BA to MCD: How to Successfully Transition from College to a MuleSoft Consultant
In May 2022, I graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU Boulder) with a B.A. in Mathematics and a double minor in Computer Science and Sociology.
This might seem like a counterintuitive mix, but it made perfect sense for me: I’ve always enjoyed problem-solving, analytical thinking, and working with people.
I joined Big Compass as a Consultant and Developer shortly after graduating, and in this blog I’m going to talk about my college career, why I joined Big Compass, and how I prepared for (and earned!) my first MuleSoft certification.
If you’re considering a career in consulting, I hope you can learn a thing or two from my experiences.
Blending My Technical and Interpersonal Skills
I was first introduced to coding in my early math classes at CU Boulder, where I quickly learned how much I enjoyed applying theoretical concepts to real-world problems. From there, I enrolled in Computer Science courses during my second year and soon declared C.S. as one of my minors — it felt like a natural addition to my Mathematics major.
However, while I certainly enjoyed mathematics and the technical side of coding, I also knew that I wanted to build connections and make an impact in the lives of the people around me. So, that’s why I also added a Sociology minor to my studies.
From there, I just needed to find the perfect career for my professional and personal interests. I knew that I needed a career that would allow me to use and refine my technical skills and one that would allow me to interact with other people frequently.
Consulting sounded like the ideal fit because it would allow me to tap into both my technical and interpersonal skills. I could solve problems with code and develop algorithms, all while working with clients to help them meet their business and data-related goals.
Joining the Big Compass Team
Armed with these insights about my professional and personal preferences (and my diploma), I set out to find the right place to start my career. Fortunately, I discovered Big Compass and soon realized that their consulting practice would allow me to use all of my different strengths and skills.
Shortly after joining the team, I set out to tackle my first big professional challenge: Studying for, and earning, my MuleSoft Certified Developer (MCD) Level 1 certification. Fortunately, I was still in “studying and test-taking mode” after graduating college, which made it much easier for me to prepare for and take the MuleSoft Developer certification test.
However, even though I was studying for my MuleSoft certification, I was also working at the same time. This meant I needed to navigate a mindset shift.
Navigating the Transition From College Student to Consultant
In college the value of my work, and my overall performance, was neatly quantified in a grade. Now, I had to apply theories and knowledge to real-world situations. Instead of a grade, the value of my work would be reflected in the success of my team and our projects. My work felt more meaningful, but the switch was definitely nerve-wracking and stressful at times.
That’s why I’m grateful I could study for a new credential and kick off my career at the same time. Training to get my MCD Cert meant that I could simultaneously learn a new technology and gain the confidence and knowledge I needed to be successful with my consulting projects. It was a win-win.
Since the experience of studying for my first MCD cert is still so fresh in my mind, I’d love to share a few helpful tips and tricks for other professionals who hope to earn their first MuleSoft certification.
Studying for the MuleSoft Certified Developer Level 1 Course: My Top Tips
The MuleSoft Certified Developer (MCD) - Level 1 course is a 60-question, 120-minute proctored exam. Anyone who completes the Anypoint Platform Development: Fundamentals course (which I’ll talk about shortly) can attempt the exam twice, at no cost.
When preparing for the exam, these are the tips and techniques that I believe fueled my success.
Master the fundamentals.
First things first, it’s important to understand Java and/or a language like Python or C++. While syntax and functions vary, the underlying logic is similar between each language.
Take the Anypoint Platform Development: Fundamentals (Mule 4) course.
I took the self-paced Anypoint Platform Development: Fundamentals (Mule 4) course. I learned a ton and it was a valuable course; I recommend it to all MCD hopefuls. The self-paced nature of the course allowed me to spend more time on challenging areas and move quickly through other material.
For anyone who prefers more structure and guidance, an instructor-led course is also available. This is a great option if you want to ask questions and interface with the instructor to deepen your understanding. It’s also a solid choice for people who may not have access to an experienced mentor like I did (more on that in a moment).
While studying, be sure to take comprehensive notes.
Note-taking is essential, especially on the video content. Comprehensive notes will make it so much easier to get the most out of the course’s study materials (good thing I still had my note-taking skills from my college days!)
Learn why your solutions work (not just how they work).
It’s also essential to understand the why behind your solutions, not just the how. I found the DIY portions of the course material, which focus on building Mule applications in Anypoint Studio, to be extremely helpful for this part. Each exercise included a list of requirements… but no additional guidance.
This turned out to be a true test of my ability to implement the content I was learning. Note-taking was critical here, too — for each DIY exercise, I wrote down the steps I took and why each one was helpful and/or necessary. Not only was this an effective way to prepare for the exam, but the notes were also a good resource to look back on when developing.
Create diagrams, especially if you're a visual learner.
I’m a visual learner, so I used a large whiteboard to map out processes, flows, and how things worked. Once I felt confident in my understanding, I created further reference documents and diagrams with (even more) notes.
Use the Debugging feature!
This feature makes it easy to step through flows and see how each processor and/or component impacts the data. You should always step through any applications you build, and I also recommend developing your own flows to test your knowledge and debug your code.
Take the practice test… a few times.
Remember that it’s not enough to answer each question correctly — you also need to understand why a certain answer is the correct one, and why others are incorrect. Another handy thought exercise I used is to brainstorm different ways that a question could be asked and what the solution would be to those alternative questions.
Focus on the specifics.
Based on my experience, I recommend that all certification-takers pay extra close attention to some specific areas, including error handling, Payload/Variable/Attribute boundaries, and DataWeave.
Get a mentor, if possible.
I wasn’t on my own for the entirety of the self-taught Anypoint Platform Development: Fundamentals course, though.
I was extremely fortunate to have Jared Mosley’s mentorship as I studied. He’s a MuleSoft Mentor and Lead Consultant at Big Compass, and his help throughout the training was an essential part of my success.
Jared was always available for questions. He also reviewed content with me, shared additional resources, and encouraged me to develop a deep understanding of each solution I developed. Like I mentioned earlier, while the “what” and “how” portions of each solution are important, true expertise comes from understanding the “why”.
Grow your network and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
This is my #1 tip for aspiring consultants. There’s so much to learn when it comes to coding and consulting. Having the right support from people who’ve been in your shoes can be a massive catalyst towards future growth and success.
In fact, I was so inspired by my recent experience that I now feel compelled to mentor others. Now that I’m officially certified as a MuleSoft Developer, I can’t wait to help new developers who want to grow their skills.
Are You Interested in a Consulting Career?
If you’re interested in a career in consulting, consider joining Big Compass. We’re a valued Select MuleSoft partner and sponsor, and all new consultants have the opportunity to become certified, just like I did.
If you want to learn more, don’t hesitate to reach out to me and Emilie Killian (Big Compass Recruiter/Project Coordinator) on LinkedIn. We’re both happy to answer any questions you might have about what it’s like to work at Big Compass. Here are our profiles: