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My LSA Certification Journey: Part Two

7 minute read

Ready for more details and tidbits about the CLSA Certification path?

If you haven’t yet read part one in this series, check it out before moving on to the rest of this article.

To earn the title of Certified Lead System Architect, you must pass a two-part exam. The first part is a proctored 90-minute multiple choice exam administered at a qualified Pearson Vue Testing Center. Passing the first part of the exam is a prerequisite for taking the second part of the exam, which is an application build effort that must be submitted for review and grading by the Pega CLSA Immersion Team.

If you recall from my first blog post, I passed the first part, or multiple choice portion, of the CLSA exam during week four of the CLSA Immersion program. I was ready to begin the challenge of tackling the second part, or Application Build portion, of the CLSA exam.

CLSA Immersion Week 5

During the fifth week of the CLSA immersion program, we worked on completing a second instructor-guided application build. We followed an outline of tasks to be completed in the course of a week-long application build assignment. In the mornings, we met with the instructor to review concepts, answer questions, and engage in group discussions. In the afternoons and evenings, we practiced building our second comprehensive application. The morning sessions had the cumulative effect of not only helping us prepare for the Part II Application Build exam, but more importantly, helped us test the viability, practicality, and effectiveness of alternative design and architectural approaches.

CLSA Immersion Week 6

Week six of the CLSA immersion program is reserved for completing (and hopefully passing) the CLSA Part II exam. On Monday at 9:00 AM, I received an email with the detailed requirements for a comprehensive application that I had to independently (collaboration is not allowed) architect, design, and build from scratch in Pega 7.1. Seventy percent of the grade is allocated to the effective implementation of the solution, 20 percent to the justification of the design decisions made, and 10 percent to the adherence and application of Pega 7.1 best practices.

First Application Build Attempt

For my first attempt I opted to complete the build in seven continuous days. With this approach, you are given one comprehensive set of requirements and you are given seven consecutive days to complete and turn in a Production Ready application. To pass, you must score at least 70 percent. If you score at least 65 percent, you are given the opportunity to prepare and submit an application fix that requires a minimum score of 75 percent.

After a week of hard work, I submitted my first application build effort. Sadly, I did not pass. However, I learned a great deal about how to manage my time and development efforts. For example, I did not spend enough time answering the design-only questions (more on this later). As a result, I only earned five out of the possible 20 design-only points. Also, I spent too much time on small details that distracted me from addressing too many other key requirements.

Second Application Build Attempt

If at first you don’t succeed…yes, you try again! The experience of completing the first build effort served me well during my second attempt. For my second attempt, I opted to complete the build incrementally across three phases. With this option, you build your application in three parts, or phases, with each phase focusing on different aspects of the overall design. The requirements are provided incrementally, and they generally build on one another.

The first phase is three days, the second phase is two days, and the third phase is two days. You still devote a total of seven days to the entire build effort, but each phase can be taken as your schedule permits, provided you complete all three phases within a six-week period. Each phase is graded independently of each other, and you must get at least a 65 percent on each phase and an overall average of at least 70 percent to pass.

I found this approach more agreeable to my work style and schedule. Fortunately for me, the second time was the charm. Today, I am proud to say I am a CLSA!

As an added bonus, I also received the promotion I was pursuing and now I am a Principal Instructor with Pega Academy.

Lessons Learned

Don’t rush it. Take the time to complete all the prerequisite courses. Complete every lesson of every course thoroughly and methodically. Take the time to complete every exercise; don’t just review the solution. If you don’t do the work of completing the exercise yourself, you’re simply not learning. Spend the recommended time practicing and reinforcing CSA and CSSA foundational skills in the field. Complete at least two, but ideally three or more, real-world Pega projects before enrolling in the CLSA immersion program.

Don’t take shortcuts; complete every assignment. While taking the CLSA Immersion Course, challenge yourself to complete every exercise and every assignment. Don’t just read the instructions and then review the solution. Again, if you don’t do the work of completing the exercise yourself, you’re simply not learning.

Don’t spin your wheels when working on the Application Build. It’s more important to have a fully functional end-to-end solution that at least acknowledges every requirement, even if they are not all perfectly implemented, than to have only half a solution with only fifty percent of the requirements implemented perfectly.

Don’t skimp on the design-only questions. They are worth twenty percent of your grade, so you should devote about twenty percent of your build effort to answering them effectively. That’s almost one and a half days out of the seven days allocated to the entire build effort. Also, be sure to actually answer the questions. Don’t waste your time writing an application document. Pega has an excellent Document Wizard that the person grading your build can use to produce a complete Application Document if necessary.

Review each question carefully and then answer it thoughtfully.

Here’s a helpful tip: when answering a design question, describe what you’re going to say (a short overview), say what you need to say (the detail), then recap what you said (a summary). If the question asks you to provide viable alternatives, make sure you do so, and then describe the pros and cons of your recommended approach compared to the alternative(s).

Are you preparing to take the CLSA exam? Connect with other students in our community.

Best of luck!

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