Focus on People: Jim Vineyard – From Zero to Hero

Jim Vineyard knew nothing about CRM before he explored Salesforce, as part of an account he took on for Customer Service. 


Working with his son in the same company, doing the same job, he navigated through Salesforce and learned a whole new world of custom CRM, and Customer Service functionalities, never before possible for him, in the last decade of his career.

I began with Salesforce as a result of the job I took.  I have a background in what we call Customer Service – both in the non-profit and for-profit sectors.  I do have some understanding of the background of computers, having also worked with digital electronics in the military reserve and also by being a computer hobbyist.  But until I was hired by the company with which I am now employed, I knew NOTHING about CRM in general and Salesforce in particular. But the role I took on when I was hired was as a 1st tier help desk agent, helping a customer manage their particular platform version of Salesforce.  It was encouraged by our managers that all of the Help Desk agents on this project should become familiar with Salesforce and even get certified as administrators.  I took this advice and encouragement to heart and began my studies in Trailhead. I also started various certification study resources, such as Focus on Force.

How did you pursue that interest, and what kept you moving forward?

I began with the goal of obtaining Salesforce Administrator certification shortly after beginning my work; not really understanding the entire CRM concept and how Salesforce implements it.  Believe me, working on some of the Trailhead modules/badges was interesting, because I saw each ‘tree’ but didn’t understand the ‘forest’ I was in. But as I grew in confidence in these modules, and as I began using the study resources towards preparing for the certification exam, I began to see what CRM was, how Salesforce did it, and became excited by the fact that a guy with limited software experience (I know NO computer languages, and the most I have worked with ‘software’ was using some basic HTML 3.0 skills over two decades ago!) could actually do STUFF in this environment that could aid Customer service.  That and the company offered a bonus for actually getting certified!

What was the most challenging part of learning Salesforce?

For me, it was probably my excursion into Apex Triggers. Like I mentioned, I don’t know any computer language. I had to work with my son, who is the Computer Sciences graduate (fun fact – he actually works at the same company in the same job and encouraged me to apply there!) to learn and pass the Trailhead module on Apex Triggers.  Without his expertise, I’d be lost on this. I am very glad that as an administrator, I don’t have to know HOW to do Apex coding, I just have to know WHEN it is needed so that I can contact the developer who actually does the coding in those circumstances.

 I began to see what CRM was, how Salesforce did it, and became excited by the fact that a guy with limited software experience could actually do STUFF in this environment that could aid Customer service.  

Do you currently have a certification? How did obtaining this certification impact your career?

I have two certifications as of this interview.  I hold a current Administrator AND Advanced Administrator’s certification.  But these aren’t the only ones I will hold. After the New Year, I will decide upon my next path and work towards certification in that area or areas.  I don’t plan on a certain number of certifications and then no more. I’ll see where my interests and employment options take me.

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

Study, study, and study some more.  Here’s a shameless but uncompensated plug – use the Focus on Force study guides and practice exams.  I truly believe that without those – especially the exams, I wouldn’t have understood enough to pass either certification exam.  

Learn the principles behind the questions on the exams, as you cannot be assured that the question wording will be anywhere close to what you see on the practice exams.  Figure out what the rules are, and why. Invest in good study resources – Trailheads are good, but other resources like Focus on Force and others are going to be essential to getting the material right. You may be fortunate that one instructor or one study guide will ‘click’ with you; that’s great. But if you have problems, then look at another method, another instructor or resource.  Something WILL click, and you’ll do better on the exam than you first think. I know, that’s what happened in my case.

 

What advice would you have for people preparing for a Salesforce certification, similar to yours?

Basically, what I just said.  Study, study, study. John Knight – a 6X certified Salesforcer said that he felt confident in passing the exam once he consistently got a 75% or higher in Focus on Force practice exams.  I have to agree. I only felt cautiously optimistic about my chances of passing the certification once I could consistently pass the real practice exams (the 60 question exams using the weighting system and emulating fairly well the real Salesforce exam) with a 75% or better.  Indeed after I had taken a barrage of those exams, I was scoring at 82+ %, and when I went in to test for the REAL thing, I passed with a couple of questions to spare. And yes, the real test is harder than the practice test, which is a good thing. But it can be passed. If an older guy who HASN’T had a career in I.T. can start in Salesforce, and in less than a year go from a know nothing to being a certified Advanced Administrator, then  anyone can – if they’re willing to do the work!

 I only felt cautiously optimistic about my chances of passing the certification once I could consistently pass the real practice exams with a 75% or better.

What Certification are you studying for now?

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