Yes, you read that right. Salesforce really was IT for me. The starting point of my entire career. Sound like something you've heard before (and slightly exaggerated)? Fortunately, not in my case!
A little more than three years ago, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression (PPD) from the birth of my son, which then developed into Bipolar II disorder—that's the one with the mega, life-crippling depression. I was a stay-at-home mom until it was clear that home life was trying to kill me. So, to help my condition (and to spare my family!), I started a job at a hospitality technology firm doing marketing.
I was also given the small task (not!) of finding a new CRM for the company, which I bet is a familiar scenario for many of you!
In between making ads and doing logistics (aka pulling my hair out) for tradeshows and other promotional stuff, I sourced Salesforce and immediately started rallying against using our legacy system: Excel sheets (no offense Excel, but you're no CRM).
I pitched my newfound favorite thing, Salesforce, to the executive team within my company and they decided to sign on for the Sales Cloud, Professional Edition. After many socks were blown off with the flexibility and especially the declarative ability of Salesforce, we hyperdrived our way to Service Cloud and joined the Enterprise... uh, the edition, not the ship.
I vowed to take ownership of the administrative duties of Salesforce to assure the executive team of our future return on investment (yikes!).
I fell in love with Salesforce like we met in Paris under a moonlit sky sitting on a unicorn. A sparkly one. I took the Administration Essentials for New Admins and Administration Essentials for Experienced Admins classes (with my fellow Trailblazer, Kristen Clay) through K2 University. Shout out to my wonderful instructors and mentors: Luca Manera, Clare Ramsaran, and Lauren Todt!
I also committed to self-study to earn three certifications in three months—Administrator, Advanced Administrator, and Platform App Builder.
With my developing skill set, I was able to build out the Salesforce system for the company from the ground up including profiles, security, roles, sharing, workflow rules, Visual Flow wizards, process builder, debugging with scary trace flags... you name it. I've done it. Oh, and sandboxes, change sets, that kind of thing? I've done that too.
And, I'm not done. I'm always learning, always wanting more. I'm currently enrolling in an MBA program, working slowly but surely toward my Development Lifecycle and Deployment Designer credential, and taking on the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification to go along with it.
I'm sure that's not all. I mean, there really is no DONE with me.
One of the most impressive resources (and it's free... mind blown!) that I have ever encountered is Trailhead. Taking on the role of Salesforce Administrator turned out to be a little more challenging than I'd expected (well, you know what they say when you “assume”) and I knew I needed help.
I mean, the security part alone scared me to death. How do you really know that your company's data is organized properly and showing up correctly? I started with the Admin Beginner trail. Duh, right? Yep, thanks to the ease of locating the perfect resources in Trailhead! And it was a “Duh” moment but in a super good way. I tackled how to set up users, construct (like an architect!) a hierarchy of roles, and build profiles to make sure everyone had proper access. Easy-peasy.
Then, the custom objects section was a goldmine since my org needed tons. When they had questions, I had data-driven answers in the form of reports. What sounds more pro than that? Detailed, specific data goodness delivered right into the hands of your team (and boss). You look like a data master. Oh, and I love Schema Builder. You should try it. You'll love seeing how your objects all connect in the simplest drag-and-drop interface ever.
When I started my first trail, I expected a hard academic slog. Wrong again! It was easy to enjoy, cut into perfectly-timed, brain-respecting bites, and—get this—fun! Not only do you go through each aspect of the Salesforce Admin process from beginning to end, but also an experience that's like learning from your favorite teacher.
Oh, and did I mention the points system? The trails are a downright game with a boss battle at the end (only you totally win, like, every time). At the end of each unit, you have the chance to prove to yourself you've nailed that new skill, sending your confidence into space. With real-world situations and you solving the problems? Bam! Skill owned.
Of course, afterwards, I dove into the Admin Intermediate and Admin Advanced trails. Because I love a challenge (as you can probably tell by now), I really embraced working with formulas (having data pre-populate into fields for a new record is like magic and produces instant co-worker happiness) and Lightning Flow.
I seriously became a Salesforce wizard to my org. Need a walk-through for a complex process you need totally standardized? Done. Yesterday. An “SME” (subject matter expert) they will call you? More like “SMM”—subject matter master!
Wonderfully, my job requires me to conquer at least one new badge module a month, which I use to push even further into unknown territory. Now that's a fine endorsement: Earn with Trailhead and meet your company expectations! Top companies out there are fully aware of the value of Trailhead and want to swing the doors open for you, too. It's like a triple-quadruple win for everyone.
So, in a nutshell, Trailhead and K2 University basically made me a hero to my org. A superhero. And, my skills exploded—which are all mine, no matter what company, organization, or whatever I'm part of!
And where did all these newfound skills get me? Proudly, I was scouted out directly by an HR representative of my current company due to my Salesforce experience, and now I'm a Salesforce Administrator working on an Agile/Scrum delivery team with a system that's less than a year old.
Oh, and did I mention that my income has increased enough to start my son's school fund and savings account plus my retirement nest egg? Yeah, no biggy...
My advice to anyone on a similar path is to keep knocking down those certifications and never stop learning. Each one you get under your skill-belt adds to your value, and many employers look for the number of certifications on your resume when hiring for Salesforce positions.
Keep chipping away at those trails to keep sharp and familiarize yourself with all the great aspects of Salesforce, including the areas you haven't worked with yet (have no fear!). Trailhead is an invitation to become a Salesforce guru, so stuff a little bit of learning into every day that you can!
Ranks are so brag-worthy, too. And, if you still feel a bit nervous about tackling your certification exams, consider taking an in-person course (like I did with K2 University) where you can ask questions and connect with other Salesforce professionals. And, finally, the Trailblazer Community is an invaluable resource.
Salesforce was truly my compass for my professional life. It was inadvertent, but falling into Salesforce via a fated, unicorn-riding accident has propelled me toward growth that I have never experienced. To be honest, I never thought I'd be here today, with a real career. I'm something of a late bloomer.
My final piece of advice is, “Don't give up!” I lost my way a few times, and even failed my first Salesforce Certified Administrator exam, but bounced back when I embraced a bit more humility and reached out to others for support.
So go on, blaze your trail and rock Salesforce like a superhero on a sparkly unicorn!
Sarah is a 3x certified (so far!) Trailhead Mountaineer who lives in Henderson, NV with her son River, husband Al, and two kitties, Star and Ollie. When she's not being an #AwesomeAdmin for Barton Associates, Sarah loves to chip away at her in-progress novels.
Want to learn more? There's a Trailmix for that—check out Get started with Trailhead.