Derek Robinson 00:00:03 Welcome to Data Points, a podcast by InterSystems Learning Services. Make sure to subscribe to the podcast on your favorite podcast app. Links can be found at datapoints.intersystems.com. I'm Derek Robinson. And on today's episode, I'll chat with Certification Exam Developer Shane Nowack about what's new and noteworthy around InterSystems Certification exams.
Derek Robinson 00:00:34 Welcome to the Data Points podcast by InterSystems Learning Services. On today's episode, Shane Nowack will join me to talk about the Certification exam program here at InterSystems. The program has existed for a few years now, and Shane will talk to us a bit about the exam development process before diving into the new and exciting things coming up that InterSystems users should be excited to learn.
Derek Robinson 00:00:58 All right, and welcome to the podcast, Shane Nowack, Certification Exam Developer here at InterSystems. Shane. How's it going?
Shane Nowack 00:01:03 Good. How are you, Derek?
Derek Robinson 00:01:04 Good. Thank you. So first time on the podcast for you and, you know, it's nice for me because we're back in person. We've been doing the podcast remotely for a while here, um, with the pandemic and everything else. So, first off, let's tell us a little bit about yourself, the role that you have here at InterSystems in the Certification exam team, and kind of what your role looks like and what the Certification team does here at InterSystems.
Shane Nowack 00:01:29 Thanks, Derek. Yeah, so officially as an exam developer, my role is to write industry-standard, legally defensible certification exams. And, that process takes a while to complete. So most of our exams take roughly nine to 12 months to build. We start with meeting with subject matter experts to get a list of exam topics. Then we ask the community to weigh in on those exam topics to see if we actually hit the right topics. And then we move through writing questions, testing the exams, actually alpha testing the exams. Then we go through a cut score-setting method called the Angoff method. Then we make a test and then we calibrate our cut score method based on the beta results. And then finally we go live after that.
Derek Robinson 00:02:24 Yeah, so lots of steps in that process to really curate and make sure that it's a robust, you know, like you said, defensible exam. Right?
Shane Nowack 00:02:30 Absolutely. And in my role, you know, it ranges from working with subject matter experts to compile, you know, the topics, and then to write questions, and then to train our testers on what they need to do, and then to run these cuts score methods.
Derek Robinson 00:02:45 Right, right. Nice. Yeah. So, I mean, there's a lot involved there, and being able to capture the, you know, high level of technical competency that's required for a lot of these exams. Lots of different parties involved too. When we talk about the people that take InterSystems exams or benefit from InterSystems exams, right? One of the examples is, you know, people listening to our podcast here, a lot of them might be pretty tenured InterSystems technology users, right? And so if they're hearing about Certification for the first time, which Certification has been out for a few years now—but if they are just hearing about it now, tell us a little bit about really the value for each of what I'll term as three different parties involved—which is the person getting the certification, you know, the user of the technology; hiring managers, or companies or departments that are bringing on new developers or operators or whatever role, and looking for InterSystems certifications with those candidates. And then also InterSystems, right? Kind of those three different groups. Tell us a little bit high-level about why each should care about the certification process and certification credentials, and the whole thing.
Shane Nowack 00:03:53 I think I'll start with the certification candidate themselves. This may seem rather obvious, but if you've been using our technology for many years, why would you want to get certified? So the most natural reason is that it opens doors, that having certification on your resume…there's published literature that suggests that this is extremely helpful in advancing your career and opening doors to opportunities you might not realize are out there. And, you know, one of the things we do is when you earn a certification from InterSystems, you get a digital badge and, you know, you can post it on social media: LinkedIn, Twitter, whatever you want, and you can really, you know, advertise your skills. So you get your skills out there— is the biggest reason for an individual to get certified.
Shane Nowack 00:04:50 And maybe that's not the biggest, maybe the biggest is actually the fact that the research suggests that it's 10 to $15,000 a year is what the average uptick in a salary is from a certified to a non-certified individual for a role. So that would be the biggest takeaways for the individual. For partners, having a certification program, it really allows us, new partner organizations, entry into our business. So what we…all of our exams right now are of the specialist level, which is, we promote as, you know—take our base level in class now, virtual class, that the exam is based on, and then have six to 12 months experience in the technology. So when we're trying to attract new partners, it's a great selling point for us to say, Hey, we have a certification program, and your people can get certified with us, you know, six to 12 months. We don't advertise our certification program or any of our certifications as a bootcamp, sort of—it's not, you're going to take the class and get certified. You take the class, you go through some suggested learning paths, and you have six to 12 months experience in the role.
Derek Robinson 00:06:08 Right. And so I think, you know, through those two answers, you can kind of, you know, inherently hear the value for InterSystems as well, right? Because these are our user base and our partners, and the people that use our technology. And so I think, would it be accurate to say that really the benefits of those two groups manifest themselves into the benefits for InterSystems, as far as having that user base of certified experts and, you know, partners that have, you know, that piece of information available when they're looking to build their projects and their teams, right?
Shane Nowack 00:06:36 Right. Yeah. Agreed. And one thing that as you're asking that follow-up, that I realized I didn't address was that, you know, for hiring managers, it also makes a hiring manager's job easier—easier to recognize talent based on what we're talking about and being able to display your credentials online.
Derek Robinson 00:06:53 Right. Right. Exactly. Cool. So kind of looking at the, sort of what's available, you know, for InterSystems Certification. The one that I know, and I've talked with you a little bit about, that has been out the longest, is the HealthShare Health Connect HL7 Interface Specialist exam. It's our oldest exam. Tell us a little bit about how this one's been received over the time that it's been out, and kind of what is, you know, relevant to know about that exam and what's going on with that?
Shane Nowack 00:07:21 Yes, that's certainly our most popular exam. We've had well over 600 people take the exam, and close to 400 people that own their credential for that exam. It's about as old as the Certification program at InterSystems itself; it's about four years old. And one of the things to note is all of our credentials are good for five years. And this is an industry standard sort of practice. After so long, so many years, you have to get re-certified. So, with this, with our HL7 Interface exam, some individuals' expiration dates for the credential will be approaching. So we are currently working on a new version of the exam so individuals that hold a credential can get recertified, and also to make sure that all the new features that affect our technology are captured in what we're calling our HL7 Interface Specialist exam.
Derek Robinson 00:08:22 Right, right. Yeah. You have those improvements to the product over time that, you know, five years is a long time in the tech world, right? And so I think, you got to make sure you capture those new features and new functionality.
Shane Nowack 00:08:32 So one of the things about the new version of the exam is that about 80% of the topics covered will overlap from the old exam. But we are, you know, we have worked with our internal subject matter experts to go through the current topic list and add to it what we think are relevant features. And like I said, the next step, and we're about ready to move forward with this step, is to take this compiled list and send it out to the community. And when I say the community, I'm talking about our InterSystems HL7 interface developers. They're the people that use our product. So we'll have a Developer Community post coming soon that will be asking you, the community, to weigh in on the topics that we've compiled, and to validate that we have accurately compiled the topics that someone that does your job needs to know.
Shane Nowack 00:09:30 And, you know, one thing to keep in mind is that when we send out this survey, we we'd really love your input. We realize it's a rather thankless job; it takes about 45 minutes to fill out the survey, but it really does give you an opportunity to weigh in on the content that we cover to make sure that our Certification exams are covering the right things.
Derek Robinson 00:09:51 Yeah. And you know, a lot of times I think people in the back of their mind have, you know, they think with the survey, like they don't really have a lot of confidence, or they know for sure if it's going to be acted on, right? Like that their input is actionable. This is an example of one that's very actionable, right? Because I think, you're, like you said, looking to validate what will actually be created and find out if we're missing anything, and if there's anything that, you know, even if they can voice agreement with, or whatever, just kind of like reflecting that that Certification is matching what they're doing in their role, so I think that's an important thing to note.
Shane Nowack 00:10:25 Yeah, absolutely. And when we get that data back, we bring our in-house subject matter experts back to the table, and we show them what the community had to say. And then based on what the community had to say and our in-house subject matter experts, we make adjustments to the content that's covered on these exams.
Derek Robinson 00:10:41 Yeah, exactly. That's great. So anything else you want to talk about with the HL7 exam before we kind of move to the others?
Shane Nowack 00:10:46 Yeah. There's one last thing I mentioned. Those of you who do notice your credentials are expiring soon...we will notify you when we…for the email we have on record with you through our exam delivery service Questionmark, we will send out reminders that that credential is expiring, and these are the steps you need to follow to get recertified. And I do want to mention one thing too: we're kind of rebranding that as well, is that it's currently the HealthShare Health Connect HL7 Interface Specialist exam. But what we realize is InterSystems HL7 Interface Specialists encompass more than just HealthShare Health Connect users. So we have InterSystems IRIS for Health users that are HL7 Interface Specialists, Unified Care Record, Patient Index HL7 specialists. So the name of the new exam is going to be InterSystems HL7 Interface Specialist.
Derek Robinson 00:11:45 Right, right. Exactly. Yeah. That makes sense. And for, you know, if anybody listening is still learning InterSystems products, or still getting introduced to that, you know, the underlying reason there is that the HL7 integration functionality that that exam is certifying. Like you said, really that core functionality exists in a lot of our different products. And if you're new to InterSystems, you will learn as you kind of go through our product learning and documentation and stuff, that there is a lot of overlap among InterSystems products. And so I think that, I think it's a great update to be able to not isolate that, to be one of the products when that functionality really exists in several. So, exciting development there, for sure.
Shane Nowack 00:12:26 Yeah. Well said, thank you.
Derek Robinson 00:12:27 So kind of looking at the other exams, I know that's the big one that is both the oldest, the most popular, and has the most relevant upcoming news. But tell us about some of the other exams that are available for people that maybe if they're not HL7 Integration Specialists, might be interested in the other certifications that they could get.
Shane Nowack 00:12:44 Yeah. We have two more HealthShare products. We have a HealthShare Unified Care Record Technical Specialist. This is for someone who leads technical implementation of Unified Care Record based on requirements generated about systems designed by your technical architect. And I think, you know, that description says everything in itself on what that exam tests, but once again, six to 12 months' experience in leading implementations. And then, our third HealthShare certification exam is our HealthShare Patient Index Technical Specialist. And, this is what we describe as an IT implementation professional, six to 12 months' experience with installing, configuring, and supporting patient the Patient Index product.
Derek Robinson 00:13:28 Right. Okay, cool.
Shane Nowack 00:13:29 And then the one InterSystems IRIS exam we do have live right now is called InterSystems IRIS Core Solutions Developer Specialist. This is really an ObjectScript exam. We're testing on ObjectScript programming, using SQL for application data access, a lot of OOP, object-oriented programming concepts, on this exam.
Derek Robinson 00:13:53 Nice. Okay. So that's kind of your basic level InterSystems IRIS-focused one.
Shane Nowack 00:13:58 Yeah, it is. And those are the four that we have live right now.
Derek Robinson 00:14:01 Nice, nice. And so what other ones might be coming in the future?
Shane Nowack 00:14:05 Yeah, so we have, you know, as I mentioned, nine to 12 months to build an exam at a minimum. We think by the end of 2022, we'll have three more. One I kind of already mentioned. So, it's the new version of the HL7. So that's one. Another one that we've been working on a long time and, it's got a whole soap opera behind it, it's development. But it's going to be InterSystems IRIS System Administration Specialist. This is for Sys Admins that, you know, that are responsible for installing and configuring, and managing and monitoring, and implementing system continuity and security. And again, as someone who has six months, six to 12 months experience of doing those type tasks with InterSystems IRIS. So what we hope to do with that exam is, in the Global Summit, June 2022 in Seattle, we will be offering free, live exams for anyone who registered for the conference, but we hope to be, that's where we hope the beta test that exam, to release it for the first time to the public. And now I think we're going to talk more of in a minute about beta testing.
Derek Robinson 00:15:29 Yeah. We will talk about beta tests in a sec. Is there, is there another exam too, or…?
Shane Nowack 00:15:34 Yeah, so I don't think I've mentioned the one that we hope to release second week of April, with any luck, and that's our a CCR Technical Implementation Specialist exam. I think for, you know, CCR really in a nutshell is our source control, InterSystems proprietary source control technology, that is growing popularity. And, we heard from some of our internal people that an exam, a CCR exam, would be well appreciated by the community.
Derek Robinson 00:16:11 Right. Nice. That's great. So that's coming up soon. Definitely have to…
Shane Nowack 00:16:14 Yeah. We just are closing up beta this week, and we'll do our analyses to make sure our passing score is legally defensible. We'll get that released hopefully in the second week of April.
Derek Robinson 00:16:27 Nice. That's great. And so, we'll have to have you back on again in the springtime to be able to report back on that one, for sure. So that's exciting with the exams coming up, and like you mentioned there, just another quick note about Global Summit, we're going to get to that in a minute. But you know, the beta testing side of it, we'll talk about, but just a reminder about Global Summit, that's a really great benefit of the free exams for conference attendees. So definitely look into that if you, A, are interested in, you know, the exam part of it and could, could benefit from both, but also if you're just a listener who attends Global Summit regularly, make sure you're aware of that benefit, to be able to get certification exams for free.
Shane Nowack 00:17:04 Yeah. And we try to have the sessions for the free exam set up that don't overlap with any of the talks and the other sessions. So, hopefully you guys can participate.
Derek Robinson 00:17:13 Yeah, exactly. Great. So kind of, you know, last question here before we talk about some of the listeners' calls to action, there's two kinds of programs I want to ask you about, which is, I think you've maybe alluded to each of them, but one of them being the subject matter expert program, within the U.S., and the other one being the beta testing program, which…a piece of that relates to Global Summit beta testing. So tell us a little bit about what each of those is, and why they are important for the certification process.
Shane Nowack 00:17:42 Yeah. that's a good question. And, the first one I'll talk about is what we're calling the InterSystems Certification External SME Program. This was developed to try to connect better with the community and have the actual users help us, not only with telling us what topics they think should be covered on the exam, but actually tell us what types of questions we should be writing—you know, if given this topic that's been approved by the community, what's the first thing you think of that we should ask that a certified candidate should know, that we can assess? So we can assess that person's knowledge of how to do this task. So this program attempts to engage the community, but we're going one step further. And for—unfortunately, because of tax reasons, this is only for non-InterSystems, U.S.-based individuals. So we're paying people $20 per question, or that's actually a lie—it's $25 per question, and we're inviting them to write up to 20 questions, for a total of $500, if they're interested. And the way that process works is, on the Developer Community, we have a post, it's tagged with certification and, external SME program, I think, but we have a post that we'll put in the…
Derek Robinson 00:19:14 Yeah. In the description for this.
Shane Nowack 00:19:16 …description for the podcast. But, so that's where you can find it, and it has all the information about…so you fill out a quick five-question profile, we accept you. We give you an assignment, which is basically going to be usually 10 topics and ask you to write two questions on each topic. And, then, when you submit the questions to us, we have internal reviewers, and they will accept or not accept your questions. And for every question that's accepted, we'll pay $25 for accept the questions. However, if for whatever reason that we have a picky reviewer, and none of the questions get accepted, we still will pay, for the time that you contributed to try and help us out.
Derek Robinson 00:20:05 Right. Yeah. That's, you know, that's a great program to leverage, like you said, the people that are expert in this already, out there using our technology and being kind of being champions of InterSystems products outside of InterSystems, right? So I think it's a good program there to gauge that community, for sure.
Shane Nowack 00:20:20 Yeah. And we've really right now, focused that program on one of our exams that we've worked on design, but we haven't actually started writing questions for yet. And that's an InterSystems IRIS Integration Specialist. So this is just generic integration, not HL7 integration per se. So we've tried to pilot this program by steering people, integration experts, trying to recruit them to participate.
Derek Robinson 00:20:44 Exactly. Nice. That's great. So last question here, about the beta testing, tell us a little bit about what beta testing really is and its role. And then if there's anything else you want to add about the Global Summit opportunity to beta test, or any other kind of current opportunities to beta test.
Shane Nowack 00:21:02 Yeah, so we're always, as you've probably noticed this, as we've been, as we've been going through this, that we're always looking for community involvement, first of all, with our job task analysis, weighing in on what the topics are, with this new external SME program, helping with the exam questions, but beta testing too, is an important thing we rely on the community to do. And what a beta tester does is they basically take the version of the exam before it's live. And, they sit in our online proctored environment, through our exam delivery service, and they take our proposed exam. At that time, the exam does not have a cut score, but the candidate is given the two hours, all exams are two hours. And, while they won't receive a pass/fail result right after they take the exam, because it'll take us six to eight weeks after we open the beta to complete it, to get enough beta testers to statistically validate our cut score.
Shane Nowack 00:22:03 So we always shoot for at least 25-30 individuals to take the exam before we go back and we look at all the data. And we collect your experience in the beta test. Like how long have you worked with the product? How often do you use it? We collect metadata like that, and all that goes into coming up with a legally defensible passing score. So, having enough beta testers from, in all, a very diverse group of beta testers—InterSystems people, non-InterSystems people, international people, people from the U.S. And the great thing is, you know, after we determine the cut score, six weeks later, and you received a score that was higher than that, then you will have earned the certification.
Derek Robinson 00:22:52 Right. That's what I was going to ask next. So you actually, you know, get that certification if you take the beta test and you end up with a score that is ultimately above the cut score, you get those credentials, right?
Shane Nowack 00:23:02 Right. Yeah. And the big advantages of beta testing is it's free. So all beta testers to get to take the certification exam for free, where normally are our price is $150.
Derek Robinson 00:23:11 Right. Okay, nice. That's good to know. And so, like you mentioned before, that opportunity is available at basically any time, you know, you reach out to try to get involved in that. And also at Global Summit, it'll be a focus. Right?
Shane Nowack 00:23:22 Absolutely. And we regularly post all of our beta-testing opportunities on the Developer Community. Again, the tag is certification, and we're working on our advertisement perspective to find better ways to advertise these opportunities, but for now all beta testing and our external SME program is only advertised on the Developer Community.
Derek Robinson 00:23:44 Nice, nice. That's great. So you kind of, you know, started to hint to this last answer, I think in the end of your answer right there, but kind of just wrapping up, what can listeners do to get more information or to take action now, if they are intrigued by this conversation and want to get a certification credential, or if they're just interested in learning more?
Shane Nowack 00:24:03 Absolutely, yeah. So the best place to, where all this information lives, is at certification.intersystems.com. You'll see a lot of what we talked about today. What you won't see is what's coming soon and, you know, the beta-testing opportunities and the external SME program. All that's on the Developer Community at this time. But we are working on getting that on certification.intersystems.com.
Derek Robinson 00:24:29 Cool, awesome. Well, lots to unpack and lots for learners to kind of take and go explore themselves. So, Shane Nowak, thanks so much for joining us, and we'll make sure to talk to you again soon about the exciting new developments there.
Shane Nowack 00:24:40 Thanks, Derek.
Derek Robinson 00:24:44 So thanks again to Shane for taking us through all of those important updates relating to the Certification program. There are lots of ways to get involved, and engaging the community is clearly a priority, as you probably learned from that interview. Head over to the Developer Community at community.intersystems.com, or to the Certification site at certification.intersystems.com, to learn more about all of it. That'll do it for our Certification episode. We'll see you next time on Data Points.