We’re happy to introduce a new blog series interviewing MongoDB Certified Professionals. To kick off this series, we talked with May Mascenik, an IT Engineer and Project Manager based in Los Angeles at ITP. Headquartered in Japan and focused on information design, ITP utilizes new devices, creates content designed to match user activities, and researches IoT and other new fields and technologies.
In 2016, May was selected as a MongoDB Diversity Scholar; grateful for the opportunity and eager to contribute to and learn from the MongoDB community, she made the decision to become dual-certified by MongoDB as both a Developer and a DBA. We reached out to her recently to learn more about her certification story, as well as what being certified means to her.
Eloise Giegerich: To start, I would love to hear a little about your background, and how you got into tech. Where do you currently work, and what do you like about your role?
May Mascenik: Twenty years ago, I began working as a Project Administrator in the engineering department of the Standard Communications Corporation; because I admired the engineers’ work, I pursued an electronics course. I liked it, but the engineers recommended that I move to software in order to follow the tech trend. Later, I got a job at Hitachi Software (now Hitachi Solutions) where I was able to gain significant hands-on training. I started studying and obtaining tech certificates – one certificate per year – from Microsoft, Cisco, and ISACA, among others, mostly related to projects I was working on at the time.
Since 2014, I’ve been working for a company called ITP in Los Angeles as an IT Engineer/PMP. In 2016, I chose to become MongoDB certified because I desperately wanted to be fluent in the database for the specific project I was assigned. I like my role at ITP because it always offers me opportunities to learn new technology, which in turn allows me to develop and utilize new skills.
EG: How did you first discover MongoDB? What projects have you used or are you in the process of using with MongoDB?
MM: I took over a web/mobile app project; the app was built with Meteor and used MongoDB as the backend. I became interested in MongoDB while working on this project, and completed the M102 DBA course through MongoDB University, then M202 and all the DEV courses (M101J, M101JS, M101N, and M101P). With my new experience and knowledge, I was able to update the app that the former developer at my company had left; I became excited after this, and began to use MongoDB for other apps.
EG: What other databases have you worked with? How does MongoDB compare?
MM: I have worked with Microsoft SQL, Pervasive SQL, MySQL, and Oracle; all are relational databases. When it came to MongoDB, I was amazed by the flexible and dynamic data model. I’m still handling multiple relational databases and supporting the structured and predefined architecture on my current projects. However, as our business grows toward e-commerce and CMS type solutions, MongoDB’s NoSQL database is preferred because it allows us to build an application without predefining the schema, and to add any types of data to the system with different iterations.
EG: What inspired you to become MongoDB certified? Why both certifications?
MM: Besides the above-mentioned reason (for my 2016 certification selection, I chose MongoDB), I was fortunate enough to be awarded the 2016 MongoDB Diversity Scholarship, and decided that getting certified was one way to continue to contribute to the MongoDB community. I worked on DBA and DEV certifications together because I work in both fields at my company, and wanted to prove that I could be dual-certified.
EG: What was challenging about the courses? What was rewarding?
MM: Most of the courses run for seven weeks. Though you can watch the lesson videos and complete the homework at any time, the modules have strict weekly deadlines. Having a full-time job with multiple projects, I needed to take more time for work some weeks, which gave me less time to study. But in the long run, the time crunch is good! The deadlines force one to learn without delay. I felt great when I completed each course and received the certificate of course completion; I still feel like taking more MongoDB University courses.
EG: Since becoming certified, what have been some of the benefits, personal or professional, that you’ve experienced? How have you applied—or how do you intend to apply—what you’ve learned to your future projects?
MM: Since becoming certified, I have become more easily recognized through the MongoDB Certified Professional Finder and Advocacy Hub websites. I also now have a strong understanding of the challenges that the other certified professionals faced; because of this, I am eager to share my own experience and contribute to MongoDB alongside its other enthusiasts. Regarding current projects, I recently started looking into using MongoDB with AEM (Adobe Experience Manager), and am eager to continue my research.
EG: Looking back now, can you share any advice for those studying for (or retaking) their exam(s)? Are there any specific preparation strategies you found useful?
MM: First of all, for exam retakers, I’ve passed many certification exams on my first attempt, but not MongoDB’s – so if you fail, do not get discouraged! Instead, think of the Performance Report as another lesson to consider; the exam result is not an indicator of failure, but of weak points to continue to work on.
For DEV, I strongly encourage hands-on practice. When you complete the weekly homework and practice, it can be helpful to type out all of the answers and try them – run the code, verify the app or web functions – on a terminal so that you can understand what MongoDB finds acceptable.
And for both DBA and DEV, stick with the official exam study guide, which provides many links to the information you should absorb. If the online courses are still one version older, cover the difference by watching the What’s New in v3.4 (or vX.X in the future) video, and read the release notes to learn about the different features that have since been included.
EG: To close, I would love to know what has been your greatest takeaway from your experience getting certified. Why would you encourage others to pursue certification?
MM: If I can do it, so can you! In case you lose Internet connection or get disconnected from the test site for any reason during the exam, don’t panic. It happened to me once, but all of my answers were saved and I was able to resume the exam without starting from the beginning.
I would strongly encourage others to pursue a MongoDB certification; my certifications have given me great confidence and recognition thanks to my listing in the Certified Professional Finder. I am happy to receive messages and invitations from people not only in the US, but from all over the world!
Thanks to May for sharing her story! If you’re interested in getting professionally certified, you can learn more about the MongoDB certification process. If you’re already certified and would like to be featured in a future blog post, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.