AEM Podcast: Becoming An Adobe Certified Expert In AEM

Adobe offers certification in many of its products, and Adobe Experience Manager is no different. Axis41 is very committed to this and has all of their active developers certified. This week Joey and Peter sit down to discuss the process for becoming an Adobe Certified Expert in AEM. They will talk about how Joey went about studying and preparing for the exam, the issues he ran into, and eventually how he was able to pass.

You can also check out Joey’s blog post where he talks about this in more detail. Here are some links we referred to in the podcast where you can get some additional help and register for an exam yourself.

Music Intro: Code Monkey by Jonathan Coulton


Announcer: Welcome to the Adobe Experience Manager Podcast, a weekly discussion regarding Adobe Experience Manager (formerly CQ) and other marketing and technical issues. This podcast is presented by Axis41, your partner in Adobe Experience Manager implementations. Your hosts for the podcast are Joey Smith and Peter Nash.

Peter Nash: Good afternoon. I am Peter.

Joey Smith: And I am Joey.

Peter Nash: Welcome back everyone. Today we’re taking some time to talk about the process of becoming an Adobe Certified Expert in AEM and Axis41 has really committed to the Adobe certification process. Having recently managed to get most of, actually, all of our current active developers are actually Adobe Certified now. Not being a developer myself I haven’t actually taken the test so I thought we could take sometime this afternoon to ask Joey a few questions about this. Joey, if I’m remembering correctly here you had to take the test twice?

Joey Smith: That’s true. I do normally test fairly well but in this case the first opportunity to take the test through the employer came up when I have been working at Axis41 for about two weeks. So I really knew nothing about...

Peter Nash: I think you had heard about Adobe Experience Manager by that point, right?

Joey Smith: Yeah. I had seen some other people using it, but really what I did in the first couple of weeks that I came on was just trying to get an understanding of the company, my role and get my development environment set up…things like that. So I hadn’t really worked with a lot of the parts of CQ that were on the test.

Peter Nash: Yeah, I think during that time you even sat with some of the developers themselves?

Joey Smith: Yeah that’s true. Again, they were all busy of course doing projects, filling client requests and so what I would do is I would kind of shadow them a little bit and try and see, “okay I see how some of these pieces are starting to work together.” It was a very limited amount of time for teaching me or sharing with me and of course I did miss that official Adobe training. I missed the window on that just because of the time of the year that I got hired on. So I was really trying to use the process of taking that certification exam as a way of getting a beat on exactly where I needed to be and what the scope of Adobe Experience Manager really was.

Peter Nash: So, how well did that work out for you?

Joey Smith: So if you’re asking how well I did on the test, I didn’t do so well, obviously.

Peter Nash: A point I’d like to mention as often as I can…

Joey Smith: Yeah, but it did do a very good job of giving me an idea of the scope of AEM and some of the things that I had to learn about. So for helping me understand what I needed to learn, it was really fantastic actually.

Peter Nash: How so?

Joey Smith: Well, they break the test results. When you get your tests they don’t tell you which ones you got right and wrong, but they break it down into four categories which are CQ Content Management Fundamentals, Systems and Installation Configuration, Building CQ Components, and Working with OSGi.

Peter Nash: Why don’t we take some time to actually talk about each of one of those if we can? I think you said the first one was CQ Content Management Fundamentals?

Joey Smith: Yes. This is basically how well do you know the parts of Adobe Experience Manager or CQ (as it was called at the time that I was taking the test.) They take you through some of the different components, for example they quizzed you a little bit about the database that AEM uses, which is the JCR (Java Content Repository) or actually a commercial variant of that called the CRX. It also goes through things like the out of the box features that are available in Adobe Experience Manager and managing the users, the groups, and the permission system that’s built into it. As well as just a general understanding of the UI and the available components that come.

Peter Nash: Oh? Actually it sounds like I could probably pass that section.

Joey Smith: Yeah, I remember actually as I was taking the test I was thinking “this is the stuff I see Pete using all the time.” I actually to that point had not really used the authoring UI. I imagine you probably could have done better than I did on that section of the tests. To that point at Axis41, I had mostly been working with the back-end technology, the server setup and things like that. So I came into that aspect of it very raw with just not a whole lot of exposure to what I was going to be asked. Another one that I didn’t do very well on was the working with OSGi section.

Peter Nash: What kind of things did that actually cover?

Joey Smith: The OSGi section dives really deep into the parts of the Felix OSGi Container, that is kind of the beating heart of AEM. You can kind of think of OSGi Felix as the operating system for the Adobe Experience Manager instance that knows how to find and execute all the different components that you are talking to at any given time. In that section they also talk a little bit about the OGSi Web Console which is the web front-end to configuring that OSGi Container and as well as how there is interaction points between the database, the CRX and the OSGi. So some things in OSGi you could figure out how the database works and other instances you go into the database to configure how the OSGi works and knowing how those pieces interacted was a key part of that section of the test and again it was something that I was kind of vaguely aware that it was out there, hadn’t actually used it to that point.

Peter Nash: Okay so what else?

Joey Smith: One of the sections that I did a little bit better than I actually expected to on, was the building CQ Components. Luckily, at Axis41, we have some incredibly talented developers including people who are part of the team at Adobe that created the documentation on the widgets and the UI components, which is what you’re really being grilled on in here.

Peter Nash: So what kinds of questions that they actually ask in that section?

Joey Smith: Well I can mention they do talk to you about the widget API, so that’s where you actually get your hands dirty. You get tested on things like your ability to work with the Sling System, which is the layer that sits on top of OSGi and that’s how you handle the http requests that come in and it basically acts as the shuttle or the communication layer, between OSGi and the CRX database. In this part of the test you’ll deal a little bit with the Client Library System which is the way that Adobe Experience Manager bundles CSS for style sheets and Java Script together and makes them kind of a reusable component throughout the system. You’ll also be grilled on how to extend the existing components which really seems to be a very common effort when you’re doing an implementation of AEM for a customer. Some parts of this section I did okay on because I mentioned that I did have that opportunity to shadow some of our developers and see how we were using this piece, but there were a handful of questions where I didn’t even have the frame of reference for what they were going to be asking me about.

Peter Nash: Okay. Actually I think you mentioned that you used some resources that actually helped you in this specific area prior to the test, am I right?

Joey Smith: Yes, that’s right. There’s a great set of images that Adobe puts out called the Sling Request Resolver or something like that, I can’t remember what they are called. We’ll link to them in the blog post, that actually walk you through how some of these pieces specifically do work. It also didn’t hurt in this case, I was coming into Axis41 as a fairly heavy user and actually one of the developers of the ExtJS or ExtJS (however you want to pronounce it) platform and that’s what the CQ widgets are internally based on. So there are a lot of things where I was already comfortable and familiar with how those widgets, the different things like checkboxes and linked lists and image components, things like that, I already had some good exposure to how they were used internally and how they were built.

Peter Nash: Okay. So I think we only have about one section left to cover?

Joey Smith: That’s right. It’s the System and Installation Configuration section. I was pretty proud of myself; I came back two weeks with the platform, scored a 100 % on the section of the test.

Peter Nash: Those 15 years prior probably helped out a little bit?

Joey Smith: Yeah, that’s right. If you are at all familiar with running the Java Enterprise Stack in the Unix environment, or even in the Windows environment, you’re probably going to at least be familiar with the kinds of questions you are going to get in here. They’re just very general about how the Java environment works, how bundles work, how you start things, how you stop things. There is always a little bit of an Adobe Experience Manager centric bend to the questions. So there were places where I had to go, “well I’m not quite sure and clearly some of these answers are nonsense and then there’s these too, where because it’s AEM specific, I’m not quite sure how Adobe Experience Manager is going to do that.” I was pleased to come out of that with 100%.

Peter Nash: Okay. I think that probably gets right to the heart of this particular podcast. What kind of advice would you give to those who are seeking to get certified as an Adobe Experience Manager Developer? What’s the best way that they can approach their test taking?

Joey Smith: The thing I would start-off by encouraging people to do, is to look at the resources Adobe has made available. I know we are going to link in this podcast- there’s actually an Adobe practice exam that Adobe has up on their website. I think it has about seven questions. There are a couple of questions from each the four categories, to give you an idea of the kinds of things that you are going to be asked about. In fact as I took the test I actually think I saw one of the example test questions on the actual test that I took. In that same document they also include a list of things that you should be familiar with or should be able to do, I think is how they phrase it. I think had I looked at that practice exam, I didn’t know it was out there until after I failed at the first time and somebody pointed out to me, “well did you look at this?” and I said, “oh well that would have been great if somebody had mentioned that to me.” I think if I had had a look at that, it may have helped me. I don’t know if I would have passed the first time but I think I would have done a little bit better than I did.

Peter Nash: Okay. Well you have already told us that you bombed and we won’t ask for the score that you gave, that’s between you and the testing facility.

Joey Smith: I think you need to get a 72% to pass. So that just tells you, I did not make that.

Peter Nash: But even though you failed, would you still consider it a valuable exercise for you?

Joey Smith: Yeah definitely. The term that I’d like to use here is to say give me a survey of the field. It let me see where maybe some of the pitfalls were, some of the things that I didn’t know I needed to understand, just having those questions come up. An example just off the top of my head is the specific part of the API, is you’re doing the Java code. There are many different parts of the API and I don’t think any one person knows all of it, all the time. It gave me an idea of okay here’s at least the level of the depth at which I need to be familiar with the API, before I go in and take the test.

Peter Nash: Okay. So six months later you did actually go back and take it to a second time. How prepared did you feel going into it that time?

Joey Smith: As I mentioned they require you to average 72% across the four sections. So I went in thinking “I did really well on that CIS admin part and I do have a pretty good handle on, like you said I have 15 years of CIS admin experience. It felt like okay I am going to get a 100% probably on that section again. That will help carry me maybe in some of these areas where I am a little bit weaker.” It did help that in that six-month period, I had asked other developers, and had worked with you and Andy (our boss) to have opportunities to touch at least a little bit, every single part of the AEM platform. Can’t say I knew any of them in-depth but I had at least done some development work on every single kind of segment that they do. I had also taken some time to review the three open source projects that Adobe Experience Manager is kind of built on. Which is Jackrabbit-the JCR or the database, Sling and Felix which is kind of the parent process that runs and controls everything. So having done those tasks, I was pretty confident going in but I also knew that the questions you get every time are selected from a really large pool. They randomly select every time you take the test to 52 questions. I don’t even know how large the total possible pool of questions is, so I was a little concerned about what might I still be completely blind on.

Peter Nash: Okay so how did you do?

Joey Smith: Pretty pleased. I only missed one question.

Peter Nash: Over-achiever.

Joey Smith: It was in the OGSi section. At the time that I hit it I remember thinking there’s actually a difference now in this question between...the test that I took was on 5-5 and a lot of the work that I had been doing in that six month period was on 5-6 and there is a slight difference between the two. I couldn’t remember which answer they wanted on the 5-5 side versus which answer was the correct one for 5-6. In fact, I can’t even remember for sure, which one I actually settled on, which I couldn’t even tell you which one was the right one.

Peter Nash: Joey you passed, you’re through, you don’t need to worry about it anymore. But it does sound like that was a lot of work. You mentioned six months between test 1 and test 2, at the end in the day, why does it even really matter? I mean obviously it’s a line item on a resume that starts to good especially as AEM starts to take off a bit, but what value do you as a developer find in being an Adobe Certified Expert? What do you get out of that?

Joey Smith: One of the things that I was talking to one of the other developers they are trying to convince him he should prepare for it and take this exam. The kind of the phrase that I came up with that I felt really encapsulated well, is that it gives you a greater breadth of understanding and deeper exposure to the product.

As you are preparing for the exam there are many parts of Adobe Experience Manager that you just might not hit if you just organically go through and kind of solve the same problems to every customer over and over again. This gives you some insight into maybe some of the dusty corners of AEM if you will, parts that don’t get exercised that often, and you might find that there are things that you are implementing yourself, that Adobe Experience Manager could be doing for you and then you are having to continue to pay that burden of maintaining that code, if it got bugs and things like that, whereas if you just had known that there is this built-in thing that would do that for you, then it you could save you a lot of effort, a lot of time. And preparing for the exam did give me that exposure to those things.

Peter Nash: Okay. Well I guess that make sense and we do appreciate you sharing the experience you’ve gone through there. We did mention that there are several resources that are available to people who are taking this and will make sure to link to them in our blog post.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to the Adobe Experience Manager podcast, brought to you by Axis41, your premier partner in Adobe Experience Manager implementations. If you have questions, comments, or something you would like us to cover, send an email to