Updated: Jul 24, 2019
I recently completed SAFe 4 SPC certification with Scaled Agile (June 2019). While preparing for this course I was unable to find authentic student journeys, there were some, but for sure not many to read and reference.
Thus, I wanted to pen one down, in case I am able to attain this knowledge. Thus, keeping my promise to myself, I am writing below what has been my journey to this certification, and I hope that other fellow wanna be SPCs can reference this for clues about what can be expected and how this tricky certifications can be approached. I don't want you to copy it completely, as everyone has their own approach and no approach is right or wrong. Just do and follow one which makes you comfortable.
I have been working on a large portfolio from last three years and only in the last 6 months or so I got serious about certifying my SAFe knowledge as a SPC. After going through the entire process now, I can confirm, I am happy that I started 6 months ago for my preparations. I was referring to the one and only reference, the SAFe framework site itself https://www.scaledagileframework.com
The time when I prepared and took the exam, SAFe framework was at 4.6. It's worth mentioning that this is a bit pricey and demanding certification course. If you are new at Agile, then probably this is not the right one for you at this moment. In my view, knowledge of Lean, common Agile methods (such as Scrum, XP and Kanban) and my business analyst background helped me a lot. As SPC you would be involved in a lot of training and mentoring activity, with Agile Release Trains, Executive Managers etc... Thus, this course might not suit you if training others is not your stronghold.
My Background with Agile, before starting this course:
I have hands on Agile experience for last 7 years. Written user stories, managed road-maps, worked with product owners, hosted program backlog prioritisation sessions, managed scrum teams and retrospectives. I love mentoring and coaching people, which is also one very important aspect why I felt comfortable for this course.
Tools I am comfortable with: JIRA, Version One, Rally, Confluence.
Other Certifications: Agile Trainer with ScrumStudy.
6 Months to exam:
First time I looked at the big picture on the framework site it looked scary. There were certain words which looked familiar with my previous experience, but the overall levels and configurations looked fairly complicated and an overkill. Gave familiar terms a read through and figured out that at the team level things are more or less the same, only adapting a little bit extra. But, one thing was clear, this would take some serious preparation and self study. Decided I should go ahead and set myself a month during which I will attempt the certification. I was considerate that my work timings are also going to pose a challenge, extracting time from Monday to Friday for studies is really tough.
5 Months to exam:
Started reading through the SAFe framework on the Scaled Agile website. Went through the core values of SAFe and the Lean Agile Leadership, SAFe Principles and Essential SAFe. Started looking for the classroom training options. As I was in Hong Kong at that time, started investigating about the best providers. Alas, there were no classroom training options available in Hong Kong. Thus, I have to choose one of the three most favourable options, Singapore, Australia or USA. I chose Singapore class, looked at the trainer profile and actually was satisfied who was hosting the session.
4 Months to exam:
Kept reading through the SAFe framework website and covered topics about DevOps, Team and Technical Agility, covered topics on the Spanning pallet and the roles involved in the essential and program SAFe. Did a lot of reading, mostly on my way back home or during the weekends. The focus here was to get an idea of what is being written in the framework and let my mind seep in all that I can. There were questions coming in my mind during these reading sessions which I kept wither searching for answers or take them down for my face to face training session. Found an amazing resource about DevOps and branching strategy during this time.
Link is here: https://trunkbaseddevelopment.com/
2 months to exam:
I reserved my seat, got the confirmation and planned my travel for Singapore. The excitement of joining the classroom session was building up, but I was still reading continuously. I was not that frequent at this stage, partly due to work and partly due to i would say lack of credible information on search engines. This month I was mainly focussed on Large Solution settings of SAFe.
Just to make sure you know, SPC is a 4 day course. All stakeholders in a Lean-Agile transformation are welcome to attend the course, regardless of experience.
However, the following prerequisites are highly recommended for those who intend to take the SAFe® 4 Program Consultant exam and practice as a Certified SAFe® 4 Program Consultant (SPC):
5+ years of experience in software development, testing, business analysis, product, or project management. 3+ years of experience in Agile. One or more relevant Agile certifications
SAFe Training @ Singapore:
I attended the SAFe training in Singapore from 25th June 2019 till 28th June 2019. The four day sessions were from 0900 till 1800 HRS. The SPC course is split into Leading SAFe and Implementing SAFe topics. The first two days we actually learn everything about Leading SAFe topics. Then in the next two days, there are loads of working sessions and activities during, which actually make the learning very interesting. This is where the pre-read of SAFe framework helped me a lot and I was able to understand the topics very well in the class. You get 30 days to pass the SPC exam from the date of registration. Registration usually happens on the second day of the training.
Each student gets a workbook on the first day, which is very helpful and a lot of questions actually come from the workbook itself. Once you are registered, you get access to the community portal where you get a SPC examination guide which explains how these areas are weighted in the exam. Some chapters have more weightage and carry more questions. Thus please pay attention to this guide. You also get a practice test which is very similar to how the actual exam will be. However, there is no guarantee that if you pass the practice test then you will pass the exam too. Please utilise this duration wisely. Read a lot, both from the workbook and the SAFe Framework website. I cannot divulge into more details about the exam and its pattern, believe me it is a tough one. The questions are tricky and situational. Thus you need to prepare well.
I passed my exam and became a SPC! If you are going to take an SPC exam, good luck! If you are looking for other certifications for SAFe, you can contact me and I would be able to help.