Melissa Mueller grew up working at her parent’s motorcycle dealership outside of Atlanta, Georgia. By the time she was an adult, she’d held nearly every job at the company. But motorcycles were never her passion. Instead, she always had a special interest in computers — which is why, whenever she got the chance, she’d offer to solve the dealership’s hardware or software issues.
What started as a favor to her parents quickly evolved into a true passion. It all began one day when Melissa overheard her mom complain about the cost of getting more gift certificates printed. At the time they used carbon-copy paper to give store credit to their customers. Melissa decided to replace the old system with a computer program that would create, store, and print gift certificates, making the entire process much easier to manager. She thought, “If somebody else can do it, I should be able to do it, too.”
A true self-starter, Melissa bought herself a coding book and, by trial and error, wrote her first C# / ASP.NET / HTML / CSS program. Having tasted the thrill of programming success, Melissa knew she wanted more. She wanted to code for a living, and decided to pursue a formal education in computer programming. Melissa earned her bachelor’s degree in Systems Analysis and Integration in 2012, graduating with highest honors.
Then, after 35 years as a top performing U.S. dealership, Melissa’s parents decided to sell the company. Melissa was now on her own, free to pursue a full-time career in coding. After a short stint as a network administrator, Melissa stumbled upon an open position for a Salesforce role at Mitsubishi Electric that felt like a great fit. At the time, she had no experience with Salesforce, but with her background in coding she knew it was something she could learn.
“The day I found out that I had a phone interview, I went to Trailhead, downloaded the Developer Edition, and started taking trails,” she remembers. She already had 18 badges when she went in for the interview.
Melissa got the job and has been on her Salesforce journey for a year now. We spoke with her about coding, the Trailblazer Community, and how she prepared for her Admin certification exam (which she recently passed!). Here’s her story:
A: I first coded back in eighth grade, when we learned BASIC at school. But when I transferred to the local public school, they didn’t offer computer classes, so I focused on performing arts instead. I didn’t take a computer course again until college, though I’d always liked learning BASIC. I lost touch with computer science until I started working with computers again at the dealership. It reignited that interest.
A: I’ve always really liked solving problems — not just business problems, but writing code that makes something work. It can also feel like you’re banging your head against the wall when it’s not coming together, but it’s really satisfying when you get it right and you’ve made someone’s life easier with what you’ve created.
A: Not really, because in my current role I’m acquiring new skills beyond coding. I like that I’m using more well-rounded tools now. Salesforce has full point-and-click functionality, but it also has coding. When I tell someone, ‘I’m an Administrator,’ I’m confident that there’s a huge market of companies looking for exactly that. It feels great to know that there is security in what I do, whereas learning and specializing in one programming language limits the scope of positions that I’m qualified for.
A: I recently joined Twitter and have been getting more involved by connecting with other Trailblazers and contributing where I can. I’ve also found that connecting with other Trailblazers in person is invaluable because it’s really hard when you get stuck. When you have the opportunity to ask someone directly, you can look at it together and talk through the problem.
Recently, I met up with Zayne Turner at an event and in less than ten minutes, she helped with two problems that I’d been stuck on. Another Trailblazer that I met at TrailheadDX spent an hour of his time working with me. Leaning on the expertise of the community has really helped.
I think Trailblazers are people who are willing to take a leap into something unknown or not fully explored, and run with it. They look for ways to make things better — not just in their own lives, but for the companies they work for by making lives easier and processes less expensive.
Melissa has picked up a lot of helpful tips on her road to becoming a Trailblazer. For other Admins eager to learn how to code, she suggests that they take it step-by-step. Before jumping into any Developer trails on Trailhead, she recommends first completing these three tasks:
Complete all Trailhead’s Admin trails first
Learn about application logic
Understand the purpose of each coding language
Today, Melissa is a Salesforce Developer and Certified Admin with over 65 badges on Trailhead. In true Trailblazer fashion, she shared her favorite trails that helped her prepare for the certification exam. These 4 Modules, 2 Trailmixes, and 1 Project helped her achieve a pass on her first try:
Module: Reports & Dashboards
Module: Picklist Administration
Module: Formulas & Validations
Trailmix: Build Your Admin Career on Salesforce
Are you ready to tackle some trails yourself? Click here to get started on Trailhead.
This article is part of an ongoing series highlighting the many voices and stories that make up Salesforce’s diverse community of Trailblazers.