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How I Earned My CCS: A Conversation with Kevin Wang

By CSI HQ posted 02-13-2024 02:03 PM

Professional photo of Kevin Wang

CSI caught up with Kevin Wang to learn how earning his CCS® credential has impacted his career. Kevin earned his CCS back in the Fall of 2022. Here, he shares tips and insights about the process, and what he’s learned since.

Can you provide an overview of your career, and why you chose to work in this industry?

I began my career in traditional architectural production. I had the unique opportunity within my first year in the industry to be immersed in specifications production. I immediately had an attraction to this particular facet of architecture. After a few more years in architectural production, I decided to devote my career full-time to specifications, which is what I have been doing for nearly 20 years. 

What prompted you to earn your CCS? 
Originally, I was encouraged to earn my CCS by my boss at the time, to substantiate my credibility within the industry and to our clients. Over the course of preparation for the exam, I came to actually understand this from a first-person perspective. The research and study made me think more about the overall processes of project delivery and specifying as a vital component to it. I've gained much relevant knowledge as a result that has been useful in my day-to-day practice. 

How did you study/prepare for the CCS exam?
My full-time position producing architectural specifications has given me a solid foundation on which to build my knowledge base. That institutional knowledge only goes so far, though. Studying the Construction Specifications Practice Guide was vital to my further understanding of the necessary principles of specifying.

What in particular about the exam process stands out for you?
Of particular interest to me—and honestly, the topic of multiple discussions I've had with peers—is the interpretive nature of some of the questions. I feel that to be effective, an exam should not necessarily test rote answers that prompt candidates to regurgitate words and phrases but should substantiate that candidates understand the principles of the subject matter. I appreciate that the exam seeks to apply those relevant principles to situations a specifier could encounter in the real world. 

Were there any surprising or unexpected methods or preparation that helped you achieve success?
I don't know if I would categorize anything as unexpected. The subject matter isn't particularly nuanced, so it was fairly straightforward. I suppose if I could consider anything surprising, it would be remembering instances in the past where I would have been better served with more knowledge of a particular practice or principle. 

How did your professional and personal community support you?
My community and family knew the importance to me of earning this certification. For someone whose full-time profession is specifying, I felt a particular need to hold this certification. Since there are far fewer formal study courses for this exam than the CDT®, I did not really engage in any course or group study. I did, however, reach out to colleagues and pick their brains on specific areas of focus as I studied the materials. The specifying community is extremely collaborative, and the insight of those peers was vital to my success, particularly in providing context in real world application of the subject matter. 

How do you feel this will impact your future in the industry and inform the work you do?
The short answer is that by holding this certification, I have substantiated my expertise in this area of practice. The much more personally rewarding answer is that by immersing myself in the subject matter in preparation for the exam, I now have a better contextual understanding of best practice for specifying. Of course, this makes me a better, more confident, more effective specifier. Doing better work improves my projects and better serves my clients. I never want to stop building on that improvement.

How has the CCS certification informed how you approach new projects, especially when specifications writing?
I don't know that earning the CCS has changed my overall approach. I feel like I already had a good starting point when I began my exam prep. However, for certain items for which I used to take a more broad stroke approach, I am more aware of their importance and seek to begin conversations with project teams earlier. Naturally, gaining more understanding of the specifications process in preparation for the exam has given me more practical understanding of project delivery in general. The more we know and understand about any process, the better we can use that process to the benefit of our work. I admit that within the industry there is a lot of mystery and trepidation amongst non-specifiers with regards to specifying. I feel like I am now better able to provide context and relevance to remove that anxiety.

Learn more about the CCS exam and start your journey!