How Failing the CTA Helped me Refocus

Hopefully you’ll have seen and read about my experience with the notorious Review Board exam earlier this year. Now I’d like to share with you why failing it has proven to be a really good thing for my career.

Yes we all talk about failure as a platform for learning; it makes us feel better. This feels…somehow different.

Those of you who know me personally may know that at the time I was doing my certifications, I was on the bench at work. This gave me two things: time and brain space to accelerate my credentials, and the motivation to get involved in the Salesforce community. To share what I’d learned and find a direction.

Nobody likes being on the bench though; not really. I do this job to make a difference in a practical setting and after a couple of years not really able to work with clients, due to my numerous health issues and my work towards the CTA, I grew (rightly) concerned. I was right to be concerned because ultimately the bench time proved to be career limiting. I was too expensive to bill out, but too under-utilised to be promoted. Basically stuck in a rut. Despite wanting to stay, I eventually felt that I had no choice other than to leave.

Close Your Eyes….and Jump…

I didn’t really have a grasp on what to do next; I knew I wanted to lead people and to use the skills I had built over the last two years with Ladies Be Architects. I applied for a couple of roles and toyed with the idea of going entrepreneur. I went through the interview process for some well-respected Salesforce partners and was reasonably happy with the applications I’d made; one firm was definitely more attractive than the other and would have meant working with a friend and CTA – who would have helped me get there.

Then a senior opportunity came up at one of the Big 4 this spring, and despite my initial misgivings, I decided to give it a go. I liked the vision, team and the direction that the partners wanted to take their Salesforce practice.

The money and benefits were brilliant. I accepted an offer after a fairly tough interview panel after which I was offered a less senior role, excited to learn and inspire the people who would be reporting into me.

A Square Peg

Burning at the back of my mind, however, was this feeling of unease about being yet another resource. Worrying about utilisation, revenue…all of that. What if I found myself in a similar rut – unable to really be used because of my fee? Would I be showing up at conferences, talking about salesforce architecture and not actually being an architect in my day job?!

Add this to the risk of having to scale down my community contributions and it led to some anxiety. I also wasn’t particularly enamoured with the corporate culture; as a somewhat socially anxious extrovert, I could foresee trouble for myself.

Not About Money

One day in September, I had my latest surgery and decided not to go back. I wasn’t worried about the fact i had only really been there a month; it wasn’t them, it was me. And I saw properly what I am truly in this game for. I was on £130,000 a year at that place, but I felt like I wouldn’t fit there, and this meant more to me than money. I kept on toying with the idea of creating my own home and learning the skills I need to refine in order to pass my CTA. I had LOVED contracting back in the day; this time, I didn’t want to just be a contractor. I had a vision for the type of place I wanted to work in.

Starting The Architech Club

The Architech Club is a place where Salesforce architects can go to thrive, and customers can go to for assurance as they work with Salesforce.

I am creating a company that gets up and goes. Salesforce is never finished, so we value learning, staying current, building a personal brand and honesty. The Architech Club’s purpose is in customer success, but also in the success of the ecosystem. Being uniquely placed to help a customer with their RFP, for example, means we are also able to assist partners in responding successfully.

Not being tied to utilisation KPIs on an individual basis means we can focus our time on giving advice. Giving assurance and advice also means we are doing our best work; we are delivering value in sharing our expertise and customers know how much it’s going to cost right away.

As for the CTA…

Most importantly, I’m able to refocus my CTA preparation by actually living through the scenarios with each customer we secure. Understanding the challenges they face means recommending optimal solutions in a concise way; this is what I need practice with. It doesn’t matter if I don’t attempt it again straight away; I can take my time, keep cementing the knowledge practically and have a go again later. I know I’m still at that level; I’ve just put the brakes on and recognised the value in doing so.

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