vendors and VARs, much could be at stake.
According to the newly published CMP Channel Salary Calculator, a solution provider could expect to pay a member of a technical, engineering or consulting staff, with two vendor-specific certifications a base salary of $73,233 with overall compensation at $84,717. On its web site, Rent a Cert doesn't say how much vendors could expect to compensate certified professionals hired through its service, or what its fee is.
"Rent A Cert offers a couple of options for vendors looking to add certified staff -- our rental program, and our more traditional recruitment program," Jon C. wrote. "Companies can work within their agreements with the vendors they partner with and staff their company accordingly. While Ms. Underhill notes that she believes that through Rent A Cert's program, '[i]n most cases, the certified professionals don't actually go to work for the VARs,' we're not sure how she's come to that conclusion. After all, if your company was renting the certification of, for example, a CCVP, and then the company landed a client that required VoIP setup, I'd bet the first person the company would call would be the one already on staff."