TrailheaDX

I just got back (i.e. took a 5 minute bus ride home) from the first ever Salesforce developer conference, TrailheaDX! Just wanted to share my thoughts and help anyone who missed it feel like they were part of the experience as well!

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I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first signed up for the conference as details were a little hard to come by. I entered with an open mind and right away identified the forest, or “Trail” theme that was present (TrailheaDX get it?). There was also a pretty sweet Dev Zone setup similar to what you’d find at Dreamforce with a very “Developer” theme present! There were a bunch of great demos available including one of my favorites on IoT from Josh Birk (@joshbirk). There was also one by Christophe Coenraets (@ccoenraets) on Bot integration, the #AwesomeAdmin team on Process Builder, and some partner demos including Amazon Web Services, Slack, and Microsoft. Normally I tend to stay away from sponsor booths unless I’m interested in the swag but I actually sought some of them out to see some of the cool stuff they were demoing. There was something for every type of developer regardless of whether you focus on declarative development, programmatic development, or sit somewhere in the middle. I stuck to more of the code focused development but there were options for all.

Keynotes

There were some exciting pre-keynote talks with the always entertaining hosts Peter Coffee and Leah McGowan-Hare. They interviewed Salesforce customers and employees such as Mary Scotton, Samantha Ready, and Chris Duarte! Sam mentioned the new Trailhead Superbadge feature that is now available!

There was also a surprise live appearance by the Salesforce MVP parody band, Apex & The Limits (@ApexNTheLimits)! It was their first time presenting live all together and they did an amazing job. Check out the footage captured by Salesforce founders Marc Benioff and Parker Harris!

The keynote itself got the conference started with a bunch of demos including showing off some IoT demos with Thunder, MetaMind, Lightning App Builder, and Lightning Components. The Summer ‘16 release was looked at and the Winter ‘17 roadmap preview was talked about as well! Both Marc Benioff and Parker Harris made appearances as well as Alex Dayon, Shawna Wolverton, Adam Seligman, and Sarah Franklin. Marc made an announcement of a $50M incubator that Salesforce has created to support innovators in the community who want to build apps with Salesforce. There were also 130 viewing parties all over the world that took part and got to say hi to the conference via webcam!

I was fortunate enough to be asked to participate in the intro video and even made it into one of the keynote slides 🙂

Check out some more keynote details here!

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Sessions

Regardless of what type of developer you were, there were some sessions for you! True to the Trail theme, there were some campfire sessions to have some more intimate discussions. I happened to attend a pretty cool one on Inclusion in Tech with Mary Scotton (@rockchick322004)! Highlights from that discussion below. Unfortunately due to capacity, I wasn’t able to get into a couple of the other campfire sessions as they were first come first served and I didn’t get there early enough. I also missed out on a building bots hands-on training since they didn’t want to violate the fire codes. Understandable but I was a little disappointed about missing that one (fortunately the workshop was posted online!).

In terms of some more traditional sessions, there were a wide array of those as well! I saw several sessions on the agenda regarding Introduction to Apex and others on Advanced Process Builder for the more declarative oriented developers. Being more interested in the coding side, I attended two different sessions on the Lightning Component Framework, the first of which talked about how XML and CSS fit in and the second one discussed where JavaScript and Apex came into play. It definitely helped me understand a bit better how all the puzzle pieces fit together and was a nice refresher on some of the object oriented principles baked into the framework.

On Day 2, I attended a pretty sweet session with Christophe Coenraets (@ccoenraets) where he talked about how bots are becoming the new apps and showed off some bot integrations with Salesforce to Slack, Facebook Messenger, and the Amazon Echo. Even more amazing, you can download all the code and more as a package from this site here and recreate the demos yourself! This was probably one of my favorite sessions I’ve ever at a conference and I’m very excited to start playing around!

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Force Bot

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Trailhead Bot

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Diving even deeper into the programmatic capabilities, a couple of engineers decided to recreate the demos using the React JS framework. Unfortunately I’m not the greatest when it comes to JavaScript so while I was able to follow along at a high level, looking at the code there in small chunks didn’t do me a ton of good. Still pretty cool to see some of the capabilities and I’m sure the JS gurus that were in attendance appreciated it!

The last session I went to was a Q&A with the Salesforce Platform team. The team answered questions from several audience members, including a few challenging ones from some of the MVPs, and did their best to convey what was coming (within the bounds of Safe Harbor/Forward Looking Statement guidance of course). They didn’t reveal a ton but did talk about how they’re looking to make changes to the deployment UI (change sets) and also add a bunch of other features. They were only able to say that it’s coming “soon” though.

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Swag and Friends

Outside of the learning and keynotes at Salesforce conferences, I’m always interested in collecting swag and meeting up with friends from the community that I mostly only know through Twitter. At TrailheaDX, I was able to do both! I came away with a sweet new water bottle and pair of socks for watching a demo and earning a badge while on site, a new backpack, some study materials (including a Lightning Experience Guide, Lightning Components developer guide, and cheat sheets), and a pretty sweet Rubik cube from the CRM Science team.

In terms of friends, I also did pretty well! I got to hangout with the always fun #AwesomeAdmin team, the Developer Relations team, and Team Trailhead from Salesforce, as well as meet a few of the MVPs I had only known virtually, and even snap a few selfies with some of them! I also got to meet Abhilasha Singh who came in all the way from India! Pictured below are me with Misty Jones (@MistyRaeJones) in from Arizona, Jen Wobser in from Arkansas (@crmsalesgem), Abhilasha Singh in from India (@Sweety_abhi), Kristi Guzman in from North Carolina (@KristiForce), and in the last picture Ryan Headley in from Wisconsin (@lifewithryan), Nana Gregg in from Texas (@nanahg3), and Katie McFadden also local to San Francisco (@katiesmcfadden).

There were also a couple of pics in trail gear taken that didn’t have me in them 🙂 Feel free to check those out here!

One More Thing

It wouldn’t be a Salesforce event without a little star power, and this one was no different. We got to watch a show from Lenny Kravitz and a fireside chat with the one and only Steve Wozniak! As an Apple fanboy, I was ecstatic! The concert was pretty awesome and Woz shared some anecdotes about hanging out with Steve Jobs, pulling pranks, his love for technology over business, his thoughts on the current state of technology, some good and bad experiences with recent Apple products, and how far he thought AI would get in the future. I definitely enjoyed hearing him speak and got inspired to go buy his book.

Conclusion

Overall I’d say it was a very successful conference! I’m guessing for next year if Salesforce puts it on again they’ll probably want to pick a bigger location, and I’ll definitely make sure to get in line for the really popular sessions a bit earlier. I got some sweet swag, great networking, learned some more info I can take back to work to help my company, and had a fun time hanging out with people who love Salesforce like I do (#SaaL). Regardless of your flavor of development, TrailheaDX had a place for you. I hope they do put the conference on again next year and I’ll make sure to be in attendance!

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Salesforce Career Paths

Fork in the Road

Now that you know a little about me and a little bit about how awesome Salesforce is, it’s time to discuss a different topic, why did I choose it as a career path (and why you should too!).  While Salesforce is a diverse platform and it is becoming increasingly more difficult to know everything about everything (even certified architects don’t know everything), it does help to have an end goal in mind with regards to where you’d like your career to take you.  Dreamforce, Salesforce’s annual conference, has a place for customers, partners, developers, administrators, salespeople, marketers, executives, and everything in between!  The key is to find your passion and go for it!

Fork in the Road

Chicken or the Egg

When looking for your first Salesforce job, if you’re anything like me and don’t have a ton of experience, you might find it a little intimidating when many positions are looking for at least 2-3 years.  If you do have a little experience, you may run into the issue of employers wanting to see some form of proof that you do in fact know what you’re talking about.  Fortunately, Salesforce has a pretty extensive certification program that is highly recognized across the industry!  Whether you’re new to Salesforce, or a Salesforce vet, it’s always the right time to build your resume and launch yourself further into your Salesforce career.  Certifications were a tremendous boon for me because even though I had limited hands-on experience, by getting trained and getting certified (and learning a ton along the way), I was able to prove that I understood Salesforce well enough to land a great job as a Software Engineer at a rising company in SolarCity.  Since updating my LinkedIn profile to reflect this, I now consistently get messages from recruiters several times a week about potential job offers.  For a taste of the potential that a Salesforce career can take you down, check out this incredible presentation from a self-taught Google engineer, and my personal inspiration David Liu, as well as some top leaders in the Salesforce industry who are on the lookout for talent.  David actually came from a marketing background and much to his own chagrin, used to be a professional email spammer which just goes to show you that no matter where you come from, anyone can learn Salesforce!  With endless opportunities to learn and get certified, there’s no reason why you can’t do both together!

Career Paths

In future posts, I’ll go into some tips I’ve picked up about how to study and achieve some of the certifications but for now I just want to lay out some of the options.  One of the key tenants of Salesforce certifications that isn’t always found among other technical certifications, are the requirements that you stay current.  Salesforce has 3 releases a year where they release usually 100-200 new features and offer maintenance exams to ensure that all of their professionals stay up to date.

Salesforce Administrator

One of the most common paths, and the first one that I would recommend going down, is that of the Salesforce Administrator.  I’ll go into a little bit more about some of what an Administrator does in future posts but for now, think of this person as a superhero who is able to manage the entire Salesforce instance for an organization without writing any code.  Truth be told, there is no one definition as every org is managed slightly different, which makes perfect sense when you think about how every company is managed differently.  Larger orgs sometimes even have an entire team of administrators to take care of their Salesforce instance but there is also a tremendous amount of support out there for the Solo Admins who are managing orgs on their own.  This path contains 2 certifications, the Certified Administrator, and Certified Advanced Administrator.  To get involved on social media with other admins, be sure to follow @salesforceadmns (there’s no ‘i’ in Admin) on Twitter and use the hashtag #AwesomeAdmin!

Awesome Admin

Salesforce Consultant

No matter what path you choose to go down, understanding the power and limitations of being a Salesforce administrator will greatly help you accomplish tasks much quicker on the platform.  Another common path a lot of people choose to go down is that of the Salesforce Consultant.  Generally, people choose to specialize in a particular product such as Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, or Marketing Cloud.  Consultants can span anywhere from independent consulting, to contracting with a specific organization, to working for a consulting firm such as Appirio or Bluewolf.  There are also community launched websites such as CRM Market that allow you to highlight your skills for anyone company looking for some help.  While there is no substitute for experience, your resume and career prospects can be greatly boosted by going after a specialized certification such as Certified Sales Cloud Consultant, Certified Service Cloud Consultant, or a Certified Email or Social Specialist on the Marketing Track.  All of these certifications are independent, although Sales Cloud and Service Cloud require the basic Administrator certification as a prerequisite.

Salesforce App Builder and Salesforce Developer

For those who do like getting a little bit more hands on and building things (such as myself) there is also a certification just for building on the platform, appropriately named Certified Platform App Builder!  Previously known as Force.com Developers, App Builders don’t actually need to know how to write any code, but rather develop using Salesforce’s easy to understand “point-and-click” approach, which is just as it sounds.  What many app builders, and admins for that matter, don’t often realize though, is that while they aren’t directly writing code, they are being exposed to it and indirectly writing it all the time!  As I’ll also discuss in future posts, many of the Salesforce non-coding tools, such as formulas, process builder, workflows, flows, and field API names that non-coders use on an every-day basis provides a great introduction into the world of coding.  

For that reason, the Platform App Builder certification is a great segue into the Platform Developer I and Platform Developer II certifications, which do require the ability to code on the Salesforce platform.  These certifications are a little harder to achieve but from what I’ve heard from recruiters, are definitely worth it (I’m actually going for them soon!).  I’ll highlight these in greater depth in later posts as well, but know for now that those options are out there.  To get involved with this community on Twitter, be sure to follow @SalesforceDevs.

Salesforce Technical Architect

Last but not least, my eventual goal, the coveted Certified Technical Architect certification, of which there are only currently 182 in the world.  This certification is currently undergoing a revamp so not exactly sure what it entails just yet…hopefully we’ll have some fun learning together!  Individuals who hold this certification are considered masters of the platform.  While they may not know EVERYTHING, they’re pretty darn close.  While these are just some guidelines, there are an infinite number of paths that your Salesforce career can take.  I would love to hear about whichever one you choose!

Benefits of Getting Certified

My favorite benefit of getting certified was honestly learning the Salesforce platform!  It’s a lot of fun to dig into and the amount of training material out there is extensive enough for just about anyone to start building their career and proving their worth today!  My next post will actually go in depth about how to do just that!  If you want a sneak peak, it involves trails 🙂

One of the other helpful benefits though, is the ability to make a living off of doing something that can be a lot of fun and is adding 300+ new features every year!  A blog post from Salesforce MVP Ben McCarthy earlier this year outlines some of these sample salaries that the market is currently offering.  A sample of 70+ people from the Denver user group put together by Salesforce MVP Brent Downey also showed that the market will pay very well for Salesforce certifications.  While just a small sample size, hopefully it gives you an idea of how lucrative (and amazingly fun of course) a Salesforce career can be! For the latest info on the certification program, be sure to follow @SalesforceU on Twitter. 

Salesforce Salaries

Conclusion (TLDR)

Salesforce offers an infinite number of paths that you can take on your way to a successful, fun, and lucrative career.  While many choose to go down the Admin, Consultant, Developer, or Architect route, the truth is that even those who identify with one of these, often identify with several (myself included).  It’s also not uncommon to wear many hats and do several of these at the same time!  This year alone, I’ve generally considered myself a developer, while also wearing the hat of an administrator, and doing some consulting work on the side.  This post was a little on the long side and there was a lot of information but hopefully you’re wondering where and how to get started!  I’ll promise you that you can start today and it’s completely free and I’ll go into greater detail on exactly how next time…