After fifteen years in the Testing and Certification industry, Ruben Garcia founded Innovative Exams as an alternative to traditional IT testing centers. By removing rigid exam schedules and providing more flexible test locations, Ruben focused on delivering a better customer experience to certification exam-takers all around the country.
We had the chance to sit down with Ruben recently, so read on and learn more about how Individual Exam Sessions are changing the face of Red Hat certification and exams in this two-part series of posts.
Ron: Ruben, you have an extensive professional background in education and testing. What was the rationale involved behind starting up Innovative Exams in 2010?
Ruben: That’s actually a great question. I’ve definitely been working in the industry for way too long. I’ve worked for one of the large testing companies, which was Pearson-Vue. One of the things that I noticed while I was working there is that they have a great business and they’re one of the leading companies in administering exams. But while I was working there, I felt that their test center model was very rigid towards customers. I really wanted to work and look at making that model a lot more flexible. What I mean by more flexible is just looking at how do you add more locations and more opportunities so that you can administer these exams? And also really try to get out of the testing center box, that paradigm of testing centers. It’s great and secure but I also felt it was disenfranchising a lot of people, especially those folks that don’t live near a testing center. That’s how I got started in this endeavor.
I looked at, how can we do this through a remote proctoring system? There are a lot of other services in the market place, but I think that they lacked a lot of the security features you get out of a testing center. And that’s where a lot of clients don’t want to leave the testing center because they don’t want to leave those security features behind. We started to think about that, and I came up with a self-service kiosk model where we can incorporate a lot of the security features into a really small, stand-alone, testing appliance, if you want to call it that. That really solves a lot of problems.
We can then take that testing appliance and put it anywhere. We can put it in a Global Knowledge training center, or we can put it in a community college, or we can put it in an office building. That’s been the driver for the business, and we’ve been looking for clients that were interested in that model, and so far we’ve made a lot of progress in finding clients that can use that sort of flexibility.
Ron: Okay, great. So how did your partnership start with Red Hat? Did they reach out to you? Did you reach out to them? And how did that all happen, because they are your first major technology vendor, I believe on your client list?
Ruben: Absolutely. I think Red Hat, they‘re a very interesting company, and they’re very progressive in looking for innovative solutions. When I did start the company, I reached out to Randy Russell and talked to him about my idea of being able to administer these exams outside of a testing center through this kiosk model. And I have to say that they were extremely interested just because they, like many clients, have a challenge in delivering exams in testing centers. So I think I would say that the interest was reciprocal and mutual on both sides. Once we got a prototype up and running and we were able to demonstrate it to Red Hat, things just got really exciting very quickly, and they immediately jumped aboard and asked to pilot their exams on our system.
Ron: How long did it take to get from the idea to the pilot?
Ruben: It took a while. At the same time, we were courting other clients. We were courting Accenture. We were doing a lot work with CompTIA as well before they were multiple vendor. We were working on trying to implement all of these clients at one time. As you can imagine, a big company like Accenture, they’re global. They have 250,000 employees, and they are looking to solve a very similar problem many of our clients are – which is how can you administer exams outside of the testing center? So we had a lot of balls up in the air. Red Hat, I believe that all of the technology implementation, and communication, and integration with their testing system, etc., was completed last year around August, sometime around there. Then we went into a pilot delivery which finished earlier this year.
Ron: Okay. Thank you, Ruben. So, going back to the Red Had exams themselves, they’re know for their rigor and the hands-on part of it, you don’t just pass a Red Hat exam by pressing buttons. Was that a huge challenge to you in terms of converting it into the IES format?
Ruben: You know, it wasn’t really a challenge for us. I think it probably was a challenge for Red Hat, or it was really their task. I don’t know what was involved in converting those exams, but what Red Hat called “kioskifying” the RH exams. That’s the internal term they used.
Ron: You verbified kiosk.
Ruben: Kioskified, right. Kiosk. and the process of implementing your exam on a kiosk is kioskifying. I have to say that was coined by Red Hat, not by us. I’ll give them the credit for that. I would imagine that I mean it wasn’t a simple task, but I can tell you they are very committed to the platform and to the model, and as you can see today, the majority of RH exams have been kioskified.
Ron: That leads to the next question. What are the main differences in taking an IES exam versus the standard test center exam? Based on your previous answer, I’m thinking that the test has adjusted slightly to become kioskified and it’s identical, right, for either the standard test center or the IES?
Ruben: I was going to say that I think there’s some benefits to the taking the exams with Innovative Exams. One thing is obviously the flexibility being able to schedule that exam when you want to instead of trying to schedule it when it’s available with one of the classroom sessions. The experience is better in that the hardware we use is consistent across all of our locations. We have very beautiful 1980 x 1020 twenty-two inch monitors so you have a lot of real estate on the screen to be able to do the exam, so from that perspective it’s probably a better experience.
But other than that the rigor of the exam is the same. The exams on our system are not any different than the exams delivered at any of the other locations. So it’s the same exam, same difficulty. I think that’s really it. I think the testing experience when you add in the flexibility —there’s some additional value there for the candidate.
Next week we’ll wrap up the interview with questions on customer satisfaction, proctoring, and the overall experience.
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