Used by many, banned by some and parodied by others, Microsoft PowerPoint is a staple of modern corporate life.
But who knew you could win a national championship in it?
It’s true: This month, at the 2018 Microsoft Office Specialist U.S. National Championships in Atlanta, Ga., 17-year-old Linh Nguyen, of Auburn, Wash., was named the 2018 Microsoft Office Specialist PowerPoint Champion, specifically for the 2016 version of the presentation software.
The Microsoft Office Specialist World Championship, operated by tech certification company Certiport, is held annually to test students — ages 13 to 22 — on their skills in Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Students can compete in those three applications in either the 2013 or 2016 versions. In the competition, students were given a printed version of a project and asked to recreate it using their knowledge and skill of their particular program. Judges then take into account the accuracy of the students’ work and time it takes them to finish the project.
Nguyen emerged from a field of about 150 finalists as one of six national champions in different versions of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
She was the only female winner of the national competition this year. She hopes her victory will encourage others to take part.
“I think it’s an inspiration for women who want to get involved in the future,” she told GeekWire, adding, “Both sexes are equal, and the same thing can be achieved.”
The secrets to her success: hard work and accuracy.
In the months leading up to Washington state’s Microsoft Office Specialist competition, she stayed after school to hone her PowerPoint skills. She practiced 30 minutes every day unless she or her teacher had prior engagements. She took practice test after practice test until she got a perfect score in under five minutes, which she said was the goal.
Her advice to future contestants: “Do not care about time too much, because accuracy is important. Accuracy helped me win.”
Nguyen, who moved to the U.S. three years ago from Vietnam, initially considered competing in Microsoft Word, but was concerned that she might not be fast enough in the typing portion because English isn’t her first language. So she went with PowerPoint — leveraging her skills in creating and managing presentations, inserting and formatting charts, and applying transitions and animations.
It helped that she had a Microsoft Office Specialist certification in both the 2013 and 2016 versions of PowerPoint, thanks to a class she took in her junior year with Patricia Eckelman at Auburn Mountainview High School. Nguyen doesn’t have any regrets about the choice now, after her first-place finish in PowerPoint 2106.
“I think there are not any obstacles or constraints for me to learn about technology and join in competitions like this,” she said.
Although she practiced extensively for the state competition, she did not prepare nearly as much for the national championships. Her focus was on school; the competition was happening at the same time as her senior year finals. Neither that nor a lack of sleep appeared to affect her during the tests. “My mood was very relaxed, not worried, I thought maybe it would help me win,” she said.
This fall, Nguyen will attend Green River College, studying computer science.
But first, she will compete in the Microsoft Office Specialist World Championship, July 29-Aug. 1 in Orlando, Fla.