So when I was approached a couple of months ago by my practice leader asking if I’d study and take the Salesforce Platform Developer 1 Certification Exam I said “Sure, why not”
What is Salesforce?
Salesforce as a product is a Customer Relationship Management tool. From what I’ve seen – at a basic level – it provides a user interface for tables in a database and allows you to not only do read/write operations, but create complex processes around the data (like only allowing certain people to view certain records, or sending out emails based on certain criteria). The use case I’ve run across most frequently involves selling products or services to customers and the process that a customer has to go through to get to that final purchasing point; the interface is simple enough that a sales rep can be trained in how to use and customize it without having to learn how to be a “developer”.
So why would a developer learn and get certified in Salesforce?
The platform allows you to create custom widgets for viewing and manipulating data. As a developer, the mechanism for these interactions is very similar to Java, HTML, and SQL, but with a special Salesforce-twist to it. The languages have their own syntax, their own development environment, and their own way of making things work.
Salesforce also has API endpoints that you can integrate with a custom application. Even if you don’t want your customers to use the interface, you can still take advantage of the horsepower and processes behind it.
How do you study for a certification?
Salesforce has a handful of different certifications and has a very clear study plan for all of them in a free online book that you can find here. You don’t have to be certified to work with the Salesforce technology, but as with all certifications, it does give you some credibility.
Salesforce provides both free and paid training. I stuck with the free training that they provide online and avoided the paid classes which seems both time-consuming and expensive. They call the different free training modules “Trailheads” and there’s a different trailhead for each certification (or in some cases there are multiple trailheads). At the end of each section there are multiple choice question “practice tests” or projects. Pay particular attention to those, as they might show up later on the actual exam.
I was working a full 40 hours/week on a client during this time, so I took aside time on the weekends to study for the certification – usually averaging between 3 and 5 hours a week. At that pace I finished it in almost exactly two months (if you don’t have other obligations you could definitely finish it faster). By the time I walked into the exam room, I was nervous but also felt confident that I’d either know it or I wouldn’t and more studying probably wouldn’t help me.
What is the exam like?
For the Platform Developer 1 Certification you can see the technical details here – but at a high level:
- There are 65 questions that cover the Developer Beginner Trailhead course
- A passing score is 68%
- They’re all multiple choice, with some of them asking you to choose two or three options – I assume there’s no partial credit on those questions
- You have a little over an hour and a half to complete the test (though honestly I didn’t spend that long in the room)
- The exam costs $200 the first time you take it (a lot of people don’t pass initially), since mine was mandated by my company, I get reimbursed for the cost
In Dallas I went to a testing center to take the exam (you can find the exam sites and schedule online); this is my first certification so I had no idea what to expect. There were lots of security cameras so you couldn’t cheat and it felt a little bit like a middle school computer lab, except with cubicles so you couldn’t see anyone else’s screens and everyone was definitely over the age of 14. They had small lockers to put belongings in (I was grateful that I didn’t bring my computer bag), and the staff was nice but had obviously already seen at least 30 people go through there by 9am on a Saturday and weren’t really looking to engage in friendly chit-chat.
I got my results as soon as I clicked “submit” and there was a moment of panic where I thought there was a chance I’d failed everything or the computer would malfunction or an apocalypse would strike and I’d be prevented from passing my exam. Luckily, my weekends of studying paid off and I passed! I didn’t get a perfect score, but I did well enough that I feel confident moving forward.
So is this going to be your entire job now?
No way, Jose. While I’m sure this certification will mean that I get more opportunities to work with Salesforce, it’s not my entire life. I enjoy custom development way too much to totally give that up.
As a consultant it’s my responsibility to learn the technologies that our clients interact with on a day-to-day basis. Salesforce is a CRM platform that has proprietary languages and applications behind it that make it a great choice for a lot of businesses. If you want to take the certification exam there’s a very clear training curriculum to insure your success; make sure to study, but it’s not the SAT.
If you’ve had any adventures with Salesforce, their certification process, or other certification processes for comparison, I’d love to hear about your experiences!