Get Certified: Acquia Certification Program [March 26, 2014]
Want to learn more about Acquia’s products, services, and happenings in the Drupal Community? Visit our site: http://bit.ly/yLaHO5.
Join Peter Manijak, our Global Certification Lead, and Ben Ortega, Director of Learning Services to find out about Acquia’s newly launched certification program. We’ll show you what credentials can be earned and the roadmap for future exams. We’ll also show you what the certification process is like and how to prepare yourself to achieve an Acquia Certification credential.
In this webinar you will:
• Learn about the first exam—Acquia Certified Developer
• See a sample question
• Find out how to get more information on the program
• Find out where to sign up and register
Moderator: …seminar is Get Certified: Acquia Certification Program with speakers Peter Manijak who is the Certified Program Lead for this program, Ben Ortega who is the Director of Learning Services here at Acquia and Heather James, who is the Manager of Learning Services here at Acquia. We’re really excited to have all three of them on the call today so thanks very much for taking time out of your day. Peter, you’re all set to start.
Peter Manijak: Okay, thank you very much. We are going to start off with introductions and actually, at this point in time, I was hoping that Ben would introduce himself first, and then Heather, and then myself.
Ben Ortega: Alright. Hello everybody, my name is Ben Ortega. I’m the Director of Learning Services here at Acquia. When I’m at play in the office, Heather, Peter, and Prasad, who you’ll learn about a little bit later this afternoon, we helped create learning programs for Acquia’s clients, our partners, as well as the community to help teams develop and deploy rich user experiences using Drupal as their web development platform. So I’m looking forward to this conversation and I’m looking forward to your questions.
Heather James: Cool. Well, I’ll introduce myself. I’m Heather James. I’m the Manager of Learning Services and I’ve been using Drupal for a while. I’ve been with Acquia for a while and so I’m really excited because I’ve been talking about certification within the community for a long time and this really is a dream come true and a plan that’s been long in the making so I’m really excited to talk to you guys about it today.
Peter Manijak: Okay. Thanks, Ben and Heather. So this is Peter Manijak and I’m thrilled to be here. I’ve been part of the team since November. Ben brought me on board to build the certification program and we announced it very recently and we’ll go through essentially the whos, whys, whats about the program. I do have some experience doing this sort of thing. I’ve got about 14 years experience launching major certification programs and I’ll tell you, this program here is one of the most exciting efforts I’ve been part of. So with that, we’re going to spend some time talking about the program, why we built it, the benefits, how we built it, exam details, what the exam is like, a sample question, and also some helpful hints along the way towards the end on how you can best succeed in taking the exam.
So moving forward, why did we build this? Essentially, we looked at the industry and the industry had a gap. Essentially a certification program was something that’s been missing for quite some time and that the timing seemed to be right or it is right now to create such a high stakes certification program. One of the things that we also want to do is we want to create creative awareness and use of Drupal and we believe that this program will do this. At the same time the certification program will provide paths for skill development. You’ll be able to figure out what you need to know along the way. When you actually are taking an exam, you’re being measured. What we want to do is we want to measure objectives, skills and knowledge that matters. That’s one of the key goals during this whole process and through any exam and that at the end of the day, this exam will matter and be of value to you. So the benefits we believe that it will absolutely establish your credibility. It will make you more visible within the marketplace. You’ll gain a formal certification in a dynamic field. We don’t have a registry just yet. We’re working on a registry so when people do obtain their certifications, they’ll be able to validate that they’ve earned them, send other people to validate their credentials as well. So we’ll make sure that this is going to be available in the near future.
So how we built it, one of the key things that we looked at, we wanted to determine the goals of the program, what is it that we wanted to do from Acquia’s standpoint, what was good for the industry, how we can - for instance, how we can raise the profile of Drupal is one of the key goals. We then conducted an audience analysis: who’s out there, how many people are out there, what would be of value if we determined the framework of the program and the roadmap? We’ll get into the roadmap that we have in place today a little bit later. Then one of the key activities is we conducted job task analysis around the key roles that we discovered were in the marketplace. Once we were able to do that, we created the exam blueprint which is available for everybody to see. So it lays out the skills, tasks and knowledge that we expect people to have to be a certified exam developer. Then we lay out also the objectives so you can see what is being tested. Of course, one of the key elements is we brought in subject matter experts from Acquia in a workshop to develop and write scenario-based questions that will measure and validate your skills and knowledge to be an Acquia-certified developer.
So with that, we have a high-stakes proctored exam in place today. It’s available on-site globally through 750 Kryterion test centers. Those are the brick and mortar test centers. We also have this test available as an online proctored test which will really expand the reach of the exam itself. We’re going to go a little bit more into detail of what that actually means so you can have some expectations if you were to take an online proctored test. It’s available at the address I’ve posted here.
So for the roadmap, right now, we have the Acquia certified developer exam. In place today, available, people are testing as we speak. The next two exams that we’re looking at, the front-end specialist and the back-end specialist, we’re looking at over the next three to six months working on those exams and having those available. There might be some opportunity for the front-end specialist exam of having the community participate in the development and we’ll be sending out more information on that. There are also other areas that we are looking at. We are looking at performance-based testing as well. So for the immediate future, we have an exam in place today announced on the press release March 20. The other two exams will be coming out. We’ll be announcing schedules as we have a better idea of when they’ll be available.
So for exam details, the exam is $250.00. It’s 60 multiple choice, multiple answer questions. You get 90 minutes and the pass/fail mark is 65%. Again there’s more information on the exam blueprint, the exam objectives. They give you just more information about the exam, how to prepare, what you’ll need to know. For instance, there’s information that tells you which domains the test is actually covering. You can see web concepts, site building, front end, back end. It gives you the percentages of how much is covered within each exam. One of the things that we look at in terms of the developer that we feel that they should know all these areas. This will enhance their skill sets and their ability to work within teams. So that was one of the key driving points when we created and conceptualized this exam. Put together a sample question just so you have an idea of what to expect. The test itself is primarily scenario-based questions. Literally almost all questions are scenario-based. So there are no memorization type questions. We’re asking you to be able to understand a scenario and use your real world knowledge in order to answer these questions. Then you’ll have a choice of options to answer from. Sometimes you’ll be asked to select two out of four or three out of five as well as the one out of four scenarios. The whole idea we wanted to show you was the type of question that you could expect within the exam.
The exam is available today. There is a follow up webinar and I think we’ll have more information on that. What I also want to do is give you some helpful hints. If you are going to register, which we hope you will be doing in Kryterion, do not use Chrome. That could cause you some problems. Use a browser such as IE, Firefox, and Safari. Also, don’t use a second monitor if you’re going to be taking the online proctored test. They don’t like having that in place and they’ll stop your test. There’s also Sentinel software that you’ll need to install when you take the online proctored exam. It’s not a problem to take it off once you’ve completed your exam but it does take a few minutes to set up. You’ll need 24 hours in advance to set up your exam whether or not you take it at a facility or you take it online. We highly recommend you find a quiet place to take the exam. Also, please be aware, you are being monitored. So if something does happen, a proctor will pop in and I know that can be disconcerting but the key is be prepared, use the restroom before you go and sit down to take your exam if you’re taking an online exam. Make sure you are hydrated as well. Be ready to use that full 90 minutes to take the exam.
Some other hints. Just that when you’re taking an exam is that we would highly recommend that you trust your first answer. It’s usually the right one. The one thing that we’ve also seen is that people who are very knowledgeable tend to overthink the question. These are not trick questions. We aim to be fair all the time. We want you to take the questions at face value. If you think it’s the right answer, don’t overthink it. It usually is. The other thing, too, is that you may want to save the longer questions to the end. That’s just a good practice for test-taking just to push it off. That way, you can focus on the answers that take less time. Then, let’s see what we have here next. We have a great webinar with Prasad to help you prepare even better for the exam. I know that I went very fast so I’m guessing there might be a lot of questions and also an opportunity for Heather and Ben to add what they like.
Moderator: Okay, we can open it up for questions and Heather, do you have anything that you want to add in before we did that?
Heather James: One thing I was amazed about just through the process of watching this get pulled together and all the subject matter experts being pulled in is just the amount of – I mean, just how difficult it was actually to come up with these scenarios. I appreciate it now so much more. You’re seeing people coming in with a feedback. They see that, “Oh, yes, you can’t actually just cram for this.” How did you know that this was going to work, Peter? I know you’ve got many years experience in this but why do scenario-based questions work over rote memorization questions?
Peter Manijak: Well, the key part that when you have all the experts together and you have an opportunity for them to hash through what are the pain points and the like. What we do in a very systematic manner is once we’ve established the objectives, we make sure that the questions themselves are congruent, they’re technically accurate, they’re relevant. Those are the three key things that we look at. Does the question matter? If someone could answer it, then that’s great. I guess the question we ask is so what? So what if someone knows this? So we go through this process, “Does this matter?” So it all comes down to “Does this matter for someone doing this job?” So we’re asking people to be able to put two and two together and some [Audio Gap] two and four together to be able to think through the answer. Much different than just memorizing if something is red or green or blue or how many pins or a number that they’d have to remember. What we want them to be able to do is think through the problem with the question at hand and come up with the answer. So it really starts with the subject matter experts being able to identify what really matters and tie it to the objectives. At the end of the day, if you have 60 of those questions, we feel very good that we validated your skills and knowledge as a developer.
Heather James: Definitely. It sounds – sorry. Go ahead.
Peter Manijak: [Crosstalk] okay for it?
Heather James: What’s that?
Peter Manijak: Did that answer your question?
Heather James: Yes, definitely. I feel like I just have so much respect now for your experience and the process. It’s been amazing to see it get put together. I think that if people hear that and understand that that’s what the exam is like, I think they’ll be attracted to take it because developers are problem-solvers and there are 60 interesting problems that are truly challenging. I think people will find it – I know it’s probably strange to say this but fun in a fun, challenging sort of way. So I hope that people take that attitude about it rather than being so scared about it, I suppose. So I wonder, Hannah, are there any questions coming in?
Moderator: Yes. We had quite a few questions come in. The first is is the base ACD a precursor to the specialist exams? So is the Acquia Certified Developer a precursor to the specialist exam?
Heather James: I think they’re a requirement. Oh, yes, you go ahead, Peter. You know that.
Peter Manijak: Yes. We are definitely looking at it to be a prerequisite for the specialist exams. However, when we start delving in into more details around the exam, the exam objectives, and what the goals will be, we may not require it but I think at this point in time, we’re leaning heavily for it to be a prerequisite at this time but the official announcement won’t come out for a couple of months but I would anticipate that it probably would end up being a prerequisite. It may not be a prerequisite for all the exams further down the road but for these two, we feel at this point in time, it’s probably going to be most appropriate to be a prerequisite.
Moderator: Okay. The next question is will you have training classes to prepare for the exam?
Peter Manijak: Yes, absolutely. There’s also material that we list and post on the exam blueprint of the training that they can take but we are in the process of putting together supporting training for this particular exam. So you’ll be looking out for announcements on that as well, I hope.
Moderator: Awesome. The next question is, “I’m a site builder exclusively so I’m strong on Domain 1 and 2 but only sporadically touched Domain 3 and 4. What should I do?”
Peter Manijak: Well, what we try to do is we try to hit the sweet spot for all roles that we feel that you should know a fair amount within each of these sections. We put the pass/fail rate at 65% so what we would like you to see is to increase your knowledge in the areas where you’re weak in and we can help you boost your skills and knowledge level up. I believe that you’ll be able to pass it with some additional training to leverage the deep experience you have in your area of specialty. Then the other thing too is we are – and by the way, this is unofficial but we are looking at a site builder specialist certification as well but that’s not in the office roadmap just yet.
Heather James: Yes, definitely. I’m very excited about that one because there’s so many specialists within the Drupal community and have in-depth knowledge that even say, a front-end specialist wouldn’t know and these site builder specialists will know so much about major ecosystem modules and the contributed modules which we couldn’t really include in this exam and I think that a site builder exam would be very interesting to dig into because you’re talking about when is it appropriate to use various ecosystem modules and what’s the right layout tool or those types of things. So it would be very exciting to put that together. I’m very, very hopeful.
Peter Manijak: Yes, and keep in mind that we set the pass/fail mark at 65%. So we’re not asking people to score a 95 or 100. So we are expecting them to miss certain areas and certain sections. We expect people to be stronger in one area than the other. So hopefully, with a little bit of instruction and a little bit more stick time, you will be able to pass the exam without a problem.
Moderator: Great. We had a couple other questions come in. How long will the certification be valid?
Peter Manijak: Well, what we did is we date-stamped your certification. So you’ll get a logo that says “2014.” So it will always be your credential. It’s just that 10 years from now, if you’re still saying you have the 2014 credential, that may or may not be a good thing. Essentially, we probably would expect within the partner programs to have to recertify every two years. Again, this is part of the partner rules and partner requirements and the channel programs that will be coming out. As with anything, if you are up to date and want to recertify and get your credential in 2015 or 2016, it will be date-stamped as well. The marketplace should be able to recognize it.
Moderator: Okay. The next question is how many times are you allowed to take the exam? Say you don’t pass it the first time, are you allowed to take it again?
Peter Manijak: Well, we didn’t put any restrictions on it but we do flag it if someone has failed three times, that we’ll probably reach out to them. That’s for a variety of reasons but what we do have in place today is if you do not pass the exam on your first attempt, we put a cooling off period of 14 days before you can attempt it again. The only other exception that we would do is if we do an event where we’re hosting the event and we’re having the exams taken at the event and we spent some time with you and spent some time maybe chalk talking and doing some coaching with you. If we feel that you’re ready to retake the test, we as a program office will waive the 14-day period. We really tend to want people to have a cooling off period. I’ve seen people at events where they take the exam and then they go back two hours later. They think they’re ready and they do worse. Then I’ve also seen it where we spend time with people and we chalk talk them and go through the points that they just need to get over the hump and they go back there and they make it. But we’d like to be in person with them before we waive any sort of 14-day waiting period.
Moderator: Great. The next question is what other exams are you considering besides the back-end and front-end specialist?
Peter Manijak: We are indeed looking at site builders very, very hard. We feel that that is a credential that could be very well in demand. The other one that we’re looking at is the architect exam. Now, we’re looking at that being a potential performance based test where we’re going to ask you to do a certain amount of activities. We’ll give you some problems to work on and basically we’re going to ask you to execute and perform. One of the things that we’re looking at is automated scoring so we’ll be able to scale up that program. So instead of people having to come in to Burlington or whatever sites that we’re going to have for in-person performance-based testing, we’re looking at creating an environment where we can do some automated scoring from remote testing. So that’s the exciting thing that we’re definitely looking at. So the architect exam, that’s a little further down the road. The site builder one, I think, could be sooner than we think right now. Right now, it’s not immediately on the roadmap but that’s something we’re looking at. We’re also looking at some lower level qualification type exams, not high stakes, more foundational, people just entering into that marketplace just something to get them going but for now…
Heather James: I think that’s what’s interesting is it would be for people in non-technical roles. So this may be people in project management roles, people in the technical sales role maybe who are just new to Drupal and that sort of foundation qualification role. Just make sure they’ve established that they understand Drupal, the community, how the software works, et cetera.
Peter Manijak: Right. The thing is when we picked this particular exam, we thought this was the sweet spot for the technical audiences to get started with. I hope that answered your question.
Moderator: Yes. Going on to the next question, “Is every exam the same or is there a pool of questions and dynamically changing the test?”
Peter Manijak: This will evolve on a per test basis but the exams will be changing, will be updating. There will be multiple forms as time rolls out. So depending on how each exam gets rolled out, some might come out what are called “Multiple forms.” Some might be a single form for the first month or two and then updated and added in other forms so it’s a fairly dynamic process.
Moderator: Okay. The next question is, “Does one maintain credential by retesting or participating in other activities?”
Peter Manijak: Well, that’s part of what we want to look at in terms of recertification but for right now, we’re looking at a retest. I know that we can look into – we’re essentially gaining credits by attending or participating in other events and so we can look at that but it usually comes down to retesting.
Moderator: Great. The next question is, “Is this certified for a certain Drupal version? If so, do we need to take every time a new version comes out, for example, Drupal 7, Drupal 8 and et cetera?
Peter Manijak: Yes, that’s a great question. This particular one focused on Core Drupal 7 and depending on what your role is, you might be set with staying with Drupal 7. For instance, if you’re in a support role that’s supporting Drupal 7, the Drupal 7 customers, and so you may not have a need to go to Drupal 8 or maybe not right away. As we look at the program, long-term, we certainly see some exams going from Drupal 7-centric or focus to Drupal 8. There are other exams where simply because of the type and nature of exam, it may not be necessary for you or for us to develop an exam per version. That could essentially lend itself to the architect exam where we feel that if you are an architect and you’re able to execute and perform on the exam, that you essentially validated your skills and knowledge as an architect and - but we probably then would just be recommending training to take for new products or new versions but at this point in time, we’d have to work out a case by case basis with the channel or partner programs for requirements. Does that make sense with everybody I hope?
Heather James: Yes.
Moderator: Okay. The next question is, “Have Dries and Angela passed these tests?” [Laughter]
Ben Ortega: I’m happy to take that one. So Angie Byron, you can go to her web blog at webchick.net and she had just posted her results and she has successfully passed the exam. Her blog post actually gives a lot of really great information around how to prepare and what she went through. It would be a great reference point for anyone online who’s considering taking the exam. I would certainly recommend you go there and view that page and see what she went through as she describes her experience of taking the exam. She has certainly successfully passed and Dries, as you know, is our founder and Chief Technology Officer who’s all over the world doing all kinds of crazy things for the community and for Acquia. He has not had the opportunity yet to sit down for the two hours that we grant – or the 90 minutes that we grant for him to take the exams. I can tell you that there is an internal pool going right now for when he’ll take it and what his score will be. So we’re all very anxious to get him to sit down and do that. When he does, I’m sure he’ll blog about it and everyone in the community will be able to see it.
Moderator: Great. We have a lot more questions coming in. Will you only be testing on Core Drupal or also on contributed modules?
Peter Manijak: For this particular exam, we focused on Core Drupal. That may change but right now, we’re trying to stay with Core Drupal.
Moderator: Great. The next question is how do other people verify a certification?
Ben Ortega: Yes, so I’ll answer that one. Our plans are to build a directory that anyone can visit on Acquia.com to verify whether someone is certified or not. The plan is to give those that have been credentialed with the Acquia certification an opportunity to post their profile. We’ll initially build it so that way, it’s validated through the program office that they have successfully passed the exam. Once that’s been built, then they’ll have an opportunity to build out their profile a little bit more. We have some early thoughts about allowing those that are certified to build out some sort of like a portfolio so they can show some of their previous work and help them as they make use of earnings that is gives them credential as a certified developer. That’s in our plans and that’s certainly something that will be coming.
Moderator: Great. How long between taking the test and the notification of the status if you passed?
Peter Manijak: Well, you do get an email if you take it online immediately. It gives you your section report and your overall score and if you go to a test center, you get a printout as well. So you do know immediately.
Moderator: Great. We pass…
Peter Manijak: It will take you two to three weeks to get your credential via email and the logo that you’ll be able to use and display. The logo is for an individual. It’s not for a company use. It’s for an individual to use. However, a company can declare that they have multiple Acquia-certified developers. Does that make sense?
Moderator: Yes. Alright, we’ve had a lot of questions on sample questions and training and I think, Heather, this is a great time for you to talk about the next webinar coming up with Prasad.
Heather James: Oh, yes, that’s actually going to be fantastic because Prasad’s actually taken it so many times [Laughter]. He’s actually obviously involved in preparing the blueprints and as part of the workshops that we did to write the questions, but he also took the exam at a test center. He took it proctored. He knows what it’s like to take the exams and he is going to talk about preparing for the exam. He’s a curriculum developer with us and he’s also involved in training so he really has a great insight into how to help people and we’ve really came to hear about your question and what you're wondering. That’s going to be on April 23 and that’ll be at 11:00 Eastern time and I’m not sure what time in Europe, actually because of the time zone difference but - [Laughter] excuse me, because of the time change. That should be very useful and especially if you have any questions about this, about the exam.
Moderator: Great. So I think that’s it for questions. Does anybody else want to end with anything, Ben or Heather or Peter?
Heather James: Well, actually, I had a question come through. It was interesting. It didn’t come through the Q&A. I think it came through the chat. Some asked, “How do you distinguish between a themer, site builder and developers?” So actually, the way we went about this is we started last year doing research, talking to our partners and our clients actually and tried to understand how teams were built – what are the typical teams and what are the size of the teams and what’s the makeup of these teams, who’s actually building the websites? So we saw some common patterns in small and large teams. We saw things that surprised me. I learned that a themer is like a pink elephant. [Laughter] It doesn’t seem to exist. It actually turns out there are different job titles and they don’t necessarily match up to the rules that people have on the team. So someone could be acting as a themer and be the front-end developer or it could be the junior developer or it could be the senior architect and they are maybe acting as a themer on any role or sorry, on any team at any time. So what this helped us do was to make a determination about the types of skills that were required. We couldn’t tightly tie the exams to specific job titles and descriptions. What we tried to do with this first one, was look at what was the absolute required skill set if you had even a small team. If you had someone like this on your team, you could be successful. So you can actually look at that research prepared and published at the end of last year on how to build a great triple team and it’s there – you can download it as an e-book, read them as blog posts and it should give you a really good idea of the pathways to building this. When I did the research, one of the final topics I was looking at was evaluation, and how do you evaluate candidates. It really impressed upon me from two sides. First of all, that there is a huge struggle for people who are evaluating candidates that didn’t know if they weren’t familiar with the software, if they weren’t familiar with the community. We could bring them to someone’s community profile and talk to them about how to look at a Drupal data profile and they have even a tutorial online how to do that. Yet there are so many people, it turns out, as individuals, they don’t have the time, the luxury of time as it turns out to be able to commit. I know we all want people to be committing but it actually – what I learned is that there are a lot of people for whom making a public profile is impossible through their job or circumstance and that actually is very limiting. I really felt quite passionate about the idea that we could provide people with a chance especially with this first certification if someone is a junior developer to get a leg up and to demonstrate their skills and knowledge. I think that we don’t really know the effect right not but I’m very excited about it. So yes, we answered the question about distinguishing between those different roles but they are, like I said, there are things that we validated out in the wild. If you want to know how we did that, that’s available online.
There was another – oh sorry. Go on. Oh, I think there was another question but it was about taking the exam again without paying but I think you do have to pay. So I don’t know if we’ve missed anything else.
Moderator: No, I think that’s it.
Ben Ortega: No. Yes. I just want to let everyone know that we’re really, really excited about the program and the exam. We’ve received some really great feedback and it’s something that we’re very committed about going forward and I think you can hear that in some of our comments here about the plans moving forward for additional exams around different areas within Drupal, moving into performance-based and all we’re trying to do is just create a program that allows those that use Drupal, those that hire Drupalists to really find the talent that they need to be successful when they build out their web experiences. I believe that Acquia and the certification program are doing that. We’re looking forward to working with everybody as well as the community in furthering the program. So if you guys have any questions about the program that you weren’t able to get answers here, or you want to take off-line with us, by all means, you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will get back to you as soon as we can.
Moderator: Great. Thanks everyone for attending and thanks, Ben, Peter, and Heather for the great presentation. Again, slides and recording will be posted to our website in the next 24 hours and we’ll also email you out a copy so you’ll have that. Thanks, everyone. Have a good afternoon.
Ben Ortega: Thank you.
Peter Manijak: Thank you.