I arrived from the Christmas holidays in a rather distressed state: at the airport of the country my family had visited over Christmas the immigration authorities decided they would not permit my children to return to the UK. “But they are UK citizens and they were born there!” I argued. “Look at their passports – that’s where they’ve come from and this is not the first time they’ve been here and returned to the UK either.” It was all to no avail. After arguing for about an hour with at least four of the immigration authorities we had no choice but to leave the children behind with my sister; my wife would also stay with them until I was able to sort the matter out.
I had to fly back to the UK that night because I had registered for Firebrand training and the Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) exams and the course would start the day after my return. While trying to sort out the mess I was informed that my flight had already been called and so, with a heavy heart, I hurried over to the check-in counter, leaving my family behind.
On the overnight flight I wondered what it would take to resolve the matter. I landed the following morning at Heathrow airport and took a taxi home. I phoned the immigration authorities over here and received helpful advice. I also began to pack for my trip to the Firebrand training centre which would take place on the following day. There was so much to do: a large pile of mail to deal with, bills to pay, things to buy. The central heating had also broken down; I was cold and tired.
The following day, having taken care of all the urgent matters that needed my attention, I set off for Bedfordshire where I would be taking the course. I arrived several hours late at about 8pm, having missed the first session of the course. Not a good start.
I was on the “MCSD: Windows Store Apps Using C#” course. For the first three days I wasn’t even sure whether I could continue on the course: my children’s situation weighed heavily on my mind and I was in constant touch with them, my wife and my sister and abroad; you can imagine my mental state.
The training was a shock to the system. I basically had to work fourteen-hour days, seven days a week, trying to absorb material that was completely new to me (except that I had read the C# exam reference book during the Christmas holidays abroad. Not the ideal time to try to learn anything!) At least I had read the book. But XAML, WPF, FilePickers and StackPanels? These were alien concepts from the planet Z, as far as I was concerned. And to learn them in one week? The exams were meant for people who had been using those things for at least a year! In a nutshell we were back in school: school on steroids
All too soon it was time to take the C# exam. Things were as bad as they could be for me and I reckoned that failing the exam wouldn’t make any difference. I went in with all the brand-new information I’d managed to absorb buzzing about in my head. Two hours later it was over. As I picked up my things to leave the exam room a message flashed on the computer screen in front of me: it said I had passed the exam!!!
I bounded out of the room and went to shake hands with the instructor who was waiting outside. “I passed!” I told him, beaming. I was the first in our group to pass: two other candidates from other companies had taken the exam too – and had both failed.
I am now an MCP. The journey isn’t over yet – I still need to pass two further exams to become an MCSD. But it is a testament to our Firebrand instructor’s skill that in a week he brought me so close to that goal. I narrowly missed out getting through those exams, in one case by just one mark because I locked myself out of the exam inadvertently.
Though it was exhausting and very challenging, I do not think I could have achieved through private study alone what I was able to learn in a week of intensive training from Firebrand. Our instructor was excellent. My new knowledge is already being put to use at work, both on my project and also in interviewing candidates for the company.
If a person like me who had never used any of these Microsoft technologies in anger before, and indeed previously hadn’t the faintest idea about most of them, could at least pass one of the three exams needed for certification after only a few days of training, then I’d like to encourage all the 1E developers who are not yet certified to pluck up courage – and go for it!
p.s. You’ll be pleased to know that late in February I passed the remaining exams and am now an MCSD!