I failed today. There, I said it. I am not happy about it, but I own the fact that I failed. As a subject matter expert for my company, I feel like it’s important that my peers see the full picture of the process. This setback doesn’t make me any less smart. I know a ton about cloud services and even competent technologists fail certification exams. It happens to the best of us. It is okay to fail at something.

Back in December, I had an opportunity to take the Beta version of the AZ-305 Designing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions exam to complete my path to the Microsoft Certified Azure Solutions Architect Expert credential. Since the window for taking the exam was very small and the holidays were quickly approaching, I didn’t do the things I normally do to prepare for an exam, and I took it before I considered myself fully ready. I did manage to get a huge discount on the price, so, I told myself the worst thing that could happen was that I would get a good look at the content of a brand new exam even if I fail. With the exam going live last week, the beta exams were scored, and I wound up with a 661, but needed a 700 to pass. Close, but no cigar.

One of things that helps me in situations like this is my musical training. As strange as the comparison may seem, I’ve been through this situation thousands of times. As a professional musician, I have spent almost 4 decades perfecting my performance skills. When I play gigs out in public, I’m often reminded that outside of my close family, most people have no idea that what they are hearing is the result of thousands of hours of dedicated practice, repetition, failure, analysis, self-doubt, refinement of technique and the sheer will it takes to persevere in the face of resistance. What the outsider sees is the brief shining moment, a few minutes of musical enjoyment, pulled off effortlessly by a professional. It’s the iceberg analogy: what you see above the water pales in comparison to all the complexity lying below the surface. If you have been down this path through sports, music, art, etc. then you know that success is earned over time and that it often includes just as many setbacks as victories. It is so cliche, but it is what we do in the face of failure that defines us. Trust me, I still drop drum sticks from time to time, but I don’t stop playing. I either grab another stick or just play with one. Unless someone is watching very closely, there’s a good chance no one even noticed. The trick is to stay focused and don’t panic.

With the score report in hand, I will dust myself off and get back to work preparing for another shot at the exam. When I announce that I have passed the exam in a few months, I know that it will be a result of the dozens of hours I spent working through hands-on labs, watching John Savill’s videos, and reviewing all the great content on Microsoft Learn to improve my knowledge - like I normally do. I will put in the hard work, and I will succeed. The next time you see a new certification badge on someone’s LinkedIn profile, make sure to congratulate them. Many times, it is the failures that you don’t see on their profile that led to their achievement and it is the perseverance that needs to be celebrated as much as the result.