I recently attended a presentation at a user group meeting given by a Salesforce MVP. In her personal introduction, she mentioned that she “only” holds two certifications. She told us that number can look quite sad when there are currently more than twenty different certifications available.
She only mentioned it in passing and it was more as a light joke. But it did make me think about how people experience certifications in the current Salesforce world. The days of there only being a handful of credentials available is in the past. So the BIG question is:
“When are certifications a valid representation of a person’s knowledge, and when are too many maybe too much?”
Nowadays, it’s much more common for people to hold multiple certifications than it used to be. Before, if you were looking for a developer role, having a Force.com Advanced Developer or Platform Developer II certification used to be a “nice to have.” But today, this level of credential is basically mandatory.
Earning a certification doesn’t automatically mean you also have a good work ethic, just like holding an Advanced Developer credential does not make you a great developer per se. The important thing is that a certification shows that you know the Salesforce best practices—how to abide by them, and when to push them to the limit.
Because Salesforce is designed to be quite intuitive, it’s easy to forget that you’re actually dealing with strategic business applications. Even the higher management layers within a business are fully aware of the importance of certified people and favor steering towards having a team with certified members. And, let’s be honest, when you work in a Salesforce team it’s now pretty much expected that you know everything.
Over the last few years, Salesforce has become more structured and a lot more defined. For businesses, the testing, failing, and ultimate awesomeness of implementing something completely new has somewhat gone away. The wide availability of best practices and a huge (and very vocal!) community have taken away the need for a lot of the old-fashioned guesswork.
As this legwork has already been done by others, it means you no longer have to (re)invent the wheel for an entire implementation process. This more established ecosystem, combined with the much more mature industry, has also led to a much clearer view on the roles and profiles needed within a Salesforce team.
Today, a good Salesforce person needs to know at least a little about a lot!
And this is where certifications come into their own. An admin needs to be a little bit of a developer, but also be able to handle business requirements and do analysis. A developer needs to be a little bit of an admin, as they do some analysis, but are also expected to make architectural decisions. On top of that, everyone has to do quality control and make important decisions. And the way to prove this cross-functional knowledge is through certifications.
Passing an exam feels like a validation of the knowledge you have gained through experience over time.
I’m currently on my Certified Technical Architect (CTA) journey—as are many others right now. And it’s not because it seems to be the latest buzzword, it’s because I am ready. I’m simply at that stage in my career.
I got my first certification in 2013, then another in 2014, two more in 2015, and eleven between 2016 and now. Even though this seems like a steep curve after a slow start, I strongly believe that a certification should reflect your actual knowledge and complement your experience, not just represent your ability to learn by rote and reproduce text.
Certifications hold more value if the timeline of getting them reflects your actual story of experience—not just an arbitrary number to make you seem more qualified.
Take, for example, the new architect track (which is great, by the way!). I recommend that everyone who works in a development organization, or even as an administrator for that matter, should take the designer exams. Studying for these gives you the “bigger picture” view of general IT architecture in the Salesforce context. This is extremely valuable for yourself and the company you work for.
Unfortunately, I failed my first attempt at the CTA review board. It was a great experience, though. The panel were very professional, but as expected, the assignment was hard. And when I say hard, I mean really hard. I walked out the exam room already knowing the massive list of things I needed to revisit and learn.
So when all is said and done, why do I hold so many certifications? Besides the validation they bring (and the fun I have passing them), the industry standard for Salesforce professionals is only going one way, and that’s up! As I’m a sucker for a challenge, I’ve set myself the goal of making it all the way to the Salesforce top.
My certifications have given me the confidence to go for the higher-spec jobs. When applying for a job, you stand out just a little more when you have multiple credentials, as it proves you have the skills and abilities required. This makes you a more interesting candidate to invite for an interview.
Certifications are a valuable reflection of your knowledge. They also help you to show that you take your job seriously—especially if you’re a freelancer—as they demonstrate that you are willing and able to invest your time in learning the depths of a great platform. And I hope the future brings more—perhaps even specific credentials like Lighting Developer or Lightning App Builder.
Advice from a seasoned cert pro? Set yourself a goal and reach for your own “top.” It doesn’t have to be CTA, but set a realistic learning goal with achievable milestones along the way. Start earning those Trailhead badges. Get a developer org and start exploring. Join the Success Community and start collaborating. Then go for your certification.
You may even find that your certification journey sets a good example for others and you inspire each other to aim even higher. The more you immerse yourself into the Salesforce world, the more knowledge, opportunity, and joy it will bring you!
Salesforce Certified Force.com Developer October 24, 2013
Salesforce Certified Administrator July 16, 2014
Salesforce Certified Platform App Builder August 19, 2015
Salesforce Certified Advanced Administrator December 16, 2015
Salesforce Certified Force.com Advanced Developer March 16, 2016
Salesforce Certified Platform Developer I April 6, 2016
Salesforce Certified Platform Developer II April 6, 2016
Salesforce Certified Development Lifecycle & Deployment Designer October 14, 2016
Salesforce Certified Data Architecture & Management Designer November 16, 2016
Salesforce Certified Sharing and Visibility Designer November 23, 2016
Salesforce Certified Integration Architecture Designer December 7, 2016
Salesforce Certified System Architect January 20, 2017
Salesforce Certified Identity and Access Management Designer January 20, 2017
Salesforce Certified Application Architect February 1, 2017
Salesforce Certified Community Cloud Consultant May 12, 2017
If you’ve been inspired by Justus’s story, learn more about how you, too, can become a Salesforce Certified Professional.