My pursuit of the two Domain Architect certifications began three years ago when I earned my App Builder certification. At that time I didn’t know that I would be climbing up Mount CTA. It wasn’t until TrailheaDX18 that I set my sights on that goal (you can read all about it here). At first I thought I would start down the System Architect path, but after hearing many words of warning about how tough those exams were, and realizing that I simply didn’t know enough at that point, I decided to shift gears.
After TDX18 I had earned my Application Architect Certification, and had one of the qualifiers for the System Architect Certification already under my belt (I earned Platform Developer 1 previously). After TDX I used my free exam voucher to pursue the Development Lifecycle and Deployment Designer cert (you can read all about that here). Spoiler alert: I passed this exam the first time.
In the months that followed I earned a couple “fun” certs, Advanced Admin and Marketing Email Specialist. But realized I needed to buckle down to meet my personal goal of passing the remaining two exams, Integration Architecture and Identity and Access Designer, by the end of the calendar year. Luckily I had signed up for a Salesforce Integration training in San Francisco that was being held in July. I also was invited to attend the CTA 601 session in San Francisco (more on that here) at the same time, so I had a schedule full of activities that would hopefully prepare me to crush these final two exams.
Integration Architecture Designer Exam
After the integration training I felt a lot more comfortable with the core terminology and patterns. If you're looking for a quick primer, the “quintessential” Salesforce doc regarding Integration, in my opinion, is the Integration Patterns and Practices. This doc outlines the integration patterns available and when to use them. To pass the exam it is key to understand the following patterns:
The documentation is good, and even includes a table of when to choose which pattern. I definitely recommend spending a lot of time reviewing all of this information.
But the thing that really helped me understand integration patterns more fully was to think about something seemingly simple. What is an Inbound integration vs. Outbound integration? Again, it sounds straightforward and simple. But knowing the answer to this simple question can help you eliminate a number of “wrong answers” on the Integration Designer exam. Why? Because there are certain patterns that can be ruled out if the scenario calls for an inbound integration (you don’t initiate it, an external system does) or an outbound integration (you initiate it from SFDC). I created this table to help me identify which patterns can be used depending on outbound vs. inbound and also synchronous v asynchronous integrations. It really helped me study and also pass the exam.
In addition to the integration course and the Salesforce Docs, I used the following resources to study:
The test date for my exam arrived relatively quickly, and I hunkered down in my home office to take the test. As a side, note, I take nearly all of my exams at home as opposed to a testing center. All you need is an external camera and you can take an exam anytime you want from the comfort of your own home. If you have any questions on the process I would be happy to chat with you about it. I highly recommend it. The only downsides are that you can’t use any pencil or paper (in the testing centers they give you a few sheets) and sometimes the testing proctor will interrupt you to adjust your camera…this can break your concentration/annoy the HECK out of you.
Back the the exam.
Overall I was surprised at how SHORT the questions were. The Data Architecture and Sharing and Visibility exams had the longest questions I have experienced on a Salesforce exam. And since I knew the Integration exam was supposed to be very tough, I had braced myself for that same sort of mental fatigue. But the questions were luckily very concise.
As I mentioned previously, knowing outbound vs inbound helps eliminate A LOT of answers. Also knowing asynchronous vs. synchronous integrations and how that might effect data refreshing on a page came up a fair amount as well as what type of sandbox you need for which types of integration activities.
Despite feeling like there were a few test questions without clear answers, I passed the first time! I also started to see the gaps I had that I needed to fill if I wanted to pass the Identity exam.
There were several questions about certificates and security and monitoring. These are things I jotted down to focus on in the coming month.
Identity and Access Designer Exam
Next to the final beast. Identity and Access Designer. This exam is known as the most challenging of all the Designer exams because it involves subject matter that most Salesforce practitioners don’t deal with every day. And for a non-computer science degree/accidental admin, a lot of the terminology like OAuth and SAML were relatively new to me. And to make matters worse, a few years ago there were not very many resources available that were accessible to newbies. Luckily (shameless plug) Ladies Be Architects created a TON of great content during 2018 that I used to pass the Identity and Access Designer exam.
The key topics that you need to understand in order to pass this exam include:
Here are the other study resources I used to pass the Identity and Access Designer Exam:
I can’t underestimate HOW MUCH I benefited from watching all the youtube videos created by Ladies Be Architects (featuring Charly Prinsloo's famous OAuth webinairs and also through the study group led by Natalya Murphy). Because I’m a bit of a crazy person, I would listen to this youtube channel on 2X speed when I was tired of reading or other study. There are some awesome conversations that go way beyond the documentation or old Dreamforce recordings. I especially recommend video #10 Which includes a very educational/interesting discussion on delegated authentication.
The day before I took the exam I almost rescheduled it. But since it was December 28th already (where did the year go?) I decided that I would keep the date, knowing that it might just be my first attempt at learning. But i might pass and achieve my personal goal.
Overall, the test wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. Like the Integration exam, the questions were relatively concise. Two items that I was very glad I studied were federated vs delegated authentication (I personally had several questions about delegated authentication) and Salesforce Identity Connect. Remember: Identity Connect is JUST for integrating SFDC with Microsoft Active Directory. Before I hit the submit button, I took a deep breath. And before I knew it, I was a Certified System Architect!
I had passed the beast of the Identity and Access exam the first time and I had achieved my personal goal of becoming an Application and System Architect before the end of the year.
Susannah Kate St-Germain is a 20x certified Colombian-American Salesforce nerd, travel fanatic, and aspiring Certified Technical Architect.