CAE Exam: Two Surprising Benefits

I did it! I earned my CAE credential. That’s Certified Association Executive, the highest professional credential in the association industry (as the credential’s sponsor ASAE & The Center calls it). According to ASAE, less than 5% of all association professionals have earned the CAE – that’s more than 3,500 individuals.

I am proud of the accomplishment (well actually its two accomplishments; my New Year’s Resolution was to stop stalling and take the exam). It was a tough test. It challenged me to learn some new things. While I still don’t agree with all the principles, I did find that the process helped be better understand what I didn’t agree with and that in turn makes my efforts to change those more effective.

The experience had two additional elements. It enriched my membership experience. I reached out and met some new people and I strengthened relationships with others. As I studied and explored the literature, I found that I was tapping ASAE in a new way and finding yet another ASAE member service that fit my needs.

It also gave me first-hand experience in adhocracy. Adhocracy is a highly organic structure – think self-forming; without bureaucracy. I like Robert H. Waterman, Jr.’s definition of “any form of organization that cuts across normal bureaucratic lines to capture opportunities, solve problems, and get results”. Waterman co-authored In Search of Excellence with Tom Peters. (For more on adhocracy, read this or check out Oncology Nursing Society’s Diane Scheuring and Angie Stengel’s Great Ideas handout on Adhocracy – Developing an Effective Volunteer Model.)

The way it worked in this case is that a group called CAE Padawans, inspired by Maddie Grant, gathered on Young Association Professionals website and met informally to share notes, dissect questions and review the literature. We weren’t a formal study group. We didn’t elect officers. We didn’t need to apply for status to the association or form an exploratory committee to see if the component was needed. No bylaws. We haven’t meet since the May test. The group though continues to exist awaiting the next round of CAE candidates. My group was actually the second wave of Padawans; I personally will look forward to touching base with the third wave.

All-in-all, the CAE experience was so much more than the test. And the CAE initials after my name mean so much more than “I passed a test”.

Congrats to all my colleagues who earned their CAE in May. Thanks to all those who helped me prepare and learn including Maddie Grant, Tina Myers, David Lorms, Diane Scheuring, Wanda Little Coffey, Jamie DeSimone and Sharon Kneebone.