I’ve spent a fair amount of time the last 12 months on a bit of a mission: to encourage and de-mystify, but also to try and give direction to others following my lead. The big thing on my mind, that I often spend time answering post-presentation questions on, is how to show that YOU can design your own career path for success as a Salesforce architect.
When I started working with the Salesforce platform in 2008, there was no Trailhead. The community itself was fairly small; we had an IdeaExchange, granted, but nowhere near the kind of scale we see nowadays. I didn’t know which direction I’d go in. These days, we’re setting a huge precedence for the future and it’s so important that we get this bit right.
A World Without Trailhead
We always knew that Salesforce would grow big. It’s hard for it not to – the product sells itself and the mission of trust, philanthropy and making the world a better place has never been a secret. If anything, the first time I went to a Salesforce event and saw Marc Benioff having a fireside chat with Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia was a turning point for me. I saw a future, and I was incredibly inspired. The only thing I was missing was a direction.
Over the following 6 years or so, I made money from consulting projects, but also from training. Every implementation came with the need to develop training materials. We had “Help and Training” and we had certifications; we watched Salesforce acquire more companies and saw the product expand from Sales, Service, Platform and Portals, to Communities, IoT and Einstein. We even saw Salesforce make industry-specific versions of its platform and a plethora of certifications began to surface.
Job titles changed too; from becoming an admin, we turned from “functional consultants” and “senior consultants” to “solution architects” and “technical architects”. Regardless of whether you worked for a customer or consultancy! Many of those who have been working with Salesforce for as long as I have are naturally occupying those roles now. Ten years ago, the architects of today were effectively doing the same thing that senior consultants and principal consultants and developers did. They had seniority, expertise and an ability to build trust with customers. It’s just the terminology that’s changed.
So has the direction.
A World With Trailhead
Trailhead has opened the door for thousands more to build skills on Salesforce, which is growing more and more. There’s a huge drive for students, veterans and parents to make a huge carer change and come and play with us, as Salesforce creates 3m more jobs over the years. It’s absolutely fantastic to see so many falling in love with Salesforce, as I did, nearly eleven years ago.
With this exceptional growth comes an increase in projects – but also an increase in project complexity. It’s hardly fair to throw an entry-level consultant or admin in at the deep end and ask them to navigate the complex world of enterprise architecture, as Salesforce occupies the CRM element of your average household name’s system landscape. Neither is it fair on your clients, whop are paying thousands per day just for you to be there! Those who were there ten years ago are already busy working on their existing projects too. So the gap is in the middle – and a great opportunity for Salesforce practitioners who love working in this space to think of the direction they want their career to go.
So What About Those in the Middle?
The world’s your oyster. Salesforce won’t stop selling to small and medium-sized companies. It’s just that the number of enterprise customers will now increase. Salesforce is big and successful enough to have caught their eye now. I’m not saying that all ambitious people should become managers, or only do enterprise projects, but one or two would give you some great exposure to the challenges that are unique to implementing Salesforce in these kinds of environments.
If you prefer the more technical side (pssst….this applies to admins as well as developers!), then multiple systems, master data management, the various teams involved, governance, process, steering committees, security, compliance – are key to learning what enterprise architecture can be all about. You can learn about the theory from study guides, textbooks and wikipedia…but, I believe, like learning to drive, you only truly learn when you’ve passed the test and start to drive in your daily life.
Having a wall of certifications at your back helps – but you don’t have to plough your way through them all in six months to be successful. I mean, if you can do that, great, but think about how to get the very BEST from the experience of getting certified. For example, when I eventually passed my Service Cloud exam (I failed the first time), I waited till I was working on a Service Cloud project before retaking it. I got the context I needed from living it every day.
I did pass a lot of certifications in a short space of time – because I had the experience – so I am not saying don’t, but I’m saying that you don’t have to feel pressured into collecting certifications. They help, but they should never be the single reason you select a candidate for a Salesforce job.
Take your time, contextualise your knowledge and do the exam that fits with the project work you’re doing. I can promise you, it’ll be much easier.
Certified Technical Architects – a Marathon, not a Sprint
We’re talking a lot about this right now as an ecosystem. My personal mission is to raise the number of women CTAs (certified technical architects), and Ladies Be Architects has made a lot of progress in getting people interested. Men too; we have some incredibly supportive men and they are always welcome to benefit from what we do.
All I’d say is, this isn’t a sprint. If CTA is an important goal for you, think about how you can set your career up to achieve that goal, and accept that it could take ten years to get there. Once you’re a CTA, you’re a technical authority representing your company, and you’ll be facing some pretty tough landscapes and customers – ones that need a CTA to navigate successfully. If you’ve learnt that from a textbook and a four-leaf clover, this will be much harder than calling on your own experience.
Leadership for the Seasoned Amongst us
Now that Salesforce is maturing, I believe it’s time for we seasoned Salesforcers to start thinking about our role in nurturing talent. Not only that – it’s a responsibility. Think of how you needed direction when you were learning something new; think of what you wish you’d had – and give it to our new and emerging talent. If you see someone not believing in themselves, share stories and words of encouragement. Help them work on their areas of weakness – and if you can’t see any weakness, encourage them to push forward and help others.