Learning Salesforce Before Trailhead

It was the year 2 BT (Before Trailhead), circa fall 2012 when my journey toward the Developer-side began. I was branching over to the “core” from a marketing focused role and looking for a starting point that suited my preference to learn by doing when I got some great advice from multiple members in the community, “use the Force.com Fundamentals book if you want to learn how to use the Platform.” Learn by doing for the win!

My first reaction was, ‘I’m not a coder.’ However, I was reassured that with Salesforce, you don’t have to code to build something on the Platform. Quick public service announcement: There are times when code is necessary. Those who know what they’re doing with code are invaluable so please, NEVER take them for granted. Now that we got that out of the way, let’s continue…

Getting Hands-On

Force.com Fundamentals

I had already tried and failed to “learn Salesforce” and pass the admin certification just by studying without practical application of the content. I even tried to cram with a course, but there wasn’t much, if any hands on work in that particular class. I found my groove when I switched my focus to the Developer track and picked up an actual book made of paper and ink at a local event. If you attend Dreamforce or another event, you can still find one to take home, order a hard copy online or simply use the HTML and PDF version respectively. For safe measure I followed that up with spin through the Force.com Workbook which is another good resource that is best consumed by following along in your Developer Edition org.

Some of the many badges available on Trailhead

While these sources might not be as entertaining as learning on Trailhead, it was extremely interesting because of their tell, show and do methodology. If you need to humor and bite size chunks of material, then start with Trailhead. It’s a lot of fun and you might forget you’re learning something new! They hold contests multiple times a year for prizes (I won when I completed the Battle Station Trail) and miraculously made getting the key information out Release Notes bearable with their Release Notes Trails.

The key for me is the hands-on experience. The Developer Community helped me obtain my first Salesforce certification and fed my appetite to continue learning. As of this writing, I have 7 Salesforce certifications. I would not be where I am now if I was not introduced to the Developer track. Like the rest of this community, I love creating things. It’s why LEGO is so much fun and a great excuse to have kids.

Make it Personal

One of my favorite accomplishments on the platform, Babyforce 2.0 was inspired by the birth of my youngest child and my friend, everyone’s favorite wizard, Brian Kwong who created 1.0 (Pre-Salesforce1). I created an app for the “fun” purpose of tracking diapers, wipes and a silly excuse to build it mobile first. I created a fully functional and mobile app without a single line of code and even ran a pilot with my wife who graciously tolerated my antics for a month while I tracked diaper changes. She even let me install Salesforce1 on her phone and used it for a few days. My advice, build something for yourself. The content will be more interesting and at the end, you could have a pretty awesome app to call your own.

Babyforce Dashboard

Meet and Greet the Community

What I love most about this community is the accessibility to information and opportunities for hands-on learning. Whether you do it all online or balance it with attending live events like your local Developer Group, people are willing to point you in the right direction as long as you’re willing to roll your sleeves up and take action. Hands-on application is a common component of Developer Groups. In North Carolina, where I co-lead a group, we coordinate with other groups in our region for a “super group” meetup on an annual basis where we get together for a whole day of learning, networking and fun.

Super Developer Group Meetup

The Bottom Line

If you want to learn Salesforce, there’s no better place to start than the Developer Community. You don’t have to be coder to start. If you want to code, great, you can learn. If you don’t, that’s fine too. Either way, you must “do or do not, there is not try” — Yoda. Developing on Salesforce can only be learned by doing so might as well have fun doing it. Jump on Trailhead. Join your local group (my bias strongly recommends this last one). Connect with other Developers, both aspiring and seasoned veterans. You’ll have plenty of time to bury yourself developing on your own, but you’ll have more fun and support when you stumble upon a tricky trigger or bug. There’s even an e-book from the Salesforce Developer team help you get started. What are you waiting for?