Here at Brooklyn Data Co., many of our clients opt for Looker as their business intelligence (BI) tool of choice, and we often recommend it as the right BI solution for teams (see what we love most about Looker here). Folks on our team have gotten Looker certified, and clients sometimes ask us if their own data analysts should be getting certified, too. We’ve gained a lot of insight on this front, and our answer is almost always,“Well, it depends.” In this post, we’ll share our thoughts on why you might want to become a certified Looker Developer, who should consider certification, and how to prepare based on your level of experience.
In case you’re unfamiliar with Looker’s certifications, it’s good to know that there are three certifications, and each one “proves competency in a single Looker role”:
This post will focus on our experiences and recommendations around LookML Developer certification.
Why get certified?
Preparing for the LookML Developer certification is a great way to expand your knowledge and skills. You’ll be encouraged to use Looker’s official training material which will give you thoughtful, structured exposure to the nitty gritty details of the platform and LookML. By the time you’re certified you’ll be prepared to leverage Looker’s strengths and give your business stakeholders a better BI experience.
Another reason to get Looker certified is to demonstrate internally that you’re a Looker expert. Whether you’re a consultant or part of an in-house reporting team, having the LookML Developer certificate builds credibility within the team and among business stakeholders. This might even help some developers to demonstrate that you’re ready for greater responsibility.
Lastly, you can use the LookML Developer certification to provide additional evidence of your BI skills on your resume / LinkedIn profile: the certification is a good sign to employers looking to hire folks with these skills. Even if the employer uses another BI platform, your certification means you’ve got the fundamental skills and the potential to pick up their preferred platform.
Who should (and shouldn’t) consider certification?
Data or business analysts working at companies in more mature, formal companies might consider Looker certification as a way to communicate to the team that you’re committed to implement and maintain a Looker instance with excellence at your organization. It’s also a way to show that you’ve got the technical competency to do so!
Folks working at start-ups or in company cultures that don’t place a high value on formal training shouldn’t rush to sign up for the certification exam. Instead, add certification to your personal professional development roadmap and carefully consider the opportunity cost—both time and money—before committing to the test.
One other group that would probably be interested in certification is technical product managers. They can use the certification to demonstrate platform knowledge and build up credibility with their indirect reports.
Business stakeholders, including managers and frontline data consumers, don't think twice: the LookML Developer certification is not for you. This certification is designed for folks who will work with the “behind the scenes” code that builds the foundation for Looker reports. Instead, consider Looker’s free training courses such as Getting Started with Looker and Building Reports in Looker.
You’ve decided to get Looker certified
Based on your level of experience, here’s what we recommend to get yourself ready.
Green in BI
Assumption: you’ve already got solid SQL skills
Don’t worry if Looker is the first BI platform you’re working with, just make sure you set realistic goals and expectations about how long it’ll take to become certified. Looker suggests having 3+ months of experience before taking the exam. This sounds like a good estimate for someone new to BI tools, especially if you’re not dedicated full time to working in Looker. (You’ll probably be ready in less than three months if you’re heads-down focused only on Looker work, though.)
Looker offers an array of free training materials that we recommend leveraging. We also strongly recommend that you have practical experience modeling in LookML and regularly consult Looker’s documentation to refine your knowledge. Ideally, you’ll have end-to-end experience with implementation of a Looker project, so you’ll be ready for the wide range of topics covered by the certification exam. Topics mentioned in Looker’s extensive exam guide include code development, maintenance, troubleshooting, caching policies, and data modeling best practices.
New to Looker but well-versed in other BI tools
- You’ve developed some best practices working with other tools (e.g., Sisense, Mode, Tableau)
- You’re familiar with/adept at analyzing data models and business requirements.
- You’ve received and incorporated many rounds of feedback from business stakeholders on models you’ve worked on.
Experience with other BI platforms should give you a big head start in preparing for Looker certification: having a sense of what the end result of your coding will look like and do will make learning LookML easier.
We still recommend Looker’s free training materials, though you should feel comfortable to skim or skip chapters that cover familiar skills or techniques (e.g., setting up Git branches and resolving merge conflicts).
Also, we still strongly recommend that you have practical experience developing in LookML, although 3+ months is probably more than you’ll need. Somewhere between 4-6 weeks of full-time Looker work is probably enough if you’re a quick learner. Otherwise 8-10 weeks is probably a comfortable range.
Experienced Looker developer
Assumptions: Well versed in other BI tools + you have experience implementing and maintaining multiple Looker projects.
At this point you’ve probably seen and done most of what Looker has to offer. You’ve likely read through dozens of documentation pages (some more than once!), community posts, blog posts, and had a few chats with Looker support.
You’re most likely ready (or almost ready) to take the certification exam. Just take some time to review the exam topics and shore up your knowledge wherever you don’t feel comfortable.
- Timed, online proctored exam
- 100 minutes to answer 65 multiple-choice questions
Level of difficulty
A range between “gimmes” and challenging, detailed questions about LookML and best practices. You’ll definitely want to have practical experience with LookML before attempting the exam.
- Time management is key: set up “checkpoints” (e.g., 50 minutes into the test and at question No. 32) to help pace yourself.
- Don’t spend too much time on just one question: the exam lets you come back to questions you’ve skipped or want to double-check.
The bottom line
We believe there’s value in the Looker certification, but before you decide to sign up for the exam it’s important to consider your role, your company's goals, and your personal + professional goals. Once you sign up, consider your current level of experience and map out your learning to avoid under- or over-preparing for the exam.
Special thanks to Matt Cuba for contributing to this post!
Comparing BI tools and looking for advice? We love chatting data - reach out: email@example.com.