New Trailhead Trail to Help Answer That Question: “What is it that you do exactly?”

If you work in I.T. or anything remotely to do with “technology to solve business needs” then you’ve no doubt been asked by your mother, grandmother, grandfather, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends, and random people at various social events “What is it that you do.” Explaining what you do to a non-technical person can get very complicated, very quickly. You can literally watch the glaze begin to form over people’s eyes as they realize that they don’t understand a word you are saying. Now, to quote Chris Duarte, “There’s a badge for that!”

Recently Trailhead release a new trail called “Navigating the Salesforce Advantage.” It seems to do what nobody has really been able to do very well and that is explain what the cloud is and how businesses benefit from it. What Salesforce is and how it leverages cloud technology, and it does so with the same fun attitude that Trailhead has become known for. (I mean one of the answers in the quiz sections reads: “Its complicated and makes you look smart” — ya gotta love this stuff.

Its been suggested that when asked the question, many people default to “I work with computers” — that’s enough for those that would just glaze over anyway. But for those that lean in just a little more, it might not be a bad idea to send them over to Trailhead for a much better answer than “I do computers.” :)

It starts out talking very basically about Salesforce the company and its four core differences: Customer Success, Innovation, Leadership, Giving Back (my favorite).

Now, for those that didn’t “checkout” after your “I do computers” answer, a group of them will have checked out after above two modules feeling satisfied that they have a better understanding of what you do with your 8 to 5 time. However that won’t satisfy the more tech savvy and from there they will move on to the module that discusses the technology basics behind Salesforce. Brief overviews of security and multi-tenancy are given. Things start getting a little heavier here and you may lose some more folks, particular when talking about metadata, there’s something about saying things like “data about data” that scares people off. (It used to drive me nuts back in the 90s — yes, I’m old). However this module clears things up a bit and then goes on to talk about why the metadata architecture is a huge advantages for customers using the platform.

Finally, if they’re still here — they’re interested in finding out more and the trail closes with my favorite topic of all time: The Community. It’s no secret that I’ve raved and raved about this community. The plethora of talented and engaged individuals means that you’re not alone, ever and help is always right around the corner.

So there you have it — there may not be any hope for those that completely glaze over the minute that anything that sounds remotely like 1’s and 0’s starts to come out of your mouth, but for those with some interest, and perhaps some drive to learn more, and do more — there’s a self-serve answer for them out there. So next time someone asks you what you do, give them a sly smile and say: “There’s a badge for that!” and point them to Trailhead.



To the few precious readers that I manage to attract to my blog, I want to apologize for missing a couple of weeks. There was a user group meeting, and then a trailhead workshop, (locusts, a terrible flood, I wasn’t my fault I swear to Gooooooooooood!!!) that I had to prep for so I missed a couple entries. It’s all for the good though because interest in the Logic Through Formulas has sort of stalled out and to be honest, I’m lacking ideas for content. Therefore, I’m taking a timeout on that series but it will still be here for any admins that may want to see a “formula in code” if they think it will help them learn something more. So if you’re out there, don’t hesitate to send me something :)

So in case you missed it, our Wisconsin based “Women in Tech” group sponsored a Trailhead Workshop in Lake Mills, WI over the weekend and was a great success. (Though we ARE still waiting for a number the feedback surveys). We plan to do more, so follow myself or either of these two fine folks on Twitter: Jenny Bennett & Kelly Leslie, in order to get the latest news on the next workshop. We also had the great pleasure to welcome Chris Duarte to the midwest. She made it through her weekend without freezing, so that’s a plus ;)

For a recap: see ChattyAdmin’s blog (ignore the googy-ass face I was making…we were all supposed to be, but I don’t think anyone else knew, but I DISTINCTLY heard someone say “make a funny face”)

Trailhead Lightning Module is a Major Charge!

If you haven’t heard about Salesforce Trailhead by now, allow me to help you out from underneath that rock (I kid because I care).

Salesforce Trailhead was launched at Dreamforce ’14 and if you haven’t tried it out yet, its incredibly cool. I’ve been in a number of different communities and aside from Python/Django (who gets an A for effort), nobody has such a great intro to a platform. Salesforce Trailhead is heads and tails above any “tutorial” for a learning a platform anywhere.  Its professionally put together, it quizzes you on what you’ve learned, it connects to your development org (it helps you set that up too) and keeps track of your progress, and actually rewards your progress along the way with fancy badges.

You can start at the beginning and work your way through the platform or you can pick and choose modules at will. Originally I was going to walk through module by module but since I have the attention span of a gold fish and like to jump right into shiny things, I quickly finished my first module so that I could jump into Lightning Components. I’m not quite finished with it yet, but I’ve made it through 69% of the exercises and already have greatly improved my initial grasp of the concepts. (Three more to go and I get my badge!)

If you’re not quite sure what Lightning Components are, its basically the next step in Salesforce development. Its really more of a framework made up of re-usable and extendable UI components that you can use to work with your Salesforce data. These components can hold other components and they can be extended to create custom components that work on the Salesforce1 platform. At DF14 when they were announced you could only write Single Page Applications, but will soon have the ability to extend existing Salesforce1 screens. They’re javascript based on the front end and use an MVC type of approach to building the UI. That javascript then talks to Apex on the Salesforce side.

Back to trailhead: The Lightning Components module starts out with your basic Hello World application and gets you on the ground running right away. The challenges aren’t so difficult that one wants to just toss it out, but they also leave you with plenty of room to stretch your own ideas and play some “what if” scenarios. (Actually my last unit was on the event handling and when I was done I tried to run the example and had some unexpected results, but with a little poking I was able to figure out how to get it functioning. As it turns out, the next chapter was going to cover what I’d just done (…its like they read my mind!)

The module moves on to creating a “reservations” type application where you create a form where users can “register for an event.” So its an completely relatable topic as well. Often times some examples on other sites are so out there, and so “basic” that you really don’t learn much. Not the case here. I’m not sure how they did it, but whatever it is they did, they did it right.

You can tell these modules are put together with a well thought out execution plan. The lightning components module especially seems to have most definitely been put together by developers for developers, but yet they are simple enough that even non-developers can jump in and start exploring (though some knowledge of javascript is probably advantageous).

Trailhead itself keeps you coming back as well. The gamification concept with the badges makes you feel like you are getting somewhere. While I haven’t scored by Lightning Components badge yet (I do have a job ya know…), its the desire to have that little logo on my profile and the ability to tweet my achievement out to the world that keeps me driving forward, all the while tricking me into learning something. How dare they teach this old dog new tricks! :)

In a world that is quickly going mobile, Salesforce is poised to lead the way and learning Lightning Components will put you at the forefront of this tidal wave. So grab a surfboard and paddle over to Trailhead and prepare yourself for the future.

I’d love to help you along the way if I can, so if there is something you’d like me to try and/or talk about or do a “deep dive” on, let me know in the comments.