Online Proctoring: My Horror Story

I enjoy my creature comforts. I like working from my couch some days, with blankets all bundled around me, feet propped up, and a cup of coffee nearby. Most importantly I like all of those things in my own house. If offered an opportunity to get coffee at a fancy coffeeshop or make myself a cup of Chock Full O’ Nuts at home, I’m going to pick home. Every time.

So when I learned that certification could be done from home, those many years ago, I signed up immediately. The first online proctored exam I took was not actually for Salesforce. It was my Marketo Certified Expert exam, and I took it in December after signing up for a training course that came with a voucher. I figured it couldn’t hurt. And given that December is prime time for crap weather, I was excited, despite the “it’s not awesome” warnings available online. How bad could it be?

Well…

First my webcam just stopped working. It had been fine, doing its thing, and literally just before it was time for me to sit down and show my stuff, it stopped.

Kryterion was super chill. Their support team rescheduled my exam for an hour later, and I ran out to get a new webcam. Done.

Fun fact: new webcams are better than old webcams. The resolution on my new one was too good, in that it couldn’t match my face because the old picture I had on file for facial recognition didn’t have as high a resolution.

No worries. Super awesome support team reset that. Face recognized. Typing recognized. It was time to take the test. Aced it.

When it came time to take my first Salesforce exam, I figured I had worked out the kinks and could handle anything.

Well…

I just couldn’t log in! After about three or four attempts, calling support, and still not being able to access my exam, we discovered there was a server error on their side. They told me they would reschedule my exam (for free, again, thank you super awesome support team!) and call me when I would be able to log in.

I made myself a drink and watched an episode of the Office. I was halfway through my vodka-cran when they called and said I could get started. Aced it.

I took a few onsite exams after that. Switching it up, I guess. But the testing location was not a huge step up from the headaches I’d had at home, so it was back to online for me.

Testing with a Mac is different. Testing with the new MacBook Pro (with its nearly universally despised Thunderbolt 3 ONLY connections) is actually impossible. Literally. If your external webcam (which you have to use) is connected via a dongle (which is has to be), the feed won’t go through.

For my Pardot exam, it took us about 2 hours to troubleshoot. If not for the super awesome support team at Kryterion, I would still be in the fetal position upstairs. I ended up needing to use the gaming computer to take my exam. Sweet graphics, anyway. I still had to stop like five times to adjust where the camera was or the microphone volume, or whatever.

I’m really not trying to scare you off. Legitimately not my purpose here. But I want you to KNOW what you’re getting into, if you go the online route.

First of all, your test may go way smoother. I had at least two that went off without a hitch. But just in case, keep these things in mind:

  1. If you have a brand new MacBook Pro, just plan on taking the exam onsite or with a cheap-o PC you pick up at Best Buy for like $200.
  2. When they say that you should buy their specific webcam…consider it. I didn’t. I had to buy one last minute, and I just wasn’t going to reschedule. But they have one that works, so you might as well.
  3. Download Sentinel and do your “biometric scan” in advance but not TOO in advance. Like two or three days beforehand is fine. But if you sign up for the exam in June to take in November, just wait.
  4. Be prepared to spend some time getting INTO the exam.
  5. Be prepared to be interrupted DURING the exam to fix something.
  6. Lean heavily on the support staff there. They really are awesome, really patient, and they have the answers.
  7. Be NICE to the support staff. Their job sucks. They just watch a bunch of under-dressed, maybe showered, work-from-home people take exams and get mad all day. And they can help.
  8. Maybe make a drink beforehand?
  9. Definitely eat beforehand – it might be HOURS before you get another chance.
  10. Be prepared to retake the exam. After fighting with computers and getting interrupted and feeling like NOTHING YOU DO IS WORKING, you might not be in the best place to take an exam…so be patient with yourself, too.

Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment, but I’ll probably continue doing the online proctored exams. That is how much I hate driving in snow.

 

Rebranding (v.) – what I’m doing now

I don’t mean to brag, but I took a marketing class in college to meet the requirements for a Business Administration minor. As useful as an English degree is, I thought having some semblance of business acumen to support it would be a good idea. That decision has paid off. So I know a little bit about marketing and branding.

And I’m not going to sit here and talk about how when I started blogging, it was done on LiveJournal, and it was the domain of angsty teenagers because frankly I’d rather not drudge up those memories. And the long string of neglected URLs out there with one of my email addresses attached to them is testament enough to my level of commitment to those outlets.

But I did some great writing under the guise of The Crafty Polymath, and I didn’t want to shove it into a closet to collect dust. It’s just not valid anymore – I don’t spend my weekends at a desk adorned with fabric and a sewing machine. I spend it in front of a tv with a PS4 controller in my hands, to be 100% honest.

What is valid, though, is what I do at least 5 days a week.

Scroll down to my last post; I’ll wait. You didn’t scroll, did you? Rebel. I mention a new job, and the funny thing is that since that new job, I started another new job with the same company.

Enter Salesforce, stage right and Marketo, stage left. They meet in the middle and integrate surprisingly well.

That was almost 2 years ago, and I am swallowing my embarrassment here to try this again.

This whole thing – the job, Salesforce, Marketo – has been an unexpected delight. It’s kind of right up my alley because my title, Marketing Data & Systems Analyst, is vague enough that if there’s something I want to do, I can pretty much do it. I manage various software systems; I analyze data; I help plan marketing strategies; I write and edit content sometimes; I design landing pages and make emails responsive. In other words, ladies and gentlemen, I’m paid to be a freaking polymath.

I feel like the name of this blog should give away how exciting that is for me.

It also has opened up a door to an actual, honest-to-God career path, complete with professional development, built-in networking, and recognition for knowing what’s what.

Case in point: I started the West Michigan Women in Tech Salesforce User Group. Admittedly, the name is a bit of a mouthful. But this lady here, who only ever joined clubs that encouraged solo work, is getting involved. With people. And events. It’s a big deal. And within this process, some new-found friends (all of my new-found friends) have asked me “do you have a blog?”

Cue my awkward, “well, yeah, kinda, but it’s…I mean…please don’t go there. I haven’t posted in two years.”

And honestly, it’s a thing with Salesforce. We write stuff, we admins and developers. We shout about Salesforce all the time. That is not even an exaggeration; I’ve been trying to recruit my mom for a month. And my husband has had to sit through me endlessly gushing about validation rules and formula fields and “did you know Salesforce can do this?!”

I’m not going to make any promises here about posting every week. Not yet. Let me sink my feet in a little and get this rolling. Let me find my rhythm, my words. Let me make peace with the fact that, as an admin in a kind of marketing role, I might have a unique and interesting perspective to share.

But if you have a spare minute, here or there, and if you enjoy self-deprecating humor, then my friend…this isn’t a bad place to find yourself.

Consider the Crafty Polymath officially rebranded.