In our second blog series of Incredible Salesforce Certification stories, CY shares how he came to be one of the most Salesforce-certified people in the world!

“How did you come to be 23x certified?” I hear you ask. With a lot of hard work, focus, and determination! My journey with Salesforce started in October 2013 when I joined the Ohana as a Technical Architect based in Singapore. Even though I had a number of years of architecture experience under my belt, I actually had no experience with Salesforce itself. So my first question was, “Where do I start?”

Luckily for me, Salesforce University has a very comprehensive learning program, so, together with hands-on practice using Developer Orgs and additional reading on external articles and documentation, I passed my Salesforce Certified Administrator certification after just 3 weeks of intense preparation. Gaining confidence from this first success, I continued to study and get more hands-on experience with the Orgs, enabling me to pass my next four certifications: Certified Developer, Advanced Administrator, Sales Cloud Consultant, and Service Cloud Consultant.

Now I was on a roll. Having completed my first five certifications, I decided to focus on tackling the “Big Two”: namely the Salesforce Certified Technical Architect and Salesforce Certified Advanced Developer.My first goal was the Salesforce Certified Technical Architect certification, the preparation for which was intense, to say the least. However, at the time I was fortunate enough to be deployed in a complex customer engagement due to my role as a Salesforce Technical Architect, and it was through this that I gained the valuable and necessary knowledge needed to pass the Salesforce Certified Technical Architect exam in March 2014.

Next step? The beast that is the Review Board. And here's where the preparation really got tough. I knew that inadequate preparation would certainly lead to an unsuccessful attempt, so I invested many hours in after-work and weekend study, and spent time researching the main topics I thought would be covered. Now this bit was difficult, as the information was hard to find. Luckily for all you budding CTAs, everything is now beautifully structured in the Salesforce Architect Journey. I supplemented this work with mock board reviews conducted by my peers, which I was very thankful for as it immensely helped with my preparation for the board. 

Whenever this process would get me down, I would find solace in reviewing what others in the community had gone through. Postings from people like The Enterprise Architect and Bob Buzzard, who shared their personal experiences, was a huge morale booster and a constant reminder to me during this time as to why I was doing all this and that I should never give up. I presented to the Review Board in September 2014 and passed the first time! 

The experience taught me that certification is a journey, and is by no means purely focused on the individual. Many people contributed to my success and I am so thankful for their input. That's why today, as part of giving back to the community that has helped me so much, I am involved in coaching our internal candidates to help nurture the CTAs of the future. 

After that, I set my sights on the Certified Advanced Developer exam. By now, I had ample experience in the domain of APEX and VisualForce, and passed my MCQ exam on the first try in early 2015. Then later that year, I attempted the programming assignment. I lived and breathed APEX and Visualforce for the month I had to complete that programming assignment—I read the developer guide multiple times and felt like I had never known the topic better. There were also a number of blog posts that really helped, but Peter Chittum’s post stood out for me as key on how to prepare for the programming assignment. Four months later I received results, and I had passed, meaning I had conquered the “Big Two.”

Shortly after, I took the transition exam and upgraded my certifications to the Platform Developer I and II credentials.

During this time, I also took a stab at the Pardot exams. The Pardot enablement is excellent and provides a very comprehensive guided structure on how to prepare for your exam. Using this, I passed the Pardot Consultant and Pardot Specialist (beta) exams. I then proceeded to take each of the new exams as they launched in late 2015 and 2016. I passed my last certification exam, Certified Marketing Cloud Consultant, in November 2016.

It took me three years and one month to achieve all 21 certs. And I got my next two in 2017. The toughest part of my journey was staying focused and enforcing self-discipline. However, with the right enablement tools and support from the customer community, it made achieving my goals much easier—even in a small country like Singapore.

My Top 3 Tips For Approaching Certification:

  • Focus on one certification at a time—do not spread your focus too widely. If you don’t pass it the first time, learn from the mistakes and try again. Never give up.
  • Download the Exam Guide for each certification. These are important, as they give you very detailed guidance on key topics to focus on the exam.
  • For each topic in the exam guide, create a checklist of what you've studied so that you know you covered the topic sufficiently to tackle the exam. Peter Chittum illustrated this technique beautifully in his article on preparing for the Advanced Developer exam, and I have used it effectively in preparing for each of my certifications.

And nowadays, certification enablement is better than ever. Apart from the official training courses from Salesforce University, there are scads of official Salesforce documentation, not to mention Trailhead (I wish this had been around when I was studying!), the Salesforce Architect Journey, and so much more to help supplement your knowledge for each exam.

Certifications are crucial. They are an essential way to validate knowledge. More importantly, they can help to shape your career in the Salesforce ecosystem. For me, they give my customers the confidence to know they are working with a true Salesforce expert. I look forward to getting my next Salesforce certification, whatever and whenever that may be.

If you’ve been inspired by CY's story, learn more about how you, too, can become a Salesforce Certified Professional.

CY's Certifications
Salesforce Certified Administrator October 22, 2013
Salesforce Certified Developer October 28, 2013
Salesforce Certified Advanced Administrator November 7, 2013
Salesforce Certified Sales Cloud Consultant November 14, 2013
Salesforce Certified Service Cloud Consultant November 21, 2013
Salesforce Certified Technical Architect September 17, 2014
Salesforce Certified Pardot Consultant June 4, 2015
Salesforce Certified Pardot Specialist July 25, 2015
Salesforce Certified Platform App Builder August 17, 2015
Salesforce Certified Marketing Cloud Email Specialist October 14, 2015
Salesforce Certified Marketing Cloud Social Specialist December 30, 2015
Salesforce Certified Platform Developer I March 27, 2016
Salesforce Certified Platform Developer II March 27, 2016
Salesforce Certified Development Lifecycle & Deployment Designer April 6, 2016
Salesforce Certified Integration Architecture Designer April 6, 2016
Salesforce Certified Data Architecture & Management Designer April 30, 2016
Salesforce Certified Identity and Access Management Designer August 5, 2016
Salesforce Certified Sharing and Visibility Designer August 6, 2016
Salesforce Certified Mobile Solutions Architecture Designer August 6, 2016
Salesforce Certified Community Cloud Consultant September 24, 2016
Salesforce Certified Marketing Cloud Consultant November 19, 2016
Salesforce Certified Application Architect February 1, 2017
Salesforce Certified System Architect February 1, 2017