Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I wore the wrong shoes

Tuesday was a bit of a concentrated madness as I had scheduled my certification exam for the mid-afternoon. When I made the appointment last week this seemed like reasonable timing: the testing facility wasn’t open on the weekend or the Monday holiday, and this whole process (both obtaining the certification and the larger project it has been the most recent stumbling block within) has dragged on long enough, so the soonest available moment on the other side of Memorial Day was really optimal. And that gave me plenty of time to review the study materials and brush up on the concepts and whatnot.

Although, that in itself was easier said than done. The long, dense (and did I mention boring?) book had been hard enough to slog through the first time, and skimming over it again seemed unlikely to yield any more insight into the subject matter. Plus, I like to relax on long weekends, and double-plus we had guests in from out of town (about which more later) so the extra studying did not exactly happen. Despite the fact that the knowledge of the exam appointment was constantly near, dark and looming and more than a little intimidating.

I had recently managed to suss out that my contracting boss did in fact consider the exam prep a real job duty for me, so I felt justified in hauling out the textbook once I got to work on Tuesday morning and just sitting in my cubicle studying for the better part of four hours. After that, I had to pack up and head to the testing facility. This entailed walking back up the main drag to the Metro station, riding a few stops down the Blue/Yellow line, and walking nine or ten more blocks to the office park destination. I got there reasonably early and was able to cram in a little more studying, and then it was time to give the exam a go.

So the study book I had obtained, which is ostensibly published under the auspices of the certification board, contained nothing but multiple choice questions. The computerized exam, on the other hand, led off with several questions which were practical exercises in which there was a simulated network that needed its settings configured for certain security-specific scenarios. Since I don’t really have any hands-on experience with network set-up and was only pursuing the certification in order to be compliant with the onerous requirements of the administrators at my gig, I was ill-prepared for the first few questions on the test and as a result had a bad, bad feeling about my chances. I gritted my teeth and struggled through the practicals as best I could, and eventually they gave way to more straightforward multiple choice questions. I felt better about my grasp of the information in those, but I was still mentally calculating how and when I could re-take the exam, and for that matter how I was going to get familiar with the workaday questions which were over my head. (Also how I was going to deal with the crippling depression resulting from still being shackled to this whole boondoggle.)

I finished the exam and submitted it and held my breath and … got a little screen saying I had passed. BARELY. I did the math later and I’m pretty sure the margin above failure was half-credit on a single question. But pretty or ugly, a win is a win! I tried to keep it together and not turn cartwheels through the halls of the testing facility, and I was helped a bit in that regard by the young lady who was working as the proctor, who took the print-out of my results from the printer and handed it to me with the most uninflected and perfunctory “congratulations” the human voice is capable of producing. I understood, I’m sure her job is crushingly boring, but it did make me laugh on the inside. I was high as a kite at having escaped the terrifying jaws of defeat, but to the girl who administers dozens of tests a day, a passing score was a big whoop-de-doo.

So in the end my biggest regret was not wearing my BizCasFri shoes which are better for walking; my dress shoes ended up giving me a blister as I hiked back to the Metro after the exam. But all in all it was worth it, or so it feels today. Tomorrow I’m sure the powers that be at work will find some other reason to be unhelpful and obstructionist about my big project, now that I’ve jumped through this latest hoop for them. And so it goes and goes and goes.

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