CIW Diary

It’s not the Dot That Gets You, It’s the Com.

CIW Foundations for Dummies Book at Amazon.comI had been at the telecommunications company for ten years and had landed a low stress webmaster position that consisted mostly of Microsoft FrontPage work and paid a modest salary. I had finally earned the coveted 4 weeks of vacation. My VP had recently sent me a card thanking me for my service along with the leather satchel awarded to all ten-year employees.

Making changes to my career would not have become a priority had things outside my personal sphere not become so chaotic. In just a few years time, my company’s stock dropped 99%. The CEO left just before billions in accounting fraud were discovered.

I worked for a com.

Yes, I needed to think more about my career. I’d been questioning the marketability of my job title of “communications specialist” for some time now. I could start there. I slipped into my boss’s office.

“Considering all the negatives lately, is it okay if I change my official job title to something that sounds more technical?”

“Sure,” he said, “Change it to anything you want.”

From that day forward, I became an IT Coordinator for one of the largest global telecommunications and data services companies.

Crazy Information Worker

I could now begin building on my skills as an IT Coordinator. I had heard of CIW certifications some time ago and recalled having positive vibes about the program. Besides the fact that my ailing career needed major surgery, I was personally in the mood for a certification, even if CIW turned out to stand for Crazy Information Worker. It really didn’t matter.

I needed something to take my mind off corporate scandals. I did some quick research at the official CIW website

The idea of getting the industry standard webmaster certification without any product strings attached appealed to me. I wanted to venture down the Master CIW Designer track.

Yet something was holding me back. I seemed to remember once taking receipt of a certification abbreviated as MCSE. I don’t remember what MCSE stands for. The only thing I remember about MCSE is that I am no longer one, my MCSE having expired about one and a half years after I completed the five rigorous required tests.

Working hard to achieve a goal only to have it soon disappear into the balance sheets of a large corporation was a mistake I wanted to avoid. I had to find out how long the duration of this “vendor-neutral” CIW certification would be, if I should receive it. I went directly to Prosoft Training who responded that when significant changes are made in the requirements for a particular certification they may require that individuals test again on new material to maintain currency. At the moment no such requirements existed for any of the CIW series.

I felt much better.

Testing for Dummies

After reading CIW Foundations for Dummies and taking some practice tests from Self Test Software, I was finally ready to take the first exam, CIW Foundations, known as 1D0-410 by numerical enthusiasts. Prometric Training had a suburban walk-in testing center in my area, you know, like one of those medical clinics that you go to when you are either not sick enough for the emergency room but urgently need a doctor. Today my head hurt from six hours of late night studying and heavy metal music.

Where I took the CIW Foundations ExamI turned my CIW Foundations for Dummies book over and out of view of passersby. Why they print those dummies books with conspicuous yellow and black covers, I’ll never understand. Would the other students laugh? I wasn’t in the mood for repeating the whole sticks and stones mantra. I was focused.

I opened the door and straight ahead of me was a staircase that lead downward for a few feet and truncated into a wall. I guess it’s not downstairs, I surmised. Upstairs I approached the desk of the nervous looking administrator.

“I’d like to take the CIW Foundations exam.” I said.

“Is that a Microsoft exam?” Asked the administrator through a thick accent with a look of alarm and puzzlement like that of Bill Gates after being hit with a pie.

“It’s a Certified Internet Webmaster exam.”

He typed on the keyboard for while, then looked up with wonderment and said, “You’re the first one to take this exam.”

“Then maybe I’ll be the one who gets the job,” I replied.

After filling out the paperwork he lead me back to a room filled with computers. The quiet and cool atmosphere of the room offset my increased adrenaline level. I sat down and began answering the 60 questions. As the clock ticked (I guess clocks don’t tick anymore do they?), I became more and more confident with each multiple choice question I answered. After checking my answers, I clicked “Finish,” and to my relief, saw the word “Congratulations.” I had scored 88% out of the required 75%. I was in.

The administrator congratulated me as well and I could tell that this was a learning experience for him also. “I’ll be back to take the CIW Site Designer exam,”

I said. I gleefully exited the room passing the staircase that truncated into the wall.

I better sell that Dummies book on eBay and get ready for the Site Designer exam, I said to myself.

A Site Designer for Sore Eyes

Cold, dark, and rainy. That’s my best description of the day I drove to work with my Self Test Software (Kaplan, Inc.) CIW Site Designer test copies atop the steering wheel, dodging through the unforgiving Atlanta Tuesday morning traffic. The comfort level of my vehicle was no less than that of the parking lots, hallways, and elevators I used as study halls. CIW Foundations Certification BibleThree endless months had crept by since I had passed the Associates exam, the introductory and easier of the three, which inevitably raises the confidence level of the

CIW candidate and entices him into more challenging exams, whereupon his soul touches new heights or depths of webmastery. The laurels I had been resting comfortably upon had become dry and brittle. I had dutifully finished reading the 600 page CIW Site Designer Certification Bible. I had withstood six hours of quality cramming last night.

It was time.

Despite the grayness of the sky’s palette, I saw red, green, blue and 216 web safe mixtures of the three colors. Red smacked of danger, blue of sadness. Today, I wanted green, the tone of a sunny walk in the park, the hue of U.S. currency, the fruit of an elevated salary.

I recognized the Prometric Training center for its quaint appearance. Behind the front door, I would almost expect to see a few logs smoldering in a fireplace or maybe a bearskin rug across a wooden floor instead of the familiar stairway that lead downward into a wall. I hadn’t noticed the first time that the suite next door contained an office of three doctors.

What kind of medicine did they practice and would I need their services after the exam? If I failed, a psychiatrist, anesthesiologist, and veterinary surgeon might combine their skills to restore me to pre-CIW health. This trio of healers would make me attend a support group of webmasters who concocted such exaggerated and destructive notions of advancing their careers through technical certifications.

Where I took the CIW Site Designer examIt was the same guy, the nervous administrator who had attended me when I took the previous exam three months ago. It had been so long that he didn’t recognize me. “Congratulations,” he would say again if I passed this second test. He must say that word many times during the day to MCSE, CCNP, CNA and other cert candidates. What would he say to someone who failed?

Things moved along smoothly, except that I couldn’t remember the exact number of the Site Designer exam. I’m not sure why, but every certification exam worth anything has a series number assigned to it.

1D0-420 would be my winning or losing number today.

“Do you have many people who take this exam,” I asked?  His face scrunched into a painful expression as sounds struggled to escape his mouth but failed. I had no idea what words he labored to speak, only that he intended the response as negative.

I nodded.

He lead me into a quiet vacant room where fluorescent lights threw their fake light upon eight to ten PC’s and about the same number of dysfunctional chairs. Add one more item to all the webmaster definitions, charts, and diagrams crammed into my brain to remember: don’t lean back in the chair.

A message on my monitor screen said: “Click here to begin the exam.” I reached for the mouse.

For the Site Designer exam, one is expected to have a working knowledge of popular design tools like Microsoft FrontPage, Dreamweaver, and HomeSite. One must also be handy with graphics programs like Paint Shop Pro and Flash. As I progressed, product-related questions seemed scarce. Best design practices, colors, and what’s-wrong-with-this-code-questions abounded. The answers were cut and dry, as they often were with the Associates exam. One answer just always looked better than the others.

I clicked finish. My eyes ping-ponged across the screen until they latched onto a beautiful number: 80%. I had passed. I heard papers rustle in the next room. The administrator was preparing to hand me my score and utter the word I had worked so hard to hear on this warm, bright, sunny day:


The next day I realized I had forgotten my receipt needed for educational reimbursement from my bankrupt company. It was closing time but I saw the nervous administrator through the door’s glass. I yelled through the door, “I need to get my receipt!” He began letting me in as I repeated my request loudly; not realizing a student sat quietly in the corner preparing to take an exam.

With CIW Site Designer behind me, I was only one exam away from possessing the piece of paper publicly declaring me a Master Certified Internet Webmaster.

To be continued?

Emory Rowland

I'm editor and keeper of the flame at Clickfire. I consider myself a fanatical blogger, entrepreneur and builder of Internet things from way back. My love for social media and success with organic search led me to start a SEO consulting venture. Apart from the Internet, I could be considered pretty worthless. More...

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