More than a year ago I promised that i would share my CTA-601 experience with you. But as it often does, life got in the way and I never published my experience. By special request I am finally completing the promised post, more than one year later. Enjoy!
In the Summer of 2018 I was already planning to go to San Francisco for an Integration Training course (more on that here), but at the last moment was also invited to attend an in-person training geared towards folks who had already completed the pre-requisites for the CTA. While I still had 2 exams to go, my wonderful mentors and advocates at Salesforce thought it would be valuable for me to attend anyway. Luckily I was able to adjust my travel plans to squeeze in this opportunity alongside my already booked training.
Like many things in my life, I signed up for this opportunity before I knew exactly what it entailed. I probably should have asked more questions, but at the time I was simply excited to be asked to attend. Luckily, I had enough foresight to know that I was in no way prepared to take part in a full-fledged mock exam. But I figured I should at least get a feel for what a mock might be like “just in case” I was asked to present back in some way or another.
I don’t remember how I came across it, but I found a Pluralsight course called “Diagramming Salesforce Solutions” recorded by the Salesforce Play-by-Play host Don Robbins and my now colleague Matt Morris. I listened to about one third of the course before heading to Salesforce West on the big day of my training.
When I arrived I realized (surprise, surprise) that I was the only woman participating. Luckily the Salesforce organizers included a few friendly faces including one wearing a Ladies Be Architects sweatshirt. Things could definitely have been more intimidating. Especially when, within minutes of arriving, my classmates were buzzing about how great a resource this new group called Ladies Be Architects was.
Class began with a round robin of introductions including where we each were in our CTA preparation. I realized it had been awhile since I had been in a room full of very self-confident white men. This was going to be interesting.
One thing I was struck by right away was how varied our preparedness was. There were some candidates who had already sat for the board and failed, some (like me) had never done a mock before, while others seemed to have done more mocks than I thought was possible. I was also struck by a few people who had never done a mock before but seemed completely confident that they were ready to slay the board then and there. Oh, to have that sort of self confidence!
The instructor reviewed the structure for our course. The first half of the day would consist of a presentation that included insights into what Salesforce expertise must be mastered to pass the test as well as what type of exam-specific skills must be honed like time management and presentation skills. After lunch, mocks would begin. I. was. nervous. I legitimately had a moment where I thought about telling my Salesforce contact that I just wanted to observe...I obviously wasn’t ready for this type of challenge. But I eventually told myself that I should just give it a shot.
In true CTA board exam form, we were given a certain amount of time to read and solution the scenario with markers and flip charts followed by presentations and then the dreaded Q&A. I settled myself into the corner of one of the rooms and dug into the scenario. Thank goodness I had watched that Pluralsight so I had some sort of framework to work with! I marked up my scenario and noted down all the systems, actors, objects and integrations that were needed. By the time I was done we were already getting a warning about how much time had elapsed. I started writing out my system landscape, role hierarchy, actors and licenses and release management diagram on notebook paper. I felt like I was in the Great British Baking Show. When time was up I dropped my markers…and I was exhilarated!
We had a short break before presentations started. I spoke with one of the more confident candidates in the hall and he confided that he no longer felt so sure of himself. That made me feel a bit better.
The presentation went well. While I skipped the SSO/OAuth flow portion of the solution for my own dignity, I did a pretty solid job of explaining my solution and white boarding my design as I talked it through. The CTA who was leading the course asked me some questions, as did my classmates, and they didn’t throw me too much. Later on I heard that the CTA instructor thought that I would be a good candidate down the road. Wow.
All in all, the opportunity to participate in this workshop inspired me. It was a lot of fun, and I was not afraid of mocks anymore…I wanted MORE!
Susannah Kate St-Germain is a 19x certified Colombian-American Salesforce nerd, travel fanatic, and aspiring Certified Technical Architect.