Salesforce Apex Master Class (Ep.1): What to Expect to Do as a Salesforce Developer

What is Salesforce?

You may have heard of Salesforce before, and that developers on this platform get paid good money, but what exactly is Salesforce, anyway? No matter how much you earn, your work will suffer unless you actually enjoy what you’re doing. So before you dive into this career, let’s discover what Salesforce is and what you can expect to do as a developer on the platform!

Salesforce is a customer relationship management (CRM) platform, a vital tool for marketing sales, commerce, service, and IT teams to work in unison and be of service to their customers anywhere and everywhere. As of this writing, Salesforce stands as the #1 CRM platform available, overtaking competing platforms such as Siebel, Oracle, and SAP, among others. For context, CRM’s market share in 2015 was 19.7%, and as of today, it rose only slightly to 19.8%, with minor fluctuations. Meaning, CRM and Salesforce are probably going to remain steady for the foreseeable future, though there’s no guarantee of that. If you’re entering the Salesforce Ecosystem just because it’s the #1 CRM platform, don’t bank on that, even though it hasn’t for awhile, it could shift at any time. At one point (not long ago) Siebel was the #1 CRM platform, now you rarely hear of them.

That said, whether or not Salesforce stays at #1, it’s an outstanding platform that can do you a lot of good, and if you know your stuff, it could pay off handsomely. Now let’s go into more detail.

What You Will Likely Build as an SF Dev

As mentioned above, you’ll most likely use Salesforce for work in IT, marketing sales, commerce, services (such as help desk services), and a few others. IT, marketing sales, commerce, and services are probably going to be the central core of your work, with a few exceptions, so those are a good starting point for your use of Salesforce. Personally, I worked on 50 projects for 20 different clients using Salesforce, nearly all of them involving IT, marketing sales, commerce, and services.

So, what can you expect to build? You could build configuration point-and-click administration stuff and custom development in those areas described above, for example. I built extremely customized sales cloud instances and very large custom marketing applications that can sit on top of Salesforce or to be within a particular organization’s instance, just to name two examples.

Your overall goal: to take a client’s older or underperforming platform and upgrade it with Salesforce. This work can be done pretty quickly, too, and Salesforce’s brand prides itself on that fact. Once your work is done, any team working in IT, marketing sales, commerce, and services can coordinate their work and do it faster, more easily, and with better analytics with their daily work.

With that in mind, you might expect to move into Salesforce pretty quickly for two reasons: one, because of Salesforce’s reputation for speed, and two, because Salesforce offers a huge shell for making it easy for devs to get their work done faster than ever. Along the way, you’ll also want to understand Salesforce’s administrative side, through which you will build database tables, and set up anything else you’d have to develop on your own. When you use Salesforce, a lot of the work is already done for you.

In short, it’s incredibly important for you to get a handle on all this admin work with Salesforce. Some might disagree, which is fine, but having worked as a Java and PHP developer myself, Salesforce’s admin features can cut out a lot of clutter for developer work so I can focus on what matters most: writing code. I greatly enjoy Salesforce’s streamlined feel for my development work, and it was an easy and enjoyable transition to this platform while cutting out time-consuming remedial work. Perhaps the same will be true for you, too!

De-Mystifying Some SF Dev Misconceptions

You might have heard some misconceptions online about Salesforce, such as people saying that you don’t have to write much code with Salesforce, or that outdated languages are being used with it, or that there are few customization options with this platform, among other issues. Those were somewhat true in the past (and still a bit true today), but Salesforce is stronger and more effective than these rumors would suggest. Let’s review.

Salesforce didn’t have much IDE support early on (I have a separate video on the topic), but fortunately, IDE support is everywhere today. Meanwhile, maybe you’ve heard that you can’t do source-driven development in Salesforce, which would be a serious issue. Good news: you absolutely can use source-driven development with Salesforce, such as with scratch orgs, if a developer wants to.

As for outdated programming languages: yes, you’ll use the slightly dated language Apex, which can be compared to what Java was like 6-7 years ago. But don’t let that discourage you! No matter its age, Apex provides nearly everything you need for work in Salesforce, just lacking a few of the most advanced capabilities of coding languages. If that’s ever a concern for you, try using open source repos to fill in the gaps.

Another rumor says that with Salesforce, you can’t work with modern front-end technologies. Up until two years ago, that was true, but with today’s lightning web components, you can pretty much perform whatever modern UI front-end development you need.

The only caveat to working with Lightning Web Component’s within Salesforce is lightning locker service, among a few other issues. Locker Service, which is due for an update soon which might render this sentence incorrect, makes it challenging to use outside JavaScript Libraries. Many JS Libraries that you could easily import into a Node JS project (or equivalent) would require you to re-write some of its code (or a lot of its code) just to get it to function inside of an LWC due to Locker Service restrictions.

Typescript also won’t work out very well in Salesforce, for example, being hampered by a variety of problems. While it can be done there is just so much out-of-the-box Salesforce stuff that it won’t cooperate with that it renders it fairly useless.

As a developer, you’ll have endless options with Salesforce, and I myself have made hundreds of custom applications with Salesforce. You’ll simply have to keep those limitations in mind and plan accordingly. Once in a while, for example, you might build an application elsewhere, such as with AWS, then pipe it into Salesforce. Anything you can’t make in Salesforce, you can just slot right in.

On a final note, some folks might think that anyone who’s using Salesforce is mostly an admin, just doing point-and-click stuff instead of coding. This is simply not true, as a developer on the platform you’ll be expected to do development every single day. I’ve been a developer on the Salesforce platform for the past seven years, I’ve done development work every single day. Coding comes first and foremost with Salesforce as a developer on the platform, I can assure you, and it’s simply a pleasure for any developer like me to use.

Salesforce, in short, isn’t for everyone, but for the right developers, it’s a dream come true. Give it a try, and see what you can create! Until next time!

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Salesforce Development Books I Recommend

Advanced Apex Programming
Salesforce Lightning Platform Enterprise Architecture
Mastering Salesforce DevOps
Apex Design Patterns Book

Good Non-SF Specific Development Books:

Clean Code
Clean Architecture
Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software Book