Testing Your Abilities

I’ve said for years I was certifiable. Apparently, FileMaker, Inc. agrees.

Recently, I passed the FileMaker 13 certification exam. So I thought I’d post a little information about the exam, the certification process, and my own perceptions of what being a certified developer might mean for you or your company.

First, the process itself. It’s outlined on FileMaker’s website here, for your enjoyment. Essentially, you take a test on all aspects of FileMaker development, including calculations, relational design, layouts, web publishing, server deployment, technical specifications – you name it. You’re allocated 2 hours for the exam, which is computer-based, and you’ll take it at one of the testing centers for FileMaker’s testing administration partner, Prometric. The test costs (at the time of this writing) $150 for each attempt; if you fail, you can try again. It’s pass / fail, so you just have to do well enough overall to demonstrate proficiency. The scoring won’t tell you what questions you get wrong, but there are subject areas and the final result will tell you what percentage you get right within each subject area.

I’ve taken two certification exams (versions 12 and 13; you certify for each version independently), so I have a little experience with the process. I’m forbidden to tell you what’s on the test because of a nondisclosure agreement (and wouldn’t tell you anyway; it’s unethical), but here are some of my observations:

Study. Then study some more. And then study some more after that. This is not an easy test. I’ve been doing FileMaker development for 25 years, and I can honestly say that if I had not studied, I would not have passed.

So what should you study? Well, for starters, the FileMaker Training Series. Go through every chapter, work the practice exercises (because not all the material is in the text), answer all the questions, and go over it again. Also helpful is the Help section of the FileMaker application itself. (Hint: Study all the calculation functions and learn what they do.) If you can afford it, attend at least one Developer Conference. In addition to being excellent resources for general development, DevCon is a great resource for learning material that’s on the certification exam.

So, what’s in it for you? Why should you go to the trouble to do all this studying, lay out $150, perhaps travel to another city (if there isn’t a testing center in yours), and maybe not pass? What do you get out of it?

For years, I didn’t see the point. Because I worked as strictly an in-house developer for a company that really didn’t care much whether we were certified (i.e., no financial incentive, and the company wouldn’t pay for the exam), there wasn’t much point in it. It was only when I started Net Caster Solutions that I started down the certification road. So let’s look at some of the benefits.

  • It establishes that you know what you’re talking about with regard to FileMaker development against an objective standard. This is a credibility issue when you’re discussing the technology, either with potential clients, your boss, or other developers.
  • It potentially increases your value to your clientele or your company. I know of several FileMaker development companies who will pay more if you get your certification. (I also know of some that won’t even hire you if you don’t have it, or are unable to get it.)
  • It forces you to round out your skill set. Studying aspects of the technology you don’t use on a day-to-day basis is good for anyone, because those aspects can come up in a new situation, or they can alert you to another way of accomplishing a task.

Is certification for everyone? Perhaps not. If you’re a casual developer, where doing FileMaker work is only part of your job, and you work as an in-house individual, then it might not be worth the extra time. Even a full-time in-house developer may not see the need if it’s not recognized or encouraged by the company. But any developer who’s serious about being taken seriously should seriously consider it, in my opinion. Seriously.

You can contact us if you’d like more information about my experience with becoming a certified developer. In the meantime, happy FileMaking!