One year later: the Acquia Certification Program

A little over a year ago we launched the Acquia Certification Program for Drupal. We ended up the first year with close to 1,000 exams taken, which exceeded our goal of 300-600. Today, I'm pleased to announce that the Acquia Certification Program passed another major milestone with over 1,000 exams passed (not just taken).

People have debated the pros and cons of software certifications for years (including myself) so I want to give an update on our certification program and some of the lessons learned.

Acquia's certification program has been a big success. A lot of Drupal users require Acquia Certification; from the Australian government to Johnson & Johnson. We also see many of our agency partners use the program as a tool in the hiring process. While a certification exam can not guarantee someone will be great at their job (e.g. we only test for technical expertise, not for attitude), it does give a frame of reference to work from. The feedback we have heard time and again is how the Acquia Certification Program is tough, but fair; validating skills and knowledge that are important to both customers and partners.

We also made the Certification Magazine Salary Survey as having one of the most desired credentials to obtain. To be a first year program identified among certification leaders like Cisco and Red Hat speaks volumes on the respect our program has established.

Creating a global certification program is resource intensive. We've learned that it requires the commitment of a team of Drupal experts to work on each and every exam. We now have four different exams: developer, front-end specialist, backend specialist and site builder. It roughly takes 40 work days for the initial development of one exam, and about 12 to 18 work days for each exam update. We update all four of our exams several times per year. In addition to creating and maintaining the certification programs, there is also the day-to-day operations for running the program, which includes providing support to participants and ensuring the exams are in place for testing around the globe, both on-line and at test centers. However, we believe that effort is worth it, given the overall positive effect on our community.

We also learned that benefits are an important part to participants and that we need to raise the profile of someone who achieves these credentials, especially those with the new Acquia Certified Grand Master credential (those who passed all three developer exams). We have a special Grand Master Registry and look to create a platform for these Grand Masters to help share their expertise and thoughts. We do believe that if you have a Grand Master working on a project, you have a tremendous asset working in your favor.

At DrupalCon LA, the Acquia Certification Program offered a test center at the event, and we ended up having 12 new Grand Masters by the end of the conference. We saw several companies stepping up to challenge their best people to achieve Grand Master status. We plan to offer the testing at DrupalCon Barcelona, so take advantage of the convenience of the on-site test center and the opportunity to meet and talk with Peter Manijak, who developed and leads our certification efforts, myself and an Acquia Certified Grand Master or two about Acquia Certification and how it can help you in your career!

Comments

Mahesh Nattanmai (not verified):

This is a great initiative and I really appreciate you taking the necessary action.

What about NYC Camp where I feel lots of people can take the test if its offered.

Regards,
Mahesh Nattanmai, Regional Director
Drupal Geeks - Drupal is Big, We are big in Drupal
mahesh.nattanmai@ameexusa.com
http://www.drupalgeeks.com/​​​

July 01, 2015
Donna (not verified):

I've also been conflicted about certifications. I still am. And this is because I fully appreciate the pros and cons. The more I've followed the issue, the more conflicted I've become about it.

My current stand, is this. Certifications are a necessary evil. Let me say a little on why that is.

I know many in the Drupal community are not in favour of certification, mostly because it can't possibly adequately validate their experience.

It also feels like an insult to be expected to submit to external assessment after years of service contributing to the code-base, and to the broader landscape of documentation, training, and professional service delivery.

Those in the know, know how to evaluate a fellow Drupalist. We know what to look for, and more importantly where to look. We know how to decode the secret signs. We can mutter the right incantations. We can ask people smart questions that uncover their deeper knowledge, and reveal their relevant experience.

That's our massive head start.

Drupal is now a mature platform for web and digital communications. The new challenge that comes with that maturity, is that non-Drupalists are using Drupal. And non specialists are tasked with ensuring sites are built by competent people. These people don't have time to learn what we know. The best way we can help them, is to support some form of certification.

But there's a flip side. We've all laughed at the learning curve cartoon about Drupal. Because it's true. It is hard. And many people don't know where to start. Whilst a certification isn't going to solve this completely, it will help to solve it, because it begins to codify the knowledge many of us take for granted.

Once that knowledge is codified, it can be studied. Formally in classes, or informally through self-directed exploration and discovery.

It's a starting point.

I empathise with the nay-sayers. I really do. I feel it too. But on balance, I think we have to do this. But even more, I hope we can embrace it with more enthusiasm.

I really wish the Drupal Association had the resources to run and champion the certification system, but the truth is, as Dries outlines above, it's a very time-consuming and expensive proposition to do this work.

So, Acquia - you have my deep, albeit somewhat reluctant, gratitude!

:-)

Thanks Dries - great post.

cheers,
Donna
(Drupal Association board member)

July 02, 2015
Gregg Marshall (not verified):

It is amazing to see how fast the Acquia Certification program is taking off. Most certifications take years to gain significant traction. I think your results are due to a latent demand for some 3rd party validation of Drupal skills/knowledge, Acquia's reputation in the community, and the hard work of the Acquia Certification team.

It has been great to see agencies using the certification as validation of their developers, both on shore and off shore. There aren't very many companies in the world that can claim 20+ certified developers!

Even if I never get a project as a result of my certifications, I'm glad I took the exams. They forced me to extend my Drupal knowledge and that is worth the effort.

As you said in your article, having the certification isn't a guarantee that someone will make a good employee, but I certainly view having the certification as a definite positive for candidates I'm asked to evaluate, almost assuring an interview.

I can't wait to see how influential Acquia Certification will be in the next couple of years.

July 07, 2015
Ayesh (not verified):

I work as a freelancer so I know how hard it is to tell the difference between a good guy and a bad guy in terms of Drupal knowledge.

The acquia or any other certification *could* be used as a metric to evaluate someone, given that the tests are up to date.

But in reality, this shouldn't be taken as the sole metric either. I have been using Drupal for years, but I lack knowledge/skills in front end and creative work. On the other side, I believe myself to write secure and fast code as well, which I will not be able to show with this exam. But again, code styling, security, performance and such qualities are not to be taken absolutely and is immeasurable.

See you in Barcelona!

July 09, 2015
Ron Huber (not verified):

I think using certification as a way to weed out the talent in Drupal is the wrong way to look at the program. A certification gives us a goal, something to work towards and celebrate when achieved. It highlights the need for continual education and shed light on alternative ways to approach development. In our case there were several healthy debates over the questions and answers, yet in every case a group discussion produced positive results. The power of Drupal is the community and I absolutely agree raising a select few individuals above the rest is not productive. However, every community needs leaders and I see certifications as a positive step towards building future Drupal leaders.

July 09, 2015
Maxime Topolov (not verified):

Dries, any information about the success rate of exams (passed vs taken)?

September 01, 2015

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