Developer. The word means a lot of different things to a lot of different people but in the technology industry, it generally means you like building things and you like doing so through code. In the world of Salesforce, this is no different, and part of the reason Salesforce re-branded its Developer certification program after Dreamforce 2015. In terms to better align with the industry, Salesforce introduced its Platform App Builder certification to refer to individuals who have mastered Salesforce’s point and click app building functionality. Just because you aren’t a coder doesn’t mean you can’t build amazing things! This new certification, a slight adjustment from the previous Developer certification, reflects that. For those people who did want to dive into all that Salesforce has to offer from the coding perspective though, there was formerly a follow-up to the Developer certification, the Advanced Developer cert. While I personally advocate learning the amazing declarative capabilities, knowing how to code on Salesforce doesn’t require knowing how to build with point-and-click tools though, and as a result, Salesforce launched a completely new track, the Platform Developer track, and retired the Advanced Developer cert. For those people who had earned one or both of the previous certs however, Salesforce has a streamlined path to help you get the new certifications under your belt as well.

The Benefits of Being a Salesforce Certified Platform Developer

While I personally found it fun to learn how to code in Salesforce, there are many other benefits to gaining these certifications as well. The biggest one is how attractive you become to employers! Since you’re more in demand, this means higher salaries as well. Based on a yearly survey done in the Denver user group, the Advanced Developer cert (now Platform Developer) is one of the most lucrative for your career! In addition, you’re more attractive to Salesforce Partners as the Platform Developer I certification counts towards the totals they use to calculate their total number of employee certifications.

Exam Content

While Salesforce is a versatile platform, the Platform Developer, and formerly Advanced Developer certification, center on knowledge about Apex, Salesforce’s proprietary backend Object Oriented Programming language, and Visualforce, Salesforce’s proprietary tag-based markup language. The key differentiators with the new Platform Developer track however, also focus on some of the recent additions to the platform, such as knowledge of Lightning Components (specifically what they’re comprised of and how they integrate with the rest of the platform), the App Cloud (specifically regarding Heroku), and integrations (such as the differences between the SOAP and REST APIs and how to use them). With so much content however, it can seem a bit overwhelming at first. Thankfully, Salesforce has you covered there too!

Since there is so much to cover, and some people want to learn how to code on the platform without necessarily going tremendously in depth with integrations and Javascript involved, Salesforce has split out the Platform Developer track into 2 parts, Platform Developer I and Platform Developer II.

Platform Developer I

This exam will focus on your knowledge of Apex and Visualforce, and lucky for you, you have the 2nd half the Beginning Developer Trailhead trail to get you up and running. Once you’re up to speed with the terminology and some of the syntax, I’d suggest checking out the website of my mentor David Liu, for some additional Apex practice or Visualforce practice. If you want some more practice, the Apex and Visualforce workbooks are also available on the Salesforce developers site.

Before taking this exam, I’d also make sure to read very thoroughly through the Apex and Visualforce Developer guides. While there is a lot of content in here, not only will you learn a ton about the languages, but it will help prepare you for some of the more specific questions on the exam regarding how the language works in certain situations. While long, I’d also recommend at least skimming through the Reference sections of both of these as they will come in handy when reviewing code samples on the exam. It also helps to have some real life experience under your belt, as there is no real substitute for learned intuition, regardless of how long you study.

Platform Developer II

If you believe you’ve mastered Apex and Visualforce and want a tougher challenge or just want to dive in even further, the Platform Developer II exam is for you. For the second exam, the preparation will be similar to that of that old Advanced Developer exam. The difference being in that addition to just Apex and Visualforce however, you’ll be expected to have an understanding of a larger set of Salesforce topics including the SOAP and REST APIs, integrating the platform with the rest of the App Cloud, particularly Heroku, and have a knowledge of how to build Lightning components. Fortunately, you’re in luck again, as the Intermediate Developer Trailhead trail has you covered! There are also some great resources on the Salesforce Developer website including workbooks and guides on these topics as well.

Not counting the Certified Technical Architect exam, I believe that this exam is probably the hardest one you’ll ever take, mainly because in addition to knowing the info to pass a multiple choice exam, you’ll have to write some actual code that will be graded by humans. This means if you have been known to skimp on comments and/or testing, it’s probably a good idea to pick those habits back up!

The best advice I can give you for this exam is not to stress out too much like I did. If you know how to write code (or at least how to read code and Google things really well) and follow best practices, you should do just fine. Here’s a couple tips to keep in mind though:

  • Salesforce isn’t trying to trick you
  • The data model is meant to be simple so you can focus on code not clicks (probably the only time this will ever be the case)
  • The exam is testing you on how well you know how to develop on the Salesforce platform, don’t reinvent your own language or framework just because you can
  • Be sure to dedicate at least 20 hours throughout the month on it (full disclosure, I probably spent about 40-50 hours because I’m paranoid)
  • Make sure to be aware of best practices regarding testing (75% code coverage is required but I had about 95% and ended up writing more test code than logic code)
  • Be able to justify your decisions: your solution doesn’t need to be perfect, trust me mine wasn’t, but you do need to explain why you made certain decisions either in the comments, in the short answer, or both

Before you submit your assignment, you’ll need to take a short answer exam as well. This proctored exam is more of a way to explain your thought process on rather than an actual exam. It is just to make sure you wrote the code that you’re turning in and didn’t have somebody else do it for you. If you did complete your own assignment, then you’ll have nothing to worry about! If you’re not able to answer the questions about why you wrote the code that you did, it will be pretty obvious.


Pro Tip

Take the short answer exam the afternoon before your code is due. This way, you’ll be able to answer any questions regarding decisions and will be able to fill in any gaps you may have missed based on hints you get from the questions you’re asked.

While not an easy path, and not something that I would suggest for everyone, learning to code can open up numerous doors for you, not only in the Salesforce world, but the technology industry in general. The principles you pick up while learning Apex and Visualforce are the same ones you’ll learn when picking up other languages such as Java, C#, .NET, and Ruby.

Even if you’re an #AwesomeAdmin, knowing how to understand code is a tremendous weapon to add to your arsenal and will make you tremendously valuable to an employer. The Platform Developer I exam is perfect for anyone who wants to dive into building the standard developer tools that most orgs will need. The Platform Developer II exam is perfect for the rockstar developers who want to dive deep into all the developer capabilities that Salesforce has to offer, and are a rare breed that are desired by almost every company out there.

No matter where you stand today, it is never too late to start, and as David Liu says, “Anyone can code”. Best of luck!

Posted by Adam Olshansky on March 30, 2016.