Mark Wilson, BSc (Hons) MBCS CITP. It’s got a nice ring to it. Except that I almost never use letters after my name (in fact, one of my customers complemented me a few days ago for not doing so – although I did point out to him that my email signature is auto-generated in software and so I don’t have the option!).
Regardless of the above, today, I received official notification that I’m now a Chartered Information Technology Professional (CITP). This accreditation is awarded by the British Computer Society (BCS), who describe it as:
“Aligned with The Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA), the UK Government backed competency framework, CITP is the benchmark of IT excellence.”
It’s been a bit of a journey to achieve professional status, so I thought I’d write a quick blog post about the process, just in case that’s helpful/useful to others.
The application process
My journey started around a year ago, whilst I was still working at Fujitsu, where all Distinguished Engineers had our BCS membership fees paid and were encouraged to apply for Chartered status. Unfortunately I had resigned by the time the invoice arrived and Fujitsu reneged on the promise to pay my CITP application fee, but I decided to make the payment myself and continue with the process.
As part of my application (including a copy of my CV and an experience statement), I had to demonstrate that I had been working for at least 3 of the last 5 years at SFIA level 5 (or above!). I also provided details of supporters who had known me and my work over that period. I was reasonably confident that I work at that level – Fujitsu regraded many of their technical staff using SFIA shortly before I left and I was judged to be at level 5 (although there was some disagreement about whether I was a domain architect or a solution architect – I’ll save that for another blog post!)
Breadth of knowledge test
The next stage is the Breadth of Knowledge (BoK) test. The BCS describe this as:
“This stage involves a formal testing of core knowledge across the breadth of IT. The test comprises multiple choice questions which cover a broad range of sectors and topics.”
I had six months to complete this stage of the process. which is an exam undertaken at a Pearson Vue test centre. I can’t say much about the exam (it’s subject to a confidentiality agreement) except that if you truly are working at level 5 (i.e. reasonably senior roles) you probably have a broad enough experience of IT to be able to answer (or at least guess) most of the multiple-choice questions. There’s also some mock questions on the BCS website that give you a flavour of things – as well as a published syllabus and an extensive reading list, which I’m afraid I ignored…
The hardest part of the exam is that, in addition to an overall pass mark of 50 out of 75 questions, it’s necessary to score at least 8 out of 15 in each of the 5 sections. In mock tests I was a bit close to the 8 and I couldn’t work out why. In the final exam I did OK in all areas.
Skills assessment interview
With the exam out of the way, the next stage is the skills assessment – a formal interview involving a 10-minute presentation and subsequent questioning. Again, the BCS offer guidance – and it’s worth reading it closely – the presentation shouldn’t be a rehash of your CV, or repeat other information in the application – but should:
“Deliver a clear and concise presentation of professional work for which you were personally responsible and which demonstrates your competence. Your presentation should be based on an area(s) from the SFIA skills within your chosen specialism.”
I had six months to prepare for, book, and carry out the skills assessment, which is conducted remotely using Citrix GotoMeeting. When I finally booked my appointment, I was pleased to find that there were weekend slots available. Unfortunately GotoMeeting wasn’t behaving for me when it came to starting the interview, but I did join early, the assessors were patient, and a reboot plus an analogue telephone line let me work around the issues…
The hardest thing for me in preparing for my interview was identifying which specialism most closely aligned to my work (I do find SFIA rather arcane in that regard) and that comes through in my presentation, embedded below (although the slides have limited value without the supporting script, I’m afraid).
I was also concerned that the assessors may not feel I was working at level 5 (even though Fujitsu had previously graded me at that level, that might not match the BCS view). Thankfully my answers to questions must have been sufficient because, about 10 days later I was contacted to say I had been successful, although formal notification would be slightly delayed.
Overall, it’s been a long, challenging process – one with time limits and a need to fit around my work (along with technical exams, blogging, and family life!). It’s also debatable whether the application fee and increased membership fees (albeit tax-deductible) will really make a difference in my career. I’m told that some Government departments reward CITP status with additional pay; sadly the private sector doesn’t seem to hold CITP in quite the same regard.
For me, I felt that some of my friends are chartered in their fields – be they surveyors or accountants – and I wanted to be able to similarly demonstrate professionalism in my field. I’d also like to hope that some of my customers will recognise that having a Chartered IT Professional work with them on their IT strategy and on transformation projects demonstrates the level of experience that they expect.
Right, one more time. The last time I’ll do this for a while, I suspect…
Mark Wilson, BSc (Hons) MBCS CITP