Getting Ready for Your Own Certification Journey

February 17, 2020

Getting Ready for Your Own Certification Journey

Some folks find a profession early in their life and that’s what
they do until they’re old and gray and ready to retire. Other folks find
themselves switching careers mid-way. Me? I’m on the third career in my working
life. I know a thing or two about learning something new. Why do I bring this
up? Because if you’re in the IT industry, chances are you’ll spend a big chunk
of your professional life learning something new. There’s also a good chance
you’ll have to sit for an exam or two to prove you’ve learned something new.
And for some, that prospect overwhelms. If that’s you, keep reading! In this
two-part series, I’m going to share my thoughts, tips, and tools for picking up
a new skill.

Be the Captain of Your
Own Ship

Sometimes you get told you need to have XYZ certification to
qualify for the next pay raise. Sometimes the idea comes from your own
self-motivation. Either way, the first step to successful completion is for you
to make the commitment to the journey. Even if the idea isn’t your own, your
personal commitment to the journey will be critical to its success. We’ve all
seen what happens when there isn’t personal commitment. Someone gets assigned
something they have no interest or desire. Whatever the task, it usually gets done
half-heartedly and the results are terrible. You don’t want to be terrible. You
want that cert. Make the commitment. It doesn’t have to be flashy or public,
but it does have to authentic to you.

Make a New Plan, Stan…

Once you’ve made the decision to go after your goal, it’s time
to make your plan. After all, no captain sets sail without first plotting a
course. For certification-chasers, there is usually a blueprint out there with
what the certification exam will cover. That’s a good place to start.

Charting your course should include things like:

  • A concrete, measurable goal.
  • A realistic timeline.
  • The steps to get from today to success[i].

Think about what hazards might impede your progress. After all,
you don’t want to plot your course right through a reef. Things like:

  • How much time you can realistically devote to studying?
  • What stressors might affect your ability to stay on track?
  • Will your own starting point knowledge-wise make the journey
    longer or shorter?

Make Like a Penguin

If you’re a Madagascar[ii] fan, you know the penguin credo is “Never swim
alone.” It’s great advice for penguins and for IT knowledge-seekers. Making
your journey alone is like filling your bag with rocks before you start. It
just makes life harder.

There are a ton of great online and real-life IT communities out
there. Find one that works for you and get engaged. If your journey is at all
like mine, at first you might just be asking questions. I know I asked a
zillion questions in the beginning. These days I end up answering more
questions than I ask, but I find answering others’ questions helps me solidify
the strength of my knowledge. Another community is a formal study group. They
help by providing structure, feedback on your progress, and motivation.

Lastly, don’t forget about your friends and family. They might
not know the subject matter, but they can make your road smoother by freeing up
your time or giving you valuable moral support. Make sure they swim, too. This
article has been a little high-level design for a successful certification
journey. Stay tuned for the next installment. We’ll go low-level with some tips
for getting to success one day at a time. Until then remember to keep doing
it… just for fun!



A lawyer and a network engineer walk into a bar… No, really. Micheline Murphy retired from the law in 2016 after a nearly two-decade career practicing criminal defense. In 2019, her technical works had over 10,000 views. She also writes for the CLN Women in Networking space on topics of importance to the everyday engineer, both men and women. Micheline covers topics such as the difference between diversity and inclusion, how to become a better public speaker, and Imposter Syndrome.