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Focus on People: Mony Kankanala – Learning Salesforce by volunteering

Mony Kankanala is volunteering as a Salesforce/CRM consultant for the non-profit sector. His journey with Salesforce is unique and a true inspiration for those who are still thinking if they should start a career in Salesforce. Let’s see how he managed to organize his learning process and getting certified.

How and why did you get started with Salesforce?

Prior to October 2017, I had never used Salesforce and only heard of it. Back then, I was quite frustrated on an existing infrastructure project that I was managing, and I really wanted to return to applications / consulting work that was meaningful and fun. I had worked on a Dynamics CRM implementation project a few years ago and thought that might be a good thing to get back into, even though I have not been a fan of that platform.

I reached out to a former colleague that I worked with on the project and asked for his input. He had been working with Dynamics CRM for a while and just got into Salesforce himself and said he was loving it.

I also started exploring Salesforce and after the first half hour or so, I was hooked. It was so magical to navigate and do things in. Then I heard that there were all kinds of jobs & contracts in Salesforce and that inspired me to pursue this path.

What were your goals when starting?

Once I started playing around with Salesforce, I wanted to know everything about it because it just seemed so ‘cool’ to use. I was drawn to the fact that I could create a simple database within minutes and that could be accessible to anyone anywhere, without writing a ton of code and integrations. I suppose that could have been done with xRM (extended relationship management), but it wasn’t as easy.

So I wanted to get certified and I wanted to get experience. I wanted a Salesforce contract/job.

In late October 2017, I signed up to be a volunteer for a non-profit who was using Dynamics CRM at a remote data center that was difficult to use and was not fully implemented. I convinced them after a couple weeks to use Salesforce instead and they were on board. I helped set it up, do some of the data modeling and data migration, and find an app on the app exchange to integrate Gotowebinars with Salesforce and it happened. I worked with the vendor to sort out issues and, within 2 months, the Gotowebinar and Salesforce integration was successful and a major win for this org. They had been trying to do this for 2 years and weren’t able to.

What was the most challenging part of learning Salesforce?

The documentation was extremely extensive and there was a ton of information for me to filter through that sometimes it felt challenging to get what I needed for the moment… Fortunately, the info, when found, was great.

Also, as a total newbie to Salesforce, I really didn’t know where to start. Even the trails were confusing initially because there was no place that said “Start Here”.

But thankfully I found my way… YouTube, Trails and just plain bruteforce… Playing around with the tool really helped. I did reach out once on the Trailblazer community when I was having a data overriding issue during data migration, and the support was awesome!

What is your role now and what does your day to day look like? 

I am still volunteering as a Salesforce/CRM consultant for a non-profit, so I have been focusing on getting them migrated to Saleforce by end of August. For that, I am seeking some additional development resources. My typical day to day over the last 6 months has been around data cleansing, data migration, reporting, architecting integrations with other systems, writing up requirements and trying to figure out solutions. Lots of learning.

My current focus has been on requirements gathering. I have found that requirements gathering is a key piece to a good Salesforce implementation, starting with definitions and processes (such as What is a Lead, What is a Contact, etc) specific to the organization.

What certifications have you achieved so far? What are your future plans?

I just got my Salesforce Admin certification on March 14th 2018. 😊

After my experience with Salesforce, I have decided to build a Salesforce consulting practice for my company and focus my efforts on becoming a Salesforce Partner within two years. I am also seeking to build consulting partnerships with development vendors that could collaboratively help build simple, effective and rapid solutions using the Salesforce platform for small to medium businesses.

So my next certification goals are:

  • Sales Cloud
  • Service Cloud
  • Community Cloud Consultant
  • Platform App Builder

What tips and advice do you have for others who are in the process of preparing and studying for a Salesforce certification and keep motivated?

I would suggest the following approach. If I were to do this again, that’s how I would do it so I wouldn’t have struggled as much as I did:

  • Do the Salesforce Admin module on Trailblazer
  • Review the Admin Study Guide on Focus on Force. Try as much as possible to experiment with the concepts on the platform itself. I didn’t do this but it could have been easier if I did.
  • Do some of the practice questions on the heavy weighted sections (Security, User Setup, etc) on Focus on Force.
  • Do each of the practice exams on Focus on Force. These are fantastic questions that really tested my understanding and they were actually harder in some cases than the actual exam.
  • After each practice exam, go through each question answer (including the ones you got right, because it reinforces the knowledge). For the ones you got wrong, strive to understand the rationale behind the correct answer.

How did Focus on Force study guides and practice exams help with your preparation?

The Focus on Force study guides and practice exams were extremely helpful and beautifully prepared. They were so easy to read and go through and pick and choose.

I found the practice exams to be a bit harder than the actual exam.

What advice do you have for someone that wants to start a Salesforce career?

Go for it. I have a strong feeling the Salesforce platform and its ecosystem is going to transform businesses and is here to stay for a while. There is a tremendous amount of potential for it beyond just the CRM. Analytics, Intelligence, IoT. If you really like this stuff, go for it and don’t look back. Learn as much as you can, and enjoy the process…

If you find it boring, it may not be the right thing for you.

What Certification are you studying for now?

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


  1. MSireesha

    Great experience sharing and I’m sure i’m following a similar path ..to learn Salesforce and i’m currently looking out for Remote Freelancing work. I’ve 15+ years of Siebel CRM experience in Fortune 500 companies,and recently i started loving Salesforce. Got Admin Certified Sep 2018 !