Learning from certification writing

In the last few months, I have had the opportunity to work on a number of certification writing projects and I thought I would write about some of my thoughts on being involved.

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At first, it seemed a great way to give back to the system that has certainly enhanced my career. It became apparent though, I was once again was benefiting from being included in such a great opportunity.

A few years ago, I was working for a company that wrote training material for technical vendors such as VMware and Dell. I was asked while there, if I would write some practice questions for the newly created VMware Certified Associate (VCA) exams. The practice exams were to help the exam candidates confirm their knowledge of the training material and prepare them for taking the ‘real’ exam. I was more than happy to be involved and got my first experience of writing professional exam questions.

Unfortunately, I was made redundant from that position. But with my new found love of all things VMware, my career refocused on the installation, configuration, management and design of VMware solutions.

Fast forward a few years, and I once again got the opportunity to write questions for the VMware Certified Professional (VCP) exams and add my voice to a team of Certification Subject Matter Experts (SME) on a range of VMware certification issues.

There will always be people that look down on certifications, and state that real life experience is more important. As someone who has a number of certification from different vendors and also have real life experience, I would argue that only combined, do people’s true potential show through.

At the beginning of 2017, I got back into writing certification questions for the VCP6-DCV Delta exam that was being updated to include vSphere 6.5. What struck me being involved was the professionalism and focus of the VMware certification development team and the SMEs in writing questions.

I know there are people think the questions are thrown together. I can assure you that not only are the questions peer reviewed by SMEs holding VCPs, VCAPs and VCDXs but also professional exam writers from VMware Education. We spent hours going over each question making sure the questions were technically correct, the language wasn’t ambiguous and didn’t have double meanings for non-English speakers.

The technical knowledge and debate was a pleasure to be part of. Sometimes a single word was all it took to make an ok question, into a great one! It’s not often you can debate with VCDXs, and I personally learnt a lot.

What I have found as I have written questions is that you interrogate your own basic assumptions of the technology. Every question you write must be backed up by written evidence published by VMware. So when you say “What widget do you need to fix problem x”, you have to be able to justify not only the answer but also why the wrong answers are incorrect.

So as Albert Einstein said “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” I couldn’t agree more. I would just add one more thing “…and be able to prove it”.

I hope I get the opportunity again to add my input. If you are offered the opportunity, I urge you to take up the chance, as you will learn more than you realise.

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