There’s been some noise around Trailhead in the Salesforce community recently, and in an unusual turn of events, not universally positive. Some of the focus has been around the value of large numbers of badges and there’s a some difference of opinion on how Trailhead should be used to get the most out of it. Here’s my two penn’orth (2 cents, if you are reading this across the pond, or insert equivalent saying for your location).

The Bob Buzzard Way

Here’s how I use it, and the reasons why I find my approach to be effective — feel free to ignore, not use, disparage or mock it as you see fit.

In this situation I have two ways to tackle a badge:

First I’ll ask myself, is this a key topic? Getting Started with the Salesforce Platform, for example. This is a resource where everyone that we hire that is new to Salesforce will be directed to, so I’ll go through all of the content and challenges to make sure it’s covering everything that we want and at the appropriate level. Salesforce are also likely to focus on the pros of their platform and there might be a few gotchas that I need to make people aware of. Sometimes I’ll try to break the challenges, or pass them without satisfying all the requirements — if I’m successful the Trailhead team will hear from me.

If it’s not a key topic, I’ll often use the badge as a test of my knowledge. I’ll skip the content, as I’m confident (rightly or wrongly!) that I know enough to pass, and head straight for the questions. This will then go one of two ways

  1. My confidence is misplaced and I can’t answer one or more of the questions. I won’t guess though, because I now realise I have something to learn. I’ll go through the appropriate content and get some value that I didn’t expect out of it.
  2. I was right to be confident and smash through the questions. This will increase my confidence and no doubt lead to more badges going route 1, which is good as everything in life is a balance.

In this situation I’m guiding by a couple of factors — the estimated time to complete and how interested I am in the topic. This can lead to me holding back on areas that I’m really interested in until I have enough time to do justice to them, which can be a little frustrating. Many times I’m snatching part of my lunch hour or half an hour at the end of the day, so I try to ensure I get maximum value from the time I have available.

I’ll definitely work through the whole thing — it look like Superbadges are going to be part of the certification process going forward and if I haven’t done it myself I can’t judge how competent someone who has earned the cert through this route is likely to be.

However, there’s an element of the frenemy about Superbadges for me. While I really like the concept, (and may even have predicted them, although I went for Megabadge), I sometimes find them frustrating, and not because I’m struggling with the concepts. Rather it’s because the Superbadge challenge checking verifies the approach rather than the outcome.

There are many ways to solve the same problem in Salesforce, but the checks are often prescriptive. This means that either the instructions have to give too much away to guide the candidate down the correct path, and make the challenge to easy to pass, or you end up failing a challenge where you have quite clearly satisfied the requirements, because you didn’t follow the exact set of steps whoever wrote the check was expecting. Sometimes it feels like I spend more time trying to figure out how to get the challenge to pass than I do actually building the solution!

Blaze your own Trail

Just because the way that I use Trailhead works for me, doesn’t mean it is transferable to any and everyone else. You should use it in whatever way works for you.

The main purpose of Trailhead is to enable people to learn about Salesforce, so there’s no reason to force a particular way of learning on yourself just because someone else says so.

However, I would like to sum up my philosophy on Trailhead:

Badges are a side effect of learning

Earning a large number of badges in a single day or short period of time doesn’t suggest to me that there is much learning going on, and often the points total of those that have done this is a bit of a giveaway. A low points total indicates that badges based on questions rather than challenges have been favoured. It also means that many of the questions have only been correctly answered after multiple attempts, earning the lowest possible points, which in my country we call guessing.

If you interview with me and you’ve got a badge count in the hundreds, you might find the effect is the opposite of what you were hoping for. I won’t take the badges as proof that you know your stuff and skip the technical part of the interview, instead I’ll assume this means you have a very deep and wide knowledge of Salesforce and I’ll make sure that I stretch both of us to find out just how good you are. Basically the same approach that I take with people who have a number of certifications — the more credentials you have, the deeper I’ll look to go.

All that said, if the way you want to use Trailhead is to get to 100 badges as quickly as possible without learning anything, go for it. It’s your life, you’ll get attention on social media and, in the grand scheme of things, it makes no difference to the rest of us.

I’m better known in the Salesforce community as Bob Buzzard — Umpteen Certifications, including Technical Architect, 6 x MVP and CTO of BrightGen, a Platinum Cloud Alliance Partner in the United Kingdom who are hiring.

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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