Why am I doing this?
During the last two years of my CTA journey, I have heard about having a dedicated mentor, study group, hours of study, approach, and all. So I felt that I should tell you my story, which might be helpful for others in the same situation as I was when I started the preparation. Unfortunately, I have had no dedicated CTA mentor. There was no local CTA at my workplace, but we had a group of motivated and passionate people to achieve more and wanted to grow in the enterprise architecture space. I have learned that it takes a lot of courage to start the journey, and once you do that, things will start falling into place gradually. After going through the journey myself and completing it successfully, I can say that with full confidence that if you are committed to the goal of becoming CTA and ready to devote time for learning, you are going to enjoy the journey and the outcome it will bring. And remember, even if you fail, your journey will still be worthwhile as you would have gained a wealth of knowledge which will make you a much better professional in every aspect.
How it all started?
- I started my career as Salesforce Developer in 2011 with Infosys. I was fortunate to work on the integration project on the very first project of my career. That was the first time I wrote code to extract data from Salesforce and place it on an FTP server without any manual intervention. It was a very challenging project for a newbie, but I learned a lot from that experience. I have never looked back since then.
- Like all Salesforce professionals, achieving CTA credential was always been a dream. Soon after completing my domain certifications, I was given a chance to attend a 601 course with fellow architects in Italy. Sebastian Wagner was our coach, and this course opened my eyes, and I got a real understanding of what was required for CTA credential.
- Coming from a developer background, presenting solutions to the broader group did not come naturally to me. I needed to go out of my comfort zone and expose myself to a different audience to be more comfortable driving the discussions. That was the first step towards my architectural journey. Being with Deloitte I got ample opportunities to work on various projects where I got numerous chances to present solutions in multiple forums. When I look back now, this has proven to be a massive help in clearing CTA.
- After attending 601, I had made several plans to focus on my CTA, I was doing bits and pieces, but I could not commit time for dedicated study for an extended period. I was traveling a lot for my project work, and I was always trying to find time to study during my travel by train or on flights. It helped in staying connected, but more effort was needed.
- Last year when the pandemic started and we all were forced to work from home, that was the time I decided to focus on my CTA study a bit more.
What was going on in my mind?
So many questions like where to start, how to start, whom to reach out to, what to study, how to present, and all such thoughts were there in my mind. I had seen several talks of successful CTAs, and they all had one thing in common. They all mentioned that you couldn’t achieve this alone. You need a support system for an extended period. So I followed the advice and talked to my wife about this. Once she got onboarded, I started finding a study partner. I spoke to a couple of people and created a study group at Deloitte, and then things started falling into place.
How did I make a start?
- I followed the advice provided by many successful CTAs in the community that you need to identify your knowledge gaps, where you are good at, and where you need to focus more. I used Architect Trailmix and CTA Study Guide for this. I went through topic by topic on architect Trailmix and word by word on the study guide and made a list of all the topics I needed to focus on more. This critical exercise took 2-3 weeks.
- After doing some analysis and creating my study plan, I decided on a timeframe for myself, and I followed that timeline religiously. Before I communicated my plans to my leads at the firm, I set a date for myself, and I did the planning accordingly.
Here are few cents from me on preparation, practicing presentation and Q&A.
- Make a routine and stick to it. You need to do at least 1-2 hours of focussed study for honing your skills and filling the knowledge gaps. I think this is very much achievable, and it just requires proper planning.
- Be it 2 hours or 4 hours every day. It must happen every day with total commitment and consistency.
- Find your study buddy. It shouldn’t be more than four; one is also fine if you get hold of each other and catch up regularly. You will hold each other accountable. Bounce ideas, challenge each other to the max.
- Cover the most challenging areas first and make notes. Making notes is critical. I realized this very late, and this caused lots of rework.
- Talk to your resident architects. They don’t have to be CTAs, and they will have several things to tell you on governance, integration, data migration and testing, etc. There are ample online resources available in the community these days for each section of the exam. Use those resources and take inspiration from them to fill your gaps.
- When making notes, write considerations for almost everything to know when you should not recommend a particular option.
- Story Telling – This part is the most difficult one and can be mastered only by doing lots of practice. Think of your scenario as a story (current problem, where do they want to go, how will they go and what challenges they will face, and how should they overcome those challenges)
- Optimize time on artifacts (Practice and notice the time on each area like system landscape, data model, etc.)
- Having architect experience and experience in presenting solutions is a must.
- Practice different approaches to presentations and focus on telling a story in a flow. The story should make sense and should be easy to follow.
- Recording your own presentation and hearing it, again and again, will go a long way in improving the overall presentation style.
- The annotation does help to present the solution faster, but it is not always required. Try what works for you. If you have understood the scenario well and have solved it thoroughly, explaining that solution won’t be a challenge. Presenting the same mock scenarios repeatedly to different audiences and practicing yourself in your own time will be of great help.
- Find opportunities to present a topic or solution in your project as much as possible. Exposing yourself to a different audience like business stakeholders, your peers, or your study partners helps refine your strategy. You will know your own style of telling a story.
- This is where joining study groups help a lot. You get a chance to present solutions and learn from others presenting the scenarios to the whole group. Never go to those groups without doing the scenario yourself. This will help in comparing your thought process with others for the same problem.
- There are several mock scenarios presentations available online these days posted by our fellow community members. Watching those scenarios will help you compare your solutions with others, and you will also learn how others have presented the solution in a time-bound manner.
This is something where you need people who can challenge your solutions and give you a challenging time justifying your solutions. If you have a study group where you can present your solutions and get quizzed on your decisions, it will help you get different thinking processes for tackling the same problem. This is important to understand.
- In the initial days of preparation, there will be times when you will be grilled on almost every decision you will make for solving a scenario. Don’t get demoralized with this. Understand the feedback and work towards those.
- So many mock scenarios are available online now. While watching those videos hear the questions, pause, try to answer yourself, and then hear the answer given in the video. Make the comparison and make a note of all the learnings you get.
- CTA office hours, Apex Hours, and Videos from Johann Furmann will be of great help.
- Nothing beats giving presentations to CTAs and getting feedback from them. Several CTAs who are willing to help, reach out to them and try to have Q&A with them. Use your time wisely. Doing this a few weeks before the exam will boost your confidence.
As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t have a dedicated coach or mentor, but I have learned a lot from our fellow CTAs who do a lot for the community. I would like to call out a few names from whom I have learned a lot, and their contribution to the community immensely helped me in my CTA journey.
- Steve Baines – CTA Office Hours
- Steve Simpson- Cactusforce Talks on CTA preparation and strategy
- Karishma Lalwani – CTA talk on Virtual Dreamin and sessions from her on Apex Hours
- Sachin Chaudhary- CTA talk on Virtual Dreamin
- Emely Patra- Multiple sessions and her CTA journey on Ladies be architect group
- Carl Brundage- Multiple sessions on YouTube and his CTA journey published on ladies be architect group
- Sebastian Wagner- Multiple sessions on YouTube and in community groups, 30 days Q&A Challenge and free mock scenarios Seb has published for the community. This was a massive help.
- Andrew Hart- His CTA journey published on his blog, few you tube video sessions and his new blog where he has started publishing CTA mock scenarios
- Mitesh Mistry- Sessions from him on Apex Hours and several tips and tricks on his blog posts
- Johann Furmann, Bibhu Pati, Vinay Sail- For responding to my request to take a mock scenario with me
- Apex Hours videos, The Benelux Group and Multiple Dreamforce videos on Salesforce Developer YouTube channel help in filling lots of knowledge gaps.
And finally, Jitendra Zaa, Waruna Buwaneka and Mo Salem for giving each other hard time during the mocks and helping each other to the max in last few months of preparation.
P.S.- This is my first blog, but I promise this won’t be the last.