I just pass two Microsoft exams and I plan two next for a early future. I speak with many people about certifications and they have different opinions. Some of them told me that certification do not proof anything and it is just a piece of paper. Others think that preparing for the certification process is waste of time. Many people told that practical experience in software developing and designing area are most important at all and nothing more is necessary to proof your knowledge and experience then prepare some algorithm or piece of well designed software.
I know two very good recruiters/headhunters. One of them told me that certification in most case give opportunity to select good candidates to job position or to new project. She also believes that passing the exam means that someone have knowledge about technology that was measured correctly. So she do can focus on a interpersonal skills or personality of candidates. So in this way certificates can help to proof your knowledge quickly. And what is most important your honors do not be missing.
Ok, you may say it is better to have certificate but what about opinions about practical experience? I must say that I like to prepare myself to exams and that great feeling when I see that I passed. And I do not think about proof anything. I just want to win in this challenge :). Not for honors or awards because I prepare for exams only for myself. I am not sure if it is good to have technical titles and always when I prepare some bunch of software in a wrong way I understood that heaving certifications do not mean you are infallible.
And at last I would like to share my conclusions with you. First of all it is always good to learn new things and become better in that areas that interesting you. And every good specialist can proof her or his knowledge by certifications, but it is not as important as communications skills, personality, ability to quickly solve problems and at last but not least is sharing of your knowledge. Because if you are really good professional you should often spread your ideas and share your knowledge to inspire others team members. Having only technical skills even very high is not as important as be nice and open minded :).
Best wishes of always passed exams :),