Donna chanced upon Salesforce only AFTER RETIRING from her career in higher education. In this interview, she talked about the steps she took to keep up with this all-new, fast-paced tech career as Salesforce Business Analyst. She tells us about her all-women 'Ohana' and the benefits of doing non-profit work, to become a better Salesforce professional.
I’m not your typical early starter for Salesforce. I’ve been in the work world for many many years. I started out in manufacturing and moved into finance and eventually ended up in higher education. I worked in higher education for 21 years and then in June of 2018, I left that career, I actually retired.
I know that ladies are not supposed to tell their age but maybe it would be an encouragement to somebody. I turned 60 years old this past June and after I retired, I cleaned everything and organized everything that I could find, then I volunteered, did something and I realised that retirement wasn’t really something for me. So in my previous job at a private college where I had worked for 21 years, guess it was in 2013, we implemented Salesforce and so I was invited to be in that implementation team.
I had a background in marketing and I worked for their LMS, I was a trainer and an administrator there. So I was invited to be a part of their implementation team for Salesforce and I loved it. I did that for 5 years along with some other responsibilities. When I left there, took retirement, took some time off, Salesforce just kept coming back to my mind, that maybe if I decide to get back to work, I should pursue that as a career path to “restart” my career if you will.
How did you pursue that interest, and what kept you moving forward?
I was at work for about a year and at that time, even though I was an administrator for 5 years, what I found when I was looking for work within Salesforce that I didn’t have the knowledge and certifications to get a job. I started on Trailhead which I knew a little bit about from my previous job but I did not immerse myself into the learning. I started on Trailhead and I loved it. I loved that it’s gamified, I loved how you can get immediate gratification and reward for completing a project or a task, a module or a trail.
So I started there and I looked at it as a job. Everyday I would work in Salesforce, I would do trails. Through the community, the Ohana, I found out about certifications, I found out about FocusonForce and that really made me start thinking about trying to get a certification. I was a little nervous though to be honest with you, at my age, thinking about going back and studying to be certified, it was daunting.
In terms of your current role, what does your day to day look like?
So I work in a Salesforce consulting firm and I work directly with clients. My work position is remote so I work from home. So my day consists of a meeting with the client, going into their Salesforce org and discussing features they would like to have added to their instance in Salesforce, talking about the design. And then part of the day is going in an actually doing that work. The company that I work with has a development team in India so some of my day is spent working with that team, coding, some of the sophisticated sections that I would need help with, they step in and do that work. So that’s a part of it. Then there’s training, I spend a part of my day training a user with new features that she’ll be implementing with Salesforce. It’s a great mix, everyday is different, working with the clients is amazing. My work environment where I am now is very collaborative, so we use Slack to chat all day, if we have a question or want to check in with a coworker. It’s very easy to do that and it is a perfect environment for me actually.
Everyday I would work in Salesforce, I would do trails. Through the community, the Ohana, I found out about certifications, I found out about FocusonForce and that really made me start thinking about trying to get a certification.
What would be the most important skills that a Business Analyst should have?
I think you have to be organized, I think you have to be disciplined especially if you are working remotely. Because you don’t have somebody checking in to make sure that you’re working, so I think these two things, being organized, being proactive, that if you tell your client you are going to do something, you actually follow through. That’s very very important.
What are the soft skills that you think are important?
I think kindness goes a long way no matter what type of work it is. When you are communicating with your clients and coworkers, just be kind and realise we are all starting towards the same goal and we all want to succeed and so I think that is a very important soft-skill. Listening, being able to listen, I think that is very important.
Would you say communication and facilitation skills are important?
I definitely think that is important. Again you know sometimes when you are training, and this may come with age and experience, you have to go through the materials several times, sometimes before the client understands or the person you are trying to train, before it clicks, before they get it. And I think you just need to be patient. Sometimes, behind the scenes I am covering my face going “Oh no, I have said this 3 more times” but I never let the client hear that. I take a deep breath and say “Lets get through it one more time”. Patience, is important.
I think it’s like in my mind when I am doing that type of work, I think of it as a path, you know like a pathway. So I am trying to get a group or a person from one place to the other and so when people start varying off the path you just need to try to gently bring them into focus, bring them back on the path so that you can get to the end and get the end result that you are looking for.
Have you had any other training courses on Salesforce?
I have not. I did FocusonForce and that’s why I have two certifications and I am working on three more. The materials that FocusonForce provides, the study guides as well as the practice exams, they have been invaluable to me. It helped me not just prepare knowing the material, but it helped set me up for success when I went to the test center. I had an idea about the structure of the questioning and I couldn’t have passed the exams without that prep work.
Have you had any experience with Salesforce Community events?
I live in a remote area, so I don’t get to go on community groups. But I do stay involved through Twitter. I am in the Facebook groups, I mean the online community. I meet with the group on Saturday morning, I am actually doing a coding class and it’s all women, all over the world and we meet live on Saturday morning. So, even you’re remote, it’s easy now with technology to connect with other people.
I am actually doing a coding class and it’s all women, all over the world and we meet live on Saturday morning. So, even if you’re remote, it’s easy now with technology to connect with other people.
What are your future goals?
I am working on Sales Cloud which is a bit tough for me. I am interested in Einstein, I did some [inaudible] work with Einstein, I like that. Right now, my number one priority is CPQ certification. I am really enjoying learning about CPQ and working on less projects, so that’s my next step.
What is the most challenging part of learning Salesforce?
Two things I think, the first would be it’s new material so you have to overcome the fear of failure. So that for me probably was the biggest thing. At my age, overcoming that fear, can I still learn, am I still capable of learning new technology. The other piece of it would be discipline. The discipline to show up everyday whether you are at home or work but continuing to learn something new.
What advice would you give people who are trying to get their first Salesforce job?
Even though I had experience with the college that I worked for, to break in and get a job actually was trying to make a connection, that was tough. So don’t give up. Another thing is willing to volunteer, I get a lot of volunteer work and it gave me connection, it gave me the opportunity to learn new things that I couldn’t have learnt any other way. So don’t give up, keep pushing forward.
I get a lot of volunteer work and it gave me connection, it gave me the opportunity to learn new things that I couldn’t have learnt any other way. So don’t give up, keep pushing forward.
Can you tell me more about your volunteer work?
Again, I just sort of put myself out there when I went into the boards within the Salesforce community. I said that I have certification and I do have five years experience but I need more practical experience. So, I worked pro bono with nonprofits. I gave my personal email address and that’s like Thursday afternoon so by Monday I have three nonprofit companies that reached out to me. It was amazing to me, I was so blessed to work with them.
As a matter of fact, one of the organizations I am still volunteering with. Nonprofits need help many times and it was a good mix, I needed the help and they needed help. I would say, it’s sort of a cautionary thing, if you don’t have experience, and you are willing to volunteer, I think you need to be upfront and let the organization know that you are completely new and that you are learning and they maybe still willing to let you help, I would not want to get into an organization with zero experience and try to do things.
Do you think having certifications helped your career?
I think the certifications, except for the knowledge that you gain by studying and preparing to get the certifications, it just gives you credibility, having it.
Is there any other advice you think will be useful to people wanting to advance their careers in Salesforce?
I would like to share a quote that I love, it’s on my LinkedIn, my resume, a quote by Walt Disney, and he said “When you are curious, you’ll find a lot of interesting things to do” and I would say to anybody for Salesforce or whether life in general, stay curious, stay engaged, continue learning. It doesn’t matter how old you are, just keep on keeping on, the key thing is being curious.
What Certification are you studying for now?
Focus on Force currently provides practice exams and study guides for fifteen certifications
Hi Rob and Donna, fellow “senior” here, having achieved my Admin cert last fall at the age of 55. I guess I’ve been most surprised by how little I actually knew once I passed the cert, having been a sales & marketing user for 10 years. My current role requires a lot of knowledge in areas I don’t know. I think it’s safe to say we grew up being “good” at our jobs, and to work in an environment now where there’s not always 1 right answer, and you have to learn and search, is a big change for me. Good luck!
Hi Donna, from a fellow “senior” in the process of reinventing myself after a long, successful career in Corp IT your story resonated. I agree that Trailhead is a fabulous resource enabling anyone to gain hands-on experience with the platform and I’ve found to be a perfect complement to FocusOnForce test-prep. I also agree that Salesforce Certification, in addition to bubbling-up useful knowledge about the platform along with trailhead badges provides a healthy measure of credibility and demonstrated interest & passion to understand the platform which is really all that is needed to succeed at any age.