Passing Google’s Professional Collaboration Engineer certification as a non-techie

30 March 2020

Passing Google’s Professional Collaboration Engineer certification as a non-techie

Written by Fraja Hodges, CSS Programme Manager, Netpremacy

In January this year I took (and more importantly, passed) Google’s Professional Collaboration Engineer certification. This was a great achievement as I’m not (and never have been) in a technical role, meaning this was a big challenge for me not only from a career standpoint (what new paths would be opened up that I hadn’t considered before) but also a personal perspective (if I can do this, what more could I strive and push myself to do). I’m also lucky that Netpremacy offers so much support for career progression and personal growth, actively encouraging employees to take courses and specialisations. This particular certification taught me that when you really do set your mind to something, you can accomplish anything! So, I thought I’d share my experience with you, from preparing for the exam to where it has taken me since. My aim is to provide other non-techies like myself who have been eyeing up the certification with as much detail and guidance as possible, to build/boost confidence and encourage anyone thinking about it, to just go for it!

Preparing for the exam

Step 1: Equip yourself with 

On their website, Google provides an exam guide that lists all the topics that could come up in the exam. Treat the points as modules in a course, tackling them one at a time. Don’t jump around the exam guide or start with a module halfway through because it looks easier. It’s in this order for a reason and is in a logical flow for learning. I’d recommend maintaining a document that collates all your notes as you make your way through the modules

Most of the points in the guide link to an article from Google’s support platform, so reading through these will equip you with a lot of relevant and useful knowledge. Taking the G Suite Administration Specialisation on Coursera is also a great way to familiarize yourself with the admin console and its features (you can enroll for free and because it’s all online, you can go at your own pace to your own schedule). If you can get admin access in a dummy environment, you can safely explore the admin settings and put your learnings into practice.

One thing I’d say, is don’t just move onto the next point in the exam guide because you’ve read the supporting material. Make sure you actually understand before moving on. If it’s a feature or tool; what purpose does it serve, how do you use it, where can it be found. If it’s an action; how do you perform it, where do you go to do it, what is the outcome. If it’s troubleshooting; what should you look out for, where’s the route cause of the issue, what tool would best serve to find it.

Step 2: Book your exam

Once you have gone through every module of the exam guide and have a plethora of notes, you should register for the exam and get it scheduled in your diary. The reason I’d suggest getting the exam booked before you dive into revision is because this gives you a deadline to work towards. When you have committed to date, you are more likely to set aside time to revise and take study seriously as it becomes more of a priority and doesn’t just sit on the backburner (you will always have other work to do instead, so unless you actively make time for it, you will never get around to doing it). Don’t worry, if something crops up or you feel you need more time, you can cancel or reschedule at any point up to 72hrs beforehand (this is free and very simple to do). I booked mine two months in advance over the Christmas break so I knew I wouldn’t be too busy workwise.

Step 3: Revise, revise, revise

Now that you have booked your exam, you should look at getting time blocked out in your calendar to revise. Be sure to stick to your study schedule as this will avoid any unnecessary cramming the night before and give plenty of time for your new-found knowledge to sink in. Remember what you were taught back in school for exam preparation, try techniques like creating images and diagrams or explaining to others the steps for performing a certain admin task. I created revision cards broken down per topic and printed off the admin console homepage listing underneath each ‘header’ what settings could be found in it (ie. Security > Investigation Tool

Then, I’d recommend taking the practice exam, which is just in a Google Forms format, and gives you a flavour of the types of questions you can expect on the day. From memory, there were around 20 practice questions and you are advised to limit yourself to 45mins. Once you submit, you can go back through your answers and read through the explanations from Google as to why an answer was right or wrong. This will give you an understanding of what result you could expect and which topics you need to revise more. 

Taking the exam

First of all, you should ensure you are properly prepared for the day. Have you got everything you need? You are required to bring with you two forms of ID; one primary (such as your driver’s license or passport) and one secondary (like a bank card). Do you know how you are getting to the exam centre? You may need to arrange public transport ahead of time. Are you allowing yourself enough time on the day? I made sure I booked a train that got me there with lots of time to spare (and glad I did as my train got cancelled so I had to take an alternate (and longer) route) so I could grab a coffee and some food before the exam (no-one wants a rumbling stomach in a dead silent exam room). Have you read up on what to expect during the exam? The last thing you want is surprises on the day that throw you off

The exam itself is 2hrs long and has around 50 multiple-choice questions. You will be guided to your designated computer (there may be others taking exams in the same room), which will be set up for you, you’ll need to fill in some details and accept the T&Cs before commencing. The exam format is very simple, you can navigate through the questions easily and you can flag questions that you’d like to review or revisit later. You have plenty of time to properly think about your answers and to review every single question again in the 2hrs you’re given, so don’t worry about taking your time. You’ll also be happy to know that you are given your provisional result upon submitting your exam (so you don’t have to wait weeks on end to know how you did). This is marked as “provisional” as it has to be reviewed by Google first, but I haven’t come across anyone getting a different result to their provisional one (based on roughly 10 people I know who have taken this exam).

After the exam and beyond

After a couple of days, you will receive an email confirming your result (this can take up to 10 days, but mine took 2). Hopefully, you will get something along the lines of “Congratulations: You are Google Cloud Certified”. In this email, you will get access to your digital certification (that looks a little like this) that you can add to LinkedIn and make public on the Google Cloud Certified Directory. This comes with a badge that you can add to your email signature. You will also get a voucher code to claim some free merchandise from the Certification Perks Webstore (mine was a choice between a Patagonia jumper or a blanket and portable coffee mug). Being Google Cloud Certified comes with it’s perks such as access to exclusive online communities and certified-only areas at Google events. 

Aside from the free swag, passing the certification really gave me a confidence boost in the Google world. I found as the non-techie in my team I could now actually follow in-depth technical discussions and even provide food for thought and valid, relevant contributions on an admin level. It made me want to exploit all my new-found knowledge and confidence as much as possible, so I went on a mini certification rampage, taking the Chrome OS IT Admin exam and the G Suite certification only a few weeks later. I also plan to take a stab at the G Suite Deployment Services Specialist exam at some point. As well as learning progression, my career took a new path; I became the first Google Cloud Certified female in Netpremacy and my role within the company has now moved from that of a Programme Manager into Product Management. So, taking on this challenge, although tough and uncertain, really did pay off and I’m really proud that I didn’t quit at the thought of failure.  

I hope this blog has been useful and you now feel reassured, encouraged and confident that you’ll nail the Professional Collaboration Engineer certification. If you’re still hungry for information, the FAQ’s are a great resource.

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