9 Ways to Learn Jira Administration

I’m asked the same question all the time:  How do I learn more about Jira administration so I can be a great admin?  There are a ton of resources available;  you just have to know where to look, to seek them out, and be willing to put in a little time and effort.  Like anything in life, the more you put in, the more you get back.

Here are some ways to increase your Jira admin knowledge:

1. Seek out new opportunities
You’re never finished learning.  I’ve used Jira since 2011 and there’s still plenty I don’t know and new things to learn.   Every time I think I know it all, I humble myself very quickly by reviewing the unanswered questions on the Atlassian Community website.  Look for opportunities to strengthen your knowledge, or learn something new, by trying something new.

Ideas:

  • Pick an unanswered question, research the answer, and document the solution
  • Identify a problem Jira can solve and create a proof of concept
    • Example:  Who’s tracking information in email or spreadsheets?  Show them how to do it better in Jira.
  • Do a side by side comparison of changes between two versions
  • Install an add-on and learn everything you can about how it works
  • Get read only access to the database and learn how information is stored
  • Help a team adopt Jira or improve their processes
  • Set up Jira for a non-profit
  • Try to break Jira (Not in production, of course!)
  • Hold info share sessions and teach others how to solve common problems
  • Thoroughly document a feature
  • Use Jira in different ways
  • Download the Atlassian Plugin SDK and experiment with a plugin tutorial
  • Learn a related skill, like agile principles or server administration

Opportunities are everywhere.  The goal is to stretch your exposure and do different things then you’re already doing.  I’m no DBA but I learned a lot by experimenting with the database!

2. Install your own test environment
Even if your company already has an official test environment, I recommend you have your own personal one.  You need a place to experiment, play, and make mistakes, without impacting others.  It doesn’t have to be expensive or complex.  A $10 instance installed on an old laptop is sufficient.  You’ll stretch your skills and learn a lot by installing, using, maintaining, and upgrading it.

3. Join your local Atlassian User Group
Atlassian Users Groups are where users meet, learn, network, and share best practices.  Members are newbies and veterans who like to “talk shop” about Atlassian software, about Agile development, and about related business topics.  You can network with your peers, share solutions, meet Expert Partners, get special content from Atlassian, and enjoy a beer.  Find a user group near you (or start one) at:  aug.atlassian.com.

I’m an introvert and was new to Jira, but I took a deep breath and started a group.  It helped me learn new things, meet people, and become a contributor in the Atlassian community.

4. Read a book
There are a number of Jira books written by fellow administrators.  My book, the Jira Strategy Admin Workbook helps you set up, clean up, and maintain Jira.  It’s about strategy – not documentation and it’s not version specific.  Check it out and all the companion Jira offerings on Amazon.

5. Take an online training course
I’ve developed quick, 30 minute, online training courses for:  cleaning up custom fields, building workflows for business teams, admin mistakes, and other topics.  Take the courses and earn a certificate to add to your portfolio or resume at:  training.jirastrategy.com.

Atlassian also provides live online training, recorded training, and hands-on team training through Atlassian University.

6. Join the Atlassian Community
The Atlassian online Community is where you find answers, support, and inspiration from other users.  Join with your Atlassian ID at: community.atlassian.com.  Post your question or start a discussion.

There are also a plethora of Jira-themed support and networking groups.  Check out the Strategy for Jira® group on LinkedIn or Facebook.

7. Attend the user conference
Summit is the grand Atlassian event of the year.  With the palpable enthusiasm of the employees, the knowledge of the presenters, and the immense networking opportunities, this is the place to experience all that is Atlassian.  Add the next annual event to your calendar now.  Visit summit.atlassian.com for details.

8. Get certified
Taking an exam or extending your Atlassian Certification is a great way to show your existing skills and learn more through the study process.  I learned things I simply didn’t know and explored parts of the application I hadn’t touched in a while.  The certification experience made me a better Jira Administrator.  I learned so much valuable information earning the “Email in Jira” Skills Badge.

9. Read the documentation
Official product documentation is available at:  jirastrategy.com/link/official-docs.  The documentation includes information for end users and a guide specifically for administrators.  The documentation is categorized up by application type (e.g. Server or Cloud) and also by version.  Make sure you’re reading the correct version!

BONUS!
Watch “The Users’ Community: Your Hidden Treasure and Best Ally” from Fabian Lopez.  Originally given at Summit, this presentation includes all the ways to get involved in the Atlassian community and even specific users to follow!  Lots of fellow users continually post helpful tips, answers, and discussions.

What are other ways to learn more about Jira?  Add your ideas to the “Comments” section below.

How to Extend your Jira Administrator Certification

In my previous How to Study for Jira Administrator Certification article I shared my tips for preparing for and taking the Jira Certification exam.  Now that you’ve passed the exam, you might be asking, what’s next?  The initial exam is only the first step in your Jira learning journey!  You’ll need to take additional exams or skills challenges to keep your certification alive.

After earning the initial certification, Atlassian has two ways to maintain it:  Certified Badges and Skills Badges.  As shown below, for ACP-100, there’s an “Advanced Jira Workflows” (ACB-100) Badge, an “Email in Jira” (ASB-112) Skills Badge, and additional options on the way.

Atlassian Certified Badges and Skills Badges

See the extension options for all certifications in the table at the bottom of: atlassian.com/university/certification

Certification vs Badge vs Skills Badge

As you remember, the initial certification exam is long, moderately expensive, and requires you to physically appear at a testing center.  Not so with the “Advanced Jira Workflows” Badge exam!  You can take it online from your home or office, there are fewer questions, and the test is also less expensive.  For this exam type, you’ll need a reliable internet connection, a web cam, a microphone, and to install required testing software.  An online proctor monitors your movements and biometrics are used for authentication.  But what if your web cam is broken or you have an unsupported Chrome OS laptop?  Simply go back to your local testing center and complete the exam there.

The “Email in Jira” Skills Badge exam is even easier to take!  With this exam format, you watch a webinar, take notes, complete self-study homework, and then take an “online assessment” (quiz).  This exam is non-proctored, has the least amount of questions, and is the lowest price.

“Email in Jira” Skills Badge

I really enjoyed the Skills Badge format and the “Email in Jira” webinar in general!  How often do you connect Jira to a mail server?  For most of us the answer is: once or never!  For me, it was all already setup and functional when I inherited my application.  But I often troubleshoot email related issues, so understanding more about how mail works in the background is very useful.

The webinar told me just how much I didn’t know about Jira email!  For example, did you know Jira will try to send a notification message 10 times?  I didn’t!  As soon as I learned that, I searched for any active service accounts with bogus user email addresses and found many!  I cleaned those up immediately, so Jira wouldn’t try and try and try to send messages to accounts like “former-employee@domain.com” and “blah@blah.com.”  (Shame on the admin that entered the bogus addresses in the first place!)  No more slow mail queue for me!

As a nervous test taker, this “webinar then quiz” format was much easier to accomplish.  I love that I learned new things as part of the certification extension process.  It was training and validation all in one!  I hope Atlassian adds many more badges in this format.  Earning this badge was a very valuable experience – one I’d recommend even if I didn’t need to extend my cert.

Materials

This skills badge includes:

  • an online course delivered by pros Alex Ho (ServiceRocket) and Matt Doar (previously ServiceRocket, now LinkedIn),
  • 4 pages of downloadable questions to consider during the webinar,
  • 2 pages for note taking to compare incoming to outgoing mail, and
  • a 60 minute online quiz.

Note:  You must watch the webinar in its entirety and complete the quiz to earn the badge.

Study Tips

In addition to my original tips, I recommend:

  • read all the available incoming and outgoing email documentation,
  • review the email related settings in your own instance – multiple pages in the Admin > System area, the “Events” admin page, a Notification Scheme, and also end-user, dashboard, and profile features related to “watching”,
  • block off time and block out distractions so you can focus on the webinar content,
  • pause the webinar to answer the provided sample questions, and
  • actually complete the homework – take some time to think about the email problems you’ve experienced and their cause.

Atlassian recommends allowing a half-day to complete the entire process.  The webinar took me a while to complete because I stopped to take notes, answer questions, and play back some sections.  It was worth it and now I feel like I know a lot about Jira email!  There was plenty of time to complete the final quiz.

Final Thought

As always, remember that whether you pass or fail, certifications are a learning process!  If you’ve learned something new from the experience, you’ve already won!

Certified JIRA Administrator
Rachel Wright, Certified JIRA Administrator

ACP-100 Jira Admin

ASB-112 Email in Jira

How to Study for JIRA Administrator Certification

I was ecstatic to participate in the certification beta testing program and become one of the first certified JIRA Administrators!

Atlassian describes their certification as a way to “…enhance your credibility, sharpen your performance, and help you deliver world-class Atlassian experiences to teams everywhere.”  The first step is passing a general scenario-based exam, called “ACP-100.”  Then, you’re eligible to take additional advanced tests to showcase specialized skills and keep your certification current.  The first additional test available is ACP-110: “Advanced JIRA Workflows.”

Experience

Atlassian recommends 2-3 years of JIRA administration experience.  When I took the exam, I had 5.5 years of general JIRA user experience and 3.5 years experience as an administrator.  Even with more than the recommended experience, the exam was challenging.  I believe the year count alone doesn’t equate to “experience”.  There’s a large difference between causal application administration, where you make a project customization every now and then (but JIRA basically runs itself), and deep administration, where you’ve experienced setting up the application from scratch, upgrading it, maintaining it, and are working daily in the administrative portion of the application.  If the majority of your time has been spent as a casual administrator, you’ll need extra learning and preparation time.

How to Study

1. Read everything about the exam on Atlassian’s web site.
Note which JIRA versions the test will cover.

2. Read the entire JIRA Administrator’s Guide for the versions you’ll be tested on.

3. Read the release notes for the versions the test will cover.

4. Visit every page in the application’s admin UI to remind yourself of the settings and capabilities.

5. Read the Atlassian-provided exam study guide and sample questions.
Recommendation:  Approach the JIRA Administrator certification exam topics from multiple angles.  For example, if you have a small organization, with a handful of projects and users, you’ll want to consider how a large organization, with hundreds of projects and thousands of users, would tackle a problem.  If your organization uses the server version, you’ll want to consider how a strategy might differ in the cloud version.  Think of scenarios that don’t apply to your organization but would be common among others.  Think of areas of your application that aren’t setup quite right and how you’d do it better.  It’s not enough to understand your application’s intricacies, you need to understand how JIRA is generally intended to be configured.

Some of the beta testers formed a study group.  We used the exam study guide to write all the questions we thought might be on the test.  Then, we answered each question in detail.  We met once a week for a month to review the content each user added, discuss alternatives, and add additional notes and experiences.  Many of us credit these study sessions as how we passed the test.  Why not form your own study group?

6. Read the JIRA Strategy Admin Workbook.
It’s about what you should do, what you shouldn’t do, and why.  As part of the strategy recommendations, it covers admin concepts.  When I started writing the book, there wasn’t a certification, so I didn’t write it for that purpose. But it does make a great companion to the existing Atlassian documentation and certification study materials.  Read more about the book and its contents at: https://www.jirastrategy.com/contents

7. Visit the testing vendor’s website, as well as the website of the specific testing center, to learn all you can about the test experience.

For example, you’ll need to bring two forms of ID.  You won’t be able to take any belongings into the testing room.  (This includes your wallet, phone, and keys.)

Recommendation:  Bring a pair of earplugs.  They will shield you from potential distractions, like noise from adjoining rooms, your neighbor’s pencil tapping, and typing and mouse clicks that really stand out in an otherwise silent room.

Conclusion

I estimate I spent 10 hours specifically preparing for the exam.  I was very happy to pass, but even if I didn’t, the prep time was valuable.  I learned things I simply didn’t know and explored parts of the application I hadn’t touched in a while.  The certification process as a whole made me a better JIRA Administrator.

JIRA Administrator Certification Earned

Certified JIRA Administrator
Rachel Wright, Certified JIRA Administrator

Today I learned that I passed the JIRA Administrator exam!  It’s pretty neat to be one of the first admins to hold this distinction.

In June 2016, Atlassian launched their JIRA Administrator Certification program.  Atlassian describes their certification as a way to “…enhance your credibility, sharpen your performance, and help you deliver world-class Atlassian experiences to teams everywhere.”  The first step is passing a general scenario-based exam, called “ACP-100.”  Then, you’re eligible to take additional advanced tests to showcase specialized skills and keep your certification current.  The first additional test is ACP-110: “Advanced JIRA Workflows.”

See also:  How to Study for JIRA Administrator Certification