Exam Review: Certified Master Architect – Capstone Board Review

I previously wrote about beta testing the CMA program. The results are in… I’m now a fully endorsed ServiceNow Certified Master Architect! As I publish this, there are only 45 CMAs in the world.

It was a six-month journey, sometimes bumpy, sometimes scary, but always interesting. We had to learn, and prove our expertise in the wide array of every ServiceNow solution, plus demonstrate our consultancy skills in an exam that was possibly as difficult as university defence thesis.

This was not a multiple-choice exam, but the presentation and defence of an implementation strategy in front of a panel of experts, role-playing the board of a large company. We were tested on governance, clarity, expertise, focus and presentation skills. We had to follow one hundred hours of live webinars, and travels thousands of kilometres on multiples occasions. But most important of all, we had to meet and work with amazing experts, from other Partners and ServiceNow. That was the most satisfying, and difficult, training I ever had. I’m very glad it’s behind me… But every step of that journey was a pleasure.

The exam itself was short, only one hour. We received the description of a fictional organisation less than one week before the exam and a final review of the board review process. The day of the exam, I went to the ServiceNow office in Amsterdam. There, alone in a closed room, I was given two hours to study a huge scope and context document, and to finalise my presentation. A presentation? Yes, the exam is a one-hour presentation, including Q&A, directed to experts role-playing the board members of the fictional company. The presentation needs to be high-level, ideally with some hard numbers, but you need to be ready deep dive in technical questions about any topic. At the end, you’re evaluated on our platform and solutions expertise, our knowledge on integrations, our laser focus on customer outcomes, and our presentation skills.

Because the scope was so wide, it was humanly impossible to create a presentation on the spot. During the one hundred hours of training webinars we received, on about every possible ServiceNow topic, I collected as many relevant slides and knowledge nuggets as possible. Preparing a large collection of base presentation materials to be ready to demonstrate confidence and expertise on any topics. That base collection allowed me to create a template presentation during the days before the exam, and to finalise it to match the context and requirements received two hours before the exam. Presentation skills can be trained by doing… presentations.

I’m sure it’s possible to use other approaches to pass that exam, but this is the one I used for success.

TechnicalPlatform, domain, integrations knowledge, solution
Business AcumenOutcomes and value proposition
DeliveryOrganisational readiness, governance model, program delivery clarity
Effective Presentation SkillsPanelist engagement, structured presentation sections, verbal and non-verbal components, slides design, composition and effectiveness
This is not your usual technical exam. You’ll be evaluated over four domains.

I consider this to be the hardest exam I ever had to pass. It was close to the defence of a university thesis, as done to achieve a doctorate. My six hours CISSP exam, with its 300 multiple choice questions was easier. How difficult it will be you depends on your existing skill set. I’m from a technical background, but as I was a teacher for seven years, I was used to present complex problem in simple term. Yet having to present to a CEO in English, a language that I learned as an autodidact, was very challenging to me.

My advice for those who want to achieve more in their life: Never stop learning, never consider you’ve reached your full potential. *

*Continuous Improvement is not merely an ITIL notion! ?

My advice for those who want to become a CMA. Don’t wait to prepare those required CAD and CIS certifications. But technical skills are not everything… Take any opportunity to speak and write in public (heck, this is one of the reasons I’m blogging). You may consider registering yourself to your local Toast Master group, just to improve on that, if you’re not used to it. Also ensure that you think processes, solutions and (very) big picture.

If you’re interested by the Certified Master Architect program:

By the way, I did learn the meaning of a few English words:

A cohort is a group of students who work through a curriculum together to achieve the same academic degree together. Cohortians are the individual members of such a group. In a cohort, there is an expectation of richness to the learning process due to the multiple perspectives offered by the students.

An alumnus (masculine) or an alumna (feminine) of a college, university, or other school is a former student who has either attended or graduated in some fashion from the institution. The word is Latin and simply means student. The plural is alumni for men and mixed groups and alumnae for women. The term is not synonymous with “graduate”; one can be an alumnus without graduating.

A capstone course, also known as capstone unit or a senior thesis or senior seminar serves as the culminating and usually integrative experience of an educational program. A capstone course, module, project, subject, or unit in the higher education context may also be referred to as a capstone experience, senior seminar (in the U.S.), or final year project or dissertation (more common in the U.K.). The term derives from the final decorative coping or “cap-stone” used to complete a building or monument.

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