Friday, 10 January 2014

Getting your Certified Certification

On January 8th I had the pleasure of presenting a case at the South West UK Salesforce Developer meetup, which is an event that happens every other month in Bristol UK, where the regions Salesforce developers, CTOs, and meet up for a couple of pints, some short talks, and a lot of technical debate about living on the Platform.

The theme of our January meetup was "Certification" - which we thought was appropriate, what with this being the time for resolutions and making plans. I co-presented the first talk which was an introduction to certification process through the Certified Developer option. The second presentation was by Christopher Alun Lewis on his experience of the Advanced Developer.

Here are my slides from the talk, which I was asked to share by some of the audience, and below them a quick script covering what I spoke about on each, to support the otherwise vague bullet points!

Slide 1: On this deck, this is an into slide.

Slide 2: Welcome to the South West DUG presentation on becoming a Certified Developer, I myself have been certified for about 18 months now, and Julio, who will be telling us all about his experience with certification, has been qualified himself for 6 months.

Slide 3: What is the Certified Developer qualification then? It's a badge, that you can quite literally wear (see slide 4) to indicate that you are a competent developer, familiar with the platform and it's features and functions. If you want to pitch yourself to clients and employers as a Salesforce developer, it really should be seen as the minimum entry criteria. It is an exam based qualification, which is taken in an invigilated enviroment, and consists of 60 multiple choice questions about developing on the Platform, of which you must get 41 right. You have 90 minutes to do so, and once you have submitted your answers, the examination software instantly tells you if you have Passed or Failed.

Slide 4: An example of putting the badge into place!

Slide 5: So how do you go about getting certified down in the South west of England? Our test centre is in Bath, by the river, about 10-15 minute walk from the train station, so it's really not hard to get to.  A bigger consideration is perhaps that it does cost $200 USD to take the exam and you do need to book in advance (normally a week or two at least) on the certification website. Once you have the qualification, you should also note that it has to be kept up to date, and this is done via 3 annual maintenance exams. These are done on your home PC in your own time (within a 5-6 month window) and involve answering 6 more multiple choice questions on the latest features, or platform core concepts, to show you are still a valid, involved developer. The first year comes free with your qualification, but after that you must pay $100pa to keep the certification valid.

Slide 6: What is it they are looking for then when you walk through that examination door? The Certified Developer is not about code, or syntax, or APIs or Libraries. It's about understanding the platform, and knowing WHEN to code and WHEN to click. You need to show a good understanding of configuration driven solutions, or when you would be forced to code. You do not need to know the code you would use though. The second part of this slide is taken from verbatim, and breaks down the core concepts the exam will cover. Be familiar with ALL of these areas, you cannot pass by being a total expert in some, and know nothing of others.

Slide 7: The tools of the trade then, how do you go about actually passing the exam? Your first choice would of course be the course. Salesforce 401 covers the exact requirements for the Certified Developer qualification. But in the UK you would probably be looking at taking part in a 5 day, virtual classroom experience for the best part of £3,000... if you got the time and the money, I guess go for it, but failing that, the fundamentals book, and a bit of hands on experience with the Platform will serve you just as well. All the Certified Developers I know have self-taught/learnt on the job. I do know some of the qualified trainers on the 401 track through, and they are bloody nice people :)

Slide 8: This is Julio's story, .. another great read on the Certified Developer road.

Slide 9: So this is my story, now you know the facts of life. I had been working on the platform for about a year when the time came for me to get the certification. I came from being a Java developer, with 6 years commercial experience and a Computer Science degree, so I felt ready for a new examination challenge. I would say one of the biggest benefits for me was working alongside an existing Certified Developer, so any time I had a question both about the platform or the certification process, I could ask him, and he could put my mind at ease about the logistics and process of the exam. I booked my exam in with about 2 months notice, to let me gear up for it, and the last thing I did, was take 2 weeks out (of life) and just ploughed through the entire fundamentals book, doing the exercises and extensions, to remind myself of the core concepts, and all the bits (like reports and, security) that we don't really think about properly during our day to day work. On the day, I took about 75 of the 90 minutes to answer, review and submit my winning score to the system, I chose not to beat myself up for the full time period, because I would only end up over thinking choices and changing right answers.

Slide 10: So, any questions? If not... here's one for you..

Slide 11: This is the actual example question off the website for Certified Developers. Can you answer it? I'm not going to tell you the right answer, but chuck me a comment in the section below with your thoughts!

Well. Thanks for reading through that journey with me! If you'd like to know more, please get in touch and I will field your questions, you can also tweet me on @srlawr if you like. If you live in the south west UK, get in touch with your local Salesforce Developer User Group for free beer and chats like these.