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Focus on People: Richard Hone – Midlife Career Change Towards Salesforce

In today’s interview, we have Richard Hone, a Salesforce learner who is working with a Nonprofit Success Pack partner.  From an electrical engineer with more than 20 years experience, he is now a successful Salesforce developer. He shared that exploring Salesforce for Nonprofit is one of the biggest decisions he made midlife.

He went into detail as to how he prepared for his certification: going through the study guides, practice exams, actual exam and back again, to do whatever it takes to ultimately get that certification.

How and why did you get started with Salesforce? 

I worked as an electrical engineer building industrial ultrasound solutions for about 20 years. Early on in my career, I was a software developer for a company called Corel that makes a product called 'Corel Draw'. I wanted to become a full-stack developer, but what turned out happening was that my friend got a contract with a Salesforce Platinum ISV which was making content management products. They wanted to increase their reach in terms of their user's success by creating online learning through a learning management system. So, I worked with them to create courses in three personas: User, Administrator, and Developer for their partners' employees and users. It was kind of trial by fire because I was put into working with the sandbox and implementing the authorware for templates, pages, branding, learning communities for self-service learning, etc. This was all very new to me -- and that turned me onto the entire Salesforce platform and ecosystem.

What was the most challenging part of learning Salesforce? 

I had issues with understanding the way the user experience worked in Salesforce; it wasn't laid out very well. It was very difficult and challenging to find what it was that I wanted to do even though I had an idea in my head what I wanted to accomplish and how Salesforce could accomplish it. There's so much information: the number of places that exist and the number of different ways you could approach it. The biggest problem was to determine what's relevant and how to narrow the scope.

How are you with Salesforce now?

I'm shadowing a Salesforce Nonprofit Success Pack partner, learning how to take some fairly complex business requirements that charities and nonprofits have and turn them into solutions within Salesforce. It’s a new start for me; I’m nearly certified. Having had a midlife career change, I wanted to give back and work with the Nonprofit Success Pack.

"Having had a midlife career change, I wanted to give back and work with the Nonprofit Success Pack."

What certifications have you achieved so far? 

I have the Admin certification and currently working on App Builder. I'd eventually like to become a Certified Application Architect, so I’m looking at the certifications required in each of those areas to achieve that. 

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

The big thing is to spend the time. I think a lot of people simply rush through to get certified and they don't necessarily learn the material. You have to learn the material. Focus on Force is great because it curates the material required in each the focus areas for a certification and the supplementary resources that you provide through something like Focus on Force is very important. The documentation is your friend; you need to read everything.  Don't memorize. You have to understand the material in order to understand the exam.

I used kind of an iterative stepwise approach. I bought both study guide and practice exams. I used the study guides to drive my knowledge for each of the areas of certification. Then I took the exams initially to find out what I knew, and I used the question-answer approach. So I was able to do a question and find the answer, and then the answer was fully explained by Focus on Force. Then I went back to the study guides to learn more about what I didn’t know, especially the questions that I missed in the exam, and then I went back to the exams again. I really like that, at the end of all of this, there were further exams that were specific to each of the knowledge areas required. So I took those to become well-versed on the topic, especially the ones I didn't know.

"Then I went back to the study guides to learn more about what I didn’t know, especially the questions that I missed in the exam, and then I went back to the exams again."

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

I was at the Salesforce World Tour here in Toronto, Canada. In the keynote, they said that Salesforce is providing a way for everyone to get involved in the digital revolution. The neat thing is that products that they have, like Trailhead, provides a level playing field for anyone who wants to become involved with Salesforce and it’s free. But, as most of us have encountered, it’s simply not enough. The only way to fill the gaps if you want to get certified is to use external resources. I found that Focus on Force is absolutely complete. It's very detailed, and it speaks directly to the knowledge areas that are required for the certification that you'll be tested upon. That's very powerful. And that, combined with Trailhead, Trailmixes, and Trails, really provides a total immersive experience for what you need to know in order to pass the exams.

Having sat in many of the conferences yesterday, it only reinforces what I've learned through products like Focus on Force because I understood what the speakers were talking about. A lot of it made perfect sense to me because I had such an involved experience with Focus on Force.

What Certification are you studying for now?

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