I sometimes still can't quite believe I'm here. It wasn't long ago that I was just going with the flow, doing what I needed to do to get my bills paid. One day I thought, “Am I living the life I want to live, on my own terms?” Turns out, I wasn't. I didn't love my job. I remember when I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut. (I love everything about space!) I needed that passion and that conviction back in my life.

I'm a strong believer in whatever is meant for you will find its way to you. It's unavoidable. That's how I “found” Salesforce. But I digress. Here's a bit about my unusual career path, so you can truly appreciate how much my life has changed.

Two years ago: unemployed and directionless

In my 30-ish years of life, I've been a janitor, a security guard, an executive team leader of asset protection (sounds fancier than it really is), a retail district manager, and an operations manager. I also have a degree in criminal justice. As you can see, tech wasn't a part of my past.

Then a couple of years ago — and completely out of the blue — I was laid off. For the first time in my 12-year career and ever since I was 16 years old, I was unemployed. I had no idea what I was going to do with my life or where my next paycheck would come from.

Salesforce? What's that?

That summer my entire family got together to celebrate the birth of my niece. My cousin Nevea was there. She just so happened to be a tech evangelist at this company I'd never heard of before: Salesforce.

A few months later, I started to take a serious look at Salesforce and created a Trailhead profile. But then I started a new job and all things Salesforce — including my three Trailhead badges earned — got put on the back burner.

One day I was sitting at my desk, thinking: “Can I really do this until I'm in my 60s?” Then I looked up at my company's landing page and saw a link to salesforce.com. My company was a Salesforce customer!

The “Aha!” moment

A light bulb went off in my head: instead of doing the same thing over and over again, I could actually build an entire org on my own. That was the moment I made Salesforce my focus again. I was going to take control of my life, once and for all.

 

 

Not even two days after devising my “master plan,” I was laid off — again! I was without a job for the second time in less than a year. But something was different this time: I had the time and opportunity to make a career at Salesforce mine.

 

Overwhelmed by #SalesforceOhana love

I was so committed to learning Salesforce and becoming an admin that I decided to chronicle my journey on Twitter. I created an account to talk about where I was and what I was going to do. Next thing I knew, my phone was ON FIRE with notifications. People from all over the world reached out to me with encouragement and advice.

 

 

That moment taught me what the Salesforce Ohana was all about — and that it really does mean family. The outpouring of support was overwhelming. I had never felt so wanted and accepted in my past roles before. If I needed any confirmation this was the place for me, the #SalesforceOhana love was it. (And I wasn't even hired yet!)

New goal: get certified

It was time to get certified. I hunkered down, hit the trails hard, and registered for my exam. I wanted to begin my 30th year as a certified admin. About halfway through the exam, I realized that life doesn't always go as planned. I failed the exam spectacularly.

I was disappointed, so I tweeted about it. Once again, I was inundated with encouragement and support. People shared their stories of failing the first time and how it really isn't a big deal. I dusted myself off and upped my prep game — with the help of section-level feedback and the admin certification prep trailmix. A few weeks later I was an official Salesforce Certified Administrator!

 

 

Employment, here I come

Naturally, the next thing on my agenda was to find a job. I put my certification on every social platform I could think of. Less than 24 hours after becoming certified, I was sitting in a meeting at the University of Michigan discussing a Salesforce role. I was finally making it in a field that I never imagined I would ever be in.

I sat in a Midwest Dreamin' session, reflecting on all that had happened. I had gone from being inspired by everyone around me to being told that I actually inspired them to start their own journeys. It was truly a humbling experience.

And then this happened:

 

Another opportunity fell into my lap only four months into my job at the University of Michigan. This one would let me get my hands dirty and flex all those #AwesomeAdmin skills I picked up on the trail. After a few interviews, I signed my offer letter with Masco Cabinetry in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Not even a month later, something I built was rolled into production. It doesn't get much better than that!

The golden, sparkly icing on the cake

In December 2017, I got certified. By April 2018, I was employed. Then four months later I was employed again and building Salesforce solutions myself. By September, I was not only at Dreamforce but was also invited to be a Trailhead keynote speaker! That was easily one of the best weeks of my life. Getting the coveted Golden Hoodie was the golden, sparkly icing on the cake.

This is the difference 14 months of hard work, determination, and grit can make:

 

 

A true journey of self-discovery

When I lost my job (both times), I thought I would be forever pigeonholed by my degree and my experience, stuck in a career field that I really didn't like. But I am living proof that wherever you are at one point in your life doesn't have to be where you stay. If you want to make a change, you just have to get up and do it.

That being said, my journey is nowhere near complete. I know I will have a lot more success in the Cloud!
(Ok, that was super corny but c'mon, you know you chuckled!)

 

To hear more about Aaron's incredible journey, listen to the Admins Podcast “LIVE from Dreamforce with Aaron McGriff.” Ready to start your own Trailblazer journey? There's a trail for that! Check out Get started with Trailhead.