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Introducing Jenkins Certification

Francois Dechery
March 15, 2016
This is a guest post by Francois Dechery, he works at CloudBees managing Customer Engagement/Support, Consulting and Training. He is also leading the Jenkins Certification program at CloudBees which has been discussed in some of our previous (1, 2, 3) governance meetings.

In the IT world, namely in software, "certification" is used in many different ways and for many different purposes. From very simple and light certifications to very heavy and complex ones. In the "light" category you can usually be certified on the basis of a short quiz at the end of an online training. At the other end of the spectrum, certifications are based on a proctored multiple-choice questionnaire-based exam and/or hands-on labs. In some industries, certifications are even more demanding. For instance, to become a Certified Public Accountant in the US, you have to pass a standard examination and, on top of this, each state/jurisdiction has its own set of education and experience requirements that individuals must meet.

Creating the Jenkins certification

When we started our internal discussions at CloudBees regarding a certification program for Jenkins, we were aware of this broad set of certification definitions. Therefore, our first goal was to define what type of certification we wanted to develop and for what purpose. We quickly agreed on the fact that it should be a professional-grade certification, whose purpose would be to provide a professional standard for the Jenkins ecosystem, benefiting both individuals and organizations, thanks to a common, respected and well-known body of knowledge and practice. "Professional" means that you have the expected level of skills and experience in order to leverage them in a professional environment, for example in enterprise projects or as a consultant.

Many members of the CloudBees team have firsthand experience with certification programs developed in other IT ecosystems such as telecoms (Cisco), infrastructure (Microsoft, Red Hat) or business applications (SAP), to name a few. This was definitely the type of professional certification we wanted to bring to Jenkins. We knew it would represent a substantial investment but we also knew that the whole Jenkins ecosystem would benefit. Whether at the overall community or individual level, as well as IT organizations, system integrators or recruiting firms looking for qualified Jenkins personnel.

I have had the privilege to supervise the creation and implementation of the Jenkins Certification Program at CloudBees. The program is comprised of two certifications: "Certified Jenkins Engineer" (CJE) for Jenkins certification, and Certified CloudBees Jenkins Platform Engineer (CCJPE) for certification on the CloudBees Jenkins Platform.

We started by creating a Certification Advisory Board whose members are: Kohsuke Kawaguchi, Jenkins creator and CTO at CloudBees; Harpreet Singh, VP Products at CloudBees; Oliver Gondža, initially representing the Jenkins community; Jason Shawn, senior director DevOps at Ellucian, representing the CloudBees customer constituency; and Jose Alvarez, managing director at Zivra, representing the CloudBees partner ecosystem.

This dedicated group helped us first to create the certification blueprint which defines the main sections of the exam and their relative importance in the overall scoring. This blueprint also provides the high-level table of contents of the certification study guides. They also helped to define the Jenkins Engineer profile that the certification assesses.

With this blueprint in hand, we put together a team of 40 Jenkins subject-matter experts (SMEs), mostly from CloudBees with a few from partners. Together they worked for several months on the creation of hundreds of exam questions, doing iterative peer reviews, filtering out any irrelevant or ambiguous questions and narrowing down the pool of questions to the best questions for each section. All this, plus a thorough analysis and balancing exercise to make sure the level of difficulty was evenly distributed across each section of the exam.

The big lesson from the exam creation experience is that creating a professional-grade exam is hard! And it requires very specific experience. In short, being a subject-matter expert is definitely not enough and we’re glad to have collaborated with Prometric's certification specialists who guided us through this process. The result is definitely worth the effort. Either of the two certifications offered within the Jenkins Certification Program are truly what we would consider "professional-grade certifications."

What does certification get you?

Getting certified means being recognized for your skills and experience as a Jenkins professional. However, like any exam-based recognition, its actual value depends on three criteria: the level of difficulty of the exam, its quality and its integrity.

As far as difficulty is concerned, it is clear that not everyone will pass and that is expected from a professional-grade certification, as mentioned earlier. We have definitely created an exam that is demanding. It does not only measure your theoretical knowledge of Jenkins but also your hands-on practical experience. To ensure its quality, we have applied best-industry practices regarding the exam’s creation and review process, working with certification specialists. It includes the weighing of questions, the distribution of easy, medium and difficult ones, the removal of any ambiguous wording, as well as alpha and beta final test procedures, in order to only keep the most appropriate questions. We are also putting in place a formal maintenance process to capture any "bug" in the exam and adapt the questions to Jenkins evolutions over time. Last but not least, we ensure the exam’s integrity by working with Prometric for the administration of exams. Tests are taken in fully secured and proctored test rooms, without any access to any human or electronic resource and without any doubt about who takes the test. Thanks to Prometric’s hundreds of test centers around the world, this integrity is ensured in any location.

Beyond this external recognition, getting certified is also a process that lets you take a step back from your day-to-day practice of Jenkins and assess your skills and knowledge. You start this reassessment process by reading the Study Guides for the certifications. Then, by taking the test itself, you can identify your strengths and weaknesses in a very practical way. In short, a certification gives you a measurable goal to achieve.

Click here for more information on the Jenkins Certification Program by CloudBees.

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Francois Dechery

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