Two Thousand Five Hundred Sixty. Seems like such a random and unassuming number, however, I can say this was the most disturbing number on the spectrum of disturbing numbers over the past few weeks. The numbers 13 and 666 were child’s play compared to the stress that 2,560 created.

What was this number you say? It was the number of unread messages I had in my personal mailbox the day after I took the Microsoft MCM SQL 2008 Lab exam. Every morning, I would wake up and see a number greater than 2,560 and internally the anticipation would begin. Would any of these new and foreign messages be the one I had been waiting for? Would it begin with “Congratulations” or would it begin with “Unfortunately”. Would this message mark a successful milestone on the already extended five year plan or would this be another speed bump to be planned around and overcome?

On Friday, October 19, 2012 the waiting was over. 2,560 turned to 2,561 one more time. This time was different. Instead of being the latest Amazon Local, SQL Central Newsletter, RedWing special, or a random SPAM, it was a message from boB Taylor (@SQLboBT) letting me know that I had passed one of the most feared exams in the SQL Server community – on the first attempt. The sky parted, the angels sang, and I gave my wife a big hug (I might have cried a little) .

The MCM was the culmination of a 5 year plan that has taken 6 years complete. It was step 5 preceded by working from home (started full time July 2012 – Thanks PTI!), obtaining Bachelor’s degree (complete February, 2012), selling my house (complete September 2010), and becoming a leader in the local SQL Server user group (complete July 2009).

Those close know – smooth has not been the norm while working through this plan. In the last six years, those three kids turned into five. While we did sell our house – we did so in unexpected timing – leaving us to move four times in the last three years. Add on to that - I’m on my 3rd employer since starting this path – but at least these guys are awesome.

Even the process of taking the test was not without issue. The power went out while I was taking my Knowledge exam. I had to wait three hours for the power to come back on and was able to complete the exam without having to make a second trip to Chicago. Little did I know that the process of taking the Lab exam would be even more painful. I drove to Chicago the night before, I got to the testing center early – got into the room – and waited for the test to begin. About five minutes later – it timed out. After four hours, the friendly staff thought they were ready, but the system was not. After sitting another hour – the system timed out again and I left Chicago not having opportunity to take the test. Fortunately, the next time I drove up to Chicago (two weeks later), the test worked and I was able to successfully take the test.

Through all of this – I’ve kept a secret in my back pocket. The secret - my beautiful and magnificent wife – Stephanie – who has been a blessed encouragement, a stable partner, and a hard working mother beside me each step of the way. We’ve taken a lot of hits and she’s still standing right there next to me. Without her I would have melted into a pool of 1s and 0s many months ago. I am thankful to be granted her wisdom, patience, and magnificence on a daily basis.

Looking back at all of the challenges – both personal and professional – I think I’ve stumbled upon what it means to be a Master. Setting a goal, facing adversity with a smile and pushing through until the goal is complete – all with the help of wise mentors, friends, and family. Rinse and Repeat.

While I can now declare that I am a Microsoft Certified Master and value this achievement dearly, this is not the end of the journey. A friend once told me that having an exceptional family means that I have to have an exceptional career as well. My family may not be the fastest, smartest, or the most good looking – but we are exceptional in many ways. Here’s to the continuing journey of building an exceptional career as my exceptional family navigates through life.

About Kyle Neier
Husband of a magnificent woman, father of 5, SQL Server MCM,
IndyPASS Vice President and Food Guy, DBA automation zealot, amateur Powershell evangelist. Follow Me on Twitter