Over the course of a military career lasting more than 30 years, I was faced with and learned from many challenges that were thrown my way. Never in my wildest imagination did I consider that a two hour 120 question multiple choice exam during the COVID-19 lockdown would prove to be one of the hardest events of my working life.
How did this arise?
Life in the military provides considerable experience and many of the skills learned are transferable to the civilian environment. However, civilian employers normally request to see a formal qualification sat alongside the practical experience that has been gained, and many service personnel have not been through this academic rigour. Resettlement courses taken as part of the transition process from a military to a civilian life are subsidised and assist the service leaver. This mechanism helped me to attend courses and gain qualifications in the Management of Risk and Agile Project Management. However, I did not undertake any formal business continuity training.
In late 2019, Inverroy’s Managing Director Matthew got in touch with me. We had served in the army together, so he knew my military background and that I am a French speaker. He needed to offer a French speaker as part of his bid to conduct business continuity management training for TAQA Morocco, and I was able to support him. The bid was successful which enabled us to conduct a two week training package in English and French for TAQA Morocco personnel in February 2020. This training culminated in a tabletop exercise on the company’s business continuity plan for handling the coronavirus pandemic just as COVID-19 was about to hit Morocco. As well as being a very timely scenario, it gave me the practical opportunity to see business continuity being enacted in accordance with the 2018 Edition of the Business Continuity Institute (BCI) Good Practice Guidelines (GPG). Matthew explained to me the training that he had undertaken to pass the Certificate of the Business Continuity Institute (CBCI) exam and I started to research options for undertaking a five day course and the exam at the BCI.
Being a student again
Unfortunately, the UK entered lockdown and all live courses were postponed. The daunting prospect of an online training programme and exam was still on offer, but I felt very uncomfortable about undertaking this form of training sat in my office at home! Throughout the spring and summer of 2020, I tracked the BCI website to see if there was any hope of live courses restarting, but nothing could take place because of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. Eventually, I went back to Matthew and informed him of the situation. He then offered the solution of self-study of the GPG with in-house virtual coaching from those who had passed before to help explain key areas or answer any queries and provide examples to demonstrate a point. This was duly achieved in early November with advice and guidance in combination with self-study of the BCI GPG being given to 8 members of the Inverroy team based at our homes around the UK. Some key exam tips were given by those that had passed previously but emphasis was given that further detailed study and analysis of the GPG was the key requirement to prepare for the exam.
The training was the easy part of the exam preparation. There was the requirement to effectively learn the GPG by rote and to master the multiple choice techniques using the BCI mock exam of 50 questions as a template. Knowing that the exam requires 120 questions to be answered in two hours but with twenty of those questions not counting towards the final score added to the fear factor. So, the exam is scored out of 100 with 70% to achieve a pass and 85% for a pass with merit. No pressure then!
Having gained enough confidence that I was ready to sit the exam, I then took the leap and applied to the BCI. Once my payment had been accepted and I received my log in details to book my exam, I was then faced with the technical challenges for an online exam – an online proctor (or examiner) who ensures that your desk and room are clear of any material and who will be monitoring you throughout the exam; ensuring that your desktop/laptop has sufficient broadband speed; ensuring that you use an ethernet connection and not WiFi; ensuring that you are using the correct web browser.
Finally, the proctor allowed me to start the exam. The proctor did not explain that the screen sharing box could be minimised, so I found out 45 minutes later that there was a clock on the screen and that it was possible to see the whole sentence of each possible answer. The heart sank on reading the first question and four proposed answers as it felt unlike anything that had been revised. The remaining 119 questions had to be more straightforward…well that is for others to decide! I managed to provide answers to all 120 questions but was utterly exhausted by the stress and concentration of the two hours. I breathed sighs of despair and relief as I pressed the “complete the exam” button to release me from the mental torture chamber. I was then dumbstruck when the next screen congratulated me on passing the exam. Admittedly, it was only just a pass but as the saying goes, “A pass is a pass”. That online exam was undoubtedly one of the most stressful things that I have done during my professional life!
The benefits of success
I was the third member of the team to pluck up the courage and successfully pass the exam during lockdown. Using the skills of an Inverroy team member has enabled Matthew to conduct personnel development and training for all fulltime and associate staff despite the COVID-19 restrictions. On a personal level, I am delighted that I now hold the status of CBCI so that I have the possibility to work solo in conducting business continuity training for Inverroy Crisis Management. I also now understand the physical and mental impact of what online lockdown learning has meant for schoolchildren and students over the past 12 months. However, I do know for certain that two hour 120 question multiple choice online exams are a thing of the past for this mature student!
If you would like assistance with your risk management and crisis response, then speak to our team at Inverroy Crisis Management Limited.
Inverroy have supported national parliaments, renewable energy companies and hydrocarbon energy companies in crisis management, emergency response and horizon-scanning in the UK, Iraq, Mexico, Ghana, Senegal, Niger and Morocco. We also have experience of working in Libya and DRC.
Inverroy Crisis Management Ltd can offer energy companies a world-class resilience capability, encompassing emergency response, Business Continuity and Planning, Crisis Management, disaster recovery, horizon-scanning and risk management.
Inverroy can also build genuine, long-term local business continuity capability on behalf of our clients, training, supporting, mentoring and exercising local staff. This education capability can be extended to local higher education (Inverroy currently delivers both training and assessment in Risk Management modules to higher education in the UK).
Delivering a business continuity capability like this supports clients to meet Environmental, Social, and Governance obligations, makes them a more trusted partner with host governments, makes them more attractive to investors, and makes them more likely to thrive in the long-term.
For more details and advice, contact Inverroy at email@example.com. Get in touch with us if you would like to improve your company’s resilience during 2021.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mark Pugh-Cook, BA CBCI M.ISRM
Associate Consultant, providing advice in English and French across the defence and security sector with specific emphasis on enhancing operational capability, management of risk, resilience and business continuity management.