The steps to travel the #JourneyToCTA
It's early Sunday morning, and it's exactly 9 days and 46 minutes until I appear at the CTA Review Board.
As I am sitting here with my early morning coffee, ready for a day of study, I find myself thinking about my journey to this day.
My journey started (unofficially) on a summers day in 2013. I was on the phone with my boss, and we were talking about a new client and what we needed to do. He had the opportunity to work with an architect from another firm on this new project and he casually mentioned that he thought I was a better architect than that "official" architect.
The first steps
He probably don't even remember the conversation but I remember sitting in the sun in our garden still back in South Africa that day when the phone call ended , and thinking to myself, I want to be an 'official' architect! I am always the one who designs the solutions, solves the big problems, I could do it! Now you have to remember I have been working on the salesforce platform since late-2005, and I wrote my first exam in 2006. I think it was called Admin L2, and by the time had this first thought to be a CTA, I already had 7 "certifications" under the belt.
Salesforce.com Certified Consultant - Winter '09 (Partner)
Salesforce.com Certified Force.com Developer (WI11)
Salesforce.com Certified Administrator (WI11)
Salesforce.com Certified Sales Cloud Consultant (SP11)
Salesforce.com Certified Service Cloud Consultant (SU11)
Salesforce.com Certified Force.com Advanced Developer (SU12)
That night I verbalized it for the first time, as I said to MBH* "Honey, I'm gonna be a CTA". BMH didn't blink and said he was sure I will be a great CTA.
Now its important to realize that a couple of things happened in that conversation: 1. I spoke my intent for the first time and 2. My husband gave me his unwavering support.
NLPI really believe that when you speak your intent out loud, you somehow reprogram your brain to start making and taking unconscious decisions and actions to achieve that intent. I'm not an expert but I'm sure this is the foundation of .
Those are probably the 2 most important steps when starting the #JourneytoCTA.
In between that fateful day in 2013 and today, more than 5 years later, a lot of things happened. We moved across the globe from South Africa to the USA, I am a wife, I have a full time job at my firm, I have two kids, two dogs, a big house, and weekends dedicated to carpooling kids, birthday parties and sport meets. That's step 3: realizing your scope of responsibilities that won't disappear and that you need to manage and organize.
In late 2015 I spoke to my boss and told him I want to add CTA as a performance goal - I want to achieve it by the end of 2016. That sounded like a long enough time. The mistake I made here was to not have a plan. I didn't have a plan on when I'd take the domain exams, I didn't have a plan on how I would manage all the study I needed to do. I thought I will do the exams when "I get a minute"... but months went pass and I never had a minute.
A long journey In June of 2016 with the looming of the deadline for end of 2016, I found "a minute" and passed the Salesforce Certified Integration Architecture Designer (SP16) exam. My focus was to pass the exams, not to study the material and that was a big mistake. I managed to pass without studying ANYTHING. I read through the exam guide 30 mins before the exam and I passed. In hind sight I wished i failed, as passing this exam gave me a false sense of accomplishment. Still very much impressed with my own prowess, I took the Certified Data Architecture & Management Designer (SP16) exam the same day, and passed this too. See, getting to CTA is not going to be so hard! - I thought. Fast forward one month later, and I sat the Salesforce Certified Development Lifecycle & Deployment Designer (SP16) exam and passed too - without studying.
In November 2016 I realized I have run out of time to meet my goal, and in an effort to redeem myself a little I attempted the Salesforce Certified Technical Architect - Multiple Choice (WI17) exam without doing any preparation. I was sure I would pass since the previous exams were so "easy"! I failed, which was the best thing that could have happened to me. If I had passed this exam, I would have convinced myself I could go to the board and am now 100% sure I would have failed spectacularly. With fresh new-year's resolutions, I attempted the Salesforce Certified Identity and Access Management Designer (WI17) exam and I failed. My bubble burst. Realistic-Charly realized that there were a lot of material that I only had a high level understanding of and that it is not nearly enough to pass the exam, let alone the Board exam.
My confidence took a deep dive and I promised myself I will study - but I didn't have (make) the time.
In April 2017 two wonderful CTAs from my firm organized a Mock Review day and I was invited. I remember thinking on the plane to Denver that I am going to waste their time and that I had no idea what I was doing (realistic-Charly). But I also remember thinking that I'll wing it, I always do (lucky-Charly).
They started the day by taking the two candidates through a presentation on tips and strategies - "do this, not that". To be honest, all through that presentation I didn't hear a word - I was thinking of the scenario and how I was going to crash and burn.
True to the real exam, I was given a scenario to solve in 2 hours and I had to present my solution back to them. It went well. I was confident and able to solve the majority of the scenario. The feedback was positive and I was now more than ever, convinced I am almost ready to go to the board. All I needed was to complete the other 2 domain exams, Sharing and Visibility and Identity and Access Management. This gave me some confidence again and I was determined to find the time to pass those two.
Reality and life set in and because I didn't have a plan, I did nothing specific for my #JourneyToCTA until later that year - until Dreamforce in Nov. 2017. I skipped the Dreamforce parties, stayed in my hotel room and studied for 2 nights - I passed the Salesforce Certified Sharing and Visibility Designer (SU17) (Dreamforce) exam! With that I received the Salesforce Certified Application Architect credential too. Without realizing it, it was at this moment that my real preparation for the CTA began. Everything that led up to this point was just pre-amble, steps needed to get closer to qualify for the exam. By no means did this mean I was remotely prepared for the actual exam.
The final steps
Over the Christmas holidays I sat down with MBH and officially asked for his support. I explained that I have a plan and that it will involve a lot of sacrifice from me, but also from him and the kids and I needed him to be onboard. Being the wonderful person that he is, he agreed. He would support me when I would skip the Saturday movies, when he had to drive the kids to sport and parties, when he had to do the grocery-shopping (to date a family activity) alone. At that point neither of us realized just how hard this would be. For me it was hard because I felt I was missing out on my family's lives. For my son and daughter it was hard because all they ever heard from is "Ask your dad". For MBH he was alone. He lost his friend, his wife and his partner-in-crime to a monster called the CTA.
As the 4th step, this is crucial. You need to get everyone involved. Your boss, your family, your friends. They need to know so that they can support you.
The real work only starts when you pass the domain exams. Now I needed to learn to think and speak like an architect. I needed to learn how to solution a scenario with extraordinary time management skills. I needed to go deep and go wide on all the domain subjects. I needed to live and breathe the CTA material, every minute of every day. My co-leader, Gemma Emmett wrote a wonderful detailed blog post today explaining in detail this 4th step. Read it here.
As I am sitting here thinking about my journey, I miss my Sunday morning sleep-in, I miss annoying my kids with little impromtu-projects and -schemes (Let's bake something!), I miss just pottering about the house with MBH. But I also know that in 9 days this journey will reach it's final destination, and that regardless if I pass or fail, it will lead to more journeys.
I know that I walked each step on this journey through trail and error without a real map and that I took a lot of detours and a lot short cuts, but over the last 4 months I climbed the mountain, step by step. I am thankful for the lessons I learnt throughout this journey, for all the people who supported (and still support) me. I am grateful and honored to have been able to undertake this journey, as it has made me not just a better architect but it also taught me where my limitations are, to work on my strengths and ask for help and support.
So if you are on this journey or thinking of taking up this road to the CTA credential, take some advise from me: You will never really feel ready and if you do, you need to dig deeper, go wider, push yourself a lot harder. There is a reason why there are so few CTAs in the world. This journey is tough, but with a solid plan, a little luck and a lot of sacrifice, you can do it!
*My Better Half