My Journey to Salesforce Developer Certification

Certified-DeveloperI’ve been working with Salesforce.com for a long time, since around 2004. The development I’ve done in the past was mainly integration with Salesforce.com – not much native development – so to receive Salesforce Developer certification, I needed to learn all of the nomenclature and methods used for developing apps on the Salesforce1 (formerly force.com) platform.

Choosing a class
My first step was to sign up for a class, so I looked into different options for the most economical way to take one and pass it. The in-person classes were mostly out of state, so they would require travel expenses on top of the tuition expense. Although I’m a fan of taking in-person classes in today’s distracted world, the online option seemed to be the best for me, and I decided to take the official course – not one of the unofficial courses that promise to help you get certified.

My reasoning was that for certification tests (based on my past experience with these for IBM, Microsoft, BlackBerry and other technologies), the tests are typically based on what is covered in the class. For the Salesforce Developer certification exam, this is somewhat true, but not as much as I had hoped. On the first session of the online class, the instructor told us if we were planning to take the certification, we would need to spend at least an additional 30 hours going over all of the things not covered in the class.

I’m on the east coast, and the online class I signed up for was based out of the west coast, so it started at noon and ran into the evening. This actually worked out great, since I was able to spend a few hours each morning catching up on work while my afternoons were taken up with class.

Attending class
The instructor helpfully sent us recaps each night, which included resources like training videos, online documentation, practice tests and additional courses. He also went around the virtual room, quizzing us each morning on what we covered the previous day and on our homework.

Everyone in the class was always there when called on, so it was very attentive, considering it was online. It seemed like everyone in the class completed the exercises in the time allotted. For me, the exercises were mostly things I’d done before, but learning Salesforce.com’s naming conventions and some of the lesser-used features were key to later passing the exam.

The course materials were also helpful and became my nightly reading material (My wife was glad when I finally stopped reading well into the night and turned the light off!). The last day of the class was spent finishing the final modules and reviewing everything in the class; the instructor also went over exactly what we needed to study before taking the exam.

He also had some great advice, which I followed: Don’t look at any of it over the weekend immediately following the class, and then start reviewing it on Monday. He also advised to schedule our test (as part of the official class, you get a voucher for one free exam) within the first few weeks after completing the course, so we wouldn’t lose all of what we hopefully retained.

Starting the exam
I scheduled my exam for three weeks out from the end of the class, started learning all of the parts not covered in the class and reviewed the courseware and exercises to make sure I fully understood the concepts.  On exam day, I went through the courseware one last time and headed out to take my test, feeling pretty confident that I would be able to answer most questions correctly and make educated guesses on the rest to pass.

At the testing center, after showing two forms of identification, I stowed my phone and keys in a locker before sitting in front of a desktop with the test on it. The person monitoring the test didn’t give me much warning – he just leaned over and clicked “Start” as soon as I sat down. I saw the clock running on the screen and realized the exam had started.

I must have read the first question five times before I realized what it was asking and calmed my nerves enough to focus. As I got further into the test, I felt more confident and didn’t have to reread the questions as often. This almost cost me on a couple of questions – I quickly picked the obvious answer but before clicking “Next,” I noticed the question wasn’t asking for the simple answer. I stopped, reread, changed my answers several times and marked several questions for later review.

Submitting and passing the exam
Once I had been through the exam, I had plenty of time to review the ones I wasn’t sure about. I changed a couple because I realized the question wording was slightly different than I originally thought. Then it was time to click the “Submit Exam” button, and after I clicked it, another button appeared with “Are you sure you want to submit your exam?” At this point I paused, took a deep breath, felt good about my answers and clicked “Yes.”

There was a few seconds of a spinning wheel and the screen went blank with just a four-letter word at the top in small font – “Pass.” I was hoping for bells and whistles and fireworks, but it was actually anti-climactic. Then the monitor came over and closed the screen to let me know I would receive an email confirmation. Back to my locker – and on my way back home as a Certified Salesforce.com Developer.

Looking back
I highly recommend going through the study guide and everything the instructors advise to study, since about 20 percent of the test wasn’t from the class. The exam is a good measure that someone has done actual development and understands the concepts within the Salesforce.com platform, so developing some apps – and definitely completing the exercises – are key to passing.

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