Episode 31: Developer’s Perspective with Adam Olshansky
This week, Salesforce Engineer for Google, Adam Olshansky, joins us on the show. In this episode, Adam and I take on a wide range of topics, including getting certified and why Adam believes everyone should use Trailhead to get certified. We also discuss the many perspectives admin and developers can have on various tasks and technologies within our industry.
- Some certification recommendations for developers.
- Perspectives on certifications: when taking a certification test, failure is sometimes part of the process, learn, and try again. And, don’t go after certification to have it. Go after the certification to determine the content in-depth.
- For those hoping to speak at a future conference, Adam offers some tips and advice for speaking or presenting on stage.
- Adam’s share of how using the perspective of one role for a different role’s task, for instance, being an admin and looking at code, can prove helpful to developers.
Adam: But I googled Dreamforce and I saw it said Bruno Mars is gonna be there and Al Gore is gonna be there. And I was like, yeah, this sounds gonna cool.
Josh: That is Adam Olshansky, Salesforce Engineer over at Google. I’m Josh Birk, a Developer Evangelist at Salesforce. Here on the Salesforce Developer Podcast, you’ll hear stories and insights from developers for developers. Now today, we sit down with Adam and talk about a wide range of topics, including getting certified, as well as perspectives that we could have admin developers on various tasks. We’ll start with certification where Adam has a little bit of advice on someplace near and dear to my heart – Trailhead
Adam: The first place I recommend people to go and for nothing else than to just learn the terminology and learn what’s out there. There’s so many things on Salesforce now it’s almost impossible to know everything the platform can do. For example, I discovered that platform cache was a thing from a trailhead module and then presented on Dreamforce about it later. So basically for any certification, you’re looking at Trailhead always the first place I tell people to go. The study guide, obviously is also a great place. You know what it is you often, you know, no. And the study guides will usually have some good links as well. Some of them are on trailhead. Some of them are on, you know, various documentation links and things like that. And then the other thing I’d recommend there’s a ton of great Well, one of the things I love about the Salesforce community is it’s all about helping each other grow. Right, you look at the whole notion of from the very top Salesforce is 111 model, it’s about helping others it’s about giving back. And the Salesforce community the ohana has really embraced that. And so pretty much for any certification. Now you can Google, you know, x certification, study tips and some links with good content on things to practice things to understand things to learn. After that exam, my biggest tip was probably just go ahead and schedule the exam, even if it’s six months out a year out, just having it on the calendar. I’ve noticed for myself, if If I don’t have a deadline for something, it’s always going to go to the back of my to do list.
Josh: Now, I myself have often said that there’s no better deadline than one in front of a live audience. And I’m also a little bit of advice when it comes to taking the test including, getting a good night’s sleep
Adam: make sure you’re you know, well rested, well fed. And then I tried to pace myself during the exam. So if I know it’s 60 questions, and I have two hours, I’ll do kind of periodic check ins every five or 10 questions. Okay, am I on track? Do I need to pick it up a little bit? Can I slow down a little bit. And then the certifications are nice, because they have the option to mark this for review. And so I kind of use that as my own kind of verification. So I don’t always have time at the end to go through all of the questions. I look at them all again. And so basically, anything that I’m not more than 80% sure on, I’ll click the mark for review button. And then at the end, they’ll try to go back in and see okay, if the ones that marked for review, do I want to change my answer or if nothing else do I want to figure out what topic it’s asking about sometimes I’ll see, hey, I marked three questions for review all around the same topic, pass or fail. I know I need to study that some more.
Josh: Which brings up an interesting point. Remember when taking the test that sometimes failure is just part of the process?
Adam: Yeah, I would say it’s definitely you’re definitely not alone. Right? I think it at the time was advanced developer, it took me I don’t remember three, four or five tries to finally pass that one. So it, there’s a couple things you can take from it. One of the nice things I really liked the Salesforce is doing now is they kind of send you the summary of how you did by section so you kind of have an indication of what’s like close what areas do I need to study things like that. But ultimately, it’s a learning experience as with anything, right, the one thing I tell people also with certifications is don’t go after the certification just to have it go after the certification actually learn the content in depth, you can back up the piece of paper that says to your certified
Josh: Switching topics a little bit. I wanted to ask you about something that I have had some actual personal involvement with having put Adam on stage several times myself. I wanted to get a little bit of behind his process of of stagecraft and slide craft. And starting with what topic do you want to actually speak on?
Adam: Yes, I actually wrote a blog post about this a couple months ago that I’d be happy to,to share. But my first tip would always be to pick a topic you’re passionate about. Right? It’s always easier and also more fun, to be able to create a presentation about something that you really care about. The next tip, I would say is try to pick a topic you have some experience with, you know, I really might love a feature, but if I’ve never used it before, it’s gonna be a little bit harder to teach others about it. That being said, it could also be a fun challenge to force yourself to learn something if you know that you have to present on it in a couple of months. So to use some caution with that, but that would be kind of a personal way to choose it. topic. The next thing I tell people is kind of look for what is popular with Salesforce and in the industry at the moment. As an example, you may love s-controls, chances are no one’s gonna go with that presentation.
Josh: Thing is I started my Salesforce career editing and debugging s-controls. I can tell you, he’s right about that one. Now, Adam also had a little bit of bias when it came to connecting yourself with the topic you’re looking at
Adam: Find some way to incorporate something that’s kind of unique to you. Why are you the best person that present on this topic. And I think that really helps shine through the presentation as well. If there’s kind of a unique take on something even if it’s been presented before, maybe you have a new idea for it or a different perspective. And then the last thing one of the great things about Salesforce is you can really think outside the box Dreamforce specifically, their sessions on equality, mindfulness, career development, it doesn’t have to be a technical session. And it also doesn’t have to be a 40 minute session. You know, Amy Oplinger gave a great session on imposter syndrome as a 20 minute theater session, something that I personally suffer from myself, I think is very relatable and very useful. So even though it’s not a technical topic, per se, it’s still a topic that you can speak to that people want to hear about.
Now, in my many years of doing social management, I have noticed that people have, shall we say, a wide variety of strategies when it comes to submitting papers, some submit one summons, submit a few and some submit 20 to 30. And it’s just kind of curious as to add up a strategy on
Adam: Yeah, so I would say I always go for quality over quantity for a couple of reasons. Number one, creating presentation ideas isn’t easy, and it isn’t quick. And so if I’m going to come up with a presentation idea, I’m probably going to spend a couple hours crafting it writing the abstract, rewriting the abstract, and really making it something worthy of submitting. The other side of it is and I guess you can’t do this anymore. But if I submit 20 sessions, and they all get accepted, I now have two options. Number one, I have to create 20 presentations. or number two, I stole 15 to 18 slots from other deserving people. And so I would say for all of those reasons, and I think dreamforce limits it to five now, but I try to limit it to one or two. Personally, number one, you know, even if you’re presenting three sessions at dreamforce, it’s gonna be hard to enjoy the rest of dreamforce.
Josh: Now, as somebody who has a lot of experience with this on the other side of accepting and evaluating sessions, I can say, first of all, I’ll try to stay off of a soapbox, but first of all, Adam is right. We want to be mindful of the speaker experience and not overtaxing people, which is one of the reasons why we started limiting the number of submissions to five. And we typically do not try to give more than three talks to a single speaker. And I think his his number is also about right. I usually recommend about two to four submissions and give us a variety of topics when it comes to things you want to talk about and maybe a good theater session and a good breakout session. Of course, we don’t really know What formats we’re going to be doing with dreamforce this year, but keep an eye out for that as we get closer to the event. Now, moving topics a little bit here, we want to talk about something that Adam has presented on frequently. And this is using the perspective of one role for a different roles task, for instance, being an admin and looking at code.
Adam: But yeah, so this kind of goes back to, you know, something that I’m passionate about. And I was talking about how to come up with ideas to present on I’m really passionate about this notion that anybody can be a Salesforce developer. I really love the Salesforce focuses on equality, regardless of your, you know, race, gender, color background, anybody can be a developer. And so I i do volunteer with rad women. And I really am passionate about helping anybody in the Salesforce ecosystem, become a developer. And you know, when I was kind of learning about the declarative side and the programmatic side, and even now I kind of it’s my strong belief that declarative developers and programmatic developers are doing pretty much the same thing just in a different way. And so, you know, when you think about declarative developer, you’re using all these different tools, right? You have conditional logic and formula fields you have, you know, creating fields with different names and different data types. You’re chaining logic together. In process builder and flow. You’re querying for records and reports, you’re, you know, running automation based on record events, and workflow and process builder. You’re looping over collections and flows. You’re manipulating records and workflow process builder, and foil. And those are all the exact same building blocks of code. And so if you already understand all these concepts and understand how they work and what they’re doing, all you’re missing is the syntax for apex. And so my my kind of approach to this presentation is helping admins understand that looking at code doesn’t have Before looking at code doesn’t have to be jibberish. Because you already know how to do all of these things. You didn’t need to understand the syntax of what it looks like from a programmatic perspective, but the concepts you’re already doing them.
Josh: And I think it’s interesting that like, like, as a developer, you can also work in the reverse. So for instance, there was a thread I think was on Twitter, talking about, you know, a lot of our branding with declarative versus programmatic also goes to like, no code, low code, promo code, that kind of thing. And the conversation was kind of leaning towards looking at a tool like flow more like more like visual coding, as opposed to not coding at all.
Adam: But I always tell people, I personally think that writing a flow is harder than writing code. If you’re a flow knack, and you mastered flows, codes gonna be a piece of cake for you. Because you’re you’re already doing all that stuff with a lot of clicks, but it’s a lot of the same stuff on the code side.
Josh: And if I’m a developer who jass like worked at a lot of Apex and using that kind of, you know, quote unquote high code or whatever? Is it also useful for me to kind of to engender that process and start learning how flow can kind of coexist with my code base?
Adam: I would definitely say yes, I think generally the the mantra is always, you know, clips before code. That being said, I definitely have a lot to learn with flow. And I know flows really gotten really powerful lately, with some of the before trigger functionality. With the revamped the new lightning Flow Builder, I think it’s called. There’s definitely a ton of great stuff in there. And it’s very powerful, what you can do with it. And Flo also kind of has the ability to come with built in UI, you don’t have to build a UI from scratch. So I think there are definitely opportunities if you are a programmatic developer to accomplish a lot of your tasks know to shift gears just a little bit.
Josh: Adams also presented on the concept of an apex developer, somebody who focuses almost entirely on server side code, looking at lightning web components.
It has the same base in it, but they’re really nothing alike.
Adam: Yeah, man. Yeah, I completely believe that. But yeah, so I don’t know if I’d say their advantages necessarily. But I think that there are a lot of similarities. I think with the kind of beyond just being a back end developer, I think I look at it more from the framework perspective, right? If you’re working with a panel, and your traditional Salesforce developer, you’re probably familiar with the MVC framework. You’re familiar with putting things into a controller, you’re familiar with the UI, calling your controller having the UI invasive. For us having tag based markup, having you know, bind variables, bind methods, calling controllers from your Visualforce. And then dealing with your back end data. I think the there are a lot of similarities between that model and the Lightning Web Component model, I like to call it MVC plus plus, because you can have all the really now as many controllers as you want.
Josh: Of course, we can talk about a lot of similarities, but there’s always a few distinctions that people find,
Adam: I think the biggest thing that I found is figuring out how fire events so with apex, I’m always I have a method signature, I put my variables into my method signature, and I control what gets called and when, and with Lw C, and and or even it’s dealing with events and event firing and event bubbling and event propagation. And so there is some similarity into how you do it. But I think it’s a little bit different. When you’re capturing events, you’re having a name of a certain way you’re having to deal with Case sensitivity which you don’t have with apex. So there is definitely some nuance. But again, once you figure out how events work, and you can communicate from component to component, and then retrieve the data from the captured event, there are definitely some similarities there. Just kind of a different syntax and a different way to think about it.
Josh: Now, Adam already mentioned previously that he’s a RAD Women. Coach, which two thumbs up there, but I did want to give him a chance to plug some of the education he’s done up on Pluralsight.
Adam: Sure. So today, I have a course with Don Robbins to Salesforce play by play on migrating to the Lightning Experience. So if you have not yet migrated, or you know someone who has not yet migrated, they may get some tips from that. And they can check that firstname.lastname@example.org slash lightning migration. In general Don has a ton of great play by plays on they’re gonna deep dive in different topics with different people.
Josh: That’s our show. Now before we go, I did ask him about his favorite non technical hobby. It’s one that a lot of people might be picking up these days
Adam: working from home. I don’t know if cooking is a hobby as much as it is a necessity. But, but I’ve been cooking a lot more. That’s been a lot of fun. I made some chicken Pad Thai, some spaghetti bolognese, peach color. So yeah, definitely. I’ve been having a lot of fun with that.
Josh: I want to thank Adam for the great conversation and information. Of course, thanks to you for listening. Now, if you want to learn more about this podcast, head on over to developer.salesforce.com/podcast, where you can hear old shows, see show notes, and also have links to your favorite podcast service. Thanks, and I’ll talk to you next week.