Drupal Certification is Here
One of the challenging aspects of competing on tenders against large proprietary CMS vendors is meeting various compliance checks. As a general rule, you want to comply with as many of these checks as possible, you want your submission to be absolutely compelling. It's not surprising that Acquia want to help its partners comply, as tenders are a glass ceiling for Drupal enterprise, and breaking the glass opens up a new level of opportunity.
Staff certification checks are not uncommon; if you will be delivering a complex build, the government or enterprise client wants to be sure you are using skilled labour, and sometimes a link to Drupal.org doesn't cut it. This is undoubtably part of Acquia's motivation to develop Drupal certification, and it's possibly the one that matters most to Technocrat.
Acquia approached Technocrat to try the certification in exchange for a review of the service, this blog post is the result. Vladimir Roudakov and I took our tests at the recent DrupalCon Austin.
SHOULD WE LOOK TO ACQUIA FOR THIS?
I've heard many viewpoints over the years about who should be providing certification. I think in an ideal world we would see a service like this being provided by the Drupal Association. However, I've never considered it realistic for the DA to pursue this effectively, given their charter and expertise focus. On the other hand, I will be interested to see if Drupal Association will endorse this certification if Acquia manage to provide enough visibility and quality to give the community confidence in this service.
You can take this test online or at a training centre. I assumed that the training centres would be all US based. I later found out there were three locations in Melbourne where I could have completed the test, but initially I tried to complete the test online.
To do the test online is quite the opera. You have to book a time, and someone will be there, somewhere, to watch you through your webcam. Their job is to immediately cancel your test if they detect that you are: (a) looking at a separate screen, (b) collaborating with another person, (c) reading notes, and so on. This is pretty impressive, but for this to work they need to run a local application, and to be honest I do not know if that local application is still on my computer sending images of me working from home in my underwear. Perception is important and if you are a privacy nut, don't even consider doing the test online.
I also wasn't impressed by the website when I tried to schedule this test online. Working for a company like Technocrat with amazing UX designers, it's sad to see a contemporary interface that looks like it was built in 1995.
I wasn't able to make my online appointment, so my next chance to do the test was at DrupalCon Austin. Acquia had a test centre there, with the friendly Peter Manijak facilitating. He was responsible for getting you set up in the system, so you could focus on doing awesome. Having a facilitator on hand made the process much less stressful than online, and I assume this would be a similar process if you did the test at a training centre.
You get 90 minutes for the test. I was rushing to another appointment and so I only had about 60 minutes. For a moment I considered deferring it, but decided to put myself under pressure for your amusement.
My goal was to determine if this certification was the real deal. I don't need to be certified myself, but I do a lot of recruitment and I know what I'm looking for when I hire a Drupal developer. So, my question was "if an unknown developer is certified, what does this tell me about their Drupal skills?".
The test itself contains a mix of frontend, backend and site building questions in multiple choice format. I understand that in future there will be separate tests for these streams. More than a few questions were tricky, and appeared to point to techniques that I don't remember off my head. Maybe 10% of the questions were gimmes, but I the subtlety of the options certainly kept me on my toes.
I was quite impressed with the consistency and weighting of the questions. I admit that I panicked for a moment and wondered if 60 minutes was going to be enough! It wasn't as bad as all that, and I ended up getting 75%. Perhaps if I used my extra half hour, I may have got that to 85-90%.
My only disappointment with the test was again with the user interface design. The styling made it very difficult to visually separate the answers which seemed to run into each other sometimes. This was apparently due to poor use of font, contrast and so on. I discussed this problem this with Peter, and came away with the feeling that Acquia weren't being well supported by the training provider in this respect. The pros and cons of outsourcing.
Not everyone is an all-rounder, so you should try and cover the full set of questions and not run out of time - this means you can rack up points related to your expertise without too much pressure. As you do each question, there is an option to review questions at the end, so if you aren't sure about the answer to a question you can tick it for review. This feature is great, and I recommend that you use it to keep yourself flowing quickly through the test.
I think this is a great initiative of Acquia. Clearly it will serve them well to be able to verify partners based on the certification status of their developers. I'm tempted to put all of the Technocrat developers through the certification as a mark of Technocrat pride, and I'd say that is a significant sign. Acquia certification goes a long way to providing some sort of benchmark of Drupal Ninja status.
Chief Development Officer