This is my ICCA Journey. I got certified! (By the skin of my teeth)
This article was originally posted to Linkedin on May 22, 2022.
I began this journey because I wanted to speak more authentically to our platform’s resources during onboarding / renewal calls and gain a broader understanding of the client’s perspective as it pertains to their partnership with INE.
To offer simplified context, I work for a company with a world renowned educational training platform for engineers to grow their knowledge and make advancements in their careers. For example, our platform offers learning material for a junior penetration tester to become a professional pen tester. For Engineers to move from CCNA to CCIE. Our vertices include Cyber Security, Cloud, Data Center and Networking.
One of my responsibilities in B2B Client Success Management is to introduce and demo our administration and content platforms to new clients. While I wasn’t new to client-facing presentations, onboarding or the tech industry, it had been 2 decades since my first job in networking integration - and the cloud wasn’t anything like it is now.
There is an aspect of hospitality involved in my current role. I enjoy greeting companies, investigating their goal and understanding what metrics they will use to measure a successful investment with our learning environment. During these meetings, I’m often asked specific information on our content portal. Yes, I can usually answer their questions. The training I received for my role was excellent. But, I began to realize that I lacked personal context. In order to be a bigger asset to my company and to our clients, I needed first hand experience.
How could I authentically help the engineers I'm onboarding without understanding the training process first hand? How could I promote the fact we offered in-browser lab experience without actually understanding what it was like to spin up my own instance in the cloud? Getting a certification would enable me to offer and expand on my answers exponentially.
When INE announced our own entry-level cloud certification (ICCA), I realized this could be my opportunity. Just shy of 1 year with INE, I felt confident I could pass. I had gained so much knowledge peripherally surely it couldn’t be that difficult. Surely. Insert background track of audience laughter here.
I read the syllabus of the ICCA Certification and noted the information. The learning path was roughly 13 hours. A Learning path is a curated playlist sequenced for a learner to attain a specific certification. This one was made up of 2 sections, 3 courses, 33 videos, 23 quizzes, 3 labs.
I decided to give myself a crash course over a weekend and be done with this when my kids would be away. I watched all the videos and took all the quizzes in 1 weekend. Okay, let’s do this! I’ll admit, I heard a lot of vocabulary I wasn’t familiar with. SSH, My SQL, EC2, port 22, but I didn’t stop to really understand the terms. I just wanted the experience.
1st attempt: I timed out. I sat staring at the clock counting down knowing I had bombed it. Not only did this certification require answers, there was a whole separate component; hands-on lab activities.
I went back to the learning path. I toggled the switch that allowed me to speed up the instructor's lecture. And I listened only for answers that I knew were on the test.
2nd attempt score: 50%. Woah. If my 17 y/o son brought home a grade like that, we would have issues.
3rd attempt: 59%. Good grief! This industry uses a lot of acronyms. Enough acronyms! Just say the word. JUST SAY THE WORD!
4th attempt: 67%. I still failed, however, this time, I passed 2/4 labs. I realized each test was totally different. My method of studying wasn’t working. There's no way to predetermine what pool of questions I would receive and I was only listening for the answers from previous tests. I would not be able to simply memorize the material, I had to be able to apply the concepts in different scenarios.
Another week passed. By this point, I had already humbly approached a colleague for yet another exam voucher. As I saw the exam available on my account, I began to contemplate my purpose.
Do I really want to do this again? Right now, chewing on brick pavers sounds more fun than another exam attempt. Self doubt began to set in. Am I too old to learn this new vocabulary? I reprimanded myself for not taking the exam seriously enough in the beginning. Now I was taking time away from my kids during the weekends with these exams. Mommy guilt set in. The questions came… Haven’t I achieved my goal? What am I trying to prove? This was about feeling the customer’s experience - not passing the test. Right? But a new determination set in.
I reevaluated my study habits. What else could I do differently? I've been through the courses, I've studied the questions that I can remember. I was way more familiar with Tracy Wallace's voice than I should be. At this point, I had pages and pages of notes. I thought about college. I missed books. In college, I was one of those kids that had sticky notes everywhere. Ah! The bookmark tool!! How could I forget?! I highlight this tool during my platform demo calls. Why not make use of this feature?
The bookmark tool is like a virtual Post-it. It allows you to stop the course and make a note. It saves a note at the exact spot within the course. All bookmarks are easy to find within the drop-down menu and easy to reference later when studying. I went through the courses again. This time, regular speed and I bookmarked the concepts I was struggling with. I bookmarked and researched unfamiliar acronyms.
The bookmark feature was awesome. I went back over everything I had tagged and revisited the material. I would study at night and wait until the following weekend (Mother’s Day weekend) for a final attempt.
Meanwhile, at work that week, I was in a meeting with our Solutions Architect and devops discussing a migration that was necessary for our beta admin portal to go live. Suddenly things clicked. I UNDERSTOOD what was happening behind the scenes. When our designer explained the technical process, I could actually visualize what was happening in the cloud. Hey, this stuff was finally starting to sink in! I started to see the cloud all around me. I use it everyday! In fact our platform is SaaS. In the week that followed, I, myself, was even using acronyms! I decided Mother’s day would be my final attempt.
Final exam: 72% PASSED - ICCA certified!!
Do I have a whole new respect for my clients and the IT industry? 100%!
Will I ever assume I can pass a test like this without properly preparing and using every tool available? Never again.
Will I be able to offer more comprehensive insights because of this first hand experience? Indeed!
Do I have any interest in continuing down this path? Well… never say never, but for the rest of this weekend, port 80 is closed! ;)
If you are interested in learning more about INE's Certified Cloud Associate certification, check out the certification specifics here.