Exams do not a good consultant make. They are a symbol. They hint at the presence of something difficult to measure with a stick.
There might be something wrong with me, but I really do enjoy feeling like the smallest person in the room sometimes. I remember the first time I attended an art festival, and I saw a variety of people, some who I knew, enjoying themselves, laughing, and looking quite comfortable doing so. I, on the other hand, felt awkward and out of place. My joy came, though, standing in a place where I could learn to have that much fun because I could watch and interact with people who were already doing it. I discovered a new playground in which I could try new things and grow in new ways. It only took a couple years before I started meeting people at these events and recognizing in them the same mixture of uncomfortable and excited that I felt.
I failed my first Microsoft certification. I believe it was 70-516: “TS: Accessing Data with Microsoft .NET Framework 4”, and I remember feeling so ready to pass it and then arriving and scoring quite poorly. It wasn’t a hair I was off by, but what felt like a canyon. I left a bit shocked at learning that I hadn’t made it, because I scored quite high in school. Sitting with the disappointment, though, I realized that I also exited the exam room intrigued, because I saw on that exam things I hadn’t even heard of. More was possible, it was within my grasp! Years later, I feel proud at the number of passed exams on my transcript, and I find myself coaching others on how to pass theirs.
I’m proud, in part, because it’s Microsoft. Microsoft. THE Microsoft. The company that made every OS I touched as a kid, from MS-DOS and up. The company that attracted such inflamed passions on the forums I would frequent as a kid. The company headed by a nerd. The company in which the careers of thousands of people rest. The more I learn about the business that run the world, the more impressed I am by Microsoft. Here I stand, a part of it all.
My exams also represent my career as a professional. I’ve grown with these exams. The first couple years of my career, I failed more exams than I passed. I was boiling the certification list in a pot of salted water and throwing it at the wall, full of surprise when something, anything, would stick. Now I have a process of my own, a knowledge-gathering ritual during which I can gauge my chances of success and do so with enough time to correct my own course. I can make guarantees against myself. I can deliver a “pass” and the kitchen has never been cleaner.
For me, it’s about doing right those trusting me with their business. I feel comfortable walking into the room and calling myself an expert in a specific technology because I didn’t give myself that title, the person who made it did. I know I’m a professional, someone who takes the time to learn outside my immediate task. I’m letting others in on my journey, opening myself to the viewpoints of others regardless of how comfortable that might feel. I can comfortably stand in a position of trust.
Exams do not a good consultant make. They are a symbol. They hint at the presence of something difficult to measure with a stick. Stick with it, and I believe you will become a new version of yourself, one to who success comes with ease.