This post will be primarily about the examination/certification process. You know, the reason I’m in DC in the first place. Long story short, the I fini company who makes the program I’ve been the administrator of at work for the last 7 years offers certification for certain aspects or components of the program. Work decided it wouldn’t be a horrible idea to invest a little into some training, and frankly I think that’s a Daam Gud decision. Yup.
The instructor, Felicia, is a really nice gal who lives around Baltimore and apparently has to drive an hour and a half to the building each morning, even though it’s maybe 30 miles away. Not surprising; I would imagine the entire corridor linking Baltimore to DC and all the suburbs is just a nightmare, much like any big city. There are only three students in this class, including me, and Felicia told us that that’s the most she’s ever taught simultaneously for this course. That’s a little crazy to me, but hey, I guess that makes this certification relatively rare, yes? Meaning valuable.
On Monday, Felicia told us there’d be a written exam (open-notes, open-PC) that we’d have two hours to complete. The rest of Monday, and all of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday would be spent by us developing a solution based on a set of requirements that Felicia would provide. Sounds good — we usually don’t get shit for actual requirements at work, so this sounded like a welcome change.
The written examination was really just an exercise in how well you could craft search terms in BMC’s documentation portal. We were given a paper exam with questions and had to write or choose answers. At first glance, this seemed like a really, really nasty test. Extremely obscure questions, asking about features or techniques I’ve used once or twice at most in seven years. I made a pass through it and answered the questions I was certain about – which wasn’t all that many. Then, I started searching, and once I found the answers to a few more of them and realized they were word for word out of the documentation, the game changed a bit. It became less about what the question was actually asking me to answer, and more about what keywords I could search for online that would lead to the correct (but often terribly titled) document or section. I will say that this is the first time I’ve been very, very glad that all of the documentation is available in online form and not the old-school PDFs. This test would’ve probably been a nightmare in the 7.x days. Anyway, after figuring out the game, I finished the test about a half hour early, then went outside to walk around for awhile.
Funny thing – I’ve been checking the weather here and in Fargo and for the most part it’s been pretty close. EXCEPT for one day – Thursday – in which it was about 70 and rainy in DC. I believe it was not 70 and not rainy in Fargo, but I wasn’t there so I don’t really know!
After the written part was done, out came a pair of documents from Felicia. One was thick, the other not so much. Both were documents that had been covered somewhat in a web-based training I had taken about a month ago, but that course never actually provided examples of either document or showed what it would look like all filled out. These were some intense requirements. They weren’t really laid out in a developer-friendly format, either… an entire paragraph might come out to an hour of work, but the next sentence might change everything and require you to refactor stuff you’d already done. That was maybe the main theme of the week – constantly flipping through the documents to try to glean as many requirements as possible, so as to minimize the amount of re-work needed. I probably could’ve taken all of Monday afternoon just trying to organize the work better. Instead, I just started building stuff, because THAT’S JUST HOW DAAM GUD ROLLS. YUP.
The days really did fly by, mainly because there was a persistent feeling of having way too much shit to do and not nearly enough time to do it. I believe it was Wednesday afternoon, at the end of the day, when Felicia asked us how we were doing. “Overwhelmed” and “my brain is mush” seemed to be common sentiments. I asked if we were actually expected to get this entire thing done in 3.5 days. Her response was no, we are throwing way more at you than you can reasonably handle, and seeing what parts were completed was sort of a part of the test. How delightful, the test is DESIGNED to stress me out!
Today (Friday) we gave our “presentations” to Felicia one-on-one. The other students left the room and I sat with her as she asked me questions and wanted me to show her things. She mentioned that I crushed the written exam, getting a 90%. She said she has not seen anyone score that high on the written exam. That was nice to hear, but all I could think about was what question(s) I got wrong that caused me to lose 10%. I really thought I aced that bitch. Anyway, we go through my wacky solution and about two-thirds of the way through she says “Well, you passed. But let’s keep going just so I can tally up the points.” Sweet! As it turns out, she told me I’d gotten a 92% overall, and the next highest she could remember giving out was a 90%. She didn’t explicitly say that I did better on this than anyone else she’d taught, but I had to be up there through simple deduction. Fuckin awesome.
After the test stuff was done, Felicia helpfully went over some of the downtown DC attractions (so, the Mall) and provided some instructions and local flavor type stuff (“Be careful if you go north of this street or that avenue after 9 PM”). I plan on checking some of that out tomorrow and possibly Sunday. The Spring Hill train station is very close by, and even closer to the BMC training facility, so Felicia said I could park there and walk to the station. Awesome!
So, to conclude, this trip was ultimately a success for me. Now it’s time to relax. The next part of this will cover The Mall and the inevitable crazy shit I see there. Should be a good time.