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From Dreamforce to Destination Success. Zero to 14 Certifications in 159 Days!

Part 2: My Architect Journey to Destination Success 2017

Shortly after returning home from Dreamforce, I start receiving emails about Destination Success, an event focused purely on Salesforce training and certification. There was an Architect track, and it was here that I first saw “The Pyramid.”

Right there in front of me was my own personal success plan. I decided to hold myself accountable and “earn” my attendance to #DST17 by imposing a goal on myself: To complete at least one more certification before registering. My plan was to earn my Application Architect certification at Destination Success, and then complete my System Architect certification at Dreamforce ’17. Now I had my milestones to aim for, but I needed a plan.

The “exam kit”
Where to test? Where to study? I travel for work, a lot. In addition, the testing centers in my area are not convenient, so I looked into online testing. I liked the flexibility of scheduling, as generally you can get immediate access to a proctor so you can test on demand. So I dug out an old tripod, bought a camera from an auction site, and configured a spare laptop for the online proctoring. Not wanting to eat into my family time when I was at home, I took my “exam kit” on the road. It soon became a fixture in my luggage.

Following the same pattern I had established at Dreamforce, I began studying for Platform Developer I. Turns out, a hotel room, after work hours, is an excellent studying and test-taking environment. Who knew? I took the exam in December, and although I did not succeed on the first attempt, I continued to study and passed a few days later.

Destination Confirmed
I was now 3x certified and had just secured my seat at Destination Success. Amped-up and ready to move on, I jumped straight into studying for the Advanced Administrator certification over the holiday break. Even though this one is not on the pyramid, I was certain I would learn topics and skills that would help in the tougher Designer exams. I passed on my first attempt—only three days after achieving my Platform Developer I credential.

Time for the Clouds
Feeling like I didn’t want to lose momentum, and convinced I was on the right track of diversification before attempting the Designer exams, I decided to work on the Clouds next. The very next day, I took and PASSED the Sales Cloud Consultant certification—on the first try! I dove right into Service Cloud Consultant and although I did not succeed on the first attempt, I felt good about it, so I must have been close (at this time, there was no section level feedback to confirm). I studied and retook it a few days later. Another pass.

Next up, Community Cloud Consultant. This proved to be more challenging, as it simply works differently than the Sales & Service Clouds, and I had zero experience with it. Relying on the exam guide, study materials, and all the Community Cloud topics I could get my hands on in Trailhead, I set up and played with Communities in a dev org. I was back on the road with work and determined to clear it, which resulting in several late-night study sessions in the hotel and a couple of attempts, but in the end, I was successful, and now 7x Certified.

Deep breath…The Architect Designer exams
It was now January 6th. Still 3 months before I was to arrive at Destination Success. Staring at the pyramid on my wall, I started to think…could I actually achieve Application Architect status on my own, prior to attending Destination Success in March?

I was well on my way, having already completed Administrator, Community Cloud, Platform App Builder, and Platform Developer I certifications. Just two more Designer exams, and I would be cleared to focus on the System Architect path at the event, well ahead of my original goal of Dreamforce 2017!

Never one to back down from a challenge, six days later—after a ton of studying, research, devouring the Architect resource guides, and modeling in Trailhead—I held my first designer certification, and was Sharing & Visibility Designer certified. After taking a break from studying for a few weeks, and with Destination Success now looming, I dove back in and completed Data Architecture & Management Designer on March 1st. I was now in the double digits: 10x certified, having gained my Application Architect credential just in time for Destination Success.

#DST17 Roll Call Group
One of the best decisions I made regarding Destination Success was on the plane heading to Las Vegas, when I happened to come across the Destination Success Roll Call Group in the Success Community. I immediately joined. Best decision ever, as had I not done so, I would have had a much different event experience, I’m sure!

Let me just take a moment to extend a huge thanks to Monica Sandberg and Misty Jones for setting that group up. By the time I landed in Las Vegas, I was heading to a Roll Call networking dinner, which would become the norm for the week. I met so many great people through this group. From the dinners to a photo shoot and so much more…I could go on forever about how great Destination Success was—David Liu wrote a great blogabout it that I could not agree with more—so let’s get back to the testing.

Exams, exams, and some more exams
A Destination Success ticket comes with three free exam certification sessions. As my goal was to leave as a System Architect, I had to pass three designer-level exams that week. A challenge for sure! Of course, I brought along my handy “exam kit” and set it up in the hotel room. I committed to myself take an exam daily, in addition to the three included in the track.

In order to set my cadence for the week, I sat for my Development Lifecycle & Deployment Designer exam that night in the hotel before the show officially began. While I was not successful, I learned my gaps and set to studying. The next morning I sat for the exam again, this time with my peers. Even though I felt good about it, I was, again, not successful. Feeling a bit behind my goal for the week, I studied all night and took the exam early in the morning. SUCCESS (finally!).

11x certified and back on track! Elated, I headed down to the keynote—part of which had everyone standing if they held a Salesforce certification. Then the countdown began. “Remain standing if you have more than 3 certifications.” A decent amount of people sit down. “5 certs…” The standing crowd is getting thinner. “8 certs…10 certs.” More sit. “11 certs.” Here, I was sure glad that I passed another that morning. There were not many left standing now. Was this it? Was I tied for the lead? Alas, not this time. “12 certs!” And I sit. Three of my peers were top at the event, with 12 certifications each. “Right, a new challenge!” I thought to myself. “Let’s see where I stand by Friday.”

So, I begin studying for Integration Architecture Designer, and sat for the exam the next morning before class and…success! Two down, only one to go! This allowed me to focus the remainder of my time on the final exam needed to meet my goal of System Architect, Identity and Access Management Designer. I doubled down, leveraged all my class experience (as well as those all-important—and free!—, self-guided Architect resource guides), walked into the room, sat for the exam..and was not successful.

That Deja Vu Feeling
Feelings of deja vu kicked in as I recalled my Dreamforce experience only five months prior. So it was back to the hotel room, because I refused to give up! Once again, I studied all night. In the morning, I come down for my final attempt. No pressure. I mean, I was already sitting at 12 certifications, having already completed two that weeka huge success by any standard! But I was driven to meet my goals.

And I was not alone. There was a look of determination on everyone’s faces that day. Everywhere I turned around the halls I saw flash cards, manuals, iPads, and laptops. People were cramming for that last success of the week. I sat down for that exam with my heart in my mouth. I felt like I had done the best that I could’ve, so I clicked that Submit button and… SUCCESS! I nearly jumped out of my chair. I was Destination Successful!

Meet “The Twins”

Not only did I leave with “The Twins”—my Application Architect AND System Architect certifications—but I also left Destination Success as the most certified person who attended. Another goal achieved. It just goes to show, if you stay focused, even when everything seems to be slipping, you can double down and make it happen.

My one key takeaway for you is this. Never give up! Focus on one exam at a time. Don’t put off taking your first test, and if you don’t succeed, certainly do not wait on your next attemptmy personal max is 24-48 hours for a retake. Also, use the section-level feedback wisely (as I covered in Part One of this series).

Remember, the only test you fail is the one you do not attempt. Next stop for me? The infamous Certified Technical Architect review board. Wish me luck!

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