Jason Alpert, one of Pixafy’s first employees, became a Certified Magento Developer Plus earlier this year, confirming his expertise as a programmer in that arena, having already worked on dozens of Magento sites during his time at Pixafy. He took a few minutes out for an interview about the process.
What were your thoughts when you found out you were taking the test?
I felt excited and nervous at the same time. I was excited because after more than a year of developing for Magento I would officially get to test my knowledge of the platform. Passing the test would be great, because it would provide me with validation for all of the work I had put in. I was nervous because if I had failed, it made me think how much more I needed to work with Magento to become certified.
Did you do any preparation?
Most of my preparation for the test was working with Magento for over a year, spending hundreds of hours writing custom code and digging deep into Magento’s core codebase to see how it all worked. One of the best ways to prepare is to write custom code that is very similar to a core module. I would change a few models and blocks here and there and fully rebuild features from Magento’s core in my code. This provides substantial details to the inner-workings of not only Magento’s module structure, but also to EAV architectures, collection logic, and admin functionality such as forms, grids, and configuration.
In terms of actual preparation for the test, I only learned I was taking the test a few days before actually taking it. I spent an hour or two reviewing the study guide provided by Magento, mainly focusing on the Enterprise sections. In order to pass the Developer Plus exam, the Enterprise section is graded on a separate scale from the Community section, so it was important to have a full understanding of those questions.
In the end, nearly all of my preparation came from extensive experience working within the code base. I believe that even if I spent a month reviewing everything in the study guide and moderator’s kit that I would not have passed without working on Magento for so long.
What was taking the test like? Easier/harder/about what you expected?
Taking the test was definitely an experience. When I arrived at the testing center I was in their system, so I had to wait for about half an hour why everything got squared away. Once I was called to take the test, it seemed like the security was more intense than an airport. They make everyone empty their pockets and put everything into a locker, then wand them down with a metal detector to make sure they are not bringing anything into the test. I forgot to take an empty container of mints out of my pocket, so I had to go back and put that away then get searched again. After I made it past security, they brought me to my cubicle with a computer from 1995 and gave me laminated paper and a dry erase marker for scrap work.
The test was about what I was expecting, maybe a little harder. There were a lot more questions about specific topics than I had thought, and of course they were the sections that I was the least familiar with. I was keeping track of each question as I was going along and how I thought I answered it. I had a column for questions that I definitely got right, definitely got wrong, and tossups. Thankfully, there not very many in the wrong column!
How long did it take to find out how you did? Were you nervous at all?
As soon as you finish the test they tell you whether you pass or fail. I was definitely nervous; their clicking very slowly through the survey questions after the exam only built up the suspense. The testing center is also supposed to immediately print out a score report for me as well, but their printer wasn’t working. They gave me a small piece of paper with URL on it that I could go to get a report quicker, but that URL gave me a page not found error. I was hoping that when Magento sent me my certificate that it would include a score report, but it didn’t, so I still don’t know my actual score.
What was the most unexpected part of taking the test?
The most unexpected part was how many questions were focused on a single topic. The study guide provides percentages for how many questions are on each section, and it absolutely felt like there were substantially more questions on that section than the guide predicted.
How does it feel to be certified?
It feels good! It’s good to be able to have something to show for all the work that I’ve invested. When I first started working with Magento, I was confused and intimidated by the massive code base, so the fact that I am a certified developer is definitely satisfying. It took a long time, but it is worth it in the end to work hard at something and be officially recognized for it.
For those who may be heading the same direction (becoming a Magento developer, or heading down a path of being certified), what advice would you give?
- Code, code, code. For beginning Magento developers I recommend to start with the basic modules: Catalog, Customer, Sales, Checkout, and Core. Almost every other module of the website interacts with one of these modules in some capacity. Understanding these modules can provide deep insight to Magento’s core structure. I’d also recommend spending a lot of time looking at the database structure because many developers are unfamiliar with an EAV architecture. It can be slower than a flat table structure, but it allows a lot of flexibility.
- For developers studying for the test who have hundreds of hours and multiple completed projects – trust what you know. I wouldn’t recommend cramming too hard the days leading up to the exam. If you’ve been working on Magento for a long time, you should immediately know the answers to a lot of the questions that you see. Review the Catalog, Sales, Checkout, Core, and API modules, as well as how Magento’s models interact with the database.
Do you have questions about the process? Experiences of your own? Share them in the comments!