Salesforce Associate Exam Overview, or, Why Did This Application Architect Take An Entry Level Exam?


Hello, and welcome to Another Salesforce Blog!  Here I will be posting solutions to problems that I couldn’t find an answer to in hopes of helping those who find themselves stuck when using the Salesforce platform.

Today, I want to discuss a topic that has caused quite a stir in the broader Salesforce community: the new Salesforce Associate Certification.

Designed to be an entry level certification for those with less than 6 months of experience in Salesforce, you wouldn’t think that many would take issue with this certification, but the commentary on LinkedIn would tell you otherwise.

With a number of seasoned professionals taking the exam, several posters have decried the exam as “meaningless” and a mere “shiny object” that is “void of meaning” and that “devalues” other certifications.

I posted about this on my Twitter, @GrizzleEvelyn, in a joking manner, and got some great responses from the community!

A tweet by Evelyn Grizzle (@GrizzleEvelyn) stating: On the one hand, I want to take the Associate exam because it’s free right now and I’ll be able to relay valuable information to my mentees. On the other hand, lmao this mfin architect took the Associate exam.

The overwhelming thought (on Twitter, anyways) was that there’s no harm in taking the exam as a refresher, especially because with an exam code, the test is currently free to register for. It also makes sense given that most of the people I talked to are also mentors in the community, and we want to know what kind of material is on the exam so that we can relay this information to our mentees.

After a few tweets back and forth, I decided to brush off the haters and signed up for the exam.

I’d like to talk a little bit about the exam, but first, let me get a little bit personal.

I’ll allow it.

This isn’t going to come as a surprise to those who know me well, but it might come as a surprise to a casual reader of Salesforce blogs! I haven’t always been a Salesforce developer. In fact, I didn’t go to school for programming, and I have only been a developer for about five years.

I originally went to school for chemical engineering.

My charming anecdote in interviews and when I’m getting to know someone is that I went to school for chemical engineering, found out I was really bad at physics, but loved writing code, so I dropped out and worked until I was ready to change paths. I did random data analytics jobs for a while, and eventually settled on going back to school for network and systems management. Cute, right? It plays really well, because there’s something about a self deprecating anecdote that people like, and it explains away the series of odd jobs on my resume.

What really happened?

The real story is that I am a survivor of domestic violence. I dropped out of school twice and failed out once because of it. Don’t get me wrong, I am pretty bad at physics, but in a perfect world, I would have buckled down, gone to office hours, and finished my original degree on-time and with an (almost) perfect GPA. Life happens, though, so we do the best we can.

Evelyn wearing a floral dress and holding up a painted mortarboard that says “ten year plan” in cursive, surrounded by flowers in teal and purple, the colors for sexual assault awareness and domestic violence awareness.

After failing out of school, I used my most-of-a-degree to land jobs doing small time data analytics roles for various ventures. To make ends meet, I also worked as a barista, and in a laundromat.

Unfortunately, the horrors of domestic violence don’t stop when you leave, and are actually statistically likely to get worse when you do leave. Because of this, I moved back in under the protective umbrella of my parents at the age of 24.

Without a degree, I managed to get a job at a call center making $10 an hour on contract.

Whoa, then what happened?

Well, I managed to get hired on after about six months on contract at a whopping $12 and change. I worked in a department that handled field technician calls, and started saving money to go back to school for network engineering.

After about a year and a half, I interviewed for a database coordinator position at the same company and crushed it. I was living the dream, making a little over $15 an hour, health insurance, you name it. I had just started going back to school, taking classes on databases and systems. I was moving out of my parents’ house and into the world on my own for the first time since leaving a violent relationship. I was so proud of myself, things were really starting to come together.

Sounds nice, but where does Salesforce come in?

After about a year and a half as a database coordinator, and a year and a half back in school, I was on disability for two life altering knee surgeries. Layoffs were happening at the company I was working at, and I was worried I was on the docket because I was on medical leave.

I had finished my programming classes for my degree at this point, so I started applying for web developer positions, entry level software engineering positions, database positions, anything I could find. I ultimately interviewed for two positions, and somehow landed a job as an entry level Java developer despite still working on my degree. When I started, I was informed that business needs had changed, and I was told I was going to be learning Salesforce.

This was in January 2019, and, the rest is history.

I started this blog in October 2019 and quickly shot up as a leader in my organization. Since then, I’ve been a consultant, worked at an ISV partner, been a staff developer, given talks, mentored, and have thoroughly enjoyed my time in the ecosystem. I graduated with my degree in Computer Information Systems in 2021, and have never looked back.

Evelyn’s graduation picture, where Evelyn is wearing a purple robe, purple mortarboard, and standing in front of a purple background.

That’s awesome, but what does this have to do with the Associate Certification?

I’m a bad test taker (blame that on the at-the-time untreated ADHD) and it took me two tries to pass the Salesforce Certified Admin test and FIVE TRIES to pass Platform Developer I.

Since I passed PDI, I have passed a number of certifications, including Platform App Builder, JavaScript Developer I, Data Architect, and now Associate, all on the first try, and several more on a second (and one third) attempt.

But those first few exams? WHEW. I had no idea what I was studying for. I didn’t know what resources in the community existed, or what practice tests. I didn’t know how to navigate the “gotchas” that Salesforce throws in. I didn’t have any practical developer or admin experience in Salesforce at the time, I was just trying to pass the exam after being thrown in the deep end.

If I had not been afforded the opportunity to have my first certifications (and numerous retakes) paid for by my first software employer, I wouldn’t have been able to afford to get into Salesforce on my own.

My life is completely changed because someone took a chance on me and afforded me the opportunity to learn Salesforce.

So, why is this exam so important?

Because it provides a stepping stone into the ecosystem at a low price point of $75 USD so that folks can decide if they want to invest in a career change. Like I wrote in Thinking of changing careers into Salesforce? Read this!, careers in technology are not for everyone. They’re sometimes boring, there’s sometimes weird hours, they’re sometimes repetitive. But for the right person, like me, a career in Salesforce is MAGICAL.

Being able to get an entry level certification in a lucrative field without committing hundreds of dollars and hundreds of hours of time is an absolute gamechanger for career switchers.

Not only that, but the certification exam is formatted similarly to the Admin exam, without the many “gotcha” questions that Salesforce throws in, so it is a great opportunity to learn the exam format. For people like me who are not great at standardized tests, this is a great way to ease into the broader ecosystem.

A headshot of Evelyn in a Trailblazer hoodie.

That sounds great, what’s on the exam?

The exam and review materials cover the fundamentals of the Salesforce platform and general information about the ecosystem.

There were questions about Standard sObjects and relationships.

There were questions about which cloud to use when, and which job title applies to which job function.

There were questions about reports and dashboards.

And, my favorite, there were questions about what resources Trailblazers can use to continue their learning.

I went into this exam completely unprepared, and actually found that I need to work on my reporting and dashboarding skills!

Evelyn’s Salesforce Certification Exam Results

I originally took this test so that I could officially recommend it to mentees, but actually found a material weakness in my own skillset that I am now able to work on.

Who all should take the exam?

Honestly? Everyone who is able. If you want to take it, take it.

It helped me expose a weakness that I have in my skills, it helped refresh me on some clouds that I haven’t used in a while, and it was free for me with a voucher code, so might as well.

If you are looking to get into the ecosystem, are an end user, or are preparing for your admin test, take it. It is well worth the $75 as a stepping stone.

Resources

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233, or text START to 88788.

You can also find resources at: www.domesticshelters.org

Thanks for reading, let me know if you have any comments or questions!

-Evelyn, Another Salesforce Blog

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