Why I took the Alfresco Certified Administrator exam

Alfresco_Certified_Administrator_CMYKLast week I took (and passed!) the Alfresco Certified Administrator (ACA) exam. I don’t administer an Alfresco server every day as part of my job, so why would I do such a thing? Lots of reasons. Let me give you a few…

Reason 1: I wanted to see how hard the exam really is

If you review the information about Alfresco certification you’ll see that the certification isn’t one of those trivial “thanks for participating” certificates you get at the end of a training course after a simple were-you-listening-at-all kind of exam. The blueprint says you don’t have to take the training but you must have the knowledge and competency necessary to run a production installation. I wanted to see if this really was the case.

I can’t reveal what’s on the exam, but I will say I was impressed with its thoroughness and depth. The exam really does cover just about every part of the platform that an administrator has to know about to be successful.

Every certification exam I have ever taken has had questions that I’ve wanted to argue with and this one is no exception, but the test seemed like it was constructed to genuinely test my competency rather than to trip me up with confusing or easy-to-misread questions.

So I’d say the difficulty level is appropriate and the coverage is such that I would feel pretty comfortable letting anyone who had passed that exam (and who exhibited other requisite strengths) put their hands on my server.

Reason 2: I wanted to keep up with my friends

I took and passed the Alfresco Recognized Developer exam as soon as it was available. That was back in February of 2011. Then I joined Alfresco, got busy, and never bothered with the ACA or Alfresco Certified Engineer (ACE) exams when they eventually replaced the Recognized Developer Program.

Honestly, it’s been nagging at me. Seeing those badges in the forums. Watching the congratulatory tweets as others passed their exams. Knowing that we’re going to start doing more to publicize people who hold the certs. I finally said, “What am I waiting for? It’s kind of ridiculous that the guy leading the community doesn’t participate in the certification program!” and then I scheduled the test.

Reason 3: I wanted something that would vouch for my abilities to people who don’t know me

On any given day I am answering questions in the forums or IRC, writing a technical how-to, recording a screencast, or giving a technical talk about Alfresco at an event. A lot of people know I’ve been doing these things for 8 years (!) with a good chunk of that spent actually implementing solutions for clients but not everyone does. A certification is a way of saying, “This person has been around the block a bit with this technology”. It doesn’t mean everything I say is always correct. But it does add a certain amount of objective credibility to what I say.

It’s this last point that should make a difference to you. Whether you work for a partner who implements Alfresco One for customers, or you are an independent consultant who does work on Community Edition, or you support Alfresco in your internal IT shop, a certification distinguishes you from the person whose boss just stopped by to let them know they should start learning about the new open source ECM platform their company is migrating to from Documentum, and that could make a difference when you try to land your next deal or when you hit the boss up for a raise.

I don’t know for sure whether or not an Alfresco certification will get you hired or promoted more quickly or guarantee you a higher billing rate, but it sure can’t hurt. And if it isn’t happening already, I’m sure companies will start making it part of their job requirements and RFP templates.

So what are you waiting for? Look at the blueprint, figure out where your gaps are, take some training if you need it, and then go get certified.