Making the best out of this current Covid19 pandemic – Being a Virtual Subject Matter Expert (SME)

By | April 9, 2020

It has been shown that taking and passing certifications can lead to promotions and salary increases. As the old adage states, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. During this pandemic, with everyone working from home, it’s a great opportunity to study  and take an exam. With the available NetApp simulators, NetApp Lab On Demand  and VUE testing centers offering online testing, don’t pass up on this opportunity to get certified. Keeping exams updated and relevant, is crucial and requires a lot work by the NetApp University Certification program, led by Brandi Einhorn.

I have been a part of the NetApp exam writing team for several years and have recently been honored with the prestigious SME Elite status.

As part of the exam writing process, Subject Matter Experts (SME) are typically invited to NetApp Headquarters located in Raleigh North Carolina RTP for a 5DAY in-person process. A few months ago, I was invited to participate in updating the NetApp Certified Implementation Engineer-SAN exam (NCIE-SAN NS0-519) for ONTAP 9.7.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Brandi proposed not canceling the Item Development Workshop (IDW) but offered a ‘Virtual IDW’. 

Since historically this has always been onsite, the SME team worked remotely using strict guidelines, one of which was having a minimum of 6 SMEs present at all times.

Not having all of the SMEs in the same room didn’t hamper this 5DAY virtual workshop, the end result was a great exam and with most new things, there were lessons learned along the way:

Best practices for a remote IDW

  1. Be Ontime – Since there are potentially SMEs from different Time Zones, being mindful of this, allows for a smooth IDW
  2. Turn on your webcam – This helps simulate a in person experience and helps with keeping the IDW interactive.
  3. Mute audio when not talking – Trying to stay focused writing questions can be difficult if there are distractions.
  4. Stay Engaged – We were often times on a few minutes early, this allowed us to interact and catchup on things.
  5. Take breaks  – stepping away helps clear thoughts during writer’s block
  6. Commit Time – Since we are not onsite and kept away from distractions (work / personal) make sure to stay committed to the IDW
  7. Humor – In light of the current situation, we still had fun by telling jokes. 

I want to thank Brandi for not canceling the NCIE-SAN IDW. For another write-up regarding their ‘Virtual IDW’ experiences make sure to check out my good friend Scott Gelb.

One thought on “Making the best out of this current Covid19 pandemic – Being a Virtual Subject Matter Expert (SME)

  1. Pedro Couto

    Hi Allen, how you doing?

    Thanks for sharing your experience, I can’t wait for the virtual NCIE-DP IDW.

    Miss you buddy!


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