Acquia certification for Drupal

I'm proud to share that Acquia announced its certification program today. You can now get "Acquia certified in Drupal", something I'm pretty excited about.

This is something I've been hoping to see in the community. While there have been other experiments around certification, we as a community have lacked a way to ensure professional standards across Drupal. Over the years, I've heard the demand coming from partners and clients who need a way to evaluate the skills of people on their teams. More and more, that demand has drowned out any perceived criticisms of a certification for Drupal.

A good certification is not just a rubber stamp, but a way for people to evaluate their own abilities, and make plans for improving their knowledge. In some countries, certification is really important to create a career path (something I learned when visiting India). For these reasons, I feel Drupal's growth and development has been hindered without a formal certification in place.

The certification we've built is based on the combined years of experience among Acquia staff who oversee and manage thousands of Drupal sites. We've observed patterns in errors and mistakes; we know what works and what doesn't.

People have debated the pros and cons of software certifications for years (including myself), especially where it involves evaluating candidates for hire. Certainly no certification can be used in isolation; it cannot be used to evaluate a candidate's ability to perform a job well, to work in teams or to learn quickly. Certification can, however, provide a valuable data point for recruiters, and a way for developers to demonstrate their knowledge and stand out. It is undeniably valuable for people who are early in their Drupal career; being certified increases their chance to find a great Drupal job opportunity.

One of the biggest challenges for Drupal adoption has been the struggle to find qualified staff to join projects. Certification will be helpful to recruiters who require that job candidates have a good understanding of Drupal. There are many other aspects to recruitment for which certification does not provide a substitute; it is only one piece of the puzzle. However, It will provide organizations added confidence when hiring Drupal talent. This will encourage the adoption of Drupal, which in turn will grow the Drupal project.

The community has been talking about this need for a long time. One approach, Certified to Rock, evaluated an individual's participation and contribution in the Drupal community. Acquia's certification is different because we're assessing Drupal problem-solving skills. But the community needs more assessments and qualifications. I hope to see other providers come into this space.

Comments

Tom Geller (not verified):

"Personally, I do think certification needs to happen." -- Dries Buytaert, 18 September 2008, my blog, which references Acquia'plans for "Yellow Jersey" certification, announced in March 2008.

Not that I'm complaining, but why do you think it took so long?

March 21, 2014 - 03:52
Dries:

We have been timing the market and our own readiness since Acquia was founded. The market nor Acquia was ready for certifications in 2008. The demand for certifications has been growing steadily since. I believe we have reached a point where Drupal certifications is more than a nice to have; it is required to grow certain parts of our ecosystem. The time for a certification program is now. That is very clear from talking to our partners and customers around the world. Combined with the fact that creating and maintaining a high-quality certification program takes a lot resources and effort. We only wanted to launch a certification program if we could do it well, and we didn't have the resources to invest in a high-quality certification program for years.

March 21, 2014 - 12:34
Robert Douglass (not verified):

Tom, I was actually one of the people the evaluated certification options back then for Acquia. At the time, it was really clear that certification couldn't be a core business driver for Acquia, which had a very small team at that point. So it got sidelined. We instead focused on getting the core products out the door - support, and then hosting. It seems to me that this is the right timing for Acquia to launch such a program because there has been a steady trend towards higher professionalism in Drupal, and everything that can be done to raise standards, allow people to enter a Drupal career path, and build sustainable Drupal practices will result in better business for Acquia's core offering.

-R

March 21, 2014 - 13:16
Chris Comparato (not verified):

Robert, thanks for your earlier efforts! I wanted to add that we also felt this had to be done with a very thorough approach. This included hiring external expertise (with industry cert creds), building a good initial blueprint, selecting a secure proctoring platform, and then many cycles from a team of experts to build and pilot what became a significant bank of good questions and valid answers to hit that blueprint. We feel the effort that went into is now hopefully worth the wait and we look forward to the feedback!
- CC

March 21, 2014 - 17:35
Plazik (not verified):

This is great news!

March 21, 2014 - 06:05
joachim (not verified):

The certification is cool, but to be able to take the exam, webassessor wants me to install some kind of dodgy software on my computer: a program called sentinelsecure. And that is not cool.

March 21, 2014 - 09:40
Dries:

Installation of software is needed as this is a monitored examination. We need to conduct a monitored exam to protect the integrity of the tests. The software only runs while you take the exam and it prevents the exam taker from copying questions, asking for help, etc.

If you are concerned about installing anything on your machine, but still want to appear for the exam, you may take the same at a Kryterion Test Center near your location.

Hope this helps!

March 21, 2014 - 12:53
Prasad Shirgaonkar (not verified):

rteijeiro,

Contributing to Drupal community comes out of a person's "attitude" rather than "skills". The certification is for verifying development skills and problem solving capabilities and not attitude of participants.

Certification should be considered more like an independent and objective validation of a person's Drupal development skills.

Prasad Shirgaonkar
Acquia Learning Services

March 21, 2014 - 21:07
rteijeiro (not verified):

So then, contributing to Drupal community is still part of this valuable skills?

Can we consider the certification as a complement or bonus proof of Drupal developer skills?

Thanks for the article, BTW.

March 21, 2014 - 09:57
Donna Benjamin (not verified):

Certification is a thorny issue. I think this move shows great leadership. It's also a big job to create a credible, and authoritive certification system.

I know there's a lot of criticism out in the tech world, particularly the open source world, about certifications. Some of them seem like scams, and some of them are frequently scammed.

But what I'm not seeing much discussion about is that for some people, and some cultures, this kind of external accreditation is incredibly important, not only for employers looking for talent, but amongst peers and families.

So I'm particularly pleased to see Dries mention India in this post.

In his earlier post he said

"Building a high-quality certification program is a significant undertaking and we're not ready to take on such a program. And last but not least, the marketplace hasn't demanded these types of programs to a sufficient degree. Yet."

So I guess the time has come.

I urge our community to keep an open mind and not be too quick to dismiss this.

Kudos Dries and Acquia - looking forward to learning more about the cert and how it works.

March 21, 2014 - 10:03
keopx (not verified):

Dries I propose you to make a certification through Association and give the money earned to the Drupal community. ;)

March 21, 2014 - 11:05
Dries:

I personally don't believe certification should be owned by the Drupal Association. It is my belief that we are best served by allowing many organizations to create their own Drupal certification programs, and have the marketplace set their value -- similar to how universities build reputations. I shared my thoughts on that more than five years ago, and I still stand behind those: http://buytaert.net/on-drupal-certification-programs.

As Acquia, we give a lot of money and time to the Drupal Association every year. The Drupal Association also isn't ready to take on a certification program.

March 21, 2014 - 14:02
Hugh (not verified):

The concept is great; the name sucks. Employers would understand "Drupal certified by Acquia", but 90% wouldn't have a clue what "Acquia certified" means. That makes it 90% worthless. Which is a pity.

March 21, 2014 - 11:45
Heather James (not verified):

I think some people are going to be afraid that certification will take the place of employers needing to do due diligence in looking at someone's profiles and contributions. We're not going to replace that, and if you have a robust history of contribution and involvement, then you're golden! We do need to educate employers on how to do that due diligence. See this guide here I wrote for hiring managers:
https://www.acquia.com/blog/5-steps-build-great-drupal-team-step-5-evalu...

One thing I learned in researching how people are building teams is that MANY people don't have the luxury of time and circumstance to make contributions. That is a hugely limiting way to evaluate someone's skills and knowledge. We need more data points. See more at Ashe Dryden's blog:
http://ashedryden.com/blog/the-ethics-of-unpaid-labor-and-the-oss-commun...

I do feel that this cert can give people a leg up, and a way to differentiate themselves. Even the blue print itself, based on our research on in-demand skills, would be a great guide for developing your skills, and having a goal to aim for. Even if you never took the exam!

Two things I would love to see are:
1) Community consensus around qualification standards/skill maps
2) Community oversight and accreditation

For that we can have multiple training providers working to teach similar skills and knowledge areas. So either a learner, or someone managing a team could identify paths to fill skill gaps. Then we could have multiple assessment providers, even a community assessment, which all have shared goals.

We mapped this vision out a few years ago...
https://groups.drupal.org/node/172439

There wasn't much appetite within the community for working on certification, and until recently I didn't have scope in my own role. Now that we've expanded our team (beyond 1 person!) we can realize some of these ideas. I'm really excited to see how it works. I see other sister software have certs; Symfony, Varnish, etc etc. We're just catching up!

March 21, 2014 - 11:56
Rajib (not verified):

Dries, as you said you learned the importance of certification via India, but did you notice the working culture and salary range of Drupal developers there? In lots of Asian part salaries for IT people ranges from 80-500 and employers never pay for developers knowledge enhancement. Any such scheme for people from that part of globe? Or let's say from parts of Africa?

90% of PHP developers doesn't hold Zend Certification, it's not due to lack of knowledge but due to difference in value for money between western world and 3rd world.

March 21, 2014 - 16:01
criznach (not verified):

So if I get certified today, and Drupal 8 rolls out next week, am I still certified?

March 21, 2014 - 16:38
mbawazir (not verified):

I think the certification is very important just for our career path, but most companies evaluate your skills based on your project which you built or contributed such as Websites, Modules and Themes even if you have a certification.

March 21, 2014 - 20:49
jooblay.me (not verified):

It would seem a great concept at first glance. But when you evaluate certification further it seems of little to no value. Linus, Cox, Stallman all spent years being laughed at by so called certified technicians (Apple Corp. Microsoft). Remember the 90's.

Freedom software has always been about a strong commitment to contributing, access and knowledge. Community driven "wow" power.

There are many, many levels to freedom software. The super developer's don't need certification because their code has spoken. MerlinOfChoas, Dries, WebChic, Moshe the list goes on and on.

In turn for the small time operator such as us. You do not get selected by a client because your a drupal guru. You are selected because you pull the job and scale off a low bid. Without the big brand name. Most web jobs are flat, if not all for the average drupal member. Meaning the world is. One moment your in downtown Amsterdam on a stack the next Goa.

The community breaks the ego or props it up. The community thrashes the very concept of being certified, always has. Instead of pushing the responsibility of proof to the developer. It would make more sense to test the employer. Does the employer actually know anything about Drupal, Linux, Apache, PHP, Mysql, Ubuntu (My Fav). If the employer does not understand the culture of freedom software, a piece of paper will do little to solve this issue. Does the employer know anything about intelligence technology? Any drupal developer, member or really technology committed human can tell you if someone knows what their skill level is.

It's like asking Robert Johnson to take a test and get certified to play the blues. The hardest coder's I know are raw, some never even went to school.

How many times have we all had jobs with complete incompetent employers. I want to do this or that with totally un-realistic goals. I am in charge because my dad said so. Let me tell the doctor what is wrong with me. This is classic hierarchical team systems. Instead I would offer the flat tiered Belbin team system that has powered freedom software for more then 40 years. MerlinOfChaos is in charge because he understands views more then anyone else and is used as a specialist. Webchic offer's huge in-site, teaches (Thanks by the way) you save a whole village in Guatemala. Flat teams push the best and offer the best based off skill. Not because you have a certificate.

Standards are in addition dangerous to creativity that drives freedom software. If everyone does it just like me. And I do it just like Dries then in the end it kills the creative process, including the entrepreneurship of technical magician's. Many of my friends have no eduction at all, but when you put a LAMP stack in front of them, they can manifest out of thin air.

According to John Locke ideas come from your experience. If we all have the same experience all the time while coding it starts to sanitise the process, such that you have rules to follow then you are left in a void of creative processing.

In closing, the power of freedom software is in the raw savage nature of it. The power of drupal is in the fact that you can be anyone from anywhere with nothing. Just a lap and the glow.

the deep gz.tarevel
A Poem

Drupal, pow. What you have done.
You saved me in Goa.
Teacher, knowledge, energy to driver.
Blueberry milkshake theme's.
Code not for cash, but for the path...

Speak loud when your voice cracks...
Thanks to everyone at Drupal.

March 22, 2014 - 06:51
freescholar (not verified):

Transparency in the process?

How will this new cert program encompass those of us who are not developers and do things that are not measured on D.O.? Or is this only for developers/programmers?

You mention Certified to rock as an example that "evaluated an individual's participation and contribution in the Drupal community" But it does not do that--- None of the things I do is calculated on the 'rock' site:

I usually spend my time ---
Consulting on various Drupal Projects
Introducing Drupal developers to each other for collaboration
Learning about new Drupal modules and updates
Attending Drupal Events
Introducing PHP developers to Drupal API etc.
Presenting sessions at Drupal events
Teaching beginners how to get started with Drupal
Bringing new members to Drupal Meetups
Creating Webinars and tutorials on Drupal installation, VoipDrupal
Training people to update and maintain their Drupal Websites
Creating Drupal sites that will potentially help the community - drupalroommates, buccaneerscholarship etc.
Acting as a Drupal evangelist wherever I go

Are any of these things important? I am unsure how one could measure them...

To avoid harming anyone it would be great to give people an opt in/opt out choice about being scored and an additional opt in/opt out choice about having that information shared. Certainly, no one should be able to submit someone else’s Drupal name for scoring purposes. I think it’s also critical for success to allow people to opt out at any time from having their score shared so that even if someone initially agrees to have their score displayed, they are free to change their mind if they feel that the score is not helpful to them.

Very specific information about the meaning of each score and the steps to take to raise your score is also essential if the goal is to encourage people to be more invested in Drupal and to develop greater expertise.

It would be even better if Acquia shared the scoring criteria and details of the scoring process with the Drupal community and allowed people to comment on the criteria and broaden the criteria to really encompass all the different kinds of expertise that are involved in working with Drupal.

How is the harm quantified? -- As the CTR site rates people, in the dark, with a 'secret' algorythm, and then posts the info publically without any notice to the person being rated...
I did not register for the site, yet my information is listed with a rating of #1 – the very lowest. So – anyone who knows your Drupal.org page can look up your CTR rating... but if you do not know the site exists...
To me, being rated as a #1 was not an issue, as I am not a developer seeking employment, then I thought about the programmers and Drupal developers with low scores, that do not even know about this rating thing on CTR.
Could these developers possibly be losing job offers due to this site and their low rating? Some hiring agencies and managers are including CTR ratings in their job requisitions and stating that a developer needs to have a rank of 5 or better on the CTR site in order to apply for the position.
My other fear/sadness is that this type of secret ratings site could truly damage someone psychologically, ruin self- esteem and perhaps hinder them financially if a prospective client is looking at their ratings – or worse.

Would Acquia be willing to provide a way to respond, so that the person who received the score could provide more information about their level of experience and the kind of work that they have done with Drupal?

Will there be community consensus on how the rating schema works? If so, this could be a valuable asset - if not, then it is another dark corner of the Internet where abuse is waiting to happen.

#1, but not a negative one:)

March 22, 2014 - 18:06

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