Fork in the Road
Now that you know a little about me and a little bit about how awesome Salesforce is, it’s time to discuss a different topic, why did I choose it as a career path (and why you should too!). While Salesforce is a diverse platform and it is becoming increasingly more difficult to know everything about everything (even certified architects don’t know everything), it does help to have an end goal in mind with regards to where you’d like your career to take you. Dreamforce, Salesforce’s annual conference, has a place for customers, partners, developers, administrators, salespeople, marketers, executives, and everything in between! The key is to find your passion and go for it!
Chicken or the Egg
When looking for your first Salesforce job, if you’re anything like me and don’t have a ton of experience, you might find it a little intimidating when many positions are looking for at least 2-3 years. If you do have a little experience, you may run into the issue of employers wanting to see some form of proof that you do in fact know what you’re talking about. Fortunately, Salesforce has a pretty extensive certification program that is highly recognized across the industry! Whether you’re new to Salesforce, or a Salesforce vet, it’s always the right time to build your resume and launch yourself further into your Salesforce career. Certifications were a tremendous boon for me because even though I had limited hands-on experience, by getting trained and getting certified (and learning a ton along the way), I was able to prove that I understood Salesforce well enough to land a great job as a Software Engineer at a rising company in SolarCity. Since updating my LinkedIn profile to reflect this, I now consistently get messages from recruiters several times a week about potential job offers. For a taste of the potential that a Salesforce career can take you down, check out this incredible presentation from a self-taught Google engineer, and my personal inspiration David Liu, as well as some top leaders in the Salesforce industry who are on the lookout for talent. David actually came from a marketing background and much to his own chagrin, used to be a professional email spammer which just goes to show you that no matter where you come from, anyone can learn Salesforce! With endless opportunities to learn and get certified, there’s no reason why you can’t do both together!
In future posts, I’ll go into some tips I’ve picked up about how to study and achieve some of the certifications but for now I just want to lay out some of the options. One of the key tenants of Salesforce certifications that isn’t always found among other technical certifications, are the requirements that you stay current. Salesforce has 3 releases a year where they release usually 100-200 new features and offer maintenance exams to ensure that all of their professionals stay up to date.
One of the most common paths, and the first one that I would recommend going down, is that of the Salesforce Administrator. I’ll go into a little bit more about some of what an Administrator does in future posts but for now, think of this person as a superhero who is able to manage the entire Salesforce instance for an organization without writing any code. Truth be told, there is no one definition as every org is managed slightly different, which makes perfect sense when you think about how every company is managed differently. Larger orgs sometimes even have an entire team of administrators to take care of their Salesforce instance but there is also a tremendous amount of support out there for the Solo Admins who are managing orgs on their own. This path contains 2 certifications, the Certified Administrator, and Certified Advanced Administrator. To get involved on social media with other admins, be sure to follow @salesforceadmns (there’s no ‘i’ in Admin) on Twitter and use the hashtag #AwesomeAdmin!
No matter what path you choose to go down, understanding the power and limitations of being a Salesforce administrator will greatly help you accomplish tasks much quicker on the platform. Another common path a lot of people choose to go down is that of the Salesforce Consultant. Generally, people choose to specialize in a particular product such as Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, or Marketing Cloud. Consultants can span anywhere from independent consulting, to contracting with a specific organization, to working for a consulting firm such as Appirio or Bluewolf. There are also community launched websites such as CRM Market that allow you to highlight your skills for anyone company looking for some help. While there is no substitute for experience, your resume and career prospects can be greatly boosted by going after a specialized certification such as Certified Sales Cloud Consultant, Certified Service Cloud Consultant, or a Certified Email or Social Specialist on the Marketing Track. All of these certifications are independent, although Sales Cloud and Service Cloud require the basic Administrator certification as a prerequisite.
Salesforce App Builder and Salesforce Developer
For those who do like getting a little bit more hands on and building things (such as myself) there is also a certification just for building on the platform, appropriately named Certified Platform App Builder! Previously known as Force.com Developers, App Builders don’t actually need to know how to write any code, but rather develop using Salesforce’s easy to understand “point-and-click” approach, which is just as it sounds. What many app builders, and admins for that matter, don’t often realize though, is that while they aren’t directly writing code, they are being exposed to it and indirectly writing it all the time! As I’ll also discuss in future posts, many of the Salesforce non-coding tools, such as formulas, process builder, workflows, flows, and field API names that non-coders use on an every-day basis provides a great introduction into the world of coding.
For that reason, the Platform App Builder certification is a great segue into the Platform Developer I and Platform Developer II certifications, which do require the ability to code on the Salesforce platform. These certifications are a little harder to achieve but from what I’ve heard from recruiters, are definitely worth it (I’m actually going for them soon!). I’ll highlight these in greater depth in later posts as well, but know for now that those options are out there. To get involved with this community on Twitter, be sure to follow @SalesforceDevs.
Salesforce Technical Architect
Last but not least, my eventual goal, the coveted Certified Technical Architect certification, of which there are only currently 182 in the world. This certification is currently undergoing a revamp so not exactly sure what it entails just yet…hopefully we’ll have some fun learning together! Individuals who hold this certification are considered masters of the platform. While they may not know EVERYTHING, they’re pretty darn close. While these are just some guidelines, there are an infinite number of paths that your Salesforce career can take. I would love to hear about whichever one you choose!
Benefits of Getting Certified
My favorite benefit of getting certified was honestly learning the Salesforce platform! It’s a lot of fun to dig into and the amount of training material out there is extensive enough for just about anyone to start building their career and proving their worth today! My next post will actually go in depth about how to do just that! If you want a sneak peak, it involves trails 🙂
One of the other helpful benefits though, is the ability to make a living off of doing something that can be a lot of fun and is adding 300+ new features every year! A blog post from Salesforce MVP Ben McCarthy earlier this year outlines some of these sample salaries that the market is currently offering. A sample of 70+ people from the Denver user group put together by Salesforce MVP Brent Downey also showed that the market will pay very well for Salesforce certifications. While just a small sample size, hopefully it gives you an idea of how lucrative (and amazingly fun of course) a Salesforce career can be! For the latest info on the certification program, be sure to follow @SalesforceU on Twitter.
Salesforce offers an infinite number of paths that you can take on your way to a successful, fun, and lucrative career. While many choose to go down the Admin, Consultant, Developer, or Architect route, the truth is that even those who identify with one of these, often identify with several (myself included). It’s also not uncommon to wear many hats and do several of these at the same time! This year alone, I’ve generally considered myself a developer, while also wearing the hat of an administrator, and doing some consulting work on the side. This post was a little on the long side and there was a lot of information but hopefully you’re wondering where and how to get started! I’ll promise you that you can start today and it’s completely free and I’ll go into greater detail on exactly how next time…
Wow, only ~182 in the world = rare
Interesting article. Could you please suggest an ideal path for someone who wants to progress in the admin role alone; I mean like developing cool apps without writing a single line of code (it is possible in Salesforce, right?). Something like Salesforce admin -> Force.com developer -> Salesforce Marketing/Sales/Service cloud consultant.
Whats your take on this? How progressive can it be in one’s career if they choose to follow this path…
Very progressive! Indeed actually named Salesforce Admin as the #4 best job to have in 2017! http://blog.indeed.com/2017/03/21/best-jobs-united-states-2017/ You can definitely make a career out of it if that’s the route you choose to go, Salesforce has a bunch of them here: https://admin.salesforce.com/admin-stories
In terms of certification paths, I’d suggest starting with Admin, moving on to Platform App Builder, and then Advanced Admin. It also might be worth taking a crack at the Sharing and Visibility Designer Architect track cert, I personally found it very similar to Adv Admin. From there, it depends what product(s) you’re interested in be that Sales, Service, Marketing, Community Clouds, or a combination.