Zero to PD1: Motivation, Mindset, Mastery & Mentor

By Janet Elliott

Like many of you, I came into the Salesforce ecosystem without a coding background. When I started working on Salesforce 10 years ago there was more of a distinction between administrators and developers. I often passed requirements off to a developer since I couldn’t perform them declaratively. I didn’t worry a lot about governor limits, performance, or order of execution; I just provided the requirements and then reviewed the results during user acceptance testing.

The Salesforce ecosystem has gone through a tremendous period of growth since then and the pace of change continues to accelerate. Salesforce has continued to work on the “clicks not code” and “low code love” mantras.

As the complexity of tools available to an administrator grows, however, so does the responsibility to understand the infrastructure behind what you are building. With the variety of Salesforce products available, you can’t rely on one person to know everything. You can rely on the fact that if they are built on the Salesforce foundation – understanding that foundation is key to working on the Salesforce platform.

A Path To Skill Up

Enter the Platform Developer I certification. This certification isn’t all about writing code and it isn’t only for coders or people who want to go down the developer career path.

The certification roadmap provides knowledge milestones including not only Apex but declarative tools, best practices, security, UI, and performance. I assert that PDI is a foundational certification for anyone working in the Salesforce ecosystem from administrator to project manager, business analyst, architect, and platform owner. It seems intimidating if you are coming from a non-coding background, but I’ve been there and I am here to tell you it is achievable and it will have a huge impact on your ability to understand and provide innovative, scalable, well-performing solutions.

With a non-coding background, it is hard to know where to get started and it can be frustrating at times to digest so many unfamiliar concepts. With this in mind, I have identified four key concepts to help you on your Platform Developer I journey.

Motivation – Why Platform Developer I?

Taking on PDI is a commitment, both in time and persistence. Before you take it on, you need to identify your motivation.

Some common motivations include:

  • To become a full-time developer
  • To work on the architect journey, becoming an Application and/or System Architect
  • To gain a better understanding of the platform as an administrator
  • To better understand what developers, architects, or consultants are proposing and building

Tip: It is important to identify your “why” in order to maintain your motivation. If you understand where you are coming from and what is motivating you, it will help you stick to your goal.

“All things are difficult before they are easy.” Thomas Fuller


Studying for the PD1 exam is not like other certification exams. It is not a linear journey. Instead, it is an iterative journey where, at times, no matter how hard you want the information to make sense, it just won’t.

I always tell people you need to become comfortable being uncomfortable. As you study, read blogs, watch YouTube videos, and participate in webinars you will have many topics that are unclear at first. However, as you continue, you will begin to hear common themes and see different examples of these topics.

Have faith that as you are exposed to the topics, they will start to make sense and come together. You shouldn’t expect that you will understand everything right away. Don’t let this uncomfortableness get you down and think the PDI path isn’t for you. Everyone goes through this, I promise. If you stay the course you will have eureka moments where a concept will finally become clear. Those moments will propel you forward.

Tip: Be comfortable being uncomfortable. Have faith that vague understanding will become clearer.


Cool, you say, I’m in, but….where do I start? I suggest that you have a minimum of 2 years of experience in an org as an administrator or as a consultant before taking on PDI. Additionally, I would recommend you have the Administrator and Platform App Builder certificates.

The first order of business when starting your journey to PD1, is to review the exam guide and familiarize yourself with the topics and weightings.

I suggest taking a layered approach and starting with the basics. The site Women Code Heroes was invaluable to me as a starting point when I started with RAD Women Code.

If you feel comfortable with the first layer of declarative capabilities, then build on this.

Besides Women Code Heroes, I also suggest David Liu’s Apex Academy as a starting point. You will build your first trigger and gain some confidence. Next, check out Trailhead for trails such as Apex Triggers then move on to Trailmixes such as Prepare for your Platform Developer I Certification.

I successfully used Focus on Force as a study guide and the practice tests also provided insights into how to approach the questions. For a hands-on experience, I took the topics from the study guide and did a deep dive into Trailhead. Additionally, Trailhead Live has PDI topic-specific sessions and you can also take a course through Trailhead Academy. It is critical to read through the relevant Salesforce Developer Guides (listed in the exam guide). Don’t be afraid to dive into these, they are more approachable and understandable than you would anticipate. Reading through these was the key for me to pass the test on my second try.

Some additional resources include Trailhead Certification Days (best done towards the end of your study journey), Ladies Be Architects Platform Developer I Study Group Videos, and Apex Hours. Also, reviewing developer channels and asking questions on discussion forums such as the Trailblazer Community, Ohana Slack, or the SFXD – Salesforce Discord platforms will provide you with community support.

Tip: Take a layered approach and build up to the more complex topics. Find the resources that work for you.


There are some development topics that you will review, and on the surface, they will make sense, but you don’t have any practical experience to understand why or where you would use them. Without that practical context, it makes it hard to fully understand the topic. I was lucky enough to work with a Senior Developer/Architect that was excellent at breaking down the topics to help me understand.

How do you find a mentor? First look at work, is there a developer or architect that can help break down topics for you? Don’t expect them to provide you with a class; they are there to answer specific questions after you have done the groundwork to understand them. Other places to look are your local Trailblazer Community Groups, as well as via Twitter, LinkedIn, and the discussion forums mentioned above. If you can’t find a specific person, don’t be shy about posting questions on the discussion forums.

Tip: It takes a village. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help on unclear topics.

Return on Your Investment

Congratulations, you passed PDI! Now you can take the knowledge and experience you have gained and apply it. Personally, I found it both eye-opening and empowering. Here is what you can expect to gain based on some of the common Salesforce roles:


Passing the Platform Developer I certification exam isn’t about just the certificate, it is the knowledge gained on the journey. Have a plan, stay motivated, and don’t get discouraged. Know that many of us had ups and downs and multiple tries along the way. You can do this!

You can also take a look at our Salesforce PDI practice exam.

The Author

Janet Elliott

Janet Elliott is a Salesforce MVP, 13x Salesforce Certified, and Manager of Solution Architecture at Kicksaw, a Salesforce Consulting Partner.


    August 31, 2021 8:19 am
    Great article Janet!!
    Sagar Bidkar
    August 31, 2021 11:16 am
    Very well structured article with all the pointers. Thanks Janet! It came at the very right time for me as I have been sailing in similar boat as you. Your article will definitely help me steer the next path well.
    Janet Elliott
    September 02, 2021 5:36 pm
    Janet Elliott
    September 02, 2021 5:37 pm
    I'm glad it was helpful. If you are coming from a non-coding background, mindset and motivation are a big part of the journey in order to stick with it. Good luck!
    Oliver D'costa
    February 19, 2022 1:42 pm
    Our Company Business Group made a move from Siebel to Salesforce and since then I've been scrambling to find a way which would be the shortest path in order to get certified in PD1 , Your article is an illumination for one it shows that there are no real short cuts if one wants to advance in career though being in this industry . 2nd) structured approach in dealing with the topics ,advice on the mind set and 3rd ) appreciate your help in sharing the links and the avenues to get this information to solidify ones understanding . Thank you so very much . Appreciate your effort to reach out .
    September 18, 2022 12:20 am
    Hi Ben, have a typo there in the women code heroes website link so it's not working. Your link is - it's missing an e before the s - should be this
    Christine Marshall
    September 23, 2022 11:42 pm
    Thanks for letting us know! I have updated the link.

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