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The UV Video Podcast | Recursive Business #12: Armando Fimbres on the UV UniVersity

The UV Video Podcast | Recursive Business:

Today, United Virtualities’ chief wordsmith Morgan Friedman is called into the Dean’s office to have a word with Armando Fimbres, head of our UV UniVersity, about the operations of developing promising talent, building their experience on Salesforce Commerce Cloud, and stats based on our graduates.

(… If videos are not for you, and you prefer the written word, we’ve got you covered. Check out the transcript of the interview below. Enjoy!)

Morgan Friedman: Hi everyone! Welcome to the latest edition of Recursive Business, the UV podcast. And today I am particularly honored to have the one and only Armando Fimbres here, of the many reasons why I’m excited he’s here, here’s one of them. It was my childhood dream to be an academic professor, dean of the university. I totally failed completely there, never going to happen. Armando is actually achieving that, we had to build our own university to make it happen but now UV UniVersity exists and I am honored to have the man who is the dean and director and the man that makes everything happen at the UV UniVersity. Armando, good to have you here today.

Armando Fimbres: Thanks for inviting me.

<Intro>

MF: Most important question. Is that the University you’re sitting at? Because I love the background, if I were sitting there I wouldn’t be, I’ll be too distracted to study.

AF: It will be great but right now it’s a virtual university, as almost everything else.

MF: As the whole world in 2020 and for the foreseeable future… So how would you summarize the UV UniVersity in just a few sentences? At high level, we’re going to dive in over the next little while. What’s your two sentence logline?

AF: Well it’s the idea to develop talent. To take out freshly graduated engineers and get them into the ecommerce environment, so they learn to develop for ecommerce in different technologies, mainly Salesforce Commerce Cloud.

MF: So we find recently graduated talent, train them in ecommerce technology and, especially Salesforce Commerce Cloud, and then, I think the final part of the process is getting them certified, is that right?

AF: It’s getting them to successfully pass the Salesforce B2C Commerce Cloud developer certification. 

MF: I love it! How long has the UniVersity been around by now?

AF: A little bit over two years. I took over, over a year ago. Last month was my first year in the company so it has been a really nice challenge.

MF: Well, mazel tov on your one-year anniversary! Let’s start with the numbers off the top. Do you happen to remember offhand how many have graduated and passed the Commerce Cloud certification?

AF: Initially there were over 50 students, not all of them made it over. It’s a really tough program. Right now we have 33 graduated and out of those 16 have the certification already.

MF: Approximately half that’s… 

AF: Approximately a half of it, yeah.

MF: That’s a respectable rate! Has it always been the case that since you started that half of everyone who graduates gets certified, or have you had to change the program? I’m curious about what you’ve learned and what you’ve changed, running this for the last year.

AF: It was really a challenge because the first ones that went to certification, out of 5 just 1 got certified. So it was a really high failure rate. The exam is really tough. It’s not an easy exam, you need to remember a lot of things on the top of your mind so it’s really a tough exam; it’s not easy. But then we started to learn from those experiences. And we sent a second round and we got again a 20% success rate, so we needed to see what was happening. So we started to dig into what’s going on, what has been done right, what has been done wrong, get lessons learned, and from there get another round of certifications. That went from 20% to 50% success and the next round went to 50% to 75%-80%, depending on the number of people (the rating goes up and down) but that usually if we send the 5 we get around 80% if we think 7-8 it goes a little bit lower depending on that, but the great thing is that on second trial we got to 100% success rate, so…

MF: That’s great!

AF: So that’s what’s the good thing. And last week I wasn’t up on a Salesforce presentation of the new round of certifications for 2021, and one of the Salesforce guys mentioned that around 50% of people that do the first exam do not pass. So it goes a little bit aligned to what we’re seeing, and we’re getting a much higher success rate than that.

MF: Well it’s great that our success rate currently is much higher than the average and it’s wonderful you’ve pulled off being able to increase our success rate so much. Let’s look behind the curtain: can you tell us a little bit at least at a high level about some of the sorts of things you’ve changed that have led to such an increase in the success rate?

AF: One of the things that we learned to identify is that it’s not the same experience to do the things in Salesforce B2C, than having the proper knowledge to pass the exam. Sometimes you may be able to do things that you don’t have on top of your mind. Because in the exam, for example, they ask you “What is the path in Business Manager to do this thing?“ Usually you don’t have that on top of your mind. You go into Business Manager and you look through the menus and you get to do what you need to do. But for the exam you need to be on the mindset that you need to learn the path, and have it on top of your mind. That sort of thing is what helped us to be more successful.

MF: You’re basically arguing that being good at something is different than being able to take a test. That often you’re really good at whatever, you may speak portuguese really really well but when you take a portuguese exam “What’s the second person plus perfect infinitive kind of conjugation?” You’re like “I don’t know”. So one component is not just teaching them about Salesforce B2C Commerce Cloud, but teaching them how to take the exam, is that right? 

AF: Yes, that’s correct. And also the other thing that we integrate is now we do mock exams we try to mimic …

MF: That’s great!

AF: The exams that Salesforce do. We don’t have the questions that they have but we try to do the same kind of questions so they get familiarized with how the questions are asked and we already detected some patterns on how they do the questions and how they put the options on the multiple options questions, so we have some guidelines on how to approach them, and that also helps.

MF: Mock exams always help, especially when there’s pressure and a ticking clock.

AF: Yes.

MF: Another way in order to improve the success rate is to choose carefully who actually takes the exam. So let’s talk about admission to the UV UniVersity. If I want to apply to the UV UniVersity, what does it take to get in?

AF: First of all, an open minded attitude. Because you need to learn a lot of new things and sometimes you need to learn how to do things differently and how you used to do it, because that’s how it needs to be done in an ecommerce environment. Whatever may work with something else may not work with ecommerce. So that kind of open mentality is the first things that we look for in candidates

MF: You know, for all learning if you go into learning anything with a closed mind, it’s hard and sadly one person too many I know in this universe has a mind a bit on the more close side. Is an engineering degree a requirement or do you take anyone that develops?

AF: We usually require the engineering degree because that has all the underlying basis to build on top of. If they don’t have it it will be a little bit more complex. But if they have experience in lieu of a degree we can take it. It’s not mandatory but we have it, that or some kind of experience already developing for web-based…

MF: So it seems like we require either an engineering degree or real world experience developing.

AF: Yes.

MF: Question: is the UV UniVersity only open to Mexicans or…?

AF: Currently we’re focusing on Mexico but i don’t see why it cannot be open to other countries.

MF: I guess as everything is moving more online it makes sense in the future we can recruit people across different geographic boundaries. This is exciting, I almost want to enroll but I have a thing or two on my plate. Tell me about the tough program!

AF: To really understand the Salesforce Commerce Cloud you need to really have a very good understanding of the underlying technologies: HTML, CSS, JavaScript, j Node.js… there is a lot of things there that need to be solid. If not it will be confusing. It is confusing! But if you don’t have that solid knowledge, it will be extremely confusing. We’re challenging the candidates to do it in shorter periods of times.

MF: I like the challenge of getting it shorter and shorter periods to put on the pressure. I’m curious if there are dropouts, people who start an educational program and then don’t finish like most people who say they want to start, end up taking the exam or do a lot of people start and say this is too hard and then just step back?

AF: We had a couple, they’ve said “This is not the path I was looking for for my future”.

MF: Of the people who have finished the program, have most of them gone on afterwards to be employed by UV?

AF: Yes, most, most of them.

MF: So when people finish the program, or when students finish the program, are they required to work for UV? Or can they just learn, get certified and then go off into the wild?

AF: We haven’t had any of those. The focus is to develop talent for the company. Is not mandatory but as far as today, most of the students have keep on going on the company and right now we have a really strong base of developers that have come out of UV UniVersity.

MF: This is great, developing talent not just for the company but for Mexico, like helping educate people, it’s a great mission. To wrap up and conclude, any other stories or final comments or anything about the university that you would like to share?

AF: We continue to evolve, the program that started it is now evolving, get more experienced developers not just ones out of the school but the already experienced developers in some other kind of technologies, to get into ecommerce and Salesforce Commerce Cloud – and not just Salesforce Commerce Cloud, other ecommerce technologies like BigCommerce, Shopify, WordPress… that is also a focus that it’s now growing.

MF: I’m happy it’s growing, happy more people certify it across more platforms and teach many more people about the complexities of ecommerce. This was interesting. I would love to do this again, perhaps in a quarter, in order to hear about any other updates, stories, details, and maybe then you can have a background of a beach to be sitting on.

AF: Okay, I can look for that.

MF: Thank you thank you very much for your time Armando… to be continued.

AF: Thank you very much Morgan.

MF: Bye, everyone!

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