I currently work under a non-technical PM and my firm's tech lead who are overseeing my transition from junior to 'regular' software developer over the coming months.

In my most recent scheduled performance review they outlined their plan to push me through some Microsoft certifications and their expected timescale. This timescale is designed so that I will obtain the certification just in time for the firm to retain a certain accreditation based on the number of qualified engineers. The firm provides the funding for the exam and also reasonable office time I can dedicate to studying.

The issue I have is that not only is that timeframe very short (2-3 months), but also that the exam is apparently infamous for lacking up to date reference materials from Microsoft beyond a link to a generic MSDN index. Furthermore - on the exam description it suggests that the exam is relevant for those who have: "3 - 5 years of commercial experience using [technology]". I estimate I have less than 6 months.

The non-technical PM doesn't have the knowledge to appreciate the weight of the material in the test, and conversely, the tech lead finds it as easy as breathing. How can I appropriately convey my scepticism at my ability to pass this exam given the time frame and the resources available to me?

To clarify - when I joined the company, I made no claim to previously having much experience in the technology alluded to above.

  • 4
    What happens if you attempt and fail? Feb 17 '20 at 14:41
  • @SouravGhosh Nothing has been mentioned specifically, though there are other engineers still at the company who have mentioned they have failed exams before. Unlikely that they were racing to retain a company accreditation however.
    – James
    Feb 17 '20 at 14:45
  • Do you have to pass this specific exam or just 'an' exam at a similar level? I am wondering if you could take a different exam in a subject you are more familiar with, just to keep the certification requirement? And work on the other one later. Feb 18 '20 at 8:51
  • Microsoft requires certain "rails" (linear progression) towards specific accreditation. The only one vaguely suitable for me and for the desired accreditation is the one in question. Ref: query.prod.cms.rt.microsoft.com/cms/api/am/binary/RE2NfU6
    – James
    Feb 18 '20 at 9:08

To "challenge" their plan you need to understand their goal. And to do that you will have to talk to whichever one you have the best relationship with. You need to understand how they view it, and why the deadline was picked.

It is possible that the timing is convenient for them, or a way to increase their odds. If they need three more people to be certified they wont pick 3 people to get certified; they will pick ones they have no concerns about meeting the deadline, plus a few more as a backup plan in case somebody can't meet the deadline.

Of course they may be trying to push you to get to a level faster than your are comfortable. This could be considered a stretch goal. Missing a stretch goal isn't the end of your career.

It could also be used to get a employee performing at too low a level up to a better level. In this case they are watching how you approach the challenge, and how successful you are. If you fail, then how you fail it will be important in your next evaluation.

There could also be a budget reason. If you take the test before the company accreditation deadline, the money for the test comes out of the accreditation budget. But if you take the test a few weeks later, it comes out of their project budget. A quick miss is free from their point of view. Managers always like it when somebody else's budget pays for something.

  • If you list a number of possible motivations for management, I would also mention 'setting OP up to fail'. I have no idea whether that is likely but it does seem possible to me.
    – quarague
    Feb 18 '20 at 7:55
  • The setting up to fail scenario hadn't occurred to me as the majority of the performance review was upwards of 80% (using their internal metrics). If they are intentionally pre-arranging such a thing - I reckon I wouldn't want to continue to work there anyway so the point is moot should I fail.
    – James
    Feb 18 '20 at 8:46

"This timescale is designed so that I will obtain the certification just in time for the firm to retain a certain accreditation based on the number of qualified engineers"

This is a lot of pressure to put on a Junior member of staff, I doubt the company accreditation would come down to solely you passing of failing a test. If it does you need to have a word with your manager or find a new job quick.

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