Certification Broke Me Out of My Comfort Zone

In a society that values extroversion, it can be hard to find opportunities to thrive as an introvert. No one knows that quite like Canadian Kwantlen Polytechnic University student, Karrah Parke. As a self-designated introvert, Karrah shied away from opportunities, that is, until she earned her Microsoft and Adobe certifications. Keep reading to find out how certification opened up Karrah to a new world of opportunities:

Certiport: Karrah, thanks so much for making time for us. We know you’re busy with school.

Karrah: Of course! I’m glad I get a chance to share my story and pay it forward.

Certiport: We’ve seen a lot of what you’ve been up to lately on social media, but we want to start from the very beginning. Tell us how you got involved in certification.

Karrah: My 11th grade teacher introduced me to certification. I got my first certification in Microsoft Word, and after that it became almost addicting. I got my Excel and PowerPoint certifications that year, as well as my three Adobe certifications.

It was that same teacher that encouraged me to push myself further and try out for the Microsoft Office Specialist World Championship. I am deeply grateful to him for seeing that potential in me; I’ve had lots of opportunities open since then.

Certiport: It’s amazing how many students say something similar. They’re smart and capable, but it’s not until a teacher pushes them that they really achieve amazing things.

Karrah: For sure. I’m an introverted person by nature, so I needed someone to give me a little extra nudge to reach for additional challenges and opportunities.

Certiport: Speaking of extra challenges, tell us about your experience at the MOS World Championship.

Karrah: Where do I even begin? I have so many amazing memories from the Championship. The opening parties were by far my favorite part. I was able to meet so many unique, interesting people from around the world, many of whom I still speak with to date. I have friendships with people from Romania, Nigeria, Chile, the Isle of Man, and the United States. I competed three times, and each opening party is distinct in my mind in terms of who I met, the conversations I had, and the fun activities I got to do. These are people who I otherwise would have never met, so that cultural exchange I got to experience was spectacular.

My second favorite memory is when I placed second for PowerPoint at the 2018 MOS World Championship. It was so surreal, I almost didn’t believe my name had been called! I certainly never could have imagined that I would be standing up there when I first started my journey with certification. At the beginning, I just wanted to get my Word, Excel, and PowerPoint certifications because I thought it would look good on a resume and make me more employable. I had no idea I would get to travel to Anaheim, Orlando, and New York, and meet so many magnificent people.

Certiport: That is amazing to hear. You truly excelled at the competitions, and from what we hear, you’ve been using your MOS skills a lot in college.

Karrah: How could I not? The three major Office products (Word, PowerPoint, and Excel) are so ubiquitous in both academia and business. It is almost impossible to get away from using them. For virtually every course I have taken in high school and university, I have used one of those three programs. I believe that the knowledge I gained from studying for my certification has given me a great advantage. In some cases of group work, I have had to give small lessons on how to effectively use PowerPoint, Word, and Excel. And I enjoy doing it!

Certiport: That’s such a great way to pay it forward. Are you using your MOS skills outside of your own academic work?

Karrah: Actually I am. Recently, I have been helping an instructor at my university to provide feedback on his students’ final projects, which are PowerPoint presentations. Once the instructor learned that I was certified, he wanted me to provide my thoughts and opinions on the students’ PowerPoint presentations and Excel data sheets.

This fall, I’ve also started to facilitate workshops at my university for those who are unacquainted with Office products – this includes Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. We get a wide range of people – younger, older, and from different departments. It’s always fun to host those workshops. Each time I do, I try to promote certification and explain all the ways it has affected my life thus far.

Karrah at Microsoft

At the end of October, I even had the privilege of speaking at an event for educators that are interested in pursuing certification options for their students. I got to speak at the Microsoft building in Vancouver, which was very cool! I was glad to speak about my experiences with certification and all the successes it has brought me. I think it is very important that educators are aware of the value of certification.

Certiport: Your MOS certification has obviously been crucial in your academic success. What about in your work outside of college?

Karrah: In work, I have found that certifications have a major impact on my resume. At every job interview, without fail, the interviewer asks me questions about my certifications and what they mean. They are always impressed to hear that I am certified and that I also competed on a global stage. I had one person offer me a job that deals with Excel strictly because he learned that I was certified in Excel and that I had been to the MOS World Championship.

Certiport: Wow! Just having that on your resume gave you amazing credibility. Tell us more about the job.

Karrah: The employer was wanting someone who could use Excel effectively to streamline their data storage. They primarily wanted help with managing and partially automating schedules, time sheets, job orders, bidding proposals, and their budgeting. Unfortunately, I could not accept the job; it is a full-time position, and logistically it was impossible to coordinate it with my full-time studies and part-time job as a peer tutor. Although I was not able to commit to managing their records on a full-time basis, I was able to provide them some advice when I looked over their files and made some preliminary adjustments that the employer has said helped them a lot. I was disappointed that I was not able to make it work, but I enjoyed helping them as much as I could. I know that I will have many more opportunities like this in the future!

Certiport: That’s fantastic. Do you feel like your certifications have helped you outside of school and work as well?

Karrah: I think certification has benefited me in an intangible way. I am far more confident in myself and my abilities. I am also more social. As I said before, I am an introverted person by nature but competing in the MOS World Championship forced me out of my comfort zone because I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to meet people from around the world. As a result, I find that I can connect with people better than I could before, which has provided me success in my work as a peer tutor and in my personal life for developing relationships.

Generally, I am much more fearless and do not shy away from challenges like I used to. This summer I had the opportunity to volunteer at a farm on the Eastern coast of Canada and in South Korea at an English language school. Both opportunities were magnificent, not only because of the cultural exchange and the people I got to meet, but because I find volunteer work to be quite rewarding. It was a hectic summer, though; in less than two weeks I traveled from Eastern Canada to home in Vancouver, to New York to compete in the Championship, to home again, and then to South Korea. Before competing in the MOS World Championship, I know that I would not have been confident enough to pursue those opportunities.

I have learned through my experiences with certification and the competition that great things come from situations that may make me uncomfortable. Getting outside my comfort zone pushes me to learn, grow, and be better. At its core, I think that is what certification is all about – pushing people to be better.

Certiport: We have no doubt that you’ll continue to push yourself and accomplish amazing things. What are your plans for after college?

Karrah: My degree is specifically in accounting. For my future career, I know that I want to blend my skills in Microsoft Office and Adobe into my position as an accountant. I still have two years to figure out what that’s going to look like, but because I have my certifications, doors are going to open to me. It’s already been proven in the past, and I’m positive that it will continue to provide me more opportunities in the future.

Certiport: We completely agree. Before we finish, we have one last question for you. What advice would you give to other students?

Karrah: I have two pieces of advice. First, don’t stay in your comfort zone. Do things that scare you and take a chance to learn something new. Second, stay true to who you are. Give yourself time to pursue hobbies that interest you. I love reading and chess, and I’m glad I still make time for my interests. I am also studying two languages in my free time: French and Icelandic. French, because it is the second language of Canada and Icelandic, because my heritage comes from Iceland and I want to be able to speak with relatives that still live in the country. I’ve found it’s so important to stay true to my roots and interests, while always pushing myself to learn something new.

Ready to get outside your comfort zone? Learn more about the MOS Championship at www.moschampionship.com.