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Focus on people: A Salesforce journey of Solution Architect Chris Rolfe

Recently, we did another interview with a Focus on Force community member who shared his experience of working with Salesforce and getting certified. Meet Chris Rolfe, an architect working in the non-profit and education sectors. He offers a best practice point of view in the design of solutions of any scale.

How and why did you get started with Salesforce?

One of my previous roles was with a large UK nonprofit who, about 5 years ago, wanted to start using Salesforce. As their solution architect, I needed to quickly get up to speed with the product and work with the partners to assist in the adoption and integration of our legacy solutions. Through learning more about the capabilities of Salesforce and what you can achieve with the platform, I refocused my career to move more into the Salesforce ecosystem. 

What were your goals
when you were starting?

Certification wasn’t an initial goal, it was purely about learning enough about the platform to help resolve business challenges.

What is more interesting to me, specifically with some of the nonprofits, is starting with a standard fundraising deployment but quickly seeing how else we can use the platform to resolve other business issues. Areas that spring to mind are animal welfare application and artwork approvals solution all on Salesforce.

Some of the smallest organizations can be the most creative, and with Salesforce's donation of 10 under the Power of Us scheme, nonprofits can get up to speed quickly.

What is your role now
and what does your day to day look like?

I am an architect purely focused on the Salesforce platform and associated products. I offer a best practice point of view in the design of solutions of any scale. I predominantly work in the non-profit or education sectors.
As an architect, my role tends to be guiding new adopters of the Salesforce platform on the right path to success or helping existing users get over a hurdle and deliver on their vision. I mainly tend to deploy the core Salesforce Platform (Sales Cloud and Service Cloud), although Heroku is featuring more in some of the bigger organizations along with Marketing Cloud. I can help ensure best practices are being adopted and ensure that users are continuing on their adoption of the platform.

What was the most challenging part
of learning Salesforce?

The most challenging part was the breadth there is to learn, and some of the business-specific features and terminology. For example, not coming from a Sales background, it was difficult at first to understand forecasting and territories.

I have completed most of the certifications over the last 6 months. I found the Advanced Admin and Sales Cloud Consultant an interesting challenge, failing them both the first time. This was mainly due to having to learn a lot of sales terms -- as I said, I'm not from a sales background.

The most challenging certification for me was Platform Developer 1. It took me 3 attempts. I'm not from a developer background, and the last time I coded was back in college many years ago. Just understanding some of the concepts was interesting. In the end, I had no choice but to read the Apex and Visualforce guides from cover to cover.

What certifications have you achieved
so far and which one was
most difficult for you?

What tips and advice do you have for others who are in the process of preparing and studying for a SalesForce certification and keep motivated?

I'm now up to 12 Salesforce Certs, adding Data Architecture & Management Designer, Sharing and Visibility Designer, Application Architect, Marketing Cloud Email Specialist, and Development Lifecycle & Deployment Designer. So I have been a bit busy. I’m aiming towards CTA (Certified Technical Architect).

Do as much as possible of the Trailhead and use the Trailmixes that help towards certification. Read lots, make notes where appropriate, and practice. Get a free Developer Org and just play and understand.

How did Focus on Force study guides and practice exams
help with your preparation?

Using the study guides and practice exams helped highlight areas of weakness in my knowledge and gave me the relevant learning focuses. Everything is well-organized and helpful, especially when you get stuck or miss some information while learning for the exams.

What advice do you have for someone
that wants to start a Salesforce career?

Just go for it! Become part of the Ohana, go to meetups and events, and get involved in the community. You’ll learn and meet loads of different people. Maybe you can start first with Admin, Advanced Admin and App Builder as a basis and one of the consulting tracks. If you want in-depth technical and business knowledge, and want to achieve CTA, then go for it. Don't worry about failing as, sometimes, it's the only way to learn and see where your weakest point is.

What Certification are you studying for now?

Focus on Force currently provides practice exams and study guides for sixteen certifications