According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, women only make up 25% of the IT workforce in the United States. This makes it difficult for them to feel comfortable and supported in IT spaces, as the culture is oftentimes unwelcoming or even hostile towards women. In this interview, Focus on Force’s Vidya Srinarayana shares how she started her journey through 8 Salesforce certifications, why she says getting certified is an equalizer, what a typical working day for her is like, and why she encourages Salesforce newbies to start with the Salesforce Associate certification!
Hi. I'm Vidyalakshmi Srinarayana. I'm a Product Owner at Focus on Force.
How did you get started with Salesforce?
I started with SAP initially; in my first company. They offered Salesforce training for their new venture, and that's how it all began.
What were your goals when starting and how did you keep motivated?
Well, when I started with Salesforce, I wanted to dig deep because it was fairly new for me back then back in 2012. So I was so excited to learn something new. And then the more I learned about it, it got me more and more motivated. It felt like I was learning something much bigger than what I actually anticipated.
Of your 8 certifications, what would you say was the hardest one?
I would say the Sales Cloud Consultant was the hardest because I passed it only on my second attempt. In spite of having about four to five years of experience back then when I took it for the first time, I couldn't pass and I was shocked because I thought I already knew a lot of things by then. And it took another five years of work and a lot of confidence by gaining other certifications that I attempted it for the second time. So I think you need a combination of both learning as well as experience to pass all those Consultant certificates. That was my toughest.
Even though someone has a lot of knowledge, if they are not able to communicate it, it's a waste. So people should sharpen their communication skills. That's something I learned along the way.
Which areas of the Sales Cloud Consultant certification exam should learners focus on then?
Interesting. Actually, I would suggest for them to look at all the kinds of scenarios — like what kinds of scenarios companies could encounter, and see if they can try it out in their Developer or Trailhead org. And come up with a lot of new solutions, and understand the way Salesforce works by practicing rather than just theoretical knowledge.
Would you say that getting certified affected your career in a positive way?
Oh, certainly yes. One thing is definitely the recognition that I received. Like the more and more certifications I cleared, more and more people started noticing me especially with all the LinkedIn updates that we get. But apart from that, a lot of knowledge. And the more you learn, you understand that there's more that Salesforce can offer.
Can you please paint a picture of what a typical working day for you is like?
Okay, a typical working day would start off with a team meeting. Like we focus on what the priorities are for the day and for the week. And then our first focus is always responding back to the customers — their queries, what their questions on the forum are; their suggestions. So after responding to them, we figure out the areas that we need to update in our materials, and that's what we focus on as the first thing.
I go through all the materials proactively to see if there are any areas that we can improve further, and things like release updates that happen thrice a year. We gather information about it — the notes, and then we see where we can all update our materials. So that's my entire day at Focus on Force, yes.
Would you say that having good communication skills are essential to a career in Salesforce?
Communication skills are absolutely necessary because you should be able to let people understand what you actually want — what you have to offer. Even though someone has a lot of knowledge, if they are not able to communicate it, it's a waste. So people should sharpen their communication skills. That's something I learned along the way.
I would definitely advise them to go for the Associate certificate first, because it's going to help people have a proper introduction into Salesforce. And they'll feel confident because the exam is relatively easier.
For what certification did you use Focus on Force for, and would you say it was helpful towards your preparations?
I used Focus on Force for four of my certifications: Sales Cloud Consultant, Experience Cloud Consultant, Advanced Administrator, and also our Business Analyst. They were all very helpful for me. Like I told you, it's not just hands-on experience. We need right knowledge — proper theoretical knowledge as well.
Focus on Force was amazing. I learned a lot of new things and it gave me a lot of confidence, too. Because I was like, “Okay. I've prepared now. So I'm sure I'll be able to clear the exam now.” And passing my second attempt with Sales Cloud Consultant was only possible with the Focus on Force materials.
What advice would you give those who are thinking of joining the Salesforce ecosystem?
Now that the Associate cert is here, I would definitely advise them to go for the Associate certificate first, because it's going to help people have a proper introduction into Salesforce. And they'll feel confident because the exam is relatively easier. And once they start preparing for it, by practicing on Trailhead or their Developer orgs, I'm sure they'll feel comfortable getting into Salesforce and also taking the exam. That's a good place to start.
Are you preparing for the Salesforce Associate Certification?
Focus on Force provides a study guide and practice exams for the Salesforce Associate credential.