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Noob, fledgling, newbie, fresher, beginner, novice, learner, or it what you will....I had made the big decision to not just "dip my toes" in SucessFactors (SF) Employee Central (EC), but to "dive in" wholeheartedly and pursue certification. This was by no means an easy choice for me!!!!

Briefly, I would describe my HR/HCM experience through the years as “very technical with enough functional knowledge to be dangerous”. Therefore, the very thought of "shifting" over to SF EC was daunting for me to say the least. My perception was that I would be starting fresh and have to forget all that I had learned during my many years of SAP work. Thankfully, I was very wrong. You can read more about the "transition" to EC in my other blog, The Transition to Employee Central from a SAP On-Prem Developer’s Perspective . During my study and training in preparation for my certification exam, I somehow had the presence of mind to keep track of it. I was actually curious just how long it would take to "go from zero to hero" so to speak. (haha) What follows is a chronological journal of my roughly 2 month journey to Employee Central certification...

DISCLAIMER! I am not saying this path is for everyone. I am "one of those" that although I have an end goal in mind, I will also follow side paths for a deeper understanding. For instance, I might be studying "business rules" in Employee Central using the metadata framework, but will see mention of YouCalc rules and want to know "what is YouCalc?", "when/why did SuccessFactors acquire YouCalc?", "what else does YouCalc do?" get the idea. So yes, possibly not all the information I tried to absorb will be useful for you, but it did help me understand the overall bigger picture with topics I was learning.

5/28 through 7/2 ,2015 : openSAP An Introduction to SuccessFactors Solutions (SF1)
I actually LOVE openSAP and take many of their FREE courses. As I was "keeping up" with SuccessFactors from a distance (more in the blog linked above about that), I made a point to at least go through any SF-related courses they offered. These are good for a general understanding of "what" SF is and "how" it works. But at this point, I was not "sold" on SF nor even considered getting certified.

Fast forward a I explained in the blog above, a "weird" series of events happened that led me to make the decision to pursue certification. First, I rolled off a project and did not have another to start into right away. That gave me some “free” time to spend on whatever I liked. Usually this meant reading up on new things coming in SAP, doing coding academy/tutorial sites in other areas like React or Angular 2, or working on other “side” projects for non-SAP related “stuff” I do.Second, while checking out job sites, I noticed that a lot of the newer posting for even on-prem work for things like ESS or MSS or HCM P&F would all list “SuccessFactors Employee Central certification” as a requirement or “nice to have”. This made no sense to me (and still does not), but it defintiely caught my attention. Third (and last), I had two people in the SAP HCM world who I respect a great deal both send me random and independent emails asking if I had considered getting into SuccessFactors yet and that now was as great a time as any. Like I said, I have a great deal of respect for them and knew their advice was not just “marketing” for SuccessFactors. These are people with fairly deep “techy” skills too.

Before I decided to go "all in", as well as spend a good chunk of money (about $3000 USD), I thought it best to do my own due diligence and get advice from others on:

  • the value of certification

  • the market (especially for consultants)

  • the future for SF EC (as best one can speculate)

  • given my background, would EC even be a good/logical fit?

As a SAP Mentor, I am thankful to have access to some of (what I consider) the top experts and professionals in the SuccessFactors space. Many of them should be familiar to you. Being a SAP Mentor by no means gives me "special" access as these are the kind of good people who I am sure would gladly field the same questions and offer up the advice for anyone. In fact, many of them actively blog about these very topics! So over the course of about a week or so, I set up calls and/or exchanged emails with the following:

8/19/2016 11 am: call with luke.marson

8/22/2016 : several emails exchanged with brandon.toombs3

8/23/2016 3 pm: call with ben.marsh3

8/26/2016 8 am: call with jarret.pazahanick

8/26/2016 9:30 am: call with jeremy.masters

ALL of them were extremely helpful and supportive. The take away from each call was "yes Chris, you can do this. Yes, Chris, the market is hot. Yes, Chris, this is a very good time to get in.". That pretty much had me set at that point. I was going to give it my least for the next 2 months or so (as I estimated my training and study would take before I was "exam ready").

During that week, I also knocked out another openSAP course that came up just "in case" I decided to really pursue my certification. I was still a bit on the fence at this time.

8/24/2016: openSAP - Run Simple HR with SuccessFactors Employee Central (SF2)

The first step for me was figuring out "what" I needed to learn. I looked at for the "Employee Central Academy" (THR81) class. I looked at it as well as any/all per-requisites they suggested. I was VERY confused at first. The class showed that it was about $6,000, but there was mention of the SAP Learning Hub but if I checked the EC certification (c_THR81) on the same site, it mentioned the SAP Certification Hub. All these "hubs" and things?!?! I was thoroughly confused. Once I figured out that the $6000 was the "on site" training (ie. me actually going to a classroom for training) and that I could more easily sign up/subscribe to the SAP Learning Hub for online training at my own pace for much cheaper, I then needed to figure out "how" I could get "on" the Learning Hub. (NOTE: There are SEVERAL "dump" sites you might find around the interwebz for the training material and exam prep, but these are largely SCAMS and/or contain outdated material. Be warned and steer VERY clear!)

I looked into Learning Hub and Certification Hub for several days trying to understand what was needed and how to get there. Even the SAP Learning Hub subscription was not cheap...$2,750 (I also found out the basic "discovery" level does NOT give you access to the classes you have to get the "big" one. haha) I read sven.ringling's great blog (SuccessFactors Delta Certification ) about his certification experience and he mentioned possible ways to get a LH subscription at a reduced rate.Per Sven's suggestion, I tried reseller (K2) for LH but they dragged their feet getting back to me. During that "wait", I very luckily found a discount code for TechEd2016 (TechEd 2016 discounts ) and went from there.

8/31/2016 paid for Learning Hub professional subscription ($2,750 USD) but used TechEd2016 discount code and got it for $2,475 an independent consultant, I just considered it an "operational expense".(haha)

It took a while for confirmation and even then when I first went onto the Learning Hub, no content showed for me. Around noon, it finally got sorted out, and I was able to "sign up" for THR81 (EC academy) and all it's suggested prerequisite courses. The real journey was about to begin!!!!

8/31/2016 : started Introduction to SAP SuccessFactors Academy (THR80e)
9/3/2016 : finished Introduction to SAP SuccessFactors Academy (THR80e)
9/3/2016 : took exam for Introduction to SAP SuccessFactors Academy (THR80e) (passed)
9/4/2016 : started/finished Introduction to SAP SuccessFactors Q3 2016 Delta Content
9/4/2016 :
exam for Introduction to SAP SuccessFactors Q3 2016 Delta Content(passed)

On to the next course...

9/5/2016 : started/finished SAP SuccessFactors Meta-Data Framework (MDF) Foundations Academy (THR99e)
9/5/2016 : exam for  SAP SuccessFactors Meta-Data Framework (MDF) Foundations Academy (passed)

And the last prerequisite course....this one I would consider fairly is like the updated version of the old ASAP project methodology. Great info, if you have the time for it.

9/5/2016 :
started SAP Activate for SAP SuccessFactors (HR802e)
9/6/2016 :
finished SAP Activate for SAP SuccessFactors (HR802e)
9/6/2016 : exam for SAP Activate for SAP SuccessFactors (passed)

So now the REAL work started.....the actual academy/exam prep class....

9/6/2016 : started SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central Academy (THR81_EN_Col62)

As I started the class, it mentioned several "hands on" exercises....but I had no SuccessFactors system to utilize. What was I suppose to do??!?! What do others do?!?! Again...this is NOT real clear. I stumbled around and found the SAP Live Access site. From it, you can purchase "time" on a practice/example system. When you sign up/buy time, it will ask you what course it is for. In this way, you get a system all preset for what you will be doing. It is VERY nice....but of course, this was another surprise cost I would have to pay.

9/7/2016 : purchased SAP Live Access "block" of time/contingent (20 hrs for $165 USD)

...and the learning continued....

9/7/2016 : continue class THR81-001 SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central - Introduction

in classes, a few things stand out....

  • what's with these screens?!?! "Save" is a nightmare....scroll here, scroll over, click this, then scroll up a bit and click "save feature", then scroll all the way up and click "save" (the other save?) again....easy!

  • Provisioning screen is a nightmare!!! Is that why they don't want customers on it? (haha)

  • from class material, you should work in Admin Center in one browser (Firefox) and Provisioning in another (Chrome) in order to be logged into both at once. WHAT?!?!?!?

  • Class exercises make no detail in them so you can't try to "figure it out" have to skip right to the solution and follow its steps.

  • Time Off needs better explanation on how the pieces all tie together and how accruals work/determine

  • Global Benefits was really glossed over

9/13/2016 : got email from SAP Learning....they credited me back 2 hours of time lost on my SAP Live Access system when their site was down last Friday..appreciated it...and the FAST response!

9/16/2016 : finished class THR81-001 SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central (THR81_EN_Col62)

9/16/2016 : exam for THR81-001 SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central  (passed - 46/ 48 - grade 96)

9/17 through 9/24 2016 : Out of Country/vacation
What better way to celebrate getting done with the THR81 class than to take a vacation?!?!! (haha) It just worked out that way. I do yearly surfing trip (you read that right) to Costa Rica, and it was during this time. Let me tell you...Employee Central and the exam was probably the farthest thing from my mind that week! (haha)

9/25/2016 : back home...found out that my SAP Live Access account somehow resumed late Frdiay afternoon and then completely ran itself out. WHAT?!?! I had only used 13 hours of the 20 in getting through my course exercises and now all that extra time I had hoped to use in exam prep was gone. Oh well....

Monday and Tuesday after my trip were "vacation recovery" time...and because of that, I totally forgot about Alex White's SAP Learning Hub - Learning Room classes on Monday and Tuesday...DOH!!!

9/28 through 9/30 2016: Alex White / Live Demonstration Sessions/webinars from the LH Learning Room for EC ...these run in 2 week segments from 9 AM till about noon each day....I missed the first week while on vacation, but these were GREAT! Alex goes through the exercises in detail and answers any and all questions thrown at him! Many people do his sessions as they work along on the same unit.

9/30 through 10/6 2016 : started reading the 1602 EC Implementation Guide Q1 2016 (@418 pages / 20 chapters)....I did not have access to the 1608 version at this point....the EC Imp Guide is like your "bible" of EC and makes MUCH more sense after going through the THR81 course than trying to read it first straight away....I spent each day covering about 4 chapters to spread it out.

Around this time, the "new" version of THR81 was released...the "e-learning" version based on 1608. As I took time going through the THR81 the first go around, I was able to get through this one much faster. It was more just to reaffirm what I had learned.

10/10/2016 :
started SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central Academy (THR81e_EN_Col63)
10/11/2016 : continue SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central Academy (THR81e_EN_Col63)
10/11/2016 : exam for SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central Academy (passed - 48/48 - grade 100)

Oddly enough, it finally occurred to me that they questions on the course's "final exam" are just a consolidation of all of the same questions from the end of each unit/lesson. (haha)

10/11/2016 : started/completed SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central Q3 2016 DELTA (THR81D_EN_Col63) (passed exam - 6/6)


10/12/2016 : 6:15 am....up early and did practice exam questions from SAP Training/Certification site for THR81 Q3 2016.....10 all 10 correct!

At this point, I think I heard a deep voice in my head say "It is time...". (haha) So now, I was ready for the certification exam, but "where" do I actually take it?!?!? Again...this was not so straightforward....and again, I found out that SAP has a "thing" for that and this "thing" will cost more money again! I found out that I needed to subscribe to the SAP Certification Hub. The nice part of that is that it gives you up to six certification exams in a year. So maybe EC is just the start? (haha). And also nice enough, I found another "discount" for my subscription!

10/12/2016 :
subscribed to the "Certification Hub" ....$550 but used TechEd2016 discount and it was $467.50

I immediately scheduled my certification exam!!! I was set for Friday 10/21 at 9 AM. It began to feel VERY real at this point.

I spent my time leading up to the exam just going back through everything and re-reading and re-reading.

10/13/2016 :

  • re-read Luke Marson's SCN blog "The SuccessFactors Employee Central Organization Structure" ...and comments!

  • re-read Luke Marson's SCN blog "Extending SuccessFactors with the Metadata Framework"

  • re-read Luke Marson's SCN blog "Rules and Picklists in the SuccessFactors Metadata Framework"

10/14/2016 : re-took all unit and end of lesson exams (THR80 and THR81)

10/17 through 10/20, 2016 : Megan Fife / Live Demonstration Session /webinar  from LH Learning Room for EC covering each module (9am - noon) the sessions from Alex White, this is 2 weeks of daily sessions....where Alex covers the exercises, Megan covers the material in each unit. BOTH were exceptional and I can not stress enough how valuable I think BOTH are. GREAT job by the SAP Learning folks!!!! The classes are fairly can ask questions whenever...and after going through it each day with the same people, it almost becomes a little family....almost(haha) Shout outs to MikeS, AK, Vinoth, Ram, Michael, Efi, and all others for keeping it FUN!!!!

10/17/2016 : read the 1608 EC Implementation Guide Q3 2016  - Employee Central Workflows guide (68 pages)

10/18/2016 : review all of my THR80 notes

10/18/2016 : went through the certification set-up/pre-reqs as suggested from the SAP Certification Hub (and actually did the "system check" each day just to make sure)

  • install Questionmark software

  • ran Questionmark "secure assessment" test

  • ran SAP's Questionmark "Conduct System Test"(failed/hung because no Webcam se up)

  • insure Adobe Flash is enabled and updated

  • set up webcam

  • re-ran SAP system test (all passed)

10/20/2016 : review exam prep questions

10/20/2016 : re-read THR80 notes and skim the EC Imp. Guide 1608

10/21/2016 : EXAM MORNING!!!!

6 AM - redo end of lesson exams / skim 1608 EC Imp Guide

8 AM - took a break

8:45 AM- begins!

From here, I ran into SEVERAL "technical issues" that day. I detailed well as give you tips on how to avoid this blog, Troubleshooting and Tips for SAP Certification Exams via Questionmark Browser.In the end, I had to reschedule 4 times and took the exam finally at 5 PM that day. The proctor was very helpful and we got through all the pre-checks quickly (showing ID, checking your environment/desk/setting, etc). You have 180 minutes to complete the 80 questions. I went through them with 2 hours left. Make no is VERY hard! I was sweating some of the first several questions until I calmed down and told myself "you got know this stuff". Maybe it was just the frustration of the day all building up (haha). So I used the extra time to go back through EVERY question again for a "sanity check" (and actually found I few I had marked wrong so I those trick questions, folks! haha). I was done again after about 15 minutes. I told the proctor via microphone/headset, "I think I am what?". He directed me to submit the exam, and I would know the results directly. Let me tell you, that was one of the hardest web page buttons I have ever clicked! It felt like it weighed a ton! (haha) I clicked I saw  the word "PASSED" appear on screen, the adrenaline shot through my body. I was "on a cloud". It was time to celebrate......oh, and trust me...I did big time!!!! (haha)

: Before you ask/comment below...DO NOT ask me for "example"/sample/practice exam questions. I take the certification very seriously (and you should too!) and want to be proud of what I accomplished and the HARD work I put into it. Therefore, I will NOT give any information about the exam itself to anyone (sorry, Mom). I will also advise you against searching the web for such sites and info (again, as mentioned above, most are scams and/or have outdated information). Also, SAP has been very good about policing this, and from what we were told in Megan's sessions, if they see/find any of the exam question elsewhere online, they are immediately removed and replaced in the exam. The best advice I can give...just STUDY...if you know your stuff, you will do just fine on the exam. Good luck!

So that was my journey....maybe not for everyone....but hopefully it might help others in preparation. For those "playing at home", my final cost was $3,107.50 USD due to discounts ($3,465 if I had no discounts!). Looking back, it was quite a lot to take on in a short time, but the reward in the end seems to have paid off for me. I can now add that one to my resume! And wouldn't you know it...irony as it is....the Monday following the Friday I got certified for SF EC, I started a new on-premise Employee Self-Service project for the next several months. (hahaha) Such is life, I guess. Well, as always, I will keep blogging, if you keep reading them. Till next time....
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