Focused and Certified: Shamli Nikam — From the Hospitality Industry to Salesforce

FoF Guest Writer Shamli Nikam

4x Salesforce certified Focus on Force correspondent Shamli Nikam is based in Boise, Idaho and an Application Analyst for the J.R. Simplot Company. She was working in the hospitality industry when she was tasked to learn the Salesforce platform. Find out what her goals were when first starting, which areas of the Experience Cloud certification she thinks learners should focus on, what a typical working day for her is like, and what advice she has for Salesforce newbies!

My name is Shamli Nikam, and my current role is as an Application Analyst for the Salesforce platform. And I'm with the J.R. Simplot Company.

How did you get started with Salesforce?

I started back in 2010. I was working for a hospitality company. One of the responsibilities that I was given was to explore the Salesforce.com platform and find out if that tool would provide any value to the business processes. So I started learning Salesforce and that's how it began.

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

In the beginning years of my Salesforce journey, I was mostly doing consulting. What kept me motivated at that time was whenever I saw my business user give me feedback such as, “This change that you implemented for us has saved me X amount of hours,” or “This change that you implemented for me has increased the efficiency of my team by X%.” So when I saw that the change I'm making is helping my Salesforce users in so many different ways, that was just a great feeling and that kept me motivated to keep on learning more clouds or more functionalities, and keep on doing better, yeah.

Communication skills are as important as your technical skills. Ever since COVID, everybody's interacting with each other through screens. I feel like if possible, in-person interaction helps a lot. I feel like you can understand the other person better.

Of the 4 Salesforce certifications that you have currently, what would you say was the hardest one?

I took my Admin cert a few years ago and I thought that was the hardest. Like I said, I began my Salesforce journey back in 2010. And back then, there were just three certification options. I think there was Admin, Platform Developer 1 and 2, something like that. I don't remember. But at that point, I felt like, “Okay. Now I understand the Salesforce platform. I'm going to go and take the certification exam.” And in 2012, I attempted the test and I failed. (Laughs) I did not pass it.

Five or so years ago when I started giving my certs again, I was using Focus on Force and that tremendously helped me because of all the sample questions, and question banks. And how after every incorrect answer, I got to see why it was incorrect, right? So I was able to, you know, use Focus on Force and from that first test onwards, other tests have become easier because of Focus on Force, really. (Laughs)

You recently cleared Experience Cloud. Which areas of Experience Cloud should learners focus on?

So about Experience Cloud, back when it was called “Community Cloud,” I was able to create portal communities. And now when I started studying for Experience Cloud, there are so many new functionalities; so many new concepts. So obviously, like I said, at least try to complete two or three practice exams on Focus on Force. You'll really have to go through them — all of them just to be able to pass the certification exam. 

You'll have to go through the entire coursework because a lot of new functionality has been added by Salesforce to Experience Cloud.

What’s a typical working day like for an Application Analyst at the J.R. Simplot Company?

I start my day by looking at my priority items and priority requirements. I make sure the user story is complete — it has all the acceptance criteria, the definition of done, it has all the required refinement architectural details added to it. And if I am not sure or if I have doubts, I reach back to the business, all those good things. Other than that, I do a lot of User Acceptance Testing (UAT) sessions. I have also done a lot of training sessions.

I have put a lot of training documents together — that means adding screenshots or instructions and navigation steps such as “Click on this button and expect this to happen,” and all those good things. I work very closely with my architects and come up with solutions to find the most feasible; more scalable solution for any business process.

I want to stay closer to the technical side of Salesforce. That is what my typical day looks like.

Would you say that having good communication skills is helpful towards one’s professional life?

Communication skills are as important as your technical skills. Ever since COVID, everybody's interacting with each other through screens. I feel like if possible, in-person interaction helps a lot. I feel like you can understand the other person better.

What I mean by that is their body language more than their words. Their body language also, you know, helps you understand what they're saying, their perspective, and what they really want to tell you.

As a Focus on Force user, would you say that Focus on Force was helpful towards your certifications?

When I enrolled into Focus on Force, it helped me tremendously because of the detailed and accurate study guides, the question banks, and practice exam questions. I was able to see why my responses or answers were incorrect. So that helped me tremendously. It kind of gives me confidence.

Whenever I pass a practice exam on Focus on Force, it gives me an idea of how prepared I am to take the actual exam.

Even if you are in your 40’s or I would even say in your 50’s, it's not too late to start learning Salesforce. You will definitely see value in the time that you invest now. 

What advice would you give someone aspiring to join the Salesforce ecosystem?

I was at Dreamforce and I was looking at the newer clouds Salesforce was talking about, and newer functionalities. It is insane and very impressive what Salesforce is up to or what they are adding on their platform. Even if you are in your 40’s or I would even say in your 50’s, it's not too late to start learning Salesforce. You will definitely see value in the time that you invest now. 

For new grads, I would highly recommend that along with learning the technical aspects of Salesforce, also work on your soft skills. This is an absolutely great time to learn Salesforce because there are Trailheads. There are portals such as Focus on Force that are going to help you pass your certification exams. I would highly encourage anyone wanting to move to the Salesforce platform or thinking about changing their jobs, to start learning Salesforce.

It is worth the time you invest — absolutely worth it.

Any final words to the Focus on Force community?

First of all, thank you. And please say thank you to Martin. He’s been so kind to me and also you. Thank you so much. 

What Certification are you studying for now?

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