Focus on People: Cary Walkin – Making the Impossible Possible

Mark van Voornveld

​As an accountant, Cary primarily uses Excel. After taking a new role as a Financial Systems Manager, he was introduced to Salesforce to do the job more efficiently. This pushed him to take Salesforce certifications, making him an in-house expert of the platform. He also shared here his preparations for the exam, the challenges while learning the platform, and how he leveraged his certifications to establish stronger process alignments across the board.

Hi. I’m Cary Walkin, Salesforce Functional Lead at Xero. I am a Chartered Accountant from Canada. I have an MBA from York University and I am a certified Salesforce Application Architect.

How and why did you get started with Salesforce?

Being an accountant by trade, Excel was my area of expertise. I even made a full-length video game in Excel while working on my MBA. I could do everything that I needed in Excel and I’m pretty comfortable with that. Then I took on a new role as a Financial Systems Manager and I was responsible for Project Managing and Implementation of the financial system on the Salesforce platform.

My first indication that Salesforce was something special is the time when I was shown how to do Salesforce reporting. I thought, “Wow! This was like a pivot table but with all of your data.” I had two primary responsibilities on that project: documenting the user requirements from the finance team and managing the delivery of those requirements by the external Salesforce consultants. This role in the job description did not require any actual Salesforce knowledge because we were relying on external consultants to address that.

My first indication that Salesforce was something special is the time when I was shown how to do Salesforce reporting.

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

My first challenge was when a consultant looked at a requirement and said: “That’s not possible, you can’t do that in Salesforce.” What was I to do in my situation? The users had reasonable expectations. I did not know much about Salesforce, and I didn’t have the tools that I needed to propose a solution. If I did nothing, we’d end up with a solution the business wouldn’t like.

I attended an in-person Salesforce training course that closely followed the content of the Platform Developer 1 certification. That was critical for me to understand what is and isn’t possible for a Salesforce platform. It enabled me to go back to the Salesforce consultants on my project and recommend creative solutions that would address the user requirements that were previously considered impossible to achieve.

At this point, I was hooked into Salesforce. I loved working with it and saw myself having a Salesforce career. Since I took the course, I am now coding in Salesforce regularly.

It enabled me to go back to the Salesforce consultants on my project and recommend creative solutions that would address the user requirements that were previously considered impossible to achieve.

What is your advice regarding the certification and how to study for the exams?

I decided to write the Platform Developer 1 certification exam and I failed. I learned the first lesson for studying for Salesforce certification exams: cater your studying to the content of the exam. You see, my approach to studying for the exam was wrong.

While I was taking that course, I wasn’t focused on the exam, I was focused on the skills that I needed for my job. That meant that I didn’t pay as much attention to the areas such as Salesforce Lightning since my job responsibilities are in Classic. The exam doesn’t care about your day job. So I changed my exam study approach to focus only on content that will be pertinent to the exam. While I didn’t know about it at that time, I recommend using a study guide to help you focus on the content that will be on the exam.

I also scheduled the rewrite later that same week rather than giving myself lots of time to study and practice. This is because the ability to recall specific information quickly is most important when writing the exam. So I studied, I rewrote the exam and I passed. I felt such a huge sense of accomplishment and relief. The exam studying approach became my blueprint and led to successfully completing another 5 Salesforce certifications throughout my career. So that’s what I’ve got for the story.

The exam studying approach became my blueprint and led to successfully completing another 5 Salesforce certifications throughout my career.

What was the most challenging part of learning to code in Apex / Visualforce, and how did you rise above those challenges?

The most challenging part of learning to code on the Salesforce platform is that there’s so much there and you can’t possibly learn everything. So the key is to have a specific project, a specific task in mind, and then take it step by step.

What’s great about the Salesforce community is that it is so widely adopted that, if you are struggling with your Apex code, you can simply go to a search engine and look up the same problem you have and at least a dozen other developers have had the exact same problem and will share their solution for it.

What would you suggest to someone that wants to start a Salesforce career?

If you’re thinking about a Salesforce career, it’s something that it’s not for everyone. But if you like solving problems, critical thinking, and delivering value to the business, then Salesforce is right for you.

What Certification are you studying for now?

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