Monday, July 7, 2014

Do Experienced Admins Need A Certification?

Making the decision to get certified

As some of you know I have been a Salesforce Admin/BA for nearly 10 years, but I was never certified. It's not that I didn’t want to, it's just that I never made time for it. A few community friends of mine, as well as post from Button Click Admin, convinced me I should do it for a whole myriad of reasons. I started on this venture because I honestly got sick of people saying, “You’re so good I can’t believe you’re not certified, just do it you’ll pass.“

When I made my decision that I was going to get certified, I set a goal to be certified by July 31, 2014. I highly recommend putting a goal with an actual date around it otherwise you'll never take the plunge. You'll just keep saying next month or next year, which is basically what I did. I honestly made the decision because I was sick of people nagging me.

Studying and Practicing for the Certification

Once my mind was made up that I was going to do this, the first thing I did was google “Salesforce Practice Certification Test.” Oh boy where do I start?  There is some bad information out there. I remember taking one practice test and the first question on the test was clearly wrong. It only got worse as the test went on.

Here is an example of that:

I gave up on finding a good practice site and joined the “NYC Cert Club” which was members of the NYC User Group working together to get certified. Unfortunately my work schedule sometimes got so crazy I wasn’t able to make these sessions. Even though the sessions were recorded it wasn’t the same and I enjoyed the discussion and interaction I had with others. It's a great tool if you can make time for it, unfortunately I ended up having a mandatory meeting at the same time as this each week so it didn’t work out for me. I do highly encourage those who can carve out the time during their day to attend these. There are also certification groups on the community you can join here (please keep in mind you will need to meet their qualifications mentioned on their page).

I started to take a different strategy. I signed up for a new developer org solely for the purpose of practicing for the admin exam. When I first started on this venture, I was using a configuration only sandbox tied to my org.  Shortly after starting to study some out of the box features, I realized this was not the best approach since my org is so highly customized. Once I setup a free developer org, I found that it was even more beneficial for me, because I was able to see what Salesforce comes with out of the box.

I wasn't prepared for what was going to happen next...

An interesting thing started to happen that I was completely unprepared for. It was an unexpected surprise. I was learning not only for the certification, but for the benefit of my company and well, my career. After I spent about 4 hours on a Sunday afternoon reading the help section and playing around in my developer org, I sent an email to my team highlighting some best practices and even about some features we could be using. I started to see the benefit of the certification right away. It wasn’t that I just needed this cool little icon on my Twitter picture, it's that I was learning about features that I wouldn’t normally look at. Features I didn’t necessarily have requirements for, but I started to figure out ways our business users could use them. 

As I mentioned above when I first started this venture it was more about getting people off my back about getting certified rather than all of the benefit that could possibly come with getting certified. I think this was because I never really saw what the big deal was about being certified. My studying became more about how I could help better our implementation rather than a status thing or proving my knowledge to someone, which is what I prefer anyway and part of what drove me to keep doing this every Sunday. I was building my own knowledge as well as building our backlog.

Finally a Great practice resource

It was about a month ago when I came across a site called Certified on Demand. I was blown away. They offer free content as well as paid content. They have their site broken out into sections of the test. I decided to pay for a membership of $40.00. The first thing I did after paying for a membership is start taking the quizzes for each section without reading through the sections to see how well I did and what I needed to work on. Turns out on most of the quizzes I was scoring 90-100%. There were a few in areas where I hadn’t used or studied yet that I needed to work on. 

When I was taking the quizzes and I got something wrong I would write down the topic(s) on a piece of paper near my desk and keep a running list. Every Sunday, I would dedicate at least one hour to knocking a few of these items off of my list. What I would do is open up my dev org, and the help, section and learn about the topic/feature and start to play with it in my dev org. I personally find that I learn better by actually setting up a feature rather than just reading or memorizing something from the help section.

Jumping in with both feet

I looked at my calendar and June was halfway over. I decided to register for my exam, I figured if I had an exact date then I would push myself harder to spend more time studying. After I knocked all of my topics of my list and went through each one in my dev org it was the weekend before my certification. I decided to take the full practice test on Certified on Demand. You know what, all of the hard work paid off, first time around I got all but two correct! I looked at the two questions I got wrong and studied up and took it again Monday evening and got all but one correct. I started to google for more practice tests to cram the night before. I found some answers to practice questions on Shell Black’s website and got all of the questions correct! I finally felt ready. I was going to do this. I was going to pass my certification with flying colors on my first try.

Answering the original question

I am happy to say that as of July 1, 2014 I’m officially a certified admin. I don’t know if it makes me any better at my job, but I definitely learned a lot through this experience. So, do experienced or veteran admins need a certification? Absolutely. You may know everything about your org/implementation but there maybe features that you haven't touched that could be helpful to your organization. It's not just about your org it's about the platform as a whole. When you become certified you become more than just an expert at your company, but an expert on the overall platform. I used to never see the big deal, now I do. I know there are probably about a dozen people reading this rolling their eyes, yelling, "We told you so!" So to those dozen people, thank you for nagging me.

I would like to end this post by encouraging all “veteran admins” who haven’t been certified yet to do so. I guarantee that you will increase your knowledge about Salesforce beyond your org. Go for it. I did and don’t regret it one single bit.

As always, thanks for reading.

PS - If you think Salesforce should come out with a good practice test with questions and answers vote for my idea here.


  1. Thanks for sharing this informative blog..Its really useful for me..

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  2. Totally agreed Cheryl, I had the same experience after more than 7 years working in Salesforce area, I did not have any cert, but I commit to be certified on 2011, and the result now I hold 3 active certs.
    And the another best thing being certified is you need to take online exam under developer and/or admin track, so you have to "learn" the new features every new release.

  3. Great blog Cheryl! After being an Admin for 10 years for small companies I've finally signed up for the 1st Admin exam to take place at Dreamforce, your advice will indeed be very helpful! Keep sharing please...

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