How I Became a Salesforce Developer

What’s the worst that could happen?

I’ll let you in on a secret: I didn’t set out to become a Salesforce developer. It was something I stumbled into, which is the kind of thing that has happened to me a lot in my career.

Some Background

Back in 2008 I was a Java developer with a background in internet systems integration and financial services. I’d spent around 15 months with a startup reselling and providing consultancy services around the Streambase product, now part of TIBCO.

This was around the time of the financial collapse and all of our key prospects were financial institutions or services providers, which led to me looking for another position. Prior to the startup, which was home-based, I’d been commuting to London and was determined to avoid returning to that if I could. After a few weeks of searching, a job involving Java development came up at a local company and after some interviews over the following weeks, I joined BrightGen as a Service Management Consultant looking after a number of Java and Perl systems.

Falling into Salesforce

BrightGen was set up with the intent to focus on Salesforce — we were already partners and users, and implemented and maintained Salesforce for other companies, so there was plenty of material around to start learning, which I began to dabble in as soon as I started.

One of the strategic tasks I was given was to implement some monitoring around the non-Salesforce systems that we looked after, measuring the health and performance of both the applications and the servers that they ran on. I started working on this using the Spring MVC framework, and after a couple of weeks of effort I had a dashboard based on indicative data generated by a simulator.

My Salesforce learning had also progressed during this time, and I was pretty sure that I could build this faster using the Force.com platform, but I didn’t have the budget to build two different versions. Luckily Easter was upon us, which means a four day weekend in the UK. I took a couple of days out of the weekend and not only created the Salesforce application to manage and display the monitoring data, but also integrated with the live systems and was able to demo a complete implementation the first day back, including month on month comparisons and archiving. All in a couple of days. I’d also decided that Salesforce, with a particular focus on Force.com development, was going to be my future.

Enter the Community

The key aspect of developing on any platform in any language is where to go to get help. This is even more important when you are starting out, as you don’t know what you don’t know, so even searching for help isn’t straightforward.

Luckily Salesforce has always had an amazing developer community, and the forums were a rich source of information. So much so that I didn’t post a question for several years, as every time I searched around a particular issue I found an answer. Sometimes from community gurus such as Jeff Douglas, but often from Salesforce employees such as Ron Hess, Jill Wetzler, Dave Carroll or Doug Chasman. The latter is a real bonus in any developer community — participation from those actively involved in developing the underlying technology means that you not only get an answer to a your question, but often details around why things work that way.

Giving Back

While I hadn’t posted questions, I‘d had a huge amount of help from the forums and I wanted to do my part. So one day, with trembling hands and a racing heart, I posted my first reply to a question. To my surprise, not only was my response not mocked by all and sundry, it actually helped the original poster. The rest, as they say, is history. I branched out from forum replies into blog posts (both on my personal and the official Salesforce Developers blogs!) and ended up writing a book on Visualforce Development.

Things Have only got Better

The Salesforce developer community is now bearing down on 3 million members (2.8 million was the last figure I heard, but its growing every day), and there are more places than ever to get answers.

The two major players are the official Salesforce Developer Forums and Salesforce Stack Exchange. Both of these have their strengths and weaknesses, which I’ve covered before.

The main thing is to use the right tool for the job, rather than sticking to one or the other based on misguided loyalty or a sense of superiority. For example, the Lightning Components team have made it clear that their preferred location for questions is SFSE, so that is where I go. However, when I’m looking for something Trailhead related, I know that the Trailhead Salesforce Developer Forum is where I’ll be able to tap up the right people.

There are also a number of Linked In and Facebook groups. I’m often added to them by the owners, but that’s usually to entice others to start using it rather than because I’ll find it useful. I can’t really speak for the efficacy of these as I don’t use them — I don’t see anything that is compellingly different to the forums or SFSE, so I find they dilute knowledge by simply spreading it into different places. Your mileage may vary.

A mention for Trailhead

No post about how I got started would be complete without a mention for Trailhead. Obviously I didn’t use it, as it wasn’t around in 2008, but it would have saved me so much time. Those of you starting out with Salesforce now don’t know you are born! So make the most of it.

I’m better known in the Salesforce community as Bob Buzzard — Umpteen Certifications, including Technical Architect, 5 x MVP and CTO of BrightGen, a Platinum Cloud Alliance Partner in the United Kingdom.

You can find my (usually) more technical thoughts at the Bob Buzzard Blog

CTO at BrightGen, author Visualforce Development Cookbook, multi Salesforce Developer MVP. Salesforce Certified Technical Architect. I am the one who codes.

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