Tag: Alfresco Certified Administrator

How I successfully studied for the Alfresco Certified Engineer Exam

Back in March I blogged about why I took the Alfresco Certified Administrator exam (post). Today I passed the Alfresco Certified Engineer exam. I took it for the same reasons I took the ACA exam, as outlined in that post, so in this post, I thought I’d share how I studied for the test.

Let me start off with a complaint: There is nowhere I could find that describes which specific version of Alfresco the test covers. This wasn’t that big of a deal for the ACA exam, but for the ACE exam, I felt a little apprehensive not knowing.

I know Alfresco probably doesn’t want to lock the exam version to an Alfresco version. But the blueprint really needs to give people some idea. Ultimately, I decided 4.1 was a safe bet.

I can’t tell you what was on the test, but I can tell you how I studied.

First, review the blueprint

The exam blueprint is the only place that gives you hints as to what’s on the test. If you look at the blueprint, you’ll see that the test is divided into five areas: Architectural Core, Repository Customization, Web Scripting, UI Customization, and Alfresco API.

The blueprint breaks down each of those five areas into topics, but they are still pretty broad. Some of them helped me figure out what to review and some of them didn’t. For example, under Architectural Core, topics like “Repository”, “Subsystems”, and “Database” were too vague to be that helpful in guiding my study plans.

Next, identify your focus areas

Looking at the blueprint, most of those topics have been in the product since the early days and haven’t changed much. I figured I could take the test cold and pass those. But Share Configuration and Customization has changed here and there between releases. With a lot of different ways to do things, and ample opportunity for testing around minutiae, I figured this would be where I’d need to spend most of my study time. I also wanted to spend time reviewing the various API’s listed under Architectural Core because I typically just look those up rather than commit the details to memory.

To validate where I thought my focus areas should be I took the sample test on the blueprint page, which was helpful.

Now, study

For Architectural Core, I spent most of my time reviewing the list of public services in the Foundation API found in Appendix A of the Alfresco Developer Guide, the JavaScript API (also in Appendix A as well as the official documentation), and the Freemarker Templating API documentation.

For the Repository Customization I figured I had most of that down cold and just spent a little time reviewing Activiti BPM XML and associated workflow content models. The workflow tutorial on this site is one place with sample workflows to review and obviously the out-of-the-box workflows are also good examples.

According to the blueprint, the UI Customization section is now focused entirely on Alfresco Share, so I didn’t spend any time reviewing Alfresco Explorer customization. Instead, I read through the Share Configuration and Share Customization sections of the documentation. There are now tutorials on Share Customization in the Alfresco docs so I went through those again just to make sure everything was fresh. The Share configuration examples in my custom content types tutorial are another resource.

The Alfresco API section consists of questions about the Alfresco REST API and CMIS. This is only 5% of the test so I spent no time reviewing this. I also ignored Web Scripts, figuring my existing knowledge was good enough.

After studying the resources in my focus areas I took the sample test once more. It’s always the same set of questions, so taking it repeatedly isn’t a great way to prove your readiness, but at least you know you won’t miss those questions if they show up on the real test.

Feel ready? Go for it

If you get paid to work with Alfresco, you really ought to take this exam (and the ACA exam). Obviously, what I’ve reviewed here is a study plan for someone who has significant experience with the platform doing real world projects. If you are new to Alfresco you’ll have to adjust your plan and preparation time accordingly. Better yet, get a few projects under your belt first. I think it would be tough for someone with no practical experience to pass the test with any amount of study time, which is the whole point.

So there you go, that’s how I studied. Your mileage will vary based on what your focus areas need to be. Now go hit the books!

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.