From Email Spammer to Accidental Admin to Technical Architect

For our second blog series of Incredible Salesforce Certification stories, David Liuthree-time Salesforce MVP, creator of SFDC99.com for the non-coding admin, and 6x certifiedshares his Salesforce story with us.

I never thought I’d be fortunate enough to get a job at a dream company like Google… certainly not after starting my career as a humble email spammer! But that’s where my journey began. It was an unextraordinary start to a career that was fitting for a guy with a marketing degree from a non-elite college. I’m thankful for that spamming job though, because it led me to become the company’s accidental admin.

I remember my accidental admin path very fondly. Every month, our actual Salesforce admin had to suffer through a tedious, eight-hour long, manual data import process to help our accounting team close the books. One month, I volunteered to do it... and I fell in love with work for the first time in my career. Soon, I became the company's official Salesforce admin.

I immersed myself on the platform and obsessed over finding creative point-and-click solutions to tough business problems. But there was nothing more frustrating to me than having to tell my boss that something wasn't possible without code. Code that, as a marketing major, I had no idea how to write. I wanted to learn, but realistically, I didn't think it was possible without getting another degree.

At this point, learning to code was more of a dream to me than a goal. All of this changed when I went to Dreamforce. I attended a life-changing developer session given by a man named Jason Venable. I sat there in shock as I learned how this extraordinary human being had taught himself to code, became a Salesforce MVP, and moved on to teach code on the big stage. After the session, I told Jason he was my hero and how I was now fully inspired to turn my dream of coding into a goal.

For the next few months, I was eating, breathing, and sleeping code. During lunch, I sat next to the engineers and read my coding books. After work, I was attending coding classes and doing more work—homework. And the last thing I'd do before I fell asleep was read just a few more pages. I told myself that if I was going to learn to code, I'd give it everything I had. Failure would be OK as long as I could one day look back and know that I gave it my all.

Completely unknown to me, I soon attended what would be the most important meeting of my life! Somehow I ended up in a room with my company's CEO and executive team mulling over a monster, five-figure contract a Salesforce consultancy was quoting us for automating that eight-hour process of closing our books. This was my moment. I put my hands on the table, looked my CEO straight in the eye, and asked for my shot. I offered to write the code in my own free time, and that I'd do it for free. He took me up on it, and thankfully, I succeeded. They transferred me to the engineering team.

I owe my next Salesforce job to the Administrator certification. While interviewing for a role I was under-qualified for, I noticed the recruiter was concerned that I didn’t have any Salesforce certifications. On the spot, I made a promise that I’d get certified, and he took me up on it. I studied for that certification like it was the college SATs and my life depended on it. I passed, and they gave me a job offer.

A few years later, I decided to try something crazy: apply for a job at Google...again. I had heard all the horror stories about how difficult it was to get in, and to be honest, I myself had already been rejected by them at least 10 times. I had never even reached the phone interview stage! This time, I decided I needed to do something more drastic to have a chance.

I decided to add four new Salesforce certifications to my portfolio. Who could say no to interviewing someone with credentials like that?

Studying for four Salesforce certifications was beyond intimidating. But I had a plan to keep myself motivated. Each time I’d pass a certification, I’d reward myself by buying something nice. Something really nice—like a brand-new snowboard. I figured that whether or not I got the job at Google, each successful certification would contribute thousands of dollars to my annual base salary. It didn’t seem unreasonable to me that a person with say, five certifications was worth at least $10,000 more on the job market than a person with no certifications. So, in my mind, a gift of a few hundred dollars per certification was justified.

I started with the Advanced Administrator certification because I wanted to finish up the admin-related certs before moving onto the Developer and Consultant tracks. I went in that order so I could pass my stronger subjects early and build momentum. My study method for each cert was the same: understand every feature outlined in the official study guide as if I had built the feature myself, and then memorize hundreds of flashcards I found online.

Four certifications later, I got my phone interview. And a few more rejections later, I got a job offer from Google.

Fast forward to today, and I now find myself on the other side of the job-hunting process: hiring. As a person who has looked through hundreds of resumes, one thing I can tell you is that it’s very difficult for a candidate to stand out when they’re getting compared to so many other Salesforce professionals. There are only so many Salesforce-related objective measures someone can put on their resume, and certifications are arguably the most important. Given two people with similar resumes, the person with more certifications will win every time.

My lesson for you is simple: get as many Salesforce certifications as you can. Make it a top priority for your career. Realistically, there aren’t many other things you can do that’ll make a bigger impact. Don’t forget to lavishly reward yourself along the way, too! Also, if deep down you've always wanted to learn to code too, go for it! Learning to code in Salesforce is easier than ever and the job market is unbelievable. You won't regret it.

I still look back sometimes and wonder how this professional email spammer got lucky enough to work for Google. I know that if it wasn’t for the Salesforce certification program, this journey would’ve gone down a much different path. And now that I know the power of Salesforce certifications first-hand, I continue to look for ways to improve myself and my career with even more of them!

So, what’s up next for me? I’m going to start my journey towards the coveted Salesforce Technical Architect certification at Destination Success—where I’ll also be running a session on how you, too, can make the leap from Admin to Developer. Stay tuned for details. And wish me luck!

David's Certifications
Salesforce Certified Administrator January 4, 2012
Salesforce Certified Advanced Administrator February 24, 2013
Salesforce Certified Force.com Developer March 17, 2013
Salesforce Certified Sales Cloud Consultant April 14, 2013
Salesforce Certified Force.com Advanced Developer July 3, 2014
Salesforce Certified Service Cloud Consultant February 9, 2015

If you’ve been inspired by David's story, learn more about how you, too, can become a Salesforce Certified Professional.