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Trailhead: Building developer skills globally

Until recently, when you thought about business software, Microsoft Office was probably what sprung to mind. These days, however, we’re using an increasingly wide range of CRM solutions in the workplace and other business apps, including Salesforce, – are catching up fast.

As a result, there has been a sharp increase in demand for employees skilled in how to use Salesforce applications. In fact, a recent report from research firm IDC found that the company and its ecosystem of customers and partners will create a whopping 1 million jobs between the end of 2015 and 2018 and generate $272 billion in GDP impact worldwide. What’s more, research from Wanted Analytics suggests that being skilled at using Salesforce can lead to a $20,000 salary premium for staff in the USA – something that’s bound to be reflected in Europe too.

In turn, the burgeoning market for Salesforce skills is leading more and more developers to look at adding them to their CV.

Introducing Trailhead

To help developers take advantage of this opportunity, we recently launched Trailhead, a simple and free way to learn how to use Salesforce. Trailhead is an online learning environment designed to bring greater online access to Salesforce training. Learners can complete hands-on modules to earn points and badges that they can use to validate their new, in-demand skills to prospective and current employers alike. This initiative aims to give everyone an equal opportunity to learn or increase their knowledge of how to use Salesforce, and in turn, improve their career prospects.

Trailhead enables users at any level, within any role - be it developer, administrator or business user - to unlock new skills. It guides users through key products, including our app development platform (AppCloud), the CRM system (Sales Cloud) and our analytics platform (Analytics Cloud). For both beginners and experienced developers, Trailhead offers an easy way to keep on top of technology changes. Current users include Keir Bowden, CTO of BrightGen and Gita Borosvky, the American Red Cross’s Director of CRM Program

We first made Trailhead available about a year ago as a beta programme, and the response to it has been phenomenal. During the beta period, earners passed more than one million challenges, earning over 250,000 badges! And, at this year’s Dreamforce, the Trailhead Base Camp was one of the most visited on the exhibition floor.

The key to its success

You might be wondering why the programme has been so successful – after all, it’s not the only online skills initiative available. One of the reasons, I think, is its accessibility. Tech training courses have a reputation for being expensive, and this can be a real obstacle for those between jobs, students and even those in more junior or less well paid roles who are looking to upskill. Trailhead is free, which means that anyone with access to a computer and the Internet can use it to gain valuable and marketable skills.

It also makes it really easy for users to flag their validated skills to potential employers. We’ve integrated Trailhead with LinkedIn so recruiters can instantly recognise those who have done the courses, thanks to the badge scheme which proves their expertise. The LinkedIn integration also harnesses the power of social media to make it a more engaging experience for learners, where they can share their achievements with their network of friends and influencers.

Another reason for Trailhead’s success is the structure of the programme. It follows a three-stage model that is customised by each user according to their individual needs. Learners start on the main ‘trail’, gaining an overview of the applications cloud. Then come the modules. These offer users a more personalised journey as they pick their particular areas and skills that most benefit the career path they envision, for example using the platform for managing fundraising for non-profit organisations or learning how to use the Salesforce App Cloud to improve development skills. The third, ‘testing’, stage involves completing challenges that demonstrate the user’s level of understanding. For each challenge they complete, learners are awarded the relevant badge which, with a single click, they can then display on LinkedIn.

We created Trailhead to open up career opportunities to more people and our recent global launch is the first step in this long journey. We are already working on more learning ‘trails’ to cover other areas of our ecosystem, and keep up with our latest technology releases. We want to empower our community to stay on top of their Salesforce user journey and boost their careers.

Pauline Dufour, Developer Relations EMEA - Marketing Manager at Salesforce