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Nia Owen · 13th December 2022

More coding, less loading — an interview with DevOps Advocate Rob Cowell

DevOps Advocate Rob Cowell shares insights from his career journey, and the benefits of Salesforce DevOps for developers that he’s seen first hand.

Nia: Hi, Rob! Thanks for taking the time to speak with DevOps Launchpad today. First off, can you introduce yourself for anyone in the Trailblazer community who hasn’t already come across you somewhere?

Rob: Sure! I’m a DevOps Advocate here at Gearset, so getting involved with the Salesforce community and engaging with them very much lies at the heart of what I do.

Nia: That sounds awesome. You moved quite recently into your advocacy role at Gearset — but how did you start off in the Salesforce community?

Rob: Oh my — I started way back in 2010. I was contracting as a general all-round dev/support person and on my first day in a new role, they said “if anyone asks, you’re a Salesforce expert, cos that’s the only way we could get the headcount budget signed off”. I’d never seen Salesforce in my life, but luckily my background on other programming languages meant I was reasonably prepared. Most of the work has always been about learning the specifics of the platform itself.

Nia: Sounds like you were thrown in the deep-end! What were your highlights as a Salesforce developer? Did you face any challenges getting to grips with Salesforce?

Rob: Like many developers, I think the fun stuff is always tackling the big problems and defeating them. I used to love it when folks told me “you can’t do that in Salesforce” and then I’d go and find a way around it anyway. As for the challenges — well, on the technical side, fighting with Salesforce’s governor limits was always a pain, as was getting changes out the door without breaking things. Discovering the joy of DevOps definitely helped with that — and obviously started the journey to where I am today.

Nia: It’s great you found something that helped make your life easier! You mentioned DevOps — can you explain what that is for those that might not be familiar with the term?

Rob: There’s many folks that will go into how it’s the combination of Development and Operations, etc, etc, but with my developer hat still on, I like to think of it as being a more organized and efficient way of getting your changes into the hands of your customers. It’s not just “fastest wins”, though — it’s making sure those changes are solid and well tested so you don’t have to rework things.

Nia: Sounds like a no-brainer then, if you’re wanting to work more efficiently! In what ways did DevOps help you as a Salesforce developer?

Rob: At a very simple level, it meant less time doing late night or weekend deployments, and less time fixing bugs and broken change sets. Over the course of my Salesforce journey, I went from change sets, to Ant packages, to Jenkins, to Gearset — it meant I could spend less time moving metadata from A to B, and more time on actually implementing changes that delivered the value to my customers.

Nia: We know that Salesforce teams all have unique challenges, each with their own path to success. And this goes for developers too! For Salesforce developers new to DevOps, where would you recommend starting?

Rob: If you’re completely new to the concept, there’s definitely some great introductory material here on our learning site. DevOps Launchpad will help you to deliver your Salesforce changes the DevOps way — a good place to start would be the Salesforce DevOps Fundamentals Certificate. Of course, if you’re already well underway with your personal DevOps journey, there’s still some valuable content for folks at that level too, such as courses on branching strategies and CI/CD. You’ll even find dev-focused modules too, such as the one on Lightning Web Components.

Nia: That’s super helpful — thanks for sharing your wisdom with us, Rob. One final question: which is your favorite Salesforce character?

Rob: Oh, it’s always gotta be Codey the Bear, who represents our Developer Community. I have a 3ft 7in plushie of him in my office!

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