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Focused and Certified: Derek Scott — An Army Vet’s Journey Through 4 Salesforce Certifications

Slalom Associate Consultant Derek Scott

Once a federal agent for US Army, Derek Scott was already working in the construction industry when he was encouraged by a friend to go back to his roots in Computer Programming and to start learning Salesforce. Today, Derek is a 4X Salesforce certified Associate Consultant at Slalom, and shares with us what his goals were of joining the ecosystem, what challenges he faced while studying, why he says he doesn't know if he could have done it without Focus on Force, and also gives helpful advice for those preparing to get Salesforce certified.

My name is Derek Scott. I'm an Associate Salesforce Consultant with Slalom.

How did you get started with Salesforce?

Back in 2012, I graduated college with an Associate's Degree in Computer Programming and then I wasn't able to use it. I ended up doing some other things in the military. I was a federal agent — so think NCIS but for the army. And when I got out, I landed in the concrete construction field and did that for a while but realized it wasn't my passion.

So I started looking back into IT, software, and the whole tech industry and a friend of mine that I was in the military with works for Salesforce and told me to come check out this awesome platform and all the stuff it has to offer. And here I am today.

What were your goals when you were starting?

I wanted to get Admin certified and start a career in the industry. I didn't really know where it would go from there. Where I would start or anything like that but I knew I wanted to be Admin certified. And I knew I wanted to switch into the Salesforce career path.

So my drive or my goals are driven by success. So my success, the success of my family, my kids, my wife. And that's what kept me motivated. I knew I was doing this for not only myself for a better career path and a better well-being, but for my family.

The success of my family —  that's what kept me motivated. I knew I was doing this for not only myself for a better career path and a better well-being, but for my family.

Did obtaining your 4 certifications make a positive impact in your career?

Absolutely. So when I first started applying for roles in the Salesforce ecosystem, I had just landed my Admin cert back in November. While I was applying and interviewing at different companies, I was able to obtain my User Experience Designer cert.

And I think the self-study and the ambition I showed the technical aptitude I showed to go out and get those two certifications on my own before even landing a role in inside the ecosystem really showed my current employer and other prospective employers that I was driven and I was ready to take this career by the horns and go with it.

What would you say was your hardest certification to date and why?

Experience Cloud. The Admin cert is hard because you come from not knowing anything to learning such a vast system. Salesforce is a huge powerful platform and there's a lot to learn to get that certification. But the Experience Cloud is a lot to learn for one specific thing. And there are so many different licenses and things that are involved in it. It was definitely the toughest one so far.

What challenges have you faced while studying for your certification exams?

After I got my User Experience Designer cert, I immediately started studying for Platform App Builder. And when I was offered a role with Slalom, they told me that the first five weeks was going to be an academy specifically focused on Platform App Builder. So I figured I might as well not self-study for that if they're going to help me walk through it so I switched to Experience Cloud. And towards the end for about the last month or so, I was dual studying for both at the same time.

So I would wake up early in the morning — I'd wake up at about 4 a.m. and do some self-study of some courses. I'd go to work and learn all about Platform App Builder, and then afterwards I'd spend another 4 or 5 hours a night studying for Experienced Cloud. So I was at 12-13 hours a day studying for two certs at the same time. And that's tough to do especially with the family and trying to keep mental health and work-life balance in check. But yeah, the time is what it takes but it's probably the hardest part, yeah.

Can you give us a day in the life of an Associate Consultant?

I work a little bit early before most of the rest of my team is on and I start by checking my emails, making sure I catch up on anything that was missed after I got off work the day before. So I start my morning working out at the case queue and that involves a lot of Administrator-type work; user access, things like that to the system. Password resets, permission sets… And then in the afternoon after lunch, I try to switch over to my tasks and that's building more complex things in the system. Building flows, reports, dashboards and things like that. And then sprinkled in there — there are a lot of meetings with clients and the team, and making sure everybody's on the same page.

Would you say that Focus on Force was helpful towards your certification?

I don't know if I could have done it without Focus on Force to be honest with you. I mean, first and foremost, just in general Focus on Force is definitely helpful. It's the closest thing you can get to taking real Salesforce-issued practice exams. It's exciting. I love the information. So I read through them over and over again until I know what the information is.

I used Focus on Force for all of them except User Experience Designer. For Admin, I used both the study guide and the practice test. For Experience Cloud and Platform App Builder, I used mainly the practice tests. So I would go in right when I start off studying, and I'll take a Focus on Force practice test and kind of see where my knowledge level is, my base level. The team over there is awesome at building out the practice exams.

Would you say that having good communication skills is helpful towards the professional life of an Associate Consultant?

Absolutely. For a lot of reasons. You want to make sure that the information you're relaying or getting is coming across clearly and you understand each detail of what you're setting out to achieve or what you're setting out to learn. And then communication builds trust. If you have open communication with your team, your clients; whoever you're talking to, then you're building a relationship of trust. And your client; your team can count on you to come through when they need you to come through because you've built that trust with them through open communication lines.

If you have open communication with your team, your clients; whoever you're talking to, then you're building a relationship of trust. 

What advice would you give someone who is preparing for a Salesforce certification exam?

I mean it might sound really generic but my biggest piece of advice is have fun. If you're trying to learn anything new, it's got to be something that's interesting to you and you have to be having fun to do it. If it's not fun, then you're not going to retain the information.

So have a good time, realize that you're playing around in a platform that's making people's lives better from end user customers, to companies, to your own as a Salesforce professional. So have a good time, get into Dev org, and everything you're learning. Practice it, build some muscle memory, and play around. Build your own apps; play with your own permissions. See what you can and can't do in the system and have a good time.

Please, if you guys ever need anything else or any help with anything, please reach out. I'm here and I love to give back and participate in the community.

What Certification are you studying for now?

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