Some of my readers might recall spending the past few years studying for the Executive MBA degree. Since graduating in the spring of 2021, I already had additional studies in my mind. One of those was the Certified Board Member accreditation. It’s a local (Finnish) certification that prepares you to work in the capacity of a company board.
The program is officially called HHJ – Hyväksytty Hallituksen Jäsen. This translates to the Approved Board Member program. It’s a manageable package, consisting of lecture days, group work, and the final exam.
Since enrolling in late 2020, I attended the lectures through the spring of 2021. Most classes were easy to follow, as this was a fully remote delivery due to the pandemic. We did not need to keep the webcam on, allowing for more freedom to listen where you feel most comfortable. For me, this is usually when I fold laundry, put away the dishes, or prep my lunch. I need something to do, to ingest lecture content better. I’m pleased with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ device that I utilize for days like these.
We also had one group work. This was trivial as I was fresh out of more than two years of group work for the EMBA degree. Perhaps some work, yes, but mostly it was a clean and quick assignment.
Once we were done with the lectures and the group work, I got approval to enroll for the exam. The exam is divided into two parts – the pre-exam and the actual exam. For these to unlock for me, I had to wait from April until November this year, as remote exam slots were fully booked (and I couldn’t enroll earlier, as I did not have the lectures completed, which was a requirement).
The pre-exam was fun – you got to choose precisely two assignments from a total of four assignments. You don’t get to see them ahead, so you choose blindly based on the category (finance, strategy, legal, operational work). I chose strategy and operational work. We had to write a few pages around hypothetical situations, and I found these two assignments to be the most interesting ones. Also rather fun to do. Once these were approved and submitted within the deadline, I finally got to the main task: the final exam.
The final exam had a 6-hour preparation lecture, waking everyone up again to focus on the topic – as it had been months since the last class on these topics. At 2 pm, we got to the exam. It’s a timed exam with 60 questions – and you get 60 minutes! Progressing from one question to the next took 4 seconds of page load, as the portal was something slightly less modern.
I could complete the exam on time, but I only had 20 seconds left in the end, so that’s cutting it close. A few questions were perhaps overly complex, considering you only had about 55 seconds to read it and decide the correct answer option. One question had a balance sheet, comparison charts, and a multi-part question on the best approach. Yet, it was fun at the same time.
I didn’t prepare much beyond reading through the corporate law for Finnish companies. It’s a neat 95-pager but relatively easy to digest.
On the first of December, I received the news – I passed the exam! I was somewhat confident I’d “ace” it, but there is always slight uncertainty after submitting your answer to the last question and closing the exam. I received 52 points out of 60. Nobody scored a perfect 60 this time.
What now, then? Well, I’m actively waiting for the official pin (!) to arrive in the mail. But this is also an excellent and manageable step towards becoming more active in the company board work. I permitted myself not to enroll in any new studies in the next few months.
I work with Azure and frequently write about my experiences. I’m a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional, ex-MSFT. Based in Helsinki, Finland.