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Trailblazer Kristen Clay in an iconic black hoodie stood against a bright yellow background
Discover how Trailblazer Kristen Clay used her love of learning and passion for continuous improvement to fuel a new career.
Trailblazer Story

How I Supercharged My Return to the Workforce With Trailhead

After a decade focused on diapers, first steps, play dates, baseball, and hockey practice, stay-at-home mom Kristen Clay decided she was ready to take the leap back into the workforce.

Before taking time off to raise my kids, I had years of experience building and managing an inside sales team and always had an interest and focus on sales operations. Back then, making things work smoothly and efficiently—using data to analyze results, draw connections, and make improvements—was my forte.

Yet I couldn’t help but wonder, “How are my skills relevant in today’s market?”

Hello, Salesforce

One of my first moves back into the workforce was a full-time contracting job as a sales operations analyst, which was relatively safe territory for me.

It was interesting work at first, but I found myself intrigued by the tech-savvy phone conversations my colleague, a Salesforce Admin, in the cube next to me was having. I’d hear him brainstorming how to accomplish some really cool processes with fellow admins. That’s when I became very interested in learning more about the role.

I found myself listening in and then asking him to show me what he was doing. This guy was really improving the sales team’s productivity and efficiency through Salesforce. After about my 500th question, my colleague wisely introduced me to Trailhead — Salesforce’s free online learning platform.

The more I learned, the more I realized: Trailhead was it. “I CAN be an administrator!” I cried out (well, in my head anyway).

Still convinced I wasn’t tech-savvy enough, I continued to work my way through more modules. Then it all clicked. And from then on, I committed to my goal of becoming a certified Salesforce Admin.

Rockin’ my cert

As my contract came to an end, I reached out to some former colleagues and learned that a Salesforce Administrator role was available. A key requirement, however, was Salesforce Administrator Certification.

In a very interesting turn of events, I took a call from Lauren Todt who was then at K2 Partnering Solutions, a global staffing partner to Salesforce and Salesforce Authorized Training Provider. She offered me a spot in their official Salesforce Administrator course to prepare to become Salesforce-certified.

This was a crystal clear message to break me out of my shell, be brave, and just go for it. So I did. And I rocked that exam on the last day of the course.

I started as a fully-fledged Salesforce Administrator in September 2017. I was, and still am, so proud of myself. With the support of my husband (now designated cook and homework helper!), my transition back into the workplace went smoother than anticipated.

A few different admin flavors

It’s now been 5 years since my first official Salesforce Admin job, and I’ve had the opportunity to try out a few different flavors of this role. I’ve also gained my Advanced Administrator Certification. I love the business analyst aspect of it–trying to understand the business requirements from different stakeholders and then thinking through building out functionality that’s a win-win for all. I’ve found it very applicable in each of my roles.

Early in my admin journey, I worked for an implementation partner in a business analyst role. I jumped head first into a Service Cloud implementation and learned a lot. Along the way, I earned a ton of Trailhead badges whenever I needed to figure out a piece of functionality. Then I became a Trailhead Ranger.

During my first week as a sales analyst at a small medical device manufacturing company, I discovered a few roadblocks in the workflow for the sales reps. It turns out the company hadn’t tended to their Salesforce org since they first implemented it a couple of years prior. So no one owned Salesforce strategy or knew how to implement best practices.

Going all-in

I jumped in, working with the sales reps and asking key questions. What did they need from Salesforce? What was their workflow, and how could Salesforce be an effective tool for them?

I saw this as an opportunity to tap into my admin knowledge and experience, as well as my strengths and passion for making things work smoothly and efficiently.

Once I got them on board with the basics, modified a few page layouts, updated a few workflows and list views, and created a handy dashboard (all within a quarter), I started to see more consistent and usable data. As a result, I provided data-backed insights and analysis to the CEO, VP, and regional managers.

Today, I’m a sales operations manager at a larger manufacturing company. This new role is bigger than Salesforce–but an important tool for the sales team and management–and one that I aim to make central to all things sales. We’re putting together our roadmap to Make the Move to Lightning Experience (yes, we’re still on Classic!) and meeting regularly with stakeholders to develop a clear strategy. We’re ensuring we build Salesforce in a way that helps to implement and enhance our business strategy/requirements.

No regrets

Even as my roles have weaved and bobbed these past 5 years, I’m glad things worked out the way they have. I haven’t looked back on my decision to start down the path of Salesforce Admin Certification for one second–it’s been central to my success.

I’m super excited about my role in sales ops as it truly combines my strengths, skills, and interests—and of course, Salesforce is at the heart of it all!

Throughout my journey, the Trailblazer Community remains my go-to. I’m always searching the boards and borrowing ideas. And I’ve never been more excited to owe anyone a beer than when SteveMo responded to one of my questions about a formula that I just could not figure out—he helped me solve it in minutes. I recently watched Admin Evangelist Jennifer Lee’s Admin Best Practices: Building Useful Formulas on Trailhead LIVE and learned some really cool tips.

You got this too

The biggest lesson I can share is how transferable your existing skills are in the Salesforce world. I was able to apply my operations and business experience to launch a new career after more than 10 years as a stay-at-home mom.

Also, tap into the set of amazing resources available to you—including, of course, the gem that is Trailhead—and the inspiring Trailblazer Community to help you find success.

Never worry that you aren’t “technical” enough for a Salesforce career. You can learn all the skills you need on Trailhead and the declarative (clicks, not code) aspects of the platform make it easy.

I love how Salesforce really is all about continuous learning and that the opportunities are endless. It was a leap of faith for me to jump into the world of Salesforce Administration—and I’m so glad I did. I’m a 2x certified #AwesomeAdmin and Trailhead Ranger who’s excited to see what new and better ways of working I’ll discover each day.

Seven tips to supercharge your Salesforce journey

My return to work was all about leaping into Salesforce, with a commitment to staying curious about how I could continue to boost my expertise and experience. I did it, and so can you!

Here are a few things that helped me along the way.

  1. Ask for help. It’s a challenge to find time to focus on skilling up when you’re returning to work. Ask for help from friends and family to make sure you have time to make it happen.
  2. Be brave, not perfect. Listening to the Brave, Not Perfect podcast by Reshma Saujani, the CEO of Girls Who Code, really helped me move past my nerves and fear. I still have a sticky note on my desk that reads “BnP” (Brave not Perfect), reminding me that I can push through when I’m scared.
  3. Eat your vegetables. Just like eating your vegetables, consuming fundamental skills—user and data management, security, and reporting basics—can set you up for a lifetime of success.
  4. Brush up on the basics. By refreshing on the basics of sales cycles, forecasting and marketing, and programs like Excel and PowerPoint, you can better connect your users’ requests and your manager’s goals.
  5. Ask why why why? This is so important when you’re gathering requirements or handling requests from users. Asking “why” helps you get to the real root of what users are asking for and how it fits into your overall strategy, design, and workflow.
  6. Play in the sandbox. Your Salesforce Sandbox is so much fun and a SAFE environment to try out new things—play, fail, learn, then play some more.
  7. Focus on what works for you. If your way of working isn’t as slick as you’d like right now, it’s totally fine, as long it meets the requirements and overall best practices. As you gain more experience, you’ll learn to make it fancy.

Check out my favorite resources

Trailblazer Community Group: Sales Cloud – Best Practices

Trailmix: Work from Anywhere as a Sales Operations Manager

Trailhead module: Lightning Experience Rollout

Trailhead project: Build a Battle Station App

Community blog: Salesforce Ben and Supermums

Follow Kristen in the Trailblazer Community at trailblazer.me/id/kristenclay.

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