Friday, October 22, 2010

Alphabet Soup. What's with all the acronyms?

A few of my readers have been asking, "Hey Malcolm! What's with all the alphabet (acronyms) after your name?" That's a good question. The short answer is these are my professional certifications. The complete answer lies somewhere between marketing and professionalism. Bottom line, its all about you...the customer. You want the most qualified individual doing your work. The acronyms, in a few short characters, promote the notion that I am among the most highly qualified most professional tile installers in the US. And I offer my talents and expertise at market price. No extra charge to you.


We live in a time where globalization and technology are conspiring to revolutionize work, both in terms of who does it AND how/where it gets done. The customer can and should expect to find highly qualified service providers readily available to meet your needs at a reasonable price. No matter what your needs may be.

For instance small business owners need back office support. A pure overhead dilemma, and an onerous step-cost that threatens many an emergent enterprise. Traditionally the need is fulfilled by a low skilled yet highly competent full time office manager performing a broad range of duties including bookkeeping and basic accounting operations. Now because of GlobalTech, bookkeeping/accounting along with a host of other tasks can and should be performed by a highly skilled subject expert at a piecework price equal to or less than the low skill full time employee. Think of CPA's in India doing bookkeeping for an array of US small business customers charging each only for the services rendered. Sometimes for as little as $5/hr.

The world is indeed flat and getting flatter. This is leading to an unprecedented resource slack in the developed world. Hence, it is entirely reasonable to find an MBA laying tile instead of creating financial weapons of mass destruction. This should be viewed as constructive as well as productive for consumers. And if one MBA is laying tile, then it is entirely reasonable for you to expect that your service providers possess a certification relevant to the services they provide. If they don't have certifications, find some that do. Or at a minimum request that yours pursue a certification as a condition for continued patronage.


I represent myself as a professional in the blog's About Me section. I do this because I want you to get what is called value-for-time, and ultimately value-for-money. Professionalism is a primary attribute when you consider risking your time to read me and ultimately risking your money for my tile work. Thus, I feel it is important I convey to you what makes a professional in my opinion. Hence, you will find many posts about this idea. Among these is the idea of professional certification.

Professional certification indicates knowledge/skill achievement according to some board of standards. So far, my certifications are as follows; MBA, IMI, LEED-GA, CDT, EIT. I say, "so far" because I am not done yet. In my opinion, a professional ought never cease to learn and achieve. After all, knowledge is power. Power to serve others and to serve them well. And, knowledge is an intangible asset. Its distinguishes one from another. Better yet, an intangible knowledge asset cannot be taken except by death, disease, or tragic accident. Pity the tax-man and the debt-collector alike when it comes to knowledge. As Gandalf the Grey exclaimed, "You shall not Pass!" Knowledge is the great equalizer, and it is always available for creating future value.

So let's go through my alphabet...

I have an MBA. That's a Masters degree in Business Administration. I earned this distinction December 2009 from the full-time program at Bowling Green State University an AACSB accredited school. The degree indicates that I have completed a rigorous program of study preparing me for work in the most complex business organizations. So, why am I laying tile? That's another post for another day. The most important take away for you is that AACSB accreditation emphasizes the student's attention to business ethics, and that is what you will get from me. A highly trained business approach guided by ethics.

In 2006, I earned the IMI designation. It indicates that I have completed the International Masonry Institute's (IMI) Contractor College. The IMI is a labor/management organization of the Bricklayers and Allied Crafts (BAC). IMI promotes masonry and allied craft construction and professionalism in the business. Tiling, a trowel trade, is among the allied crafts. Contractor College provides a well rounded course of business and technical study for the contractor and their craft workers. The IMI suggests architects should specify IMI certified contractors to minimize the execution risk of their masonry and allied craft work. As the architect of your tile project, you should too.

Green building is spoken here. The LEED-GA is for professionals who support green building. Issued by the US Green Building Council (USGBC), the Green Associate (GA) credential indicates my basic knowledge of the LEED green building system. While I do not expect you will embark upon a LEED certified project, increasingly, I find my customers are presenting environmental goals which rank on par with traditional project goals such as great quality, competitive pricing, and speedy delivery. Earned in 2010, this certification indicates my commitment to helping you achieve your green goals.

In 1999, I earned the CDT designation. It stands for Construction Document Specialist. Have you ever wondered at the complexity of construction? The organized chaos. How is it that despite the chaos, the project always seems to come together? Part of it is the people, and the other part is a set of document principals that is generally accepted by the industry. The Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) is the organization that governs these principals. Even though the CSI provides the framework through its Master Format, construction documents are persistently arcane and increasingly complex. A CDT indicates a rigorous study of CSI's Master Format, so CDT's may be relied upon to make skilled interpretations of the project documentation.

The EIT stands for Engineer in Training, and it indicates that I passed the fundamentals of engineering examination; since 1995. The EIT is administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). It is step one of two toward achieving the Professional Engineer (PE) License. While my career track does not lead to licensure, as your tile setter it is worth noting the EIT. You have to have a Bachelors of Science in Engineering just to sit for this exam, and some engineering grads never pass the test. My BS is in Civil Engineering, and I have accumulated extensive knowledge about structures, water management, and materials science - heavy on the cement please. You want your tile layer to understand theses topics, and the deeper the understanding the better.

So this is my alphabet so far, and how it relates to you considering me as your tile contractor. Plus a few added thoughts about why you should expect certification from your service providers. My future goals for certification include;
  1. Certified Tile Installer (CTI) from the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF).
  2. Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project Management Institute (PMI).
  3. Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
  4. Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
These I believe should keep my knowledge seeking appetite satisfied for a while. The first two will contribute directly to the value of my current service offering while the last two should give you an idea as to where I want to take my service offerings in the long term. All of these will contribute to my professionalism.

So, What do you think makes a professional? How far do you think certification contributes to professionalism? How much of it is just marketing?
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