Certifications Vs Experience or Certifications and Experience?

I recently got into a facebook debate with someone about experience versus debate. The opponent was a public sector employee and had been their entire life. However, it got me to thinking about this subject and it brings up a valid point about certifications and real life experience. I have seen first hand, from previous employers, that you can get someone who can sit for classes for a certification and knock out multiple certs in a year; however, are they really useful? In my opinion, probably not because anyone can take a cram class and the next day, or that day, sit for the exam and pass because the answers are fresh in their heads. The question to ask is: do you really understand the material and technology?

Thank God for white board interviews that show this; however, I find a lot of interviews, especially over the phone, are based on one technology and the questions are about commands. While this is a valid method of interviewing it doesn’t show that they really understand how to build a network. I have met people who were walking Cisco IOS command references but couldn’t architect a halfway decent network. Knowing about networking and how to apply the multiple principles that exist has to be more valuable than knowing the exact commands because in the modern “connected world” we can view a command reference and get the commands; however, knowing that you need to use those commands to manipulate the system to use that logic is key.

An example I ask is: Is it more valuable that a person knows the logic behind PBR and that a specific network needs it or it more valuable that a person knows the exact command about how to do it but couldn’t tell you when/where/why you would need it on a network?