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.

 

It’s Official: Sales Cloud Consultant

I bit the bullet last Saturday and took the Sales Cloud Consultant exam.

(She writes, as if she hadn’t been studying 1-2 hours per night for the past two months.)

I did the online proctoring, something I said I would not do again. But you know the saying about the best laid plans. It only took 10 minutes to get it set up this time. We’ll call it a win.

I thought about how I wanted to share this, if at all. My natural instinct is to provide some sort of guide, some insight to those that are considering taking it, preparing. There are already some great resources out there, though, and I’m not a fan of reinventing the wheel.

So instead I’m going to give you some honest feedback about what you can expect:

  1. Most people don’t pass this exam on the first try
  2. Your test-taking ability will come into play on this exam
  3. There is a LOT of information covered – both breadth and depth
  4. No matter what you study, there will be things you did not anticipate

I prepared for this exam for almost two months, starting with about an hour study each day and moving up to 2 hours each day a couple of weeks out.

I did what I always do. I downloaded the study guide, prioritized topics based on what I felt the least comfortable with, and I went to work. I used Salesforce’s existing documents, reviewed some Trailhead modules, inspected existing blog posts about Sales Cloud (shout out to Salesforce Ben!), and took copious notes. This method got me through both Advanced Admin and App Builder.

I guess technically it got me through Sales Cloud, too.

If you’re looking toward Sales Cloud on the horizon, here’s the best advice I can offer you: be patient with yourself and DON’T PANIC.

dontpanic

As I write this, I’m cool as a cucumber, ya dig? But literally five minutes before the exam, I could feel my heart trying to rip itself free from my chest. Taking these exams IS nerve-wracking. But guess what – it’s not the end of the world. All you can do is take a deep breath and focus on the question. Don’t worry about whether or not you’re going to answer the exact way Salesforce wants you to (because sometimes it’s really not clear). Worry instead about understanding the problem presented, understanding the potential solutions.

Having certifications is great. I love it. I love getting my name printed on paper.

But certifications aren’t going to make you a good consultant. Listening will. Empathy will. Curiosity will. A growth mindset and patience will. If you have those things, then you’ll do fine.

And, if you are taking the exam soon and somehow stumbled here, I hope you take a moment to breathe and relax. You’ve got this.