Several times each month, CompTIA invites IT professionals to our headquarters in the Chicago suburbs to share their expertise and help us develop and update certification exams. CompTIA Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), as we call them, not only influence our exams to make sure they cover skills needed on the job, but they network with others in their field, earn a daily stipend and receive all the delicious local fare they can imagine.
In January, we had a group of 15 SMEs join us from nine states and the United Arab Emirates to create text and performance-based questions for the next version of the CompTIA Security+ exam. Two of the IT pros in attendance shared their experience of being a SME.
Barry D. Clemons, Information Systems Security Officer for FWG Solutions, San Antonio, Texas
Barry D. Clemons earned his CompTIA Security+ certification four years ago, but this was his first time attending a SME workshop. As an information systems security officer, he works on a team that oversees the full spectrum of security for several IT systems that process data for the federal government. He said he signed up to be a SME to give back to his industry.
“[Being a CompTIA SME allows you] to give back to the community that has given to you,” Clemons said. “As a professional, this was an opportunity to step out of my lane and experience IT security from a broader perspective.”
As a first-time SME, Clemons enjoyed networking with other IT professionals and learning about their roles. He added that he “had the curtain peeled back … to see how clear-cut and precise the selection process is” and gained an understanding of what CompTIA endures when developing exam material.
The opportunity to help give back to the industry by contributing to certification exam workshops is always a good way to remember how important our work is to the world and how important it is to identify qualified candidates to fill important IT roles in organizations throughout the world.Michael T. Ross
“It was an eye-opening experience, and one that I learned from,” Clemons said. “I was impressed with how streamlined our element of the process was. There was not a moment when we did not know what the staff expected out of us on a daily basis.”
Following the workshop, Clemons said he gained access to a network of resources that expanded his professional knowledge base and was able to “add to [his] brain trust of security professionals.” He said he now better understands the relevance and value of CompTIA certifications by learning the exam development process firsthand.
“I did not know what to expect coming in, but I was thoroughly impressed with the experience,” he said. “The staff was 100 percent professional and patient with us all. [And CompTIA] kept us well fed, which I did not know was going to be such an imperative until I experienced January’s arctic blast for myself!”
Michael T. Ross, Information Technology Specialist (Information Security) for the federal government, Washington, D.C.
Michael T. Ross became a CompTIA SME in 2012 after working on a cloud migration project for his organization. With a demanding job overseeing security-related matters for the federal government and five children at home, he has to be selective when it comes to travel. Ross said that SME workshops are more than worth it, and he is happy to give back by participating.
“The Security+ exam played a major role in me being hired at my current organization, which was a highly competitive process,” Ross said. “The opportunity to help give back to the industry by contributing to certification exam workshops is always a good way to remember how important our work is to the world and how important it is to identify qualified candidates to fill important IT roles in organizations throughout the world.”
He said he is impressed by the CompTIA exam development process – getting input from industry experts to ensure the exams cover what happens in the real world of IT and then analyzing and revising proposed questions.
“The process ensures questions are clear and accurate, targeted at the intended audience and effective at identifying candidates with the knowledge and experience required to pass the exam,” Ross said. He added that the questions challenge candidates to think through situations they will face in the workplace.
“This means that employers can be confident that a job applicant with a CompTIA certification can handle situations in the organization that align to the exam’s target audience level of experience,” Ross said.
Over the years, Ross has connected with such a diverse group that SME workshops “transcend any networking event” he has ever attended.
“There are wide ranges of specializations and experience gathered in the workshop, so I always have the opportunity to learn from the other participants and gain a deeper understanding of areas where my career does not focus on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “I am definitely more well-rounded due to my participation in the CompTIA SME workshops, and this provides a better value to my employer.”
Do you have what it takes to be a SME? Read the qualifications and apply, and you may be chosen to participate in one of our upcoming workshops.