Nat had never heard of Salesforce when she was offered an internal position by her company to be the Salesforce Trainer for North America. Coming from an end-user non-technical background, it felt like she was pushed into deep waters, and forced to swim.
Read how her Salesforce journey has led her to the most challenging, yet the most rewarding experiences of her life. In this interview, she tells us about the key factors in winning through this deep dive, and how she transitioned very quickly from "start by accident" to "start by choice". She also shared her very own system on preparing for certification exams.
How and Why did you get started with Salesforce?
I was offered an internal position at my previous company to become the Salesforce Trainer for North America. It was sold to me as a training and support position, so I didn't think it was a problem that I had never heard of Salesforce before, and was not in a technical role (had no technical background!). Needless to say, when I started and learned that I was actually the Systems Administrator, it was a BIG surprise!
I was initially unsure if I could even do the role - but then I surprised myself! Despite not having the right skill set or background, I learned that Salesforce was something even I could do! That was when I went from my "start by accident" to my "start by choice" with Salesforce, and decided to really make a go of it!
What were your goals when starting and how did you keep motivated?
Coming from an end-user non-technical background, my motivation was to ensure a great end-user experience where possible. I had to navigate the balance between the technical Systems Administrator side of the role, with the soft-skills required for the Training and User Adoption side of the role.
I was extremely challenged as I learned the Systems Administrator functionality along with the Salesforce capability and our internal in-house customization and application of Salesforce. Some days, just staying afloat and not drowning was enough motivation! But that challenge kept me pushing forward - I was determined to make sure my users were supported and felt confident using the platform, and, to do that, required skills and knowledge, so I had no choice but to learn!
Once I got connected with the Salesforce Community, I got assistance with my motivation by all the other users in the world. I'm still awed by the "family" feeling we have - we can go out there, ask a question, get help, and collaborate. And it seems that there's always other Salesforce users who have experienced a similar frustration/challenge/win, so we all have the ability to support each other.
What was the most challenging part of learning Salesforce?
It required a complete change in mindset from any role I'd ever had before, considering I'd always been in more end-user positions. Salesforce's "unlimited potential" from it's powerful customization options, AppExchange and other vendor integration options, and platforms, presents both a blessing and a curse. It is impossible for me to know everything, and it was hard to know where to start with growing my knowledge.
This remains a challenge to this day - Salesforce changes constantly, and maintaining knowledge is also a big challenge. But, also, it keeps it from being boring and from our skills becoming outdated.
Having started in a highly-customised org, this presented a big challenge (that has stayed with me even now) - my "learning foundation" was on an org where I initially didn't know what was Standard and what was Custom, so now there are things I assume should be Standard that were, in fact, Custom!
The internet is a beautiful thing, and am amazing resource...BUT...there's also a lot of pitfalls with believing everything you read online! There's a lot of old/outdated/incorrect Salesforce content out there that can trip you up, so knowing where to find the right information is a big challenge.
When I started, Trailhead hadn't yet been launched, so getting help and guidance was a lot more difficult. Trailhead has helped immensely, especially with the the Superbadges and Projects - applying theoretical knowledge in a "real-life" situation helps to cement the knowledge and apply the skills.
I can't advocate the Community enough, and following blogs, using forums (e.g. Focus on Force forums during exam study) helped make that challenge a little easier by "sharing" the load with all the other Salesforce users around the world.
"Salesforce changes constantly, and maintaining knowledge is also a big challenge. But, also, it keeps it from being boring and from our skills becoming outdated."
Do you currently have a certification? How did obtaining this certification impact your career?
Yes, I have both my Admin and Sales Cloud Certifications.
My previous company didn't offer any advancement opportunities or support with certifications, so it wasn't a priority. Since moving into a new company and role, my new company is both progressive and supportive and I have been encouraged with recognition and salary increases to achieve these certifications.
And, working for a Consulting company, these certifications help to gain buy-in from Customers and Prospects.
What is your advice regarding certification and how to study for the exams?
I could NOT have done my exams without Focus on Force! The investment is definitely worth it!
Having not been a student for over a decade, I was out of practice with how to study. And, considering I still have limited technical capabilities and maintain a more end-user mentality, my Salesforce knowledge was usually more high-level "awareness" of functionality, rather than the detailed "how-to" .
I did many different practice exams online, and found the Focus on Force provided both:
- The most up-to-date and relevant content, and
- The most "realistic" practice exams - both in the format/style and the question content
And, I would also say - don't be afraid to fail. It's such a shared issue that we all feel embarrassed if we do...and yet it's so common! I really like the fact that Salesforce gives you the opportunity (of course, at an extra cost!) to resit the exam, AND that they force the period of reflection onto you by locking you out of registering again straight away. They encourage you to go back and study, and they give you the results by topic so you know what areas you need to focus on.
"I really like the fact that Salesforce gives you the opportunity to resit the exam...They encourage you to go back and study, and they give you the results by topic so you know what areas you need to focus on."
What advice would you have for people preparing for a Salesforce certification?
The first thing is that you MUST have DEDICATED time to study, and do it over a period of time (e.g. 1 hour/day, etc). This can be part of the biggest challenge.
The second thing is planning your attack on the subject matter. Admin is such a broad certification that covers the basic principles of the overall platform. And Sales Cloud also spans multiple functionality as well as Project Management strategies. This makes it hard to pinpoint what content you should focus on. I found that this system worked for me to study:
"While you're on hold with a vendor, just click on a practice exam. If you're on your phone on the train, instead of checking Facebook, just do a quick practice exam. If you keep your mind in the 'Salesforce zone' and keep it in-tune with the exam format, you'll feel more prepared."
The third thing is keeping it front-of-mind by taking and retaking practice exams. While you're on hold with a vendor, just click on a practice exam. If you're on your phone on the train, instead of checking Facebook, just do a quick practice exam. If you keep your mind in the "Salesforce zone" and keep it in-tune with the exam format, you'll feel more prepared.
And lastly, be prepared on the day. Make sure you read the instructions CAREFULLY of how to take the exam. If you're taking it remotely, make sure you have everything you need (the room setup with independent camera/etc) well before the exam. If you're taking it at a testing centre, make sure you take everything you need with you (photo ID, etc). You want to try and enter the room as calm as you can on the day - you don't want to be stressing at the last minute about not having the right tools/equipment/etc. Ideally, you can walk in, take a big deep breath, smile and click "Start" with confidence!
"Ideally, you can walk in, take a big deep breath, smile and click "Start" with confidence!"
What Certification are you studying for now?
Focus on Force currently provide practice exams and study guides for nine certifications