The Silver Lining

Lessons & Learnings from a salesforce certified technical architect.

Salesforce Certified Technical Architect

with 13 comments

Fall seven times, stand up eight.

– Japanese proverb

Finally, I have this certification. This has been a journey for me, and taken much longer than I anticipated. I did fail the first attempt, but was given a retry (make-up exam) in the sections that I’d failed. I subsequently failed that too. My second, full attempt saw me pass, and in fact I found it quite easy so let me help you learn from my mistakes.

Attempt 1

Late last year I booked in my board review exam. I’m not going to go into the detail of what the board exam entails it’s because this has been discussed in detail here, here and here. I spent a lot of time preparing, and had some ad hoc coaching from the UK SFDC certification team but in the end the hypothetical exam destroyed me. Here’s why:

  • I’d been developing apps for nearly a year and was rusty with regards to various features of the platform used heavily in projects e.g. sharing, roles, content, knowledge
  • I missed the “formal coaching” that SFDC offers for those that pass the board exam, and thought I wouldn’t need it

Together these two things meant that my approach to the hypothetical, and my real-world experience were weak. I knew I’d failed 2 hours into the 4 hour board. Luckily (I suppose) I did very well in the other areas, and my case study was rock-solid so I was given a “make up” exam (2 months later) in my weakest areas.

Attempt 1.1

At this point I’d been back into consulting and oiled my rusty hinges. I also brushed up on any areas of weakness and felt quite prepared. However, the destruction this time around was even worse, I knew I’d failed in the first hour! The reasons here were:

  • I felt the hypothetical here was much more difficult
  • I focussed too much on creating the presentation, and too little on understanding the question
  • I panicked and solved problems that didn’t exist

Attempt 2

Six months after my original attempt I was back in the swing of consulting, working in every role imaginable from sales through to QA and release management. I’d also gone through the “Seed the Partner” official coaching. I honed my approach to the hypothetical and brushed up on Summer 13. And I passed. And it wasn’t that difficult, here’s why:

  • I’d gone through the official coaching with SFDC
  • I’d known the theory all along, but also had the opportunity to flex the old consulting muscles
  • I convinced myself not to panic
  • I read every word of the hypothetical at least twice, focussing on understanding instead of focussing on creating the presentation
  • I drew. I’m not very comfortable with Powerpoint as an architecting tool but for some reason felt compelled to use it in my hypothetical previously. This time around I did what I was comfortable with, telling a story backed by several diagrams drawn in front of the judges as I presented.

I’ve also developed several assets that helped me to study and will be sharing them in a series of posts in the coming weeks.

– Wes Nolte, MVP, Certified SFDC TA, BBQ Master


Written by Wes

July 24, 2013 at 9:34 pm

13 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Thanks so much for sharing this and CONGRATS! I’m sharing with my User Group … I’m 100% certain your experience will help them with their prep!

    Jen Phillips (@CRMJen)

    August 4, 2013 at 8:18 pm

  2. Hi Wes,
    Congrats man. I started my career in salesforce by reading your Salesforce Handbook. Now i am a certified developer. and your posts are help me a lot.


    August 9, 2013 at 11:05 am

  3. […] has a number of content and document solutions (and more on the way) and the options when given a set of decision points aren’t always clear. To this end I’ve created a matrix comparing the on-platform systems which should make that decision easier. It’s based on the official documentation but add in a few other key decision points (please don’t sue me Salesforce, I’m just a lowly a certified technical architect!). […]

  4. Real quick question: I’m looking at taking this certification and putting the year of training and learning in that it would require, but I want to make sure it fits my career goals… So, what can I expect to pull money-wise (either salary/year or contract/HR) as a certified Salesforce Architect?

    Arlow Farrell

    April 1, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    • I’m in London (and it looks like you’re in the US) so there’s a difference. In London CTAs with permanent roles are doing very well, probably the highest paid tech role in the city even when considering management as part of that group. Contracting is difficult since no one can really afford you for more than a short amount of time so most CTAs end up working for or starting their own businesses and leverage their certification to win business.


      April 17, 2014 at 11:12 am

  5. Wes,

    First off, I really appreciate your transparency here. The sharing of your failures and successes will definitely help myself and others. So, thanks for that.

    A quick question though. In your article, you mentioned “’formal coaching’ that SFDC offers for those that pass the stage 2 exam”. Can you tell me if that still offered by Salesforce? Is it something that I would need to register for or would Salesforce contact me?

    I appreciate the help.


    John M. Daniel

    April 16, 2014 at 5:07 am

    • That was a brain fart on my part, it should read “board exam”. The process is:

      1. Pass self-assessment
      2. Get invited to preparatory Chatter group with info about Stage 2 and Board exams.
      3. Pass stage 2 exam
      4. Join a coaching group for board exam


      April 17, 2014 at 11:15 am

      • No worries. Regarding the “coaching groups”: Does SFDC contact me or do I need to contact SFDC to ask to join a coaching group? Are the coaching groups available to any Stage 3 qualifier or just those affiliated with SFDC Partner programs?

        John M. Daniel

        April 17, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    • Once you have access to the Chatter Study Group and have passed the Stage 2 exam they will mention (email and chatter) the when the next study group begins.


      April 17, 2014 at 1:03 pm

      • There is a “Chatter Study Group”?? Would you point me to where I could join this group, please? Cheers!


        April 17, 2014 at 2:17 pm

      • You’ve passed step 1 above? Get in touch with SFDC partner/account manager, they can get you registered. I don’t have that power 🙂


        April 17, 2014 at 2:19 pm

      • Wes. Thanks for the info. Cheers!


        April 17, 2014 at 5:16 pm

  6. Hello Wes –

    Looks like this is a fairly old post, but wanted to still chime in and say congrats. I’m pretty new to the SF platform, and in all honesty have a love/hate relationship with it (coming from a more traditional SQL background), but the love is slowly growing every day! I found your blog whilst looking up some OOP concepts in SF, and discovered your encapsulation/abstraction/polymorphism serires. Good stuff. Keep up the good work, and take care of Mother England for me (I’m also a die-hard Anglophile…).

    Chris Valdivia, Charleston, SC, USA

    Chris Valdivia

    January 7, 2016 at 5:16 pm

Leave a Reply to Jen Phillips (@CRMJen) Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: