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  • Writer's pictureGemma Blezard

Spotlight Series: Why it's OK to fail

Try, fail, learn from failure, repeat. This is what progress looks like.

Why is it worth it to go for certification?

Why is it still worth it, even if you feel there’s a big chance you will fail the exam?

Don’t be afraid to fail. The thing is, you’re going to learn a lot on the way, no matter of the exam result. You’re going to learn while preparing for the exam, and you’re going to learn while doing the exam. Yes, that’s right! Exam isn’t only for checking your knowledge. It will also teach you real-life scenarios, possible solutions, and help you to understand your white spots.

I just have failed Identity and Access Management Designer exam. I knew I’m going to fail it. I didn’t know the topic well. I didn’t have enough time to practice. I tried to reschedule it 4 days before, but there were no other available spots in the certification center (I prefer onsite proctored exams).

It feels terrible when you know for sure you’re going to fail and you still do it for the sake of learning experience and the chance to do it better next time. I had such experience before, in other areas of my life. And no, it doesn’t make it feel any less terrible when it happens again. It still hurts. Especially, when the crew of the certification center ask you how it was, and you’re like, – “Ehm, not so good this time. Not so good… Hope, next time will be better.”, – trying to hide your embarrassment.

Why did I schedule it at the first place, if I didn’t feel I can pass it?

Last year, I took two other Designer exams, Data Architecture and Management Designer and Sharing and Visibility Designer, and as a bonus, I got two more for free (thanks, Salesforce!).

I’m a consultant who joined Salesforce ecosystem 1,5 years ago. Not a developer. I’m working mostly as a business analyst, helping customers to refine requirements, and designing solutions, using as much declarative options as possible, involving developers only when there’s no other way. So, I work with developers (and sometimes with architects), but not a developer myself. And when I looked at all the other Designer exams, I was thinking, – “Wow, they are all meant for developers, not consultants like me. I would never go for any of them.” But I have those 2 free exam vouchers, I lose nothing if I try, so I choose Identity and Access Management Designer and Development Lifecycle and Deployment Designer, as they seem ‘the least’ developers’ ones to me.

Next 6 months were super busy, I didn’t have any down time to prepare for these exams, so I kept rescheduling them again and again. Finally, I had to take Identity and Access Management Designer, as I couldn’t reschedule it any further. I had a grasp of the concept, I read some articles, I watched recording of Charly’s webinars on OAuth, I built a simple SSO solution in my dev environment. But it was obvious to me that it’s not enough, I didn’t have clarity in my head on how to build complex solutions, and even what those solutions could look like. During the exam I did my best trying to figure out answers, got right only half of them.

So, I wasted the voucher, 4 hours of my life (2 hours for the exam plus travel time), felt terrible afterwards. But… I count this as a positive experience in general. Why?

Facing imminence of the exam, I felt motivated enough to learn at least basics of the topic before attempting it. Then, during the exam, I learned what real-life SSO cases could look like, and what kind of SSO solutions could be built on Salesforce. If you don’t know, how Identity and Access Management Designer exam looks like, in the nutshell, you are given lots of different examples of enterprise systems setup and different requirements for identity management, and you need to choose the best solution out of several options. You could be asked about specific details on what scope or what authentication flow to use in the particular case, what would be the right license, what to consider when you don’t want your Community users to use Salesforce credentials, or what could be the options to improve app security without compromising user experience.

While reading all the questions and possible options, I had thoughts popping up in my head like “Oh, I know how to implement social sign-on, but I had no idea you could get rid of using Salesforce credentials at all! I gotta check it next time we have a Community project”.

Next time I have discussion with a customer and they mention using another app with Salesforce, or wonder how they can manage their users better, I already can suggest to look at particular options within Salesforce platform, and if there’s an interest, research it deeper for them.

Even if I’m not going to attempt the exam again in the very near future, I already got enough knowledge from the 1st attempt to be able to bring additional value to my customers. I know what to look for, and what a high-level setup could look like.

Now I also know what gaps in the knowledge I have, and what SSO solutions I could practice to implement, so that next time I can pass the exam. Before the exam, I knew I don’t have enough knowledge on the topic, but I also didn’t really know what to look for, what to study. There’s lots of material on the Internet, but what to focus on? What will give you the most value for time spent? After attempting the exam you will have this understanding, and a certain plan on how to develop your skills further.

Would I attempt the exam if it wasn’t free for me?

Salesforce exams are costly, so if you’re a salaried employee, and pay yourself, don’t follow my example. You’ll still benefit from failing, but I’ll feel bad you’ve spent so much money.

I did that exam for free, neither me nor my employer had to pay for that. If it wasn’t for free, honestly, I wouldn’t even think about attempting it.

My employer pays for exams and doesn’t make a big deal out of failed attempts. We’re encouraged to make time for learning and get certified. But failure definitely isn’t something we would celebrate and one would be proud of. So, in any other case I would not feel comfortable to go for an exam unless I’m 100% sure I can pass.

If your company is ready to pay for certification exams without putting any pressure on you, that’s fantastic. They’ll benefit immensely. A company that provides their employees with the learning time, mentorship, pays for exam attempts, and doesn’t penalize for failure, will thrive. As an outcome they get more knowledgeable employees, better customer satisfaction, that, in its turn, leads to new projects, means more revenue, – everyone is happy.

If you are a manager, encourage your employees to take certification exams, plan together preparation strategy, and celebrate result no matter pass or fail. Because your employees have learned something new on the way. And it will benefit your business and your customers for sure.

Regarding the pricing. A Designer exam costs 400$, 200$ retake. Consultant’s billable hour is usually more than 100$. By taking the 1st exam attempt rather soon, consultants would know exactly what to study for the next time, narrowing down the available study materials and saving time for billable work. So, don’t consider exam cost as a spending. It’s an investment that eventually will bring the company more revenue.

If you’re an employee and interested in learning more about Salesforce, show this article to your manager, discuss if it’s ok to try even when you’re not sure you can pass. The thing is, you’ll never pass if you don’t try. And when you try, you learn, and next time you have a better chance to pass.

Good luck on your certification journey, and have fun on the way!

About me:

12 years in the enterprise software world, admin, business analyst, consultant, never developer. Currently located in Finland. I feel that the world has more people who know how to build things than people who can say what is worth building. To bring more balance into the world I joined the second group. 😉 Though, back in 2012 I got so fascinated by AI, I’ve learned coding basics by taking online Python courses and passed Andrew Ng‘s Machine Learning course (it’s awesome!). Still waiting for an opportunity to make a use of that knowledge.

Let’s connect! My twitter: @Helena_Wz

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