Salesforce.com provides certification as an assessment and indication of one’s knowledge and expertise of the platform and its functionality. During the past 2 years I have had the honour to complete 6 out of a total of 7 of these certifications.
In this post I would like to share some of the insights that I’ve gained and explain how I prepared for the certification exams, of which some are quite hard and challenging.
But first: some general info. There are 4 types of certificates, each representing a different role and perspective of working with Salesforce.
- The administrator certificates are oriented around maintaining a Salesforce organization, knowing the features, setting up configuration based automation, and knowing what requires code based development.
- The Cloud consultant certificates have a focus on the broad implementation of Salesforce in an organization. They are not just about knowing Salesforce, but about what feature or combination is the answer to specific business needs.
- The Developer certificates represent the knowledge to develop both by configuration as by Apex and Visualforce code on Salesforce, within best practices and security concepts specific to the force.com platform.
- The Technical Architect certificate is the hardest certificate to obtain. It is dedicated to those who truly utilize a broad combination of knowledge and skills. This certificate represents the know-how to deliver entire implementations in an integrated larger enterprise architecture.
Desire knowledge rather than certificates
While the title of this post may reference a collector’s mentality, my core advice on getting certified is the opposite. Do not focus on getting a certificate, focus on getting the knowledge. In many of the communities where I’m active I see a lot of people asking for preparation help to clear an exam. While it’s good to know what kind of questions to expect, studying too specifically for an exam, will just jam everything into your short term memory. You may pass the exam, but what you know will soon dissolve if not tied together by real life experience. So go get that experience.
Group areas of Salesforce functionality that you’re less familiar with and practice. Challenge yourself by taking on projects that fill the gaps in your knowledge or do mock implementations in developer orgs. Only learning the documentation may get you through, but in reality it won’t do.
I have to admit that working at ABSI has given me the luxury and support in shaping my knowledge. I have been assigned to projects that have given me complementary experiences and when needed I’ve received dedicated time to spend on certification assignments such as the Advanced Developer Programming assignment. We value certifications and most of my colleagues here have 2 or more Salesforce certifications.
Take your time
Don’t rush yourself. Give yourself the time you need to gain experience and build up knowledge of the platform and cloud applications. It’s perfectly OK if this takes months or years. The more confident you’ll feel, the more implementation experience you have, the easier it becomes to pass any of the certification exams.
Know the core
There are a few concepts to Salesforce that are absolutely required knowledge and you’ll get question about these on every exam again. Knowing how the data-model works and everything related is important. On top of that comes anything authorization related: profiles, sharing possibilities, record types, organization security options. You have to know these things, and you have to know them well. The more advanced the certification, the more in-depth and detailed these questions get.
This was my first certificate, and in retrospect it may have been easier to start with the certified developer certification as a warm up. Certified Administrator tests your broad knowledge on Salesforce, you must understand how it works and how you can configure and use it’s features. It’s broader than the Developer certification and in my opinion everything tested in the developer exam is pretty much included in the administrator exam too.
Certified Advanced Administrator
Advanced is the keyword here. It’s sort of leveling up the administrator certification. Know more details, know more features. Know your sharing, validation rules and workflows. You’ll get asked for those little details. I even got some formula expression questions.
Certified Sales Cloud Consultant
Obviously you should be familiar with the Sales Cloud and its features. What took me somewhat by surprise is the consultant part. The exam for this certificate questions you in a consultant perspective. It’s therefore not only relevant to know how functionality works within Salesforce, but also to know how and why it can serve your clients best interests. Without knowledge of enterprise processes and the sales clouds role in these, you should probably not try to get this certification.
Certified Service Cloud Consultant
Just like the Sales Cloud Consultant certification, this one is not limited to the pure functional aspects of Salesforce and it’s capabilities. You have to know what’s possible, but more importantly know how to and what choices to take to setup the best implementation for a given business scenario.
I think most of us typically learn a lot of Salesforce through the Sales Cloud, which makes the Service Cloud in comparison often less familiar. Don’t underestimate this one, I found the exam quite challenging.
The start for many, and without disrespect the easiest to get. This certification tests your knowledge of how Salesforce works, how you can extend it’s functionality by configuration and when you need Apex or Visualforce. That’s it in a nutshell. A common misunderstanding is that this certification represents the ability to write code on the platform, know that it does not.
Certified Advanced Developer
This certification has been the hardest to earn so far. Not just because it’s a 3-step process, but because it tests you thoroughly and in-depth on technical knowledge. Where the developer certification is focused on configuration, the advanced certification is about code: Apex and Visualforce. But writing code comes with certain responsibilities. You’ll be tested on all aspects of security, making the right design choices, tests and deployment methodologies.
These subjects are important when you’re writing quality code, so expect the questions to be detailed. If you know your things, the exam won’t be hard. If it is, you ought to be knowing more.
Certified Technical Architect
The holy grail of Salesforce certificates. The toughest to get, as it represents the highest level of knowledge, skills and experience. A Technical Architect worthy of this level of certification delivers success stories using the Salesforce platform in a larger integrated enterprise landscape. For me, this is the road ahead. It will still require time and experiences to be gained, but it’s where I want to go. I’ll blog on the progress!
Getting Certified is just the start
Getting certified is great, but it comes with a responsibility. Salesforce does a good job providing release notes, release trainings and having you take release exams to maintain a certificate. But in the end, it is your own responsibility to go beyond that and be sure that your knowledge is up to date and accurate as can be.
So take pride in being certified, but be honest with yourself. Take moments to reflect on how complete and detailed your knowledge still is. Even if you’re passing all the release exams, if you know you ought to be knowing more, there’s just one thing to do. Study and practice, just do it again.
In the last few years It has been amazing to work with Salesforce and gain so much new knowledge and experiences. I’ve found it great to be able to participate in a certification program. Not only do these different certifications give you a reference to how much you truly know, getting them is fun and has given me extra confidence in my abilities.
As salesforce evolves and broadens, there’s more to know and specialize into. I can imagine more certifications may get added. Could a sequel to this post be my experiences getting a Marketing Cloud Consultant certification next ? I hope so!