Trailhead + Pluralsight = Successful Salesforce Developer

SFSucess

When I discovered Salesforce in 2011, the best way to learn all about it was to go through the Force.com Workbook, which has now been retired. I want to say the workbook was over 400 pages long and even though it did contain a ton of useful information, it was a bit dry and hard to read.

Fast forward to today and the old retired workbook has been replaced by a much improved source of information in the form of Trailhead. Trailhead uses the phrase, “The fun way to learn Salesforce” and they sure aren’t exaggerating.

Since it began in late 2014, Trailhead has grown quite a bit and just recently got it’s biggest update, which you can learn about here. If you are a developer that is interested in learning more about Salesforce, this is the way to go. Not only is the content free, but it is top quality. It is a GREAT, and as they say “fun” way to get introduced to any Salesforce related topic.

If you are interested in learning about Lightning (and who doesn’t want to learn more about Lightning?), and you are new to Lightning, check out:

And if you are already comfortable with the basics of Lightning and looking for something a little more challenging, then check out the following brand new modules:

But don’t stop with Trailhead. If you are really interested in becoming a Salesforce Ninja and earning a 6 figure income, then you need a subscription to Pluralsight too. I know developers tend to shy away from paying for anything, but the low cost of a Pluralsight subscription is more than worth it. And after all, if you are earning a 6 figure income, the low cost of a monthly subscription is nothing really.

The quality of the content on Pluralsight is unmatched by none. I know this because before I became a Pluralsight author, I produced courses/books for other vendors and none of them come close to Pluralsight. No one does more to ensure their authors will be successful and produce unique, quality content like Pluralsight. Period!!!

Also, as great as Trailhead is, it usually is only a starting point. It tells you the most important things you need to know, but tends to skip over a lot of the details. This is part of what makes it fun, but sometimes the details are good to know. Especially if you want to become a Salesforce Ninja, like I know you do. Well that is where the Pluralsight courses will come into play.

I know my two courses on Lightning, which you can find here, are loaded full of details that you will find no where else. The kind of details you get from blood, sweat and tears. From banging your head on the desk for hours before you finally figured out how something worked (NOTE: While I have not literally hit my head on the desk, I have certainly considered it enough).

And besides my two glorious Lightning courses, there are a bunch more about Salesforce (with more coming out everyday). In particular, I recommend:

Trailheads New Data Integration Specialist Superbadge is Super Fun!

trailhead_superbadge_data_integrationI recently had the fortunate opportunity to provide early testing and feedback for the latest Superbadge released by Salesforce’s Trailhead. This one covers all the different aspects of being a data integration specialist. This includes being able to configure both inbound and outbound security, being able to synchronize Salesforce data with external systems, and creating test Apex classes to do both Apex REST and SOAP callouts.

Even though I have done quite a bit of data integration work over the years (both with Salesforce and .NET), I admittedly had not done much with it in the past two years, so I figured this might be a bit of a challenge.

It sure was a challenge, but in a very good way I think. And, it was actually fun! Yeah, right, fun I said.

The superbadge is not like any of the other trailheads you may have completed in the past. This special superbadge is designed to test how well you really grasped the underlying material and not just walk you through yet another predictable tutorial. It is also based on real-world type scenarios, similar to what you would encounter in your development job.

This particular superbadge requires that you to complete 4 other Trailhead badges as pre-requisites before you can even attempt the badge. The other badges will give you the knowledge that you need, but the challenges in the superbadge will only offer you business requirements. You will be asked to complete 9 different challenges that will really confirm you know the material well. You will even be asked to apply best practices when applicable.

What is so fun about it, is that it forces you to think though the scenarios and not just repeat a bunch of steps. If you are a developer like me, then you actually like this type of challenge, You probably also like crossword puzzles and mind teasers too, I’m guessing

So, I challenge anyone with no to a lot of experience with Salesforce data integration to check out this newly available superbadge and let me know what you think. I bet you will love it just as much as I did.

Passed the Salesforce Platform Developer I and II Transition Exam!!!

Woo Hoo!!!!

I am VERY happy to announce that yesterday I passed the Salesforce Platform Developer I and II transition exam. This exam is offered to Advanced Developers that want to take an easy path to getting their Platform Developer certs.

But, that does not mean this test is easy. The questions are scenario based (as you would expect) and do not test whether you memorized the material, but rather whether you “know” it like the back of you hand.

There are only 16 questions and you have 30 minutes to complete the test. That makes it a bit nerve racking in my opinion.

The official study guide lists the main areas you need to focus on for the test and I would say that is a pretty good start. The list consists of the following:

According to Official Study Guide

  • Describe the capabilities of base-system objects such as sharing objects, history objects, metadata objects, multi-currency, and Chatter objects.  
  • Describe the different capabilities of and use cases for the various Salesforce development platforms (Heroku, Fuel, Force.com).  
  • Describe how to design code that accommodates multi-language, multi-currency, multi-locale considerations.  
  • Describe the implications of compound data types in Apex programming.  
  • Describe the interactions between Visualforce/Apex with Flow/Lightning Process Builder.  
  • Given a scenario, describe when and how to use Apex managed sharing.  
  • Describe the use cases for the various authentication techniques.  
  • Given a set of requirements, describe the process for designing Lightning components.  
  • Describe the common performance issues for user interfaces and the techniques to mitigate them.  
  • Describe how to expose Apex classes as SOAP and REST web services.  
  • Describe how to use system classes to integrate with SOAP- or REST-based web services.  
  • Describe when and how to use metadata, streaming, and Analytics API to enhance Apex and Visualforce solutions.  
  • Given a scenario, identify the appropriate tool to analyze application performance profiles and troubleshoot data and performance issues.

I would add to this list some other areas that I suggest you also concentrate on:

  • @InvocableMethod and @InvocableVariable versus ProcessPlugin interface
  • Querying the PermissionSet
  • Using Developer Console to debug an app (especially checkpoints)
  • Using Webservice keyword and considerations
  • Querying based on the Currency field 
  • How to register certificates
  • Apex Managed Sharing considerations

Just to give you an idea, I spent about 3 weeks and over 20 hours studying for the exam. Even though I work with Salesforce development everyday, the exam does cover topics that I do not necessarily deal with on a daily basis, so I would suggest you spend some time reviewing the topics listed above.

Good luck on the test and let me know how you did.

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Why Every Salesforce Developer should be using Trailhead

I have recently been using Trailhead to help me study for an upcoming exam and I have been incredibly impressed with how good it is. I have already posted about the Trailhead modules that cover new material, such as Lightning, but what I was surprised about was how useful it was for reviewing material that I thought I already knew pretty well.

Trailhead is definitely not exhaustive in it’s coverage, but what I like most about the modules is that they go over just the stuff you really need to know. And most importantly, they go over best practices. There are so many examples of inefficient and just plain bad code out there (even on some of the Salesforce sites I hate to say). The text and challenges in the Trailhead modules were well thought out and it is obvious they put a lot of time into developing them. It still Trailheadsurprises me that something this good is free, but fortunately for us, it is.

If you are preparing for one of the Certified Developer tracks, you really need to check out the Developer Trail. It covers a lot of what goes into the exams and the progressively harder challenges really solidify what you just learned. Unlike tutorials that you can just follow in your sleep, the challenges tell you to do something, but not how to do it. And, if you do not do it exactly right, you do not get the points. You actually have to THINK about what you are doing and this is absolutely the best way to learn.

And if you are a certified developer who has been doing this for several years, there is still stuff for you to learn, even when it comes to best practices. As we all know, this platform is changing constantly and that means that so are best practices.

And honestly, it is just fun seeing yourself rack up the points. I really like the WooHoo I get at the end of the challenge. I am proud to say I have 5 badges and over 12,000 points so far (with more to come). How many will you get?

I am officially a Salesforce Advanced Developer!

As Peter Chitum suggests in his well read article, The Path to the Advanced Developer Certification, when you do finally pass this arduous certification process you should, “Say it loud, say it proud“….cert_dev_adv_rgb

So, I am happy to announce that today I was informed that I have Passed the Advanced Developer Assignment and I am officially an Advanced Developer.  YEAH!!!!

It took me one year longer than I expected, but it was very much worth the wait…and all the fuss. Actually, I am glad it was so hard to get. It makes getting it more worthwhile.

Several years ago, I went through both the Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD) and Microsoft Database Administrator (MCDBA) certification tracks, which were also long and exhausting. But, I have to say that I am a little prouder to have achieved this latest Salesforce certification. Even though the number of exams was less, I felt like the one Advanced Developer exam I did take was much more exhaustive in what it tested. I also was never tested with a programming assignment, which ensured that I followed best practices.

I also have to admit that I spent a lot more than the suggested 20 hours on my assignment (60 hours to be exact), but that is just because it was so important to me that I passed. I agonized over everything and questioned myself a hundred times. Glad I did now. I also dedicated an entire week towards doing it (with no other distractions). I think that helped a lot and I would suggest it to anyone else taking the exam (if you have that option).

Good luck to anyone else working the track. Stick with it and read, read, read…

 

Salesforce Developer Spotlight: Michael Welburn

This is the third in a new series of posts that will spotlight one Developer who has successfully transitioned to Salesforce. The people in these posts were interviewed in order to share their transition experiences with other developers. This information was used as part of a Dreamforce 2014 session titled, “Career Strategies for Developers Transitioning to Salesforce“.

Michael Welburn, Developer/Consultant at 7Summits  michaelwelburn

Michael completed the Salesforce Advanced Developer Certification back in January of this year and has a lot of great advice to share with others wanting to follow his path. Formerly a Java developer, Michael was thrown into the world of Salesforce development very suddenly when his company assigned him his first Salesforce project. Even though his Java background helped a bit, he learned a lot of lessons through trial and error.

I am grateful he took time out of his very busy schedule to complete my interview. I think we can all learn a lot from each other.

Can you tell me a little about your background and the type of development you were doing prior to learning about Salesforce?

I graduated from University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign with a degree in Computer Engineering. I spent the next ~3-4 years doing a lot on the Java stack consulting on Documentum projects. Lots of Java, JSP, Tomcat, SQL/Oracle.

What was your main transition approach, or was your transition very sudden?

My company was starting a Salesforce practice and the first project (a single VF page and class) needed to get done. I was unbillable, so I got roped in without any idea what Salesforce was. Having a Java background helped quite a bit on the Apex side, but I ran into a lot of problems dealing with things like governor limits that blindsided me. Mostly I just fought my way through whatever tasks were tossed on my plate, learning what not to do and best practices as I went.

Did you pursue any certifications? Did you take any online or in-person classes? What other types of training did you do to learn about Salesforce?

I picked up the Dev 401 shortly after starting, which studying for helped demystify a lot of the platform. About a year later I started work at another company that was all for certifications, and I had some down time, so I cranked out Admin, Advanced Admin, Sales Cloud, and Service Cloud in a month. I found that working on a lot of smaller engagements over that year helped me be extremely prepared for those tests with minimal amount of studying. Then last fall I decided it was time to take Adv Dev 501. I felt pretty prepared, though there was a handful of material I had simply never used on my projects, and studying for that opened my eyes to a bunch of new ways of accomplishing things that I’ve integrated into my toolkit.

What are some of your favorite online resources for learning? Do you have any favorite blogs that you follow?

The Salesforce documentation is my #1 google result, looking for objects and fields. I subscribe to a handful of Force.com MVP blogs, particularly enjoying what Reid Carlberg, Jeff Douglas and Matt Welch have put out in regards to taking the platform to new limits.

Did you get any advice from other developers and if so what was the most helpful?

Unfortunately I was in a position where I did not know any other person developing on Salesforce, nor had any coworkers developing, for almost a year. I had to self teach myself pretty much everything (and I did not realize the depth of content available on the internet for that same amount of time). I’m glad that I discovered a lot of best practices via my own trial and error, but having some coworkers on the platform, or even reaching out on #askforce on twitter or the salesforce stackexchange site makes solving problems far easier.

What are you doing now and how did everything you do prepare you for it?

I’m a Technical Architect at 7Summits, helping build out their Salesforce practice that is particularly focused on creating online experiences to transform businesses. It is really exciting to see the UX/UI team that we have build awesome front ends on top of the Salesforce platform, and time and again the people I work with tell me how shocked they are that the backend work can be done so fast.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently in your transition approach?

I would have spent a little more time trying to find helpful resources before punishing myself with trial and error, and I would have made more of an effort to find other developers working on the platform to bounce ideas off of. I have a hard time remembering what the ecosystem was like back in 2011, but the last couple years it has really exploded on the internet, to the point where there is always someone willing to help out on a variety of websites.

Anything else you want to add that you think would be helpful to developers transitioning?

Pay attention to the best practices that are documented, you will see them ALL. THE. TIME. https://developer.salesforce.com/page/Apex_Code_Best_Practices The workbooks that Salesforce provides for Force.com, Apex, and VF are also extremely helpful. https://developer.salesforce.com/page/Force.com_workbook Beyond that, just get your hands dirty in a dev org!

Salesforce Developer Spotlight: Jason Hammerle

This is the first in a new series of posts that will spotlight one Developer who has successfully transitioned to Salesforce. The people in these posts were interviewed in order to share their transition experiences with other developers. This information was used as part of a Dreamforce 2014 session titled, “Career Strategies for Developers Transitioning to Salesforce“.

JasonHammerleJason Hammerle

Salesforce Architect for Cameleon Software, a PROS company

Jason, who recently passed the DEV501 certification test, has been working with Salesforce for the past two years. But Jason is no newcomer to software development. He has been a professional software developer since 1994, when he began his career as a computer programmer at NASA. It was there that he developed a C++ and X-Windows application used to plan Space Station and Shuttle missions. You can read more about his programming background here.

Jason has worked with many technologies and platforms over the years, but it was his exposure to a Dreamforce session one year ago that ignited a certain spark in him. The following are Jason’s own words about what led him to becoming a Salesforce Developer and why he likes it so much:

What was your main transition approach, or was your transition very sudden?

It was very sudden and exactly one year ago.  I had just taken a HOT session and I was sitting on a bean bag practicing what I learnt in an Interfacing with Salesforce using REST class while listening to 80’s music.  At that moment, I realized why Salesforce was so successful and why I was going to devote the rest of my career to this fantastic platform.  Specifically, Salesforce understood how to make the developer experience very cool and very fun.  We hear a lot about user experience but less about developer experience.  Good software requires good user experience and a good platform requires good developer experience – and Salesforce has the very best.  At that time, I was managing a large salesforce team, a dynamics CRM team, and two cloud teams.  My days were filled with double or triple booked meetings from morning until COB.  I decided in the bean bag that my life was about to change and that I was a developer again.  I took PTO the week after Dreamforce and spent 30 hours developing a Salesforce 1 app to validate my decision.  I have not stopped developing since.

Did you pursue any certifications? Did you take any online or in-person classes? What other types of training did you do to learn about Salesforce?

In the Spring of 2014, I travelled to Dallas TX to attend the DEV401 training class.  A few weeks later, I travelled to Salesforce offices in San Mateo, CA to attend the DEV501 training class.  Both instructors were really great teachers each with their own very unique style.  I passed the DEV401 cert in the Summer of 2014 and I hope to pass the DEV501 cert in Fall of 2014.  After I pass (while I wait for the programming assignment), I intend to purse two more certifications in Sales Cloud and Technical Architect.

 What are some of your favorite online resources for learning? Do you have any favorite blogs that you follow?

We have premier support so I heavily use the partner training portal to prepare for certification exams.  Also, I have a membership with pluralsight and think these video resource are a great way for developers to stay up to date and relevant.  I also follow several blogs like Sara Has No Limits, Bob Buzzard blog, Andy In The Cloud, Force365 – Cloud Architects, The Humble Salesforce Developer, et al.  I also started blogging myself on topics that I practice at work that I think might help others.  Recently, I have been working a lot with metadata api’s and so I probably reference Andy In The Cloud blog the most.  I have a lot of content from my recent experience that I would very much like to blog about when I can find the time.

Did you get any advice from other developers and if so what was the most helpful?

Yes, but it was a very weird situation.  I was managing (and leading) a remote team of very experience Salesforce developers (all in Bolivia) and then swapped roles with a technical lead (in Houston) that wanted to pursue management.  Most of my remote reports were now my peers and it was difficult at first to get advice from them.  Once the other developers saw that I was very serious about changing role – the certification helped – and they realized that I really did want to follow the technical path then they really helped me out.  Two of the Bolivians visited for two weeks.  During this time, they helped me to switch from Eclipse to MavensMate, work with Git and Stash (previously I only worked with Mercurial and other like versioning software), and – most of all – they really really challenged my code.  My years of being a professional developer came back to me very quickly during their visit which really motivated me. 

What are you doing now and how did everything you do prepare you for it?

After the Bolivians visited, we sprinted together for four three-week sprints developing a managed package.  It has been the best 12 weeks of my career by a long shot.  I am really looking forward to working with Salesforce over the long term to really master the platform.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently in your transition approach?

Nope, I would not change a thing about the transition approach.  I use to go to work every day as a manager.  Now, I go to work every day to play with my favorite hobby.  I look at every work day like I would a fun vacation day on the slopes in Telluride or on the beaches in Maui.  I truly love my job and more than that – I love knowing what I am going to be doing for the rest of my career.  There is a clear difference between management and developer.  I liked management but development has always been what I truly love to do.  If I could do parts of my career over again, then I probably would not have gone into management.  With that said, I am a better developer now for it.

Anything else you want to add that you think would be helpful to developers transitioning?

If you already program in Java or C# then the transition will be very easy for you.  If you are a front end developer then your experience would likely be extremely valuable to a Salesforce development team.  And to all other developers (and even managers), you can be a Salesforce developer too by leveraging the great Salesforce training course, Salesforce resources, Success forums, blogs, and the many many people (like Sara) that have already transitioned and really want to help you.  I also very much would like to help anyone that wants to make this transition too.

HUGE Backlog for Registration of the Advanced Developer Programming Assignment

AdvancedDevCertBad news for anyone pursuing the Advanced Developer Certification. There is such a huge backlog, that I was just informed that I will not be able to register for the June, 2014 programming assignment as I had been expecting. Because of the backlog, I will now not be able to register until September, 2014. That sucks and I wanted to share this with you all.

According to Salesforce the following schedule now applies:

  • Candidates who completed the multiple-choice exam prior to December 1, 2013 and have not yet attempted the programming assignment and essay exam will be invited to participate in June, 2014.
  •  Candidates who completed the multiple-choice exam prior to April 1, 2014 and have not yet attempted the programming assignment and essay exam will be invited to participate in September, 2014.
  • Candidates who completed the multiple-choice exam after April 1, 2014 and have not yet attempted the programming assignment and essay exam will be invited to participate in December, 2014.
  • Candidates who have previously attempted the programming assignment will be invited to register for the programming assignment and essay exam in December, 2014, or in earlier windows as capacity is available.

For anyone stressing out about getting through with their multiple choice exam, you might want to factor this news into your preparation.

Sorry to be the bearer of such bad news, but I guess this just goes to prove how valuable this certification is – Salesforce is overwhelmed by the number of people attempting it. Capacity is limited to only 200 people per round.

Finally Passed the Advanced Developer Multiple Choice Exam!!!

This is no April’s Fool joke. Yesterday, I finally passed the Salesforce Advanced Developer Multiple choice exam!!! It was my second attempt. The first attempt was 6 months ago, but I now know that I was not ready then, so it was a good thing that I did not pass.

Back then, I barely knew the material. I thought I knew it because I had memorized it, but that did not mean that I “understood it”. I am now happy to say that I “know” this stuff. I know it like I know the back of my hand. And, that is a VERY good thing, because I now wait to complete the next stage of the process…the dreaded programming assignment.

Unfortunately, I have to wait until the next limited registration period (which is not until June 2). But, I am confident that the skills I have acquired so far will not atrophy before then. If anything, they will just continue to improve.

So, how did I learn this stuff like the back of my hand? I did it by following EVERY suggestion on Forceprepare. I basically did all of the following:

  • Obviously, I memorized all the notes I have posted on this site (but that was just the beginning and was not enough by itself to pass)
  • I watched the entire re-broadcast of the 501 Dev Class (which I posted about here). I took additional notes from that and posted them to this site (still not enough to pass). UPDATE, sorry to say but Salesforce has since removed the re-broadcast links from the 501 class.
  • I watched all of the 8 training videos on Pluralsight (which I posted about here)
  • I watched at least a dozen or more videos from Dreamforce.
  • I read countless blog articles from experts like Jeff Douglas, Matt Lacey, Bob Buzzard, etc
  • I worked through all the code in Bob Buzzards latest book, The Visualforce Development Cookbook (which I reviewed here).
  • I worked through ALL the Workbooks on DeveloperForce (they have been updated recently and they are REALLY GOOD).
  • I read through the entire Developers Guide (and YES, I know it is LONG).
  • The MOST important thing: I played with all the code on my Developer org (which is now packed with best practice code examples).

When I took the test yesterday, it was so easy to me. I could see through all the tricks they had put in. It seemed really obvious to me (which I think will make the programming assignment phase a breeze). Bring it on, I say. I just wish I could do it sooner.

Motivation and Tips for Passing the Force.com Advanced Developer Certification

AdvancedDeveloperCertVideoIf you are currently pursuing or even just thinking about pursuing the Force.com Advanced Developer Certification, I strongly suggest you check out this video. It is a recording of a panel discussion held at the most recent Dreamforce (late 2013), in which 3 people (seen in the image on the left) who have recently passed the Advanced Developer Certification shared their personal stories.

All three of the speakers had very different backgrounds and experiences in which to share. They each explained why they chose to pursue the certification, as well as specifics about how they studied for the exam and prepared for the coding assignment.

I found the third speaker, Barry Hughes, tips to be particularly helpful, which included some of the following:

  • Prepare for the essay exam by keeping notes and commenting your code as you complete the programming assignment.
  • When doing the programming assignment, focus on the functionality and not the visuals or the security
  • Make sure when you do your unit tests, that they include tests for positive, negative, bulk and specific profile scenarios.
  • Schedule the essay exam when you have the development for the programming assignment nearly finished. You do not have to wait until after you submit it.
  • When taking the actual essay exam, DO NOT try to copy and paste answers from one section to another. If you do, the testing software will deliberately erase what you typed and you will have to re-type it all (or madly find a proctor to get it back, as Barry ended up doing).

All of the panelists seemed to agree on the following advice:

  • Practice as much as possible by going through all of the workbooks available to you on DeveloperForce.
  • Take as much time as you can for the programming assignment and start as soon as you receive it. You will only have 4 weeks to complete. It took the panelists an average of 40 – 80 hours to complete the programming assignment and all had to do it in addition to their regular jobs.
  • Focus heavily on creating good test code for your programming assignment.

If you have not already run across this document about the Road to Advanced Developer Certification, I strongly suggest you read it too.