Magento Certification, Where Have You Been??
At Blue Acorn, we quickly noticed a pattern: Company A would send out an RFP. We would leverage our experience as early adopters of the platform, respond with a fair and accurate quote, and then lose the bid to a shop that would promise to get the same job done for half the price. Company A would then come back to us six months later with a non- or barely-functional site: time and money needlessly lost.
Magento development – done well – is often challenging. Developers know this. Magento solution providers know this. Until recently, however, companies like Company A had no true measuring stick of whether or not the agencies they were receiving quotes from had the expertise on staff needed to properly execute their vision. References are nice, but what company doesn’t have a few good references? A good portfolio provides a little more assurance, but it doesn’t mean that each project was done right the first time or on schedule. With so many development agencies having the requisite references and portfolios, what is Company A supposed to do but go with the lowest bid?
This is where the Magento Developer Certification program comes into play, and Magento, Inc. got it right. Their method for establishing a truly meaningful certification was simple: recruit talent with a track record of programmer education and certification success, and use the development community to build an exam that tests developers on the elements of the Magento framework that are actually important. To ensure that the test was applicable, Magento, Inc. created a Certification Advisory Board, which assessed both the needs of Magento-based retailers and the abilities that capable Magento developers should possess. In addition to being part of the Magento U education initiative, Blue Acorn was proud to have two of our own on the fifteen-member board. A set of general areas of competence was created, followed by the creation of exam topics. These questions were then peer-reviewed, evaluated, evaluated some more, and finally assembled into beta exams to test their validity.
The result of this process – hundreds of hours of effort from the Certification Advisory Board and Magento employees – are two certifications that are rooted in the fundamentals of the platform and thoroughly test a developer’s working knowledge of areas that see frequent customization, Magneto Certified Developer (MCD) and Magneto Certified Developer Plus (MCD+). Built by experienced developers and polished by a rigorous test-building methodology, the exams truly deliver as an essential measurement of developer competence, allowing businesses to make a well-informed decision when choosing a Magento solution provider or freelancer.
How to Become a Magento Certified Developer
Blue Acorn currently has three MCD+ developers (Senior Architect Luis Tineo, COO Toby Hemmerling, and myself), and we all agree: the MCD+ exams are thorough. Passing the exam is simply not possible without hundreds of hours of working experience.
Work. Work. Work.
As I mentioned earlier, the exams were designed to test a working knowledge of the framework. Therefore, candidacy for certification begins at your desk, in front of your computer, solving client problems. Your client needs a custom product type. What does that look like in the configuration and model layer? You have to create a custom entity and indexer. How much of this task can you do without referring to the codebase? While not necessarily on the exam, these are the kinds of tasks that a proper candidate will have dealt with and will understand enough to be able to identify correct answers.
But Magento is big!
Yes it is, and given the large size and feature set of the framework, a few of us from the Certification Advisory Board developed study guides. The goal of these guides (MCD available here and MCD+ available here) is to help developers target areas of the framework for practice or review. The guides are an excellent starting point, and they can aid both the seasoned professional seeking certification in the near future and the new developer seeking certification within the coming year. They contain exam topics, general questions about those topics, and code references that serve as starting points for understanding how each topic is realized in the framework.
Again, keep in mind that the certification exams were designed to rigorously denote architects who understand the framework and the subtleties of certain implementations. Therefore, the amount of effort each developer will need to pass the exam of their choice is a function of understanding and experience.
Study. Study. Study.
Think of the study guides as a “horse’s mouth” resource. Outside of your client needs, you only have so much time and ability to compartmentalize and convert the code to certification-ready knowledge. Questions may contain recognizable code samples as part of the stem or among the answers, but you’ll likely need to independently recall general code application and architecture in order to rule out potential answers. The study guides were written by the same folks who wrote the exam questions, so they’re going to contain some pertinent information. The guides are offered as an entry point, rather than a complete resource, however, so certification candidates should make sure they understand even the low-level concepts that constitute the module operating environment.
If you have the availability, this would be a great time to look into registering for Magento U’s Fundamentals of Magento Development course, which involves five days of instructor-led training in an interactive classroom environment. If I’m teaching it, you’ll get extra brownie points for mentioning that you read this article. Write that down.
Other resources include Twitter, Stack Overflow, and the Magento website itself. You’ll want to pay particular attention to the forum, Magento Answers, and the knowledge base articles, especially those written by Alan Storm, author of the exhaustive No Frills Magento Layout.
For real-time help, you can dust off your IRC client, connect to Freenode, and hop in the #magento channel (You can use the webclient if you prefer. My handle is @confuzus.).
Prepare. Prepare. Prepare.
However you do it best – whether it’s with someone or by yourself – make sure that you are thoroughly prepared. Use the study guides and your working knowledge to generate your own test Q&A sets to see how well you do. Above all, move through the study guide questions incrementally to see if you can describe not only the answer, but the architecture by which the answer is realized. Write this down. Then review the code, even implementing the solution, and see if you were correct. Once you achieve a high level of recall, you are ready for the exam.
What does this all mean?
The early absence of a certification program was felt – often painfully – by the businesses that chose to adopt the platform. Magento Inc.’s deliberate and diligent approach to establishing certification was appropriate, though. The result is a highly relevant, thoroughly valid, and certainly valuable process of ascension to a high standard that was previously unquantified. The existence of the program is therefore a benefit to the ecosystem of Magento developers and its customers alike. Ultimately, the Magento Developer Certification program completes the picture of Magento Inc.’s education efforts, demonstrating the company’s commitment to elevating the level and quality of Magento solutions for its customers around the world. As advocates of establishing Magento development standards for years, we’re happy to see this come together, and even happier to have been a part of making it happen in our efforts to drive quality in the Magento ecosystem.