Reinventing Myself With Salesforce

How and why did you get started working with Salesforce?

When I returned to Centare over one year ago, during the interview process Salesforce was mentioned as a technology that the company was gaining some expertise in.  I knew next to nothing about Salesforce.  My closest experience with it was working on a data integration project with Salesforce admins during a prior life several years ago.  But I had been working with Microsoft technologies for the last decade and was open to a change.

I was intrigued by the Salesforce platform and "sales pitch" so I did some research.  There were two things that were attractive to me. I could potentially build a solution for a client in a fraction of the time I could using the .NET tech stack, and, I believed I would have a greater chance of working directly with business users, which would give me a chance to exercise the BA skills I had developed over the past few years.  The more I learned about Salesforce, the more I liked what I saw.

What were your goals starting out and how did you keep motivated?

I started out by learning about the things a Salesforce Administrator needs to know.  That is pretty much where everybody starts.  My initial goal was to obtain the administrator certification by a certain date.  It was challenging to learn and experiment during evenings and weekends, since I was billing full-time working on a .NET project with one of our biggest clients.  I enjoy learning new things, so that in itself kept me motivated.  But the other motivating force was that I was ready for a change.  Over my career I have reinvented myself several times as technology has changed, and this time, like the others, is exciting.

What was the most challenging part of learning Salesforce and how did you meet those challenges?

The Salesforce platform is a different animal than anything I had been exposed to before.  Every Salesforce user and developer shares the same "cloud" - it is a multi-tenant platform.  This has major benefits and also major implications that have to be taken into account when designing and coding applications on the platform, or when integrating Salesforce data with other systems.

The other challenging part is just how huge the platform actually is.  There are out-of-the-box solutions for CRM, Service and case tracking, marketing, enterprise collaboration and other applications.  There are many ways to extend and customize those applications, integrate with external systems, and develop completely custom applications using either Salesforce technology, or familiar open source technology stacks, or some combination.  Artificial intelligence is being incorporated into the core functionality of the platform.  The more you dig in, the more you realize how much there still is to learn!

What certification path did you follow?  Are there more in your future?

I started out by earning the Salesforce Administrator certification.  That gives you the basics of how to configure the CRM and Service Cloud applications and make "point and click" customizations for your users.  Then, about 4 months later, I earned the Platform App Builder certification.  This certification goes more in-depth on creating custom entities and building process and workflow functionality without writing any code.  I decided to stay on the developer path and about 3 months later, earned the Platform Developer 1 certification.  This certification demonstrates proficiency in the basics in building code-based solutions using the Apex language and Visualforce UI tools.

Going forward there will probably be additional certifications in store for me.  I can continue to go in-depth on the developer path, or I may opt to obtain a "consultant" type certification, which demonstrates expertise in helping a client plan for and implement a new Salesforce installation.  I will see which way I feel led as I continue to gain experience and understand what our clients' needs are.

Centare was extremely supportive of my efforts to obtain the certifications.  I was able to expense books, study guides and sample exams to use in my studying, which really helped me to focus and take a systematic approach to exam preparation.  One of our consultants who has Salesforce experience was a good mentor.  Centare is a Salesforce partner, and certifications are an important part of a partner's status.

What kind of projects are you working on now?

I am finishing up helping a client customize and implement the Salesforce Knowledge Base application that they will use to compose, approve and publish knowledge articles to an external web site for their customers.  The entire effort was done in under 60 hours!

Currently I am doing Apex and Visualforce development for a client that has a very complicated set of account relationships in their Salesforce CRM application.  I am learning a lot and enjoying it very much!

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