My Learnings from the CTA-601 Workshop

The craziness of September / October didn’t end with Dreamforce. In fact, it got crazier. I flew back to the UK, checked myself into a hotel and spent 16 hours awake before catching another flight to the US. This time, my destination was New York.

The lovely people at Bluewolf got together with Salesforce and kindly arranged a Bluewolf-only CTA-601 workshop for all of our aspiring Certified Technical Architects (CTAs); myself included. Initially, I wasn’t sure how much value I’d get out of it, having spent most of Q2 this year practicing before that rude interruption. Now, I’m so glad I went. I needed it more than I thought I had.

About the Course

The facilitator was CTA and community MVP Carl Brundage, with Suzanne Ferguson from Team Trailhead, there to represent Salesforce. I’ve mentioned Carl before in my earlier blogs around superbadges. He passed his CTA in December 2017 and always has time to chat and share his experiences with myself and the Ladies Be Architects girls. The moment I heard he was running the session I knew we were in for a treat. It was a two-day workshop and aside from Suzanne, as expected, I was the only woman there.

Day 1

The first day centred around the exam guide. My biggest takeaway from day one was the need to not only familiarise yourself with – but to KNOW the CTA exam guide better than you know your own face.

Day 2

The second day was about practising. We completed mock scenarios together – practised drawing artefacts and presenting them to the whole group. Q&A was the hard part, as it always is, but this time I was being questioned by a variety of people and that helped a great deal. Occasionally Carl offered some of his own thoughts on how he’d articulate something and that, for me, had been a missing piece in my own preparation.

Workshop Takeaways

  • I’d highly recommend going on the CTA 601 course. You learn so much from the experience that you can’t get from reading about it. There’s much more I learnt that I am not prepared to share – seriously – if you can – attend the workshop.

These are things I knew before, but hit home during the workshop:

  • Presentation skills are absolutely key
  • Organising your prep time and your presentation is fundamental
  • You have to find a style of presenting that works best for you – but make sure you tell a story
  • Go through ALL of the exam material over and over again as part of your ramp-up. I have, to date, been relying on what’s deeply ingrained within me then brushing up on areas I suffered with during my mocks. I’m changing that; I’ll be going through everything in the pyramid again as if I was re-doing each exam.
  • Know that exam guide better than you know your own face
  • Put a plan together for your study

Let’s Bust Some Myths and Misconceptions

I’ve been seeing some weird attitudes and beliefs on the Internet since I started this journey. Some believe you just need technical knowledge and nothing else – and some believe that non-developers can’t possibly become architects. Others believe that now they’re system and application architects they can just go for the Board. People ask me to record me doing a mock review board so that they can copy what I do. It’s infuriating sometimes. It’s one of the reasons I want to do so much with Ladies Be Architects – to help paint a more realistic picture of what people are getting into. I work with CTAs and Salesforce to try and get the message out there. Now I’m writing it here too.

Number 1

This credential is NOT reserved only for developers. Banish that misconception right away. There are plenty of CTAs who don’t write code and there are plenty who do.
You need to pass PD1 and you need to be able to recommend a programmatic approach and describe what you’d use, but PD2 is NOT in the pyramid. You would never be asked to write code.

Number 2

You can’t fast-track to CTA.  Neither can you just “collect” it. Do yourself a favour and don’t try.

Number 3

Yay – you’ve got your Application Architect and System Architect credentials. That is wonderful – it sets you up just nicely and you reach the point of eligibility.

  • It doesn’t mean you should expect to go straight for the review board.
  • You have to get ready.
  • Reaching that level of readiness requires a lot of further study, practice and time.
  • Having a mentor won’t get you there any quicker, but it does add another dimension
    • It has to come from your project experience as well as your knowledge
    • Mentors share their experiences to enable you to make your own judgements. Use them for that and you’ll get a fantastically positive input to your preparation

Number 4

Collecting and breezing through certifications won’t help you pass the review board.

  • Having the depth and breadth of knowledge at your fingertips (from your own brain) is fundamental.
  • Stop asking for certification dumps and practice mocks. Learn the stuff properly.

Number 5

Please don’t think that showing up unprepared and failing an exam is a great way to understand what you need to do to pass. There are a lot of people who want to sit the review board. It is also a tough and tiring week for the judges who give up their time to assess you.

  • Make a realistic plan that includes your revision, study, any project work and regular practice sessions. Then set a target date.
  • Treat it with the reverence it deserves, work hard, practise hard and have a final go/no-go decision factored into your plan before you part with your (or your company’s) cash

Don’t Let Me Put You Off

I’ve given a strong message in this post but it’s not my intention to put you off. If anything, I want to help you get there by setting expectations. We are building a lot of content with Ladies Be Architects – but also working really hard to help you get there. I wish you all the very best of luck on your journey to CTA.

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