I am not going to lie, I was super skeptical when Trailhead was initially launched and I still have some concerns. But after spending some time working on completing the requisite badges to get my platform developer II certification, my initial skepticism has turned into optimism.
I am a Salesforce professional and have been working on the platform for nearly a decade now and there are aspects of the platform that I have not even gotten close to working on.
Look past the Mascots
When I saw the first comms regarding Trailhead I was not particularly interested, then came the mascots.....lets just say thats not my style. In all fairness I didn't give it much attention because by that time I was working for a Salesforce Platinum Partner as a Technical Architect. I felt quite accomplished on the platform. Well versed on both the custom dev and config aspects of the platform, along with how to integrate with external systems. At the beginning I felt it was more suited to the config side of the platform. So not aimed at me I thought.
The Trailhead proposition has matured very well in such a short amount of time and the gamification of badges and superbadges was getting a lot of traction. At one point I felt that I might have missed the boat. Around about the same time I started working on my Platform Developer II certification, I passed the MCQ part and was waiting for the next Programming Assignment. They are not very frequent (at least they weren't back in the day).
Then something interesting happened, Salesforce announced that the programming aspect was moving to Trailhead. I guess the previous format was not scalable and was probably struggling to keep up with demand. This meant one of two things for me and my Platform Developer II certification:
Abandon it, I feel confident enough in my skills to prove my technical chops anyway
Try out this Trailhead thing with the childish mascots and complete my certification
So I finally logged-in, and went immediately after the Superbadges to complete my certification. But guess what they have some pre-requisite badges. So I had to do a couple of super quick badges and this lit a fire within me. Getting those badges gave me a rush and got me thinking about how powerful the trailhead platform is. All you have to do is look past the mascots (if you are like me). I am now well on my way to completing Platform Developer II certification and I am learning so much, more importantly I am enjoying it. Whenever I log into Trailhead I am able to enter a state of flow super quick and I love it.
Deliberate practise and its benefits
At lot has been made of the need to practise or hone your skills, as a developer / athlete / musician in basically any walk of life. You need to practise to become proficient in a particular profession. For me, this is what Trailhead gives me that I am most thankful for. I get the opportunity to hone my skills deliberately on areas of the Salesforce platform that I don't get a chance to work on as part of my day job. For any Salesforce professional that has not had a chance to use Trailhead I would highly recommend it.
Whenever I fire up Trailhead, I view it just as an athlete would a practise session. I work hard, enjoy it, learn new techniques and also reinforce existing skills. I learn best practises and get a chance to explore new ways of approaching problems. Then my billable work is game time, thats when all the training pays off. It comes across in how I am able to advise my clients and how I am able to work with my colleagues.
Some concerns with Trailhead
There has been a problem with Salesforce Certification for a while now, just try searching for release exams on your favourite search engine. The amount of 'dumps' you will find is staggering. There are companies or individuals making a business out of supply answers to multiple choice questions and in extreme cases actually take the exam for you. With the programming assignment moving to Trailhead and the human review aspect being removed, a new market has emerged, the supply of Superbadge code. It is actually quite easy to find GitHub repos with the code for some of the Superbadges and over time this will only increase. Look I don't have all the answers and there is much smarter people than myself working on the problem within Salesforce (I hope) but these issues need to be addressed and hopefully addressed promptly especially if the strategy (as it seems) is to move more of the certification into the Trailhead platform. If the transitioning of the certification to Trailhead means that plagiarism and cheating can be spotted and rooted out then I am all for it.