The LPR Program is going to change everything!

Date November 7, 2013

Last night, I got to present a really great new program at the town hall meeting at LISA13. It's called the LOPSA Professional Recognition Program, or LPR, and there's nothing like it in the world. 

Here's the deal: You and I are both system administrators, and I'm willing to bet you're a relatively decent one, at that. One of the reasons we're good at being administrators is because we try to improve ourselves, so we take efforts to learn and we're interested in the community around us.

But we both probably know some people who have a job similar to ours, but who don't take the effort to get better at it, and who just basically show up to punch a time clock. Because we're IT admins, we know the difference - we can tell the ones who care from the ones who don't. But if you aren't in the industry, it's much harder to tell. 

Photo by LOPSA member Will Dennis

(photo by LOPSA member Will Dennis)

That's why LOPSA is launching the LPR program. We're drawing the line in the sand by establishing the first set of professional standards of practice in the industry. Here is the set of requirements for 2014: 

  • Must agree to abide by the LOPSA Code of Ethics
  • Must have at least 640 hours of professional practice in 2013
  • Must be a member in good standing of LOPSA
  • Must either:

    • Have 20 hours of structured training (such a a tutorial, course, class, or otherwise) 
    • or, as an autodidact, write a short essay on what the individual has done over the previous year to learn and improve themselves, and list the online communities that they're involved in

We are aware that there are many ways that individuals work to improve themselves, and we're covering all of the bases. Not everyone can come to conferences and take part in training, so we created the "autodidact" tract, which allows for more people to take part. 

Because our industry changes rapidly, this program will need to change along with it. For that reason, each year, the LPR committee will re-evaluate the standards and examine how the industry has changed, and will take into account changes in the requirements to practice in other professional fields, as well. 

The cost to apply is $20, although because this is the first launch, we're cutting that in half, to $10. This will get you a nice certificate to hang at your desk or in your office. 

This program is going to be amazing. I'm excited to see it grow, and in a couple of years, it's going to really gain traction and cause a change in our industry. I'm hapy to be a part of it, and I hope you will be too. 

Read more about it at the LPR page, and sign up! 

  • Derek Balling

    "Because we're IT admins, we know the difference - we can tell the ones who care from the ones who don't."

    Q: How does this program resolve that dilemma?
    A: It doesn't.

    As we discussed last night, you present the problem as being one of "only we can actually recognize a professional", but then use a set of criteria which -- literally -- anyone could demand from a new-hire-candidate to be able to so recognize someone.

    What this program needs -- both to be a solution to the problem you present and to actually have value to employers (and thus to LOPSA members) -- is a vouching system of some sort, where people who established as professionals vouch that "I have worked with Matt Simmons, and I believe him to be a professional".

    There are certainly challenges to implementing such a hurdle, but without that hurdle, the "mark" of LPR has -- at best -- zero value to employers (and thus to LOPSA members) and -- at worst -- negative value (let us point to some certifications, for example, where if we see it on a resume you think to yourself, "If you wasted your time getting that, you clearly don't understand how things actually work in business", and it counts as a mark against the candidate).

    And with the LOPSA brand relatively new and unrecognized, devaluing the "LOPSA Professional Recognition" mark has a ripple-effect of devaluing the "LOPSA" brand as well.

    Because -- with your proposed model -- Joe Clockwatcher who doesn't **really** know much, and who acts unprofessionally at work (bad practices, bad methodologies), and unethically at work (reads his boss' e-mail, digs for dirt on co-workers), can go to the web site, assert that they are "ethical", point out that they took a couple training classes (which may or may not have actually sunk in enough to impact their work-product), and BICKETY-BAM!, they are "LOPSA Recognized Professionals".

    We discussed a number of ways last night to both bootstrap and maintain a vouching system, such I describe above, to actually give this program some real value. I *implore* you to not collect a single dollar from anyone until you've updated the program to include such changes. They are necessary and vital to both the success of the program and the protection of the LOPSA brand from being tarnished.

  • http://www.openxtra.co.uk/blog/ Jack Hughes

    Not sure about first. The British Computer Society runs a program of peer reviiew of competence and has run a chartered engineer program for many years. It has a CPD portal so that you can state your educational goals and record your progress.

  • http://musingsysadmin.com Steve Scott

    Hi Derek,

    Is it going to be perfect from the get go? Probably not, but they're getting the ball rolling and can tweak it from there. If they were going to try for perfection right from the start the program would never get off the discussion table.
    It is certainly a step in the right direction and exciting to see the announcement. I'll certainly be watching how the program evolves.

    Steve

  • Derek Balling

    Steve: You could have what I'm describing from the get go, trivially. And (in so doing) not have a NEGATIVELY valued offering as opposed to a positive one.

    Because - as an employer who is currently hiring like mad - the program as described would be a negative mark on a resume for me.

  • http://www.standalone-sysadmin.com Matt Simmons

    Derek,

    Like I said last night, I really do appreciate how enthused you are about making this program work. I'm glad that you are very interested in improving it.

    Like I said during the meeting, and in person last night after, this program is designed to change and grow. An LPR recognition isn't for life - it's for a year. And if the LPR Committee decides to implement vouching (and I can assure you that we'll heavily discuss it - I'm only the chair, I don't make the decisions), there will be no problem whatsoever in implementing that.

    But the rules for each year are determined by a committee, and I can't unilaterally decide. But we'll talk and consider what you say. And again, thanks very much for caring about this program.

    --Matt

  • Derek Balling

    As I said on Facebook as well: hiring managers who research it next month when it shows up on resumes aren't going to miraculously know two years from now that it suddenly has some positive value. They're going to associate it with whatever its value was the day they looked it up when it showed up on a resume.

    And if that memory is "useless mark with no barrier to entry so it must be someone padding their resume", then we've had the opposite effect of our intent.

  • John

    Would have preferred something other than "LPR". Google search? Can't say I've used the UNIX lpr command in a long time. Is printing that important anymore in Linux/UNIX?

  • John

    By the way, just thought I'd mention I've been following both LISA'13 and OpenStack Summit 2013 (happening at the same time) closely. Lot more tweets, blog updates, and plenty of freely available content such as presentations, slides, and videos available for OpenStack than LISA. Also better opportunities in China or w/ Chinese companies. Heck, no wonder Edward S. wanted to stay in Hong Kong instead of Russia!

  • http://darksim905.com Shawn Sheikhzadeh

    I'm with Derek, (sorry Matt!) this really needs to be thought through a lot more. We need much more recognition to the point where employers recognize LOPSA & know what it stands for. We have a lot more work to do on that front before we can even considering putting what little weight we have behind something such as LPR.

  • http://darksim905.com Shawn Sheikhzadeh

    Since I can't edit my previous comment, I'll post this here. I spoke to Matt about it & have a better perspective & understand what he's getting at. I'd suggest if anyone else has a legitimate concern to voice them with Matt directly so he is aware of what other people think, especially what someone who isn't part of LOPSA might think. I'll sign up, as I think this will be extremely helpful in the long run.

  • Will Dennis

    If LOPSA (the League of *Professional* Systems Administrators) can't define what constitutes a professional and recognize that, then it should just fold its tent and go home. I actually agree, the program [eventually] needs some teeth, but in talking with Matt, he convinced me that there's a bootstrap problem in that if no sysad's apply for the program because it's too hard to get accepted into, then there's no pool of recognized professionals to offer to employers as superior to "the random applicant off the street", then the employers won't care about the mark, and then the program will never get off the ground and may as well not exist. The current almost non-existent bar for consideration can be tightened up over time (and yes, definitely should be.) We will see if it takes off or not, but at least LOPSA is trying something new these days to gain relevancy… and I for one am glad.

  • Derek Balling

    Will:

    And if hiring managers' first exposure to it is as a trivially simple "mark" to put on their resume, it'll have "zero or lower" value, and there'll be no point to it.

    It HAS to have *SOME* teeth for hiring managers to give it any credence at all. The LOPSA name simply doesn't have enough recognition and respect that that alone will make it worthy of their attention. When they see it on resumes, hiring managers WILL investigate, WILL see that their mother could take a couple classes and be certified as a "professional sysadmin" and they will dismiss it out of hand forever (because they're not going to get a memo when it suddenly has teeth in Year Three, or whatever).

    It will actually HARM the LOPSA brand to be associated with this in its current form, not help it.

  • Will Dennis

    Hi Derek,

    Honestly, that was my first thought too when I heard about the requirements... But Matt convinced me that the idea was to have an initial low bar, get applicants interested, and then ratchet the qual's up over time (made sense to me.) Can you detail what "teeth" it should have to convince hiring managers that it's not just a throwaway designation? (Please note that this currently must be something that a small pool of volunteers could manage in a limited amount of time [say, 1-5 hrs a week] since that's who is initially managing the program.) Thanks for your thoughts on this.

  • Derek Balling

    What I described earlier in my first comment is a "vouching" system. LOPSA can pre-seed a certain number of folks and just GIVE them the LPR mark (let's call it, board members, board alumni, folks well respected and documented as being what we would call "professional").

    Then you create a points system for getting your mark. An example I submitted to the board was that you might need to get "10" vouching points. An LPR mark-holder was worth 5 points, any other current/former co-worker was worth 3. If you wanted to apply you have to put a little legwork in and get people who know you to vouch that you DO act professionally, that you DO abide by the code of ethics, etc.

    The LPR members' vouches are given more weight for obvious reasons. Your non-LPR co-workers may not fully understand what it means to be professional, but if there's more of them willing to vouch for you, that says something about "you".

    The real burden of the work is put on the applicant to go get the vouches and submit them. It's just a matter of the volunteers reading them (and, let's be clear, right, there's probably quite a bit of speed-reading involved in something like this), and that shouldn't take a lot of time. These aren't lengthy opinion papers or deep technical submissions. They're a paragraph or so (in the case of non-LPR vouches) describing the candidate's professionalism or potentially just a binary "pass" value for LPR-vouches.

    Now you've got something where "to get into the club" as it were, other folks have to have asserted your professionalism. That's a HUGE difference in value to a hiring manager. That's a positive value instead of a negative one.

    Yes, it'll be some work on the part of the initial batch of "seeded vouchers", but those are the kinds of folks who've been willing to bleed for LOPSA in the past, and would almost certainly be willing to do so for a program like this, to give it the actual value it needs to have to survive.

  • Will Dennis

    Sorry I missed the vouching comment in the initial post, Derek. It does make sense that something like this could put some weight behind having the mark... It's like peer review and acceptance. The only problem I have with your proposed scheme is the validation of non-LPR-holder vouching folk (how do you verify they are current/former co-workers, and not just friends or relatives??)

    Hopefully the Board can consider this (if they haven't already), seems like it could be an improvement to the program...

  • Derek Balling

    It's EXACTLY like peer-review. Part of Matt's initial premise is that "we" recognize professionalism in our co-workers but others can't necessarily. If others can't it's because the criteria is subjective, not objective, and we're the only ones who can do so (it's the old pornography argument, "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it.")

    Validation of non-LPR-vouches is a little trickier, but shouldn't be insurmountable. And honestly, it'd be worth it to have a program with weight and value behind it.

  • http://www.standalone-sysadmin.com Matt Simmons

    I should probably weigh in, I guess.

    As I told Derek, I'm not against the concept of vouching in and of itself. In fact, in the LPR application as it stands right now, it has two fields for people who can verify the applicant's professional status. The difference between the forms would be negligible (basically, make them a required field and then a checkbox to indicate the person's status as LPR or not).

    My concerns were very much related to my conversation with Derek the night it was announced, when he suggested that only people who knew LPR members could possibly enter the program. As soon as that changed to the point system, I was much more amenable to it. My only real disagreement was that he demanded that it be changed immediately, rather than being adjusted according to the normal schedule.

    As I told Derek, and also the members of the Board who commented on Derek's email, I'm very willing to discuss the addition of this kind to the program. But I don't have the power to say "yes" or "no", and certainly not to the requirements in 2013. It's a committee, and then the committee's recommendations are ratified by the Board prior to acceptance. The program is designed to change, so lets do it the "right" way.

  • Derek Balling

    I wouldn't say "demanded". I would say "strongly encouraged".

    And I get that there's a committee involved, and that the committee ultimately answers to the Board (having been to that very particular rodeo myself for a number of years). Ultimately, it's up to the Board to decide (hopefully in conjunction/agreement with the committee).