Director, Trailblazer Engagement, Megan Petersen speaks with Trailblazers Emily McCowan and Alex Crossan about what they’ve learnt since becoming a Salesforce Architect.   

 

As businesses turn to the digital realm for success, new and exciting career paths are being forged for those who create and manage digital solutions. 

One of the clearest pathways leads from roles such as database analyst, technical consultant, designer, engineer or developer to that of architect. But not everybody thinks they have what it takes to follow that path.

It’s not unusual to feel some self-doubt when you’re heading into a relatively new profession. After all, it’s not as if you can seek advice and inspiration from generations of Salesforce Architects. Almost every architect I’ve ever met said they had such doubts and pushed through them, accepting that it’s absolutely okay not to know everything.

Here, we speak with Emily McCowan, Salesforce Architect at Deloitte Digital, and Alex Crossan, Salesforce Architect and Senior Manager at Davanti Consulting, about the five things they wish they knew during their journey to becoming Salesforce Architects.

Emily McCowan on leadership and real-world challenges

1. Don’t feel you have to know everything

To be a good architect you don’t have to know everything, but you do need to be resourceful. You have to know where to find answers, and then always follow up with the client once you have those answers.

2. You must appreciate the art of influencing

Influence has a lot to do with communication with different people, and how you present yourself. You have to develop a sixth sense for the undercurrent of what’s going on. How can you pick up on undercurrents of tension, for example, within a client organisation, whilst finding out what the client really needs? How can you align with that to help you influence the client to accept the solution that will be best for them?

3. You are a leader — accept it

Much of your day will be spent leading. People will look to you for guidance, clarification and unblocking of obstacles. You’ll spend a lot of time guiding your tech team, and collaborating with project managers. People think of an architect as a super developer, but it’s a very different role that is as much about leadership and management as it is about technical talent.

 

4. You’ll have to cope with real-world challenges

The solution that you design must be realistic for the resources that are available to you — whether that’s people, funds, or time. Some clients will expect fast delivery because they don’t understand how much effort is involved. But other times, as was the case for my colleagues putting together a COVID-19 vaccine program, it’s vital to accelerate a project because lives might count on it. 

5. You will have to rely on other architects

You can’t be everything for a project, so are likely to have to rely on other architects, whether they are in the same team or whether they work with a complementary system. You must be able to work well with other architects.

Alex Crossan on leaning on resources and mentors

1. Don’t feel you have to know everything

Salesforce is so broad. Just accept that you cannot know it all. You will develop a breadth of knowledge, but most important is knowing where to look, or who to speak with, to find out more. 

2. A good mentor is worth their weight in gold

As you navigate new pathways, having someone who can help guide you can be very valuable. Outside an actual mentor, make sure you’re leveraging the people around you, even just running your ideas past them and asking how they would approach a similar problem.

 

3. Utilise the numerous resources

Use all available resources, such as the official Salesforce Architect website, blog and Twitter, Salesforce Architect’s Handbook, Trailhead, and newsletters. Make these useful resources a part of your repertoire. 

4. Appreciate that you’re already an architect

When you’re working on big projects and offering technical guidance, early in your career, you’re likely already doing a hybrid job where you’re doing some architecture. So rather than thinking you don’t have what it takes, think about how much of it you’ve already done.

5. Accept that you’ll be learning forever

The journey itself is never over. You won’t just earn the title of architect and then cruise for the rest of your career. So enjoy the fact that you will always continue to learn, including informally whilst on the job, through professional networks such as Salesforce user and community groups, and through study.

Start building your future as a Salesforce Architect today