Now I’m a Sitecore Developer

It’s official.  I have a certificate to prove it. A Sitecore Professional Developer.  For me this is the first step in a journey.  But why did I feel the need to get certified? Couldn’t I just y’know….do the dev work and still enjoy it?

Why should you get certified?

Certification is more than a piece of paper (although that makes you feel pretty good about yourself), it also allows you to:

  • Get recognized both inside and outside the Sitecore community for the time and effort you’ve put in.
  • You get access to Sitecore support.
  • You learn things the Sitecore way….from the ground up.

I thought I’d share my experiences throughout the training and certification process.

Background

My background is in .NET development. Designing, developing and managing teams building .NET apps for Web and Web API .  About 6 months ago, I joined a company that is building out a small Sitecore team internally. I had no Sitecore dev experience beyond watching a couple of youtube clips.  Given there was no way for developers to just grab a copy of Sitecore and have a crack, I have found this is a really common pathway.  None the less, at it’s core, Sitecore is a big ass .NET Web App.  So skills and experience as a .NET web developer are 100% transferable.  There is a really active sitecore community (this surprised me immensely) so if you need help getting started, hit up Sitecore Community Slack, Stack Exchange or the official Sitecore Community Forums.

(NB: Things have changed in the last couple of months!  For .NET devs intrigued by Sitecore and wanting to give it a spin, you can request a trial license at https://www.sitecore.net/getting-started/implementation/developing-on-sitecore)

How do you get certified as a “Sitecore Professional Developer”?

Although certification only really comes in one flavour for developers, there are a number of pathways.  Personally I was lucky enough that my employer sent me out for the 4 day “classroom” training, which also includes a voucher for the exam upon completion.  I believe the training can also be provided online, but can highly recommend the classroom training. The trainer was a really good resource to query given some of the quirks that Sitecore throws up every now and then.

The classroom sessions essentially consists of :

  • Hard copy “Student Lab Guide”
  • Projected slides (available on completion)
  • Some base code to model the labs off
  • and of course the knowledge of the trainer

Over the 4 days we worked through theory and examples presented by the trainer, followed by a lab putting the theory into practice.  Each lab was a step by step guide to achieve the task at hand (E.G. Setting up a Sitecore Instance with SIM or Configuring Personalization).  Often there were bumps in the road with the steps, however quick checks with the trainer usually pointed to user error 😉 .  Each chapter (which usually consisted of a few labs) ended with review questions which were all addressed by the trainer.

Exam Preparation

I booked the exam about a month after the training.  I’d say that was probably a bit too long as some of the memories were a little hazy and did need a bit of revision to get clarity.

I used the following to revise the content:

  • The training student lab guide.  I re-did the labs I was a bit sketchy on.  In my case this was surrounding search and personalization.  Do the optional labs if you skipped them in the course.  They deal with some of the gotchas Sitecore will throw your way.
  • The slides from training.  I made notes on questions that were raised in my mind as I flicked through these, then followed up on the answers in the training guide,  Sitecore doco.
  • The Student Lab Guide chapter review questions.  PROTIP: Revise and understand these.  The exam reflects the training course content. No, these are not the questions.  But if you understand the concepts asked in the review questions, you’ll do just fine!
  • Ask questions for anything you don’t understand.  I am lucky enough to have some experienced and knowledgeable colleagues.  These guys/gals and slack answered pretty much any “dumb question” I had.
  • Sitecore provide a study guide which outlines the breakdown of areas the exam focuses on and some example questions. It gives a great overview of what to expect.

Although not explicit “revision”, I was working on Sitecore for almost 6 months during this period.  A lot of the concepts I did already have a grasp of and continued to hone my skills over that time.  There is no substitute for experience, but certainly brushing up on the sections you aren’t familiar with is crucial.  Your instance won’t implement everything!  Some of the questions are very detailed, but often you’ll find a process of elimination will end up giving you a 50/50 chance!

Sitting the Exam

The exam can be taken online or in person at a Kryterion testing centre.  There was one close by, so I decided to just go to the testing centre.

To be honest the testing centre was the most disappointing part of the whole experience.  The testing space was small, noisy (next to the server room….but they supplied earplugs!), stuffy and hot.  Not ideal conditions to take a 2 hour exam in an Australian summer.  Lesson learned….go to a different test centre next time.  I’m not going to name names, but if you’re taking the exam in Perth, Australia….ping me a message first so I can tell you where to avoid!

The exam itself was in a pretty straight forward format.  70 multiple choice questions. No notes, no books, no references, no internet.  Just read the question, click an answer, then “next”….70 times.  The exam application was bit slow to move to the next question (hey I’m a dev….of course I’m going to look at perf!) but the “time remaining” clock did appear to take this into account. I relied heavily on the feature to flag answers for review, so that I could come back to them at the end.  You can review any question before you submit the exam for marking, but flagging them for review just lets you be a bit more organised in your approach.  I don’t want to comment on the exact content but suffice to say the majority of questions reflect the training courseware, however there are a few curly questions that were beyond what was covered in training. 2 hours was plenty of time to answer the questions, review the flagged items, then go through everything again for silly mistakes.

You get your results via email ~15 minutes after completion.  This is just a “You got x%”, whether you passed (you’ll need 70%+) and a PDF certificate.  I was pretty nervous about my result, but once I got the email I was pretty stoked with only a few questions wrong. Unfortunately I’ll never know which ones!

After the Exam

First things first. I printed the damn certificate and stuck it on my office desk pinboard.  I put in the effort and am proud of the result.  You should be too. Don’t undervalue that.  I’ve found it’s a great conversation starter to promote some of the great features that Sitecore has to offer that your users may not know about. There have been a few “Really, it can do THAT?” moments.

I learned a stack of things I wouldn’t have been exposed to had I not done the training & exam.  Sure, I’d get there through carrying out my daily duties, but feel I have a much better base understanding and exposure to some of the features I simply haven’t come across day to day.  In particular I hope to really push the envelope in personalization and leveraging the power of xDB.

Finally, I’d like to get further involved with the community.  In particular I’ve found slack to be really active with expertise ranging from total n00bs to MVPs.  I’m yet to find anyone not willing to help or point you in the right direction.  There are also lots of local user groups, unfortunately in my city meetups have dwindled.  Something I hope we can rectify in coming months!  If you’re looking to get involved jump on slack and join #sitecore-user-groups and ask what’s going on in your area. While you’re there, say G’day!

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