At the beginning of the year, I decided to take the 2020 SwiftOtter’s challenge to get Magento certified.
The challenge consisted of a free remote study group headed by Joseph Maxwell (2019 Magento Master) for anyone wanting to become Magento certified together.
Despite contributing to the Magento core in the past and being a Magento community core maintainer since 2018, I never thought to take a Magento 2 developer certification before.
Hence, when I heard about Joseph’s initiative, I decided to be in.
I always felt, like Joseph says, that “the preparation period before the test is 10 times as valuable as the certification itself.” This was the right opportunity to prove it.
First, I had to choose which certification path I wanted to take. In the beginning, I thought I would go for the Magento 2 Professional Developer, but after some time, I decided to go for the Magento 2 Associate Developer.
The reason is simple: Frankly, the Magento 2 Professional Developer certification is hard. Being a scenario-based exam requires a lot of practical experience, and a lot of smart people I know from the community failed their first attempt. Failing the test wouldn’t have been the proper reward after a long period of study combined with daily work and personal commitments.
The Magento 2 Associate Developer certification, on the other hand, is simpler to take because it is mainly focused on the knowledge of fundamental areas of Magento 2, which was exactly what I was interested in. So, I changed my mind and decided to take that path.
Before starting my study path, I tried the Associate Developer practice test made available by SwiftOtter, and I had my first aha moment: I failed it. That was a clue indicating that even if the Associate Developer certification exam is easier than the Professional Developer, that doesn’t mean it’s easy and that to pass the exam, some study was necessary for me.
Here are some things that I’d like to share, hoping they can help others.
1. The More You See, the Less You Know
When we are new to a subject, we likely don’t know what we don’t know. As Mr. Paul Hewson (aka Bono) sings in a famous U2’s song, “the more you see, the less you know.” In other words, the more we delve into a specific field, the more we refine the ability to evaluate our competence and understand how far we are from mastering it. This is a cognitive bias known as Dunning-Kruger effect. That’s what I realized when I began studying for the certification.
Despite several years of experience with Magento, there were a lot of things I didn’t know, and I discovered it just because I began delving deeply into it. That’s the first benefit of embarking on the journey of certification, because we can’t improve what we can’t measure. In other words, we can’t become better at something if we don’t know that we don’t know it.
2. Be Consistent and Committed
This is something that Joseph was never tired of repeating. Once we set a goal, it’s very important to be consistent and keep the pace. We should establish a feasible plan, something we can stay committed to.
For example, my plan of studying 30 minutes per day fit well with my daily routine. More time would have been too much, less time would have been useless. That said, I didn’t have the urgency to get certified, so I could establish a 15 weeks road map without any pressure.
If you have less time, you will likely need to double the time spent studying. Whatever the plan, try to be consistent, don’t skip many days in a row and don’t let the momentum pass away.
To stay committed, I recommend Joseph’s suggestion to purchase the exam voucher in advance.
Also, the time spent studying should be quality time, without distractions. Being an early bird, I chose to study early in the morning and it worked for me pretty well.
3. If You Can’t Explain It …
Albert Einstein once said: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
To learn something, there’s nothing better than teaching it. By “teaching” I mean trying to explain it to someone else. If you don’t have anyone you can explain what you study, repeat out loud, write it down or use a rubber duck as a listener. Try anything useful to prove that you understood it well enough.
I was lucky; some colleagues and friends of mine begun studying as well, and I had the opportunity to practice with them.
4. The Path to Mastery
The choice of studying a little bit every day is driven by the Japanese training method called kata, which says “five minutes daily is better than one a week for three few hours.” Repetition creates habits and habits enable mastery.
For the same reason, during practical development sessions, once I finished writing sample code, I deleted it and rewrote it from scratch several times. This repetitive “wax on, wax off” technique helps to reinforce our knowledge of fundamentals details, especially those who are used to copying and pasting without paying too much attention to what we do (you know, XML stuff).
Lastly, here is my list of resources that I think can help us to get through our journey:
- Magento | U - Here we can find everything we need to know about certifications.
- Magento Inventory (aka MSI) - Magento 2 has a lot of legacy code; looking at the core doesn’t always represent the best reference, except for Magento Inventory, which is developed according to Magento 2 best practices and is a valuable code reference.
- SwiftOtter - I couldn’t have embraced my journey without the help of SwiftOtter’s guides and tests. I warmly recommend you to give them a look; it’s definitively worth the price.
- Mage2.tv - Vinai Kopp’s screencasts are among the best resources about Magento 2. I will never get tired of recommending it.
- Mageres - I’m definitively biased in recommending Mageres because I’m the curator of this list in which I collect Magento resources since 2015, divided by topics. Give it a try; I’m pretty sure you will find something useful.
No matter what certification you choose, the study path is more important than the certification itself.
Set a road map, establish a routine, be consistent and committed, exploit all the resources available and try to explain what you learn — at worst to a rubber duck — and you will succeed.
I wish you the best of luck and, remember, never stop exploring!