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.

Training Review: Force.com Training on Pluralsight.com

Anyone that reads my blog knows that I am big fan (and regular subscriber) of the Pluralsight training videos. I cannot imagine staying up to date as a programmer without them. At this time, there are only a limited number of courses that cover the Force.com platform (8 to be exact), but I expect new titles will be added very soon. logo-v4

I really think that viewing these courses can be beneficial to anyone studying for the basic or advanced developer certification, or just people working with the Salesforce.com platform in general. These courses can also be valuable to developers (of any platform) that want to determine whether learning more about the Force.com platform is beneficial to them.

Pluralsight offers a free trial that allows you to view 10 days and up to 200 minutes of training. That would allow you to view for free at least one, but maybe two of the courses I describe in this post. Below, I will summarize which courses you should view, depending on where you are coming from and what you are trying to achieve.

First of all, if you only have time to watch one of these courses, I would watch this one:

Force.com Platform: The Big Picture by Don Robins – This is a high-level course that would be very useful for someone brand new to the platform. It is short (1 hours and 24 minutes) and would also be of great interest to experienced developers that have not worked with the platform for long. Robins includes a lot of history about Salesforce and does an excellent job of describing the “Perspective Shift” that is necessary for developers that want to be successful on the platform.

If you are studying for the First-Level Salesforce Developer Exam, I recommend viewing the following course:

Force.com For Developers by Richard Seroter – This is the longest course in the series (5 hours and 47 minutes), but it is also the most thorough. It provides a good overview of the entire platform in a very clear and easy to understand way. Seroter covers many topics that are covered on the 401 Dev exams, such as Reports, Workflows and Approval Processes. He also covers topics on the 501 Advanced Developer Exams, so this course would be good for people studying for that exam as well.

If you are studying for the Second-Level Salesforce Advanced Developer Exam, I recommend viewing the following courses:

Force.com Design Patterns – Part 1 by Adam Purkiss – This course is definitely not for beginners or anyone new to the platform. Purkiss talks about advanced topics such as the use of wrapper classes to get around some of the inherent limitations of SOQL. Some of the code walk-throughs were unpolished and appeared to have not been practiced in advance, but the beginning of each section was very good. My favorite section was the one on Trigger Design Patterns.

Force.com Design Patterns – Part 2 by Adam Purkiss – This course has three distinct segments and I can see the first two (Test Design Patterns and VisualForce Architecture) being especially valuable to anyone pursuing the Advanced Developer Certification. I actually enjoyed this course more than the preceding Part 1, because the examples were more general and the author did not have to waste a lot of time describing how the sample application worked. Purkiss includes many best practices that if you follow will ensure that your code stands the test of time. I really enjoyed the section on how to use Knockout.js to do JavaScript Remoting to create an HTML page that saved custom settings directly to Apex.

Introduction to Visualforce by Matt Lacey – This was my least favorite course, mostly because the speaker had a heavy accent that was hard to understand. He also rushed through the content and the general audio quality of the video was bad. However, the course did provide useful content that would be relevant to anyone studying for the Advanced Developer exam.

If you are an Experienced Software Developer that wants to understand more about the Force.com platform, I recommend viewing the following courses:

Force.com for .NET Developers by Dan Appleman – This course does a very good job of describing the Force.com fundamentals in way that makes sense to .NET developers specifically. Appleman is an experienced author who spent many years creating content for the .NET community, but a few years ago he switched (almost primarily) to working with the Force.com platform. Like myself, Appleman does not dismiss the .NET platform and certainly sees it as still viable, but he also can see the alluring reasons to understand the Force.com platform as well.

Force.com and Apex Fundamentals for Developers by Dan Appleman – Unlike the last course that was specifically designed for .NET developers, this course was designed for developers coming from any platform. It is not a course for people new to programming, but attempts to give experienced software developers a head start to writing “GOOD” code on the Force.com platform. Appleman will tell you about best practices and describe real-world scenarios that only come from hard-earned experience. Most importantly, he covers why design patterns used in other languages do not always apply in Force.com. He focuses on the 4 most important concepts (Execution Context, Use of Static Variables, Limits and Bulk Patterns) that you need to know to start working safely and efficiently in Force.com.

Patterns of Cloud Integration by Richard Seroter – This is NOT a course specifically about Force.com and instead focuses on many technologies that can be used to accomplish integration with cloud applications (on any platform, Force.com included). This course would be of great interest to any technical architects that need to understand to complexities involved with integrating cloud-based applications. Seroter is no doubt an expert in this field and he covers a variety of tools and platforms (such as Biz Talk Server, Windows Azure Service Bus, Mule Cloud Hub and custom code using .NET, node.js, Java, etc) used to integrate Ground to Cloud, Cloud to Cloud, or Cloud to Ground scenarios.

Setting Tab Order – Use TabOrderHint instead of TabIndex

In the last few days, I have been preparing for the Advanced Developer Certification by going page by page through the recommended Salesforce Developers Guide. I was shocked when I received an error trying to save a sample page using the code supplied in the online guide (page 39). The sample page involved setting the tab order for fields in a form and the code referenced an attribute named TabIndex. When I attempted to save the sample page, I got the following error:

Unsupported attribute tabIndex in <apex:inputField> in myPage at line 5 column 56

In my experience so far, Salesforce has been excellent about keeping their docs up to date, but I am afraid this one may have slipped through the cracks. After doing a search through some forums, I discovered that the tabIndex attribute was replaced with a new attribute named tabOrderHInt in Winter 12. So, any code created since then (which is about a year at this point), will not work using the code example supplied in their online Developers Guide.

Updated Podcasts of Apex Training

UPDATE: According to Chris Barry , the instructor in these pod casts, Salesforce has removed them because they are now focusing on new/better low cost training. As soon as I learn more about what that is, I will post about it here.

For anyone studying for the Salesforce Advanced Developer Certification, I strongly suggest you check out the following recently refreshed series of Podcasts posted on ITunes. They are recorded sessions of a fairly recent (from the Spring 2013 time frame) class given by Chris Barry at Salesforce.

There are some differences between the online premier training and the in-class training, but for the most part, you could follow the notes posted on this blog as you watch the Podcasts. Just keep mind that the episode about the Developer Console is very out of date, since the Developer Console has changed dramatically in the Summer release.

On Being a Certified Salesforce Developer

sf_cert_dev_rgbAfter six very intense weeks of study, I finally cemented my status as a Certified Salesforce Developer on March 9, 2013. As a former Microsoft MCSD, MCDBA and MVP, let me just say that Salesforce sure ain’t giving these things away. The test was VERY tricky and reminded me of the certification tests for Microsoft SQL Server (those were not easy either).

The funny part is that if you look at the official logo on the left, one might be led to think that the large slash through Software would indicate this stuff is a piece of cake. That is not exactly the case.

While I will admit that Salesforce has removed many of the complexities associated with software development, such as setting up and maintaining development and database servers, it has not totally done away with software (as their logo might suggest). What they have done is expose to small and mid-level businesses the potential of using some very highly functioning and scalable business applications through their affordable and subscription-based cloud-based platform.

As a software developer with twenty-years of experience building enterprise-level business applications for a variety of industries, adding the expertise of cloud-based development using the Force.com platform was a no-brainer. I simply cannot lose with this certification. The demand for highly-trained cloud-based developers is sky rocketing and I intend to strap myself to the top of that rocket.

In the next few weeks, I will continue my education as I prepare for the Salesforce Advanced Developer Certification. This distinction will be even harder to get, as I need to not only pass a grueling test, but I also need to complete a programming assignment and then defend my programming choices in a proctored essay exam. I feel like at the end of this I will have earned a Salesforce PhD.

I am using the excellent Premier Training available from Salesforce to do most of my training. In the coming weeks, I will be posting notes from the online training in hopes that it benefits anyone else out there trying for this certification. There cannot possibly be too many of us. The better trained other developers are in this field, the easier it is for me to work with them. It is also better for me, because they will be producing good solutions that highlight the platforms enormous potential and create opportunities for EVERYONE!

Please share with me your thoughts about cloud-based development and specifically the Force.com platform. I would love to hear from you.