By Karen McClain, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, Associa Colorado
Receiving credentials is especially important if you have chosen community management as your career. Designation sets you apart from others for several reasons: (1) It shows your dedication to the industry; (2) It demonstrates to others that you’re willing to go the extra mile to better yourself professionally; (3) It lets others know that they can come to you for your expertise when needed; and (4) It allows you to become the professional you want to be and opens many new opportunities for you.
This credentialing process can be difficult to manage while working full-time and keeping up with personal obligations. Obtaining the PCAM designation has always been a goal of mine, one that I set my sights on within my first six months of being in the industry. Although it was 10 years before I made the decision to go for it, I knew that to get where I wanted to go career-wise, I would need this designation.
Setting the goal was one thing but completing that goal was going to be a challenge. The PCAM Case Study - how can two words give such anxiety? As 2020 began, I decided December would be my best option. As the year progressed, more and more things began to be postponed or outright canceled. I watched as CAI National canceled each case study location. I became concerned that I would not be able to meet my self-imposed goal.
CAI announced this new format of a “Virtual PCAM Case Study”. Participants were required to watch a prerequisite community video and login to two days of Zoom seminars. At first, I was very hesitant to enroll, but I felt there was no other option if I wanted to remain on track. There were so many questions I had. How will we do an adequate site visit? What if I miss something? Will I be able to interact and participate? What if my internet crashed? Then the unthinkable happened - my laptop crashed the week of the case study and I scrambled to purchase a new computer.
On day one, everyone was eager and ready to go. Manager after manager logged into the meeting, chatting about where they were from and how long they’ve been in the industry. It was great to see so many of us united on this unique journey. We were officially participating in the first virtual PCAM case study. Not only will it be an amazing accomplishment to attain this designation, but to do it virtually! The first stop was an introduction from the instructors, and then we were welcomed by the manager. They gave us an overview of what to expect, and we moved on with meeting the attorney, the insurance agent, the CPA, and many other professionals related to the community.
One thing that I did notice was that many of the participants were at home, but some appeared to be in their office. How amazing - you can just shut your door and take three hours out of your day to participate in the most important event of your career. As the sessions wrapped up over two days, they opened it up to discussion from the participants. One of the major questions from all the candidates was whether we were missing out on the in-person opportunity to view the property. All the instructors and the staff at CAI National reassured the participants that we are not missing out on any instruction time. One of the major bonuses to attending virtually was that all of the recordings were available for us for the 30-day duration until the paper was due.
As I reflect on the changes to technology over the recent years and changes that CAI National made in its approach on continuing education, I wouldn’t have done it any other way. Part of the reason I waited was the adjustments I would’ve had to make to my schedule in order to fly to a location outside of my city; the time needed would have been unattainable. Attending virtually was both logistically and financially a more productive use of time. As we look to the future, and we find new ways to learn, I would recommend that you strongly consider the virtual options.