How to pass your Salesforce Heroku Architecture Designer exam.
It’s been a long time since I wrote one of these exam tips posts. In fact it’s a long time since I wrote any posts for this blog. Since my last update here I have added a stack of Salesforce architect certifications to my name, and I am now a much more confident exam taker.
Having said that, I recently sat the Heroku Architecture Designer exam, and wanted to write about it because it was one of the strangest Salesforce certification experiences I’ve had so far.
A week before sitting the exam I undertook a partner enablement day at Salesforce’s London office on Bishopsgate where we received some training to help us prep for the exam. The team leading the training were great and when I sat a little practice exam at the end of the day, I achieved what would have been a clear pass on the real-world exam.
I felt supremely confident, and booked the exam as soon as I got home. I did a bit more independent study by skimming through the Heroku Dev Centre, and was 100% sure I was going to ace it on the day.
Failed first attempt
It’s been a while since I experienced that feeling of dismay when you read the first question and don’t know the answer. Then it gets worse as you move onto the second question and don’t know that either. By the time I was on question five I had completely lost my nerve.
When I finally clicked the button to submit the exam after sixty tortuous questions, I knew I had failed. I fact, I failed so badly I could probably have obtained a similar result by guessing.
The exam was very odd. The questions were Heroku-related but most of them seemed to draw on a much wider knowledge of things like networking and VPNs, which totally threw me. These questions were nothing like the ones I answered confidently on the practice exam at the Salesforce offices in London! They were much more in-depth, more like a developer-level exam.
So what did I do next? I went back to basics, which is what I recommend you do too.
First step: figure out your knowledge gaps
As usual, I recommend starting with the official exam guide on Trailhead. This page contains a detailed exam outline which breaks down the exam into sections like this:
Spend a little time going through this guide and highlight where your strengths and weaknesses are. If you’re relatively new to Heroku this will immediately show up some murky areas where you need to dive a bit deeper to grow your understanding.
As with all Salesforce exams, each section in the Heroku Architecture Designer exam is weighted, with the higher weighted sections having more questions in the exam. You’ll see from the guide that for this exam it’s particularly important to know about the different features and capabilities of Heroku Enterprise – which will come up in 28% of the questions.
Use the dedicated Trailmix on Trailhead
I’ve written several times before about how Trailhead is the best learning resource I’ve ever come across, and this certification is well-covered. There is a dedicated Trailmix for the Heroku Architecture Designer credential, which will help you develop your knowledge. I suggest you also spend time setting up a pipeline and deploying an application in order to get some hands-on. It’s worth the effort as it really does crystalise your learning.
The Trailmix links out to sections in the Heroku Dev Centre, and I recommend you spend some additional time in there, following the links and absorbing as much as you can.
Second attempt – Passed!
It took me about a week to build up enough confidence to sit the exam again, and I’m pleased to say I passed second time around.
I will point out that I had another very odd exam experience. The questions I was presented with on my second attempt were totally different from the first set of questions, and much easier. They were quite similar in depth to the ones I had seen at Salesforce at the end of the training day.
When I finished, I was left wondering if I had chosen the wrong exam the first time. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was like a totally different exam – the difference was as pronounced as the difference between a detail-oriented developer exam and a high-level architect exam.
Suggested study areas
As I’ve already recommended, you need to focus your learning on filling your own knowledge gaps, while being aware of the weightings in the exam guide.
It goes without saying you will need to understand the basics such as the difference between Common Runtime and Private Spaces, Private Spaces vs. Shield Private Spaces, what the different Dyno types are and how you can scale them, etc.
Read up about VPNs, and when you might need to use one, what VPC peering is and when you are able to make use of it. Understand how these apply to integrating with various other enterprise architecture components such as AWS or Google Cloud.
Make sure you spend time understanding Heroku Connect, how it works, what is automated and what isn’t, and also how it deals with things like Shield Platform Encryption on the Salesforce side.
Data residency is a big consideration. Understand where data will be stored for Common Runtime and Private Spaces, and also for Add-ons. I remember there being several questions about this.
Know some typical use cases for Postgres, Redis and Kafka. Understand how Kafka works in terms of Producers, Topics, Consumers, Brokers and Partitions. Be aware of how Heroku users are provisioned with SSO.
It’s also worth learning the difference between the various plans that are available.
One last thing here – if you’re worried about remembering specific CLI commands, you can relax. There are no questions that ask about those in the Heroku Architecture designer exam.
Forget mock exams!
While doing additional research I stumbled across a small mock exam with about ten questions on it. I went through them to test my knowledge and was shocked to find the wrong answers were given for every question, but at least I now knew enough to recognise that.
I will therefore reiterate my usual warning: use mock exams with extreme caution!
The Heroku Architecture Designer certification is relatively new, which means there aren’t many reliable training resources out in the wild, so your best destination is Trailhead and Dev Centre.
I can usually tell when I’ve done enough study. My confidence grows and I start to feel a strong desire to book that exam slot as soon as possible.
In order to maximise my chances of success, I always put in the time to work through the study guide, evaluating my strengths and weaknesses, and focusing my learning where it’s needed. If you follow the same approach, you should be able to pass this exam.
It took me two attempts, but I did it – so you can too!
Did this post help you prepare?
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