It is hard to believe that thirteen years ago I sat down at the Java U café at the corner of Queen Mary Rd. and Circle Rd. in Montreal and wrote an article about superstitions. It was called Don’t Mess with Juju! and it was one of the most popular articles that I wrote that year. At the time, I had sat fourteen Microsoft certification exams, and my record was 10/14… not bad, if I do say so myself. I wrote about how I never wore a Microsoft-branded shirt the day I was sitting an exam, and I always had a package of Jolly Rancher hard candies on the desk when I did.
Thirteen years have passed since that article, and while I do not know for certain how many people read it (I moved my blog from the original platform to WordPress in 2009, and I have no statistics from the old site), I do know that when I did publish it (and for a couple of years thereafter) it generated a lot of conversation and jokes. When I wrote it, I was living in Montreal; I have since lived in Mississauga, Oakville, Burlington, and then Ottawa (Ontario), and am now living in Los Angeles. I have successfully passed over fifty certification exams (48 of them from Microsoft), and while I am not willing to disclose how many I have failed, suffice it to say that the ratio of failed:pass is much worse than the 4:10 that is was when that article was written. A lot of water under the bridge… and a few times my eyes were bigger than my stomach.
In September my company introduced me to the man who would become my manager at my new client, and he asked me if I knew about Microsoft Office 365, and why, with all of the certifications I have, were none of them in that technology. I told him if he accepted me for the position we were discussing that I would gladly put my nose to the grindstone, and within a few months I would have Microsoft 365 certs. After a bit of a hiatus from exams over the last couple few years (I passed none in 2016, one in both 2017 and 2018, and one earlier this year) I set my mind to it… and in the past three weeks I have sat (and passed) four exams on the topic.
This morning I was driving to Beverly Hills to take the latest of them, and I thought back to the Jolly Ranchers. I have been trying to remember when I stopped bringing them to my exams… and why? I remember buying them to take with me when I was living in Oakville because I remember Gingit (my wonderful Basset Hound / Pug who left us earlier this year) once found them, and enjoyed the whole pack of them. I know I sat one exam while I was in Japan in 2015, and I doubt I would have been able to find them there… although I probably tried. I doubt I could have had them for any of the on-line proctored exams that I took, chiefly because they insisted on a perfectly clean desk.
I have taken two exams at a testing centre in Glendale, where I know they would have barred me from taking them in… the testing coordinator insisted not only that I put my phones into a locker with the rest of my stuff, but he insisted on watching me turn them off (not silent mode… OFF) before I did. He and I do not get on at all, and I would rather drive the hour through LA traffic to get to Beverly Hills than go back there, when I have the choice.
My worst era for exam results spanned the time from January, 2014-June, 2017… if I could wipe that entire time period from the record, my pass:fail ratio is much more impressive. Were I a Spanish cubist artist, that would be my blue period… the sixteen months following my separation from my now ex-wife, when I was down, depressed, and full of despair. While nobody really understands the ways of the universe, I am doubtful that a pack of hard candies would have made the difference during that spell.
If my exam transcripts are any indication, things started getting much better for me shortly before I met Liza… which I suppose means that Liza was part of that ‘things getting much better’ trend… Post hoc ergo propter hoc… I do not know if she was part of things getting better, or if things got better because of her… of my current 7-exam passing streak, I only passed one of them before I met her… and five of them since I moved to Los Angeles to be with her. Whichever it it, life is good now, and I am back to passing exams.
I am still one exam shy of my Microsoft 365 Certified: Enterprise Administrator Expert credential, and if things stay on track, I will sit the last exam before the end of the month. I do not know how well I will do on the exam, but there are two things that I do know:
- The evening I pass the exam, I will come home (or go to the lounge) and smoke a fine Cuban cigar to celebrate; and
- When I do take the exam, there will be no hard candies on the table.
Am I superstitious? To a degree, I suppose I am. I don’t know of a single combat soldier who wasn’t… to one degree or another. I do know that in a lot of ways, we make our own luck. I spend hours and hours studying and cramming for these exams; I take the time to read each question carefully, I read and consider all of the options, determine which are obvious distractors, and then decide which is the right answer. To this day, I have only had a perfect score on one certification exam, but that doesn’t matter… with certification exams, every pass is graded the same way, so good enough is always good enough. I do remember what it was like, way back in my early days of certification exams, taking every extra step to hopefully get over that pass/fail line. Today, rather than going out of my way to find a pack of Jolly Ranchers, I’d rather spend those extra few minutes reviewing my material.
…and while it was not because of all those candies that I gained all of my weight, I am sure they did not help!