Focus on People: Dominick DeFazio – From Sales to Lead Dev

Dominick was in sales when he started his Salesforce journey. As a user, he was frustrated with how the org was set up for the functions that he would use everyday. Determined to improve their team's processes, he tried to learn Salesforce configuration and went straight to pursuing a PD1 Certification.

Read about his insights and tips to help others achieve a rapid on-the-job learning of Salesforce that enabled him to jump from one completely different industry to another.

How did you get started with Salesforce?

My Salesforce career began somewhat unexpectedly. I was working as a Sales Rep at a startup company in New York City selling hearing aids. They were using Salesforce as it’s supposed to be used for managing their sales team, following up on leads, and logging the activities of that sales team. 

As a member of that sales team, I knew firsthand that their Salesforce environment was not setup properly. Just to give you an example, the time it took to log a single case representing a phone call often lasted longer than the actual phone call that I placed. From that understanding, I knew I had to improve the quality of my life as a sales person so I learned the tools Salesforce offers for automation. 

I started with Process Builder and workflow rules, and then learning what was available in the AppExchange. That quickly grew into me becoming the Salesforce Developer at that hearing aid startup. It became more and more clear that I was well-suited for the role. The projects began increasing in difficulty and, because of that, I was able to learn what it meant to be a Salesforce Developer in a very relaxed kind of manner because the projects that I took on were what I could do for the company at that time. I really chose my own pace in terms of learning the skills I needed to develop to help at that company. 

It was a really good start, and I think coming from a user background was also very beneficial. I hadn’t studied Computer Science or anything like that, but being a salesperson gave me an advantage since I understood what a salesperson would be looking for from the work of a developer.

"I hadn’t studied Computer Science or anything like that, but being a salesperson gave me an advantage since I  understood what a salesperson would be looking for from the work of a developer."

What is your role now?

Now, I work full time at a recruiting company. I work as the Lead Salesforce Developer there, and  I am working tirelessly to make Salesforce work for recruiters because it is an entirely different industry. One challenge is probably that the hearing startup was in Classic and the recruiting company is in Lightning - so that was quite a change. The biggest change was definitely the fact that recruiting isn’t sales and shouldn’t be considered as sales. That being said, Salesforce still provides solutions for recruiters, probably better solutions than anything else out there. With the help of a developer, I think Salesforce is the optimal tool for recruiting. Now my work is really making the company that I work for be able to do all of the recruiting processes, all the way from the front office to the back office, within Salesforce, and leveraging the power of Salesforce to improve those processes.

Are you the single developer at that company?

Once in a while, the amount of work to be done is very large. My employer, the CTO of the company, has permitted me to hire various contractors to help me with my work. So I am the Lead Salesforce Developer, and there are other developers underneath me.

As a lead Salesforce Developer, what does your day to day look like?

It really depends on what’s happening. It usually starts out with me determining what my priorities are for the day. There are anywhere from 10-20 projects running at a time at a company this large, each of them having varying levels of importance, so my first step in the morning is to determine what needs to get done then and there. And then after I come up with that prioritization list, the next step is to manage the people I have underneath me. I need them to show value if I'm going to keep them around underneath me, so managing their work and making sure they are prioritizing correctly is important. But then after that, it’s really just a grind. I’m in the Developer Console making Lightning components for the most part of my day. If I could give you the average activity that I’m doing, it’s definitely just coding Lightning components.

What would you say was the most challenging part of learning to code in Apex VisualForce, creating Lightning components?

The biggest challenge for me, as someone who doesn’t have a CS background, was picking up a lot of the nuances in the syntax that comes with Apex as well as the JavaScript and the XML involved in creating Lightning components. Learning Java or Apex was one thing; understanding all the intricacies of Apex took me a long time and I was in an environment where I had time to learn. However, learning the syntax of JavaScript when I’m making Lightning components, for example, I was under quite a bit of a time constraint and there are many small differences within the syntax of these various languages and they can throw anybody for a loop. I was just kind of familiarizing myself with the tools I had available and understanding all the small nuances that comes with being a Salesforce developer.

"The biggest challenge for me, as someone who doesn’t have a CS background, was picking up a lot of the nuances in the syntax that comes with Apex  as well as the JavaScript and the XML involved in creating Lightning components." 

You’re in a unique situation - coming from sales to being a lead developer - how did you rise above all these challenges?

There were two main resources that helped me rise above the challenges that I faced. The first was the enormous support provided by the developer community on the Salesforce Developer forums. The help that they provide is just so quick! Oftentimes, any questions I would have was already answered and I’d have ready code a lot of the times. Most problems that I’ve faced are like others have already faced and, because there’s such a vibrant community on those forums, I was able to tackle pretty much any problem that I’d faced.  The other really great resource I find is the Lightning Component Library. Salesforce puts out all of the code behind the components they used in the Lightning environment, and that was a huge help being a novice developer and trying to pick up how to use these components because I had ready examples alongside documentation and specification for almost anything that you see in a Lightning environment. I still use these resources to teach others now. If these two didn’t exist, I couldn’t really have taught myself.




"There were two main resources that helped me rise above the challenges that I faced. The first was the enormous support provided by the developer community on the Salesforce Developer forums... The other really great resource I find is the Lightning Component Library. "

What certifications do you have?

I’ve only just gotten my first certification, Platform Developer 1. My plan is to get to the second certification in that line. From there, I’ll explore the other certifications that I see fit but really I’m starting to look towards broader goals, in terms of starting my own team and leading a Salesforce development team itself (I’m not sure if there are many certifications for that). That said, being an Architect, for example, is very appealing so I might look into a certification for that. Marketing Cloud seems really great, so understanding all of the tools that are in that package will probably be a logical next step.

Has obtaining the PD1 certification impacted your career at all?

Right off the bat, the second I had a certification, I felt confident in myself. As someone who has never been a developer before, it was really important for me to have some kind of sheet of paper that said, “Dominick, you're a developer now.” So that was really nice. But I think the true benefit of having a certification really is why it was set it up in the first place: it’s a rigorous process meant to weed out people who aren’t actually qualified for the work they are doing. If you have a certification, you can stand out because you are qualified; Salesforce says you are. That’s really helped me in terms of talking to a bunch of clients as well as establishing my own kind of credibility to people who work underneath me.

What advice would you have for people preparing for PD1 certification?

The practice test were so helpful. Understanding the kind of questions that Salesforce is going to throw at you is really important because, as good of a Salesforce developer you might think you are, there is so much to learn within a Salesforce environment. Every single standard object that Salesforce puts out there could be on that test; if you don’t understand the purpose of that, then it's going to be a problem. It's a beneficial process nonetheless to know all of those intricacies.

I guess my biggest piece of advice will be, number one, practice tests; number two would be to really go through the entire setup menu of Salesforce. Explore every single little setting that you see there, and if you don’t understand what something does, Google it. Figure it out, and then you’ll understand it. That would give you the background that you need, and the practice tests would fill in the gaps for more specialized knowledge that is required for you to learn.







"I guess my biggest piece of advice will be number one, practice tests; number two would be to really go through the entire setup menu of Salesforce."

I am curious, why you don’t have admin on your list?

I probably could get an Admin Certification. I started out doing more admin work than development work, especially before I started familiarizing myself more with Apex. So it definitely could be on my next list. It’s just that it’s expensive to get a certification, so I’d really want to spend my money on something that would advance my ability in the areas of Salesforce I will deal with.

What advice would you give someone who’s interested in starting a Salesforce Career?

I have actually helped three people start a Salesforce career - they've never done Salesforce before. I think that the key really has been to find an environment in which you are going to be able to learn the skills required to be a developer but not feel the pressure of being a developer. That’s probably really rare, but if you can find a place that will pay you to help them with the projects that are necessary for them, oftentimes those projects that are most vital for a company, are often the easiest projects. If you prioritize those projects and help yourself by starting with the easiest first, learning those skills to handle those easier projects, and then moving on by gradually increasing the difficulty of projects - that’s going to be the key to success. I feel like it’s very easy to get scared off by seeing very complicated code, but there’s really no reason to fear. Worst case scenario, if you don’t have the skills to write out a custom solution, oftentimes you can do the same thing with process automation tools. Although it will be more of a bulkier solution, the key is to keep going and trudging on. You will improve as long as you don’t get in over your head.








"Worst case scenario, if you don’t have the skills to write out a custom solution, often times you can do the same thing with process automation tools, which will be more of a bulkier solution but, the key is to keep going and trudging on..."

Why did you decide to go straight to PD1 - skipped Admin and App Builder, which was the usual sequence?

I didn’t find about certifications until quite a while later. If I had known that getting the Admin certification would be really helpful, in terms of learning what tools were available that Salesforce provides, I probably would have done it.  I just didn’t become aware until I was pretty much a full-time developer. I think if someone’s just starting out though, the exams do provide a foundation for you to improve on your skills.

Any final thoughts about Salesforce and Salesforce certifications?

Focus on Force’s practice exams were so beneficial in terms of sitting for the test. I recommend it to everyone who will be sitting for the tests now, and I’ll continue to do so.

I think that if you are going to get your certification and you are pursuing a career in Salesforce, it’s the right move. It’s a great place to work! With such a vibrant community around Salesforce, including Focus on Force, I think that it’s a great place to be in terms of work.

"Focus on Force’s practice exams were so beneficial in terms of sitting for the test. I recommend it to everyone who will be sitting for the tests now, and I’ll continue to do so."

What Certification are you studying for now?

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

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