Focus on People: Mark van Voornveld – Taking the Big Shift: From Microsoft to Salesforce

Mark van Voornveld

Mark van Voornveld is an IT professional with a 30-year career built around Microsoft Azure Stack and Dynamics. While relatively new for him, he chose to transition to Salesforce, seeing it as a fresh path to take and a good addition to his expertise. Here, he shared his professional journey, reasons for this transition, and his adjustments to a new CRM and the essential, non-technical skills that make an IT professional effective in the workplace.

I am a freelancer and founded my own company called YouMarket. Most of the time, I work with insurance companies, banks, and companies that have big CRM or SharePoint Systems. And currently, I'm working with a Dutch insurance company.

How did you shift from Microsoft to Salesforce?

Salesforce is pretty new for my 30-year experience in the IT industry, but I see it as a good transition path from the Microsoft systems I am used to handling. I also think that it is a nice addition to the expertise I currently have.

I have been a technical engineer in the past 10 years for CRM systems for CRM Dynamics while managing SharePoint and other workloads like Azure Stack for Microsoft; but it is just recently, about a year and a half, that I got introduced to Salesforce.

What’s your day to day work like?

Because of COVID-19, I'm working from home. But if I am required to go on-site, I go hands-on to solve problems on CRM systems and answer questions from the end-users. I work with the DevOps teams to modify the system based on how the customer wishes it to be. This is my main work as a Technical Application Manager.

What are the most important skills that you think a technical application manager should have?

I think someone should have the essential non-technical skills to be effective for this role, aside from the certifications.


Start with getting the hang of troubleshooting. For instance, if there is an issue with the system, there could be a problem with the database or with the network. Troubleshooting puts your existing knowledge and decision-making skills at play to solve a problem as fast as possible.

Next is to be proactive. I look into my environment and see what projects are coming, ask them what they need, and prepare it for them ahead of time. That way, I don't have to cram in times of system issues because I already have prepared everything.

Another is providing a comprehensive customer/end-user service orientation. This is crucial as I establish myself as the go-to person for the system. Doing this effectively will surely help the end-user community in using the system as well as the developers. Being detail-oriented also plays a huge part in my role as it allows me to see the intricate parts of the system and how they work together. This also gives me a broader perspective on how the system is supporting business functions.

I think someone should have the essential non-technical skills to be effective for this role, aside from the certifications.

What were your goals when you were starting and how did you keep motivated?

I studied Business Economics in 1995 that has nothing to do with IT. I right away started in IT after I graduated, being a business economics major.

In my opinion, the IT and the business management sector will work much closer in the near future as they are becoming a necessity for modern companies. And that's my vision in my work: think of the bigger picture and relay it to the users, even being a technical guy.

In the technical area, I'm the detail guy. If there are problems or if I have to install a server, I have to go into detail. But right after that, I go hands-on with the users to gather feedback and suggestions to tailor-fit the system functionalities to their needs.

It’s always troubleshooting, running the system with the users, and then trying to serve the bigger picture to the customers. So that's my business orientation and my motivation.

And that's my vision in my work: think of the bigger picture and relay it to the users, even being a technical guy.

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

I already am a SharePoint and CRM Dynamics consultant, so it was nice to see another system. The challenge is identifying the difference between Salesforce and Dynamics in terms of setup. But because I already have the bigger picture of a CRM, it’s not that hard to get to know Salesforce. On top of that, a lot of things are nicely designed compared to CRM Dynamics.

I was more versed in the competitor software. My knowledge can work against me if I’m going to get certified or go hands-on with a newer CRM, which in this case, Salesforce. All the time I was looking at how Salesforce differentiates itself from CRM Dynamics because those were the only things I had to get into my head. Later I realized that Salesforce works differently from Dynamics in many ways. There were good facilities in CRM Dynamics that took a lot of time to implement, while Salesforce has nicely designed features to do things easily. In taking the certification, I had to know how Salesforce did it. It was a lot harder. I had to forget what I know about Dynamics because that's Microsoft. So I had to restart and think about the Salesforce way.

I had to forget what I know about Dynamics because that's Microsoft. So I had to restart and think about the Salesforce way.

What certification do you currently hold and what is your advice in getting certification and how do you study for an exam?

I have the main administrator and Microsoft Azure Stack certifications. And now that I have a Salesforce CRM certification, it shows potential customers that I'm not only limited to the Microsoft Azure Stack, but I’m not yet working for a Salesforce customer.

In the last five years, I have gained competitive skills and experiences through certifications, especially for Microsoft courses.

In studying for a Microsoft certification, you can get tons of learning resources online. Supplement it with an actual book that you can get for that specific certification. You can also find companies that sell previous test versions that you can use as a practice test before you take the actual certification. That’s what I did when I took the administrator certification.

But don’t expect this in Salesforce exams. Their test items are unique but are quite related to each other. You can sometimes spot the answer to a test item from a question a few numbers back.

What are your future goals?

I don't have the mindset of developers and immediate system management. I'm structured in my approach. I see that developers and system managers have a difference in character, but I can perfectly work with teams composed of those professionals. I never got to that level yet, but I am also interested in being in the operational area. That’s my skill. That’s what motivates me.

I'm always interested in the system development turf as a systems manager, not a developer. And for Salesforce, I would like to be a system implementer that works closely with the customers and provides what they prefer for a CRM.

I see that developers and system managers have a difference in character, but I can perfectly work with teams composed of those professionals. I never got to that level yet, but I am also interested in being in the operational area. That’s my skill. That’s what motivates me.

What Certification are you studying for now?

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