Start Your Salesforce Journey

First Steps

Hopefully by now you’re aware of how awesome Salesforce is, what a Salesforce career can bring to you, and some of the paths you can choose to walk down.  You probably have a few obvious questions such as “How do I get started?”, “How long will it take to get started?”, and “How much will it cost?”  Depending on what direction you want your career to take, there may be slightly different answers in the long term, but for taking your first steps, you can start today, it will take 20 minutes, and it will cost you absolutely nothing.

Trailhead

A couple of weeks ago, Salesforce made generally available its Trailhead learning tool that it introduced in beta at their Dreamforce conference last year.  Trailhead as the article states, is a fun, free, and easy way to learn Salesforce.  They play off the camping theme and divide modules up into different “trails” that again allow you to choose your own path.  They have trails for almost every possible path including Admins, Developers, Non-Profits Admins, and even End Users.  They also have trails for everyone regardless of your experience from Beginners on up.  They are constantly adding more and more trails and modules as well.

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Trailhead is accessible at trailhead.salesforce.com and gives you the opportunity to consume knowledge in bite size chunks.  The trails consist of modules and the modules are broken down into steps that average about 15-20 minutes in length to get through.  As you progress through the steps, you can earn points, and as you complete modules, you can earn badges!  You can also choose to complete the project route and get even more hands on experience focused on building certain applications.  Salesforce now even lets you show off the skills you’ve learned by posting your badges to your LinkedIn profile.  You have the option of posting each skill individually under your Certifications section or you can add it as part of your Education section as shown below to show that you’ve used it to learn.  Just search for “Trailhead by Salesforce” as your place of study.  You can also make your Trailhead profile publicly available to show off to your friends, co-workers, and even recruiters all the skills you’ve learned!

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The other cool thing about Trailhead is that it does more than just give you content to read.  Some module steps have questions to answer at the end to make sure you’ve understood what you’ve read but my favorite ones are the ones that actually allow you to create with your hands what you just learned in your own free Developer org.  Trailhead can then validate in real time that you’ve built what you were trying to create correctly and will help guide you if you’ve missed something.  This gives you quick, free, hands on experience using a variety of new features.

Next Steps

I usually like to describe learning Salesforce as an Olympic swimming event.  It’s not easy, but it is a lot of fun and if you do it really well, you can get a medal at the end!  Good news for us, unlike the Olympics though, there are an unlimited number of medals so don’t give up and take Dory’s advice to “just keep swimming”!  Trailhead is the initial push off in this Olympic swim.  It won’t get you all the way there, but it will give you one heck of a heads start and do a lot of the initial leg work for you.  Whether you want to just learn some new terminology, get some basic coding skills, get introduced to a new part of Salesforce, or just get a refresher, there is a great chance that Trailhead has something for you.

Dory

At this past Dreamforce, I presented on how you can use Trailhead to help get you on the road to becoming Salesforce Certified.  This is one of many steps you can take to help you advance your career, but to be honest I had a ton of fun just building things and earning badges.  Like the Trailhead theme suggests, you can always choose whichever direction you’d like to go (another difference from the Olympics where you’re not under a time limit and don’t have to stay in your lane).  I’d actually suggest checking out a few different paths to see what works for you since everyone has different learning styles.

SalesforceU

If you do choose to go down the certification path, I’d like to make sure you know all about Salesforce University, more commonly referred to as SalesforceU, a group at Salesforce whose main responsibility is to help teach people how to use the platform and get certifications that can help you along in your career.  As I mentioned in my previous post, there are a multitude of opportunities available here and several of them can be quite lucrative.  To help teach, SalesforceU offers courses both in person and online.  While I haven’t been fortunate enough to be able to take any of the in person courses due to the cost, I do hear great things and I would highly recommend the online versions.  While you can’t learn the same depth of 5 days worth of content in only a couple hours, I found them extremely helpful in understanding terminology and learning the ins and outs of the platform.  The courses are also directly relevant to getting certified on the platform as well.  If your company is a Premier Salesforce customer, you will have access to a larger portion of the online curriculum than if you’re a Standard customer, but there are many courses available to Standard partners as well.  While these courses can take a bit longer to go through, and can cost some money depending on your relationship with Salesforce, it is a great next step to look into along your Salesforce journey.  I actually took these courses before learning about Trailhead.  In hindsight, I would have preferred trying out Trailhead first rather than diving in head first, but hindsight is always 20/20 and I did really enjoy learning a ton about the platform through them.

SalesforceU

Summing It Up

I intentionally didn’t title this final section “Conclusion” because there really is no conclusion to your Salesforce journey, or whatever journey you choose to take for that matter.  For Salesforce though, Trailhead is always the first place I recommend people to start and then usually a combination of SalesforceU resources and getting involved in the vibrant community that I’ll discuss in a future post.  I’m available as well if you have any specific questions via Twitter, the Success Community, LinkedIn, and of course, this blog.  There are a ton of people much more knowledgeable and with much more experience than myself to help guide you as well!  I frequently rely on them when I have questions or wonder what my next step should be.  I wish you well along your own journey, whichever path you choose to go down, and hope to see you on the trail and you drive toward your gold medals!

Salesforce Career Paths

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!

Fork in the Road

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!

Career Paths

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.

Salesforce Administrator

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!

Awesome Admin

Salesforce Consultant

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 Salaries

Conclusion (TLDR)

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…