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Technical Architect David Liu in a black Trailblazer hoodie against a green background
How a commitment to learning and getting certified led to an exciting opportunity.
Trailblazer Story

From Zero to Google and How Getting Certifications Pays Off

When David Liu discovered Salesforce, he found his true career passion. Discover how you, like David, can achieve multi-certified pro success through a solid commitment to continuous learning and giving back.

I remember my first Salesforce Admin experience 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. I volunteered to do it one month and fell in love with the work for the first time in my career.

Goal one: Learn to code

I immersed myself in the Salesforce platform and obsessed over finding creative, point-and-click solutions to solve tough business problems.

This commitment to learning led to an opportunity.

I even taught myself how to code after listening to an invaluable developer session by Jason Venable at Dreamforce. When I heard Jason speak about how he taught himself to code, became a Salesforce MVP, and moved on to teach code on the big stage, I was inspired to learn to code myself and see how this could enhance my career.

This commitment to learning led to opportunity. I convinced my CEO I could save our company money by writing code for free instead of paying a Salesforce consultancy. He took me up on it, and thankfully, I succeeded.

Hello, #CertifiedPro

I owed my next Salesforce job to the promise of a Salesforce Administrator certification. While interviewing for a role I was underqualified for, I noticed the recruiter was concerned I didn’t have any Salesforce certifications.

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

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 had already been rejected by them at least 10 times. I had never even got to the phone interview stage! So this time, I decided I needed to do something more drastic to increase my chances.

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

The road to multi-certs

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.

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

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, this justified a gift of a few hundred dollars per certification.

I started with the Advanced Administrator certification because I wanted to finish the admin-related certs before moving on to 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 find myself on the other side of the job 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.

You can do more than you think!

So, my advice is simple: get as many Salesforce certifications as you can. Make it a top priority for your career, and trust that you can succeed; you can do more than you think! And don’t forget to reward yourself along the way, too.

But 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!

It’s also important to embrace your fears, including fear of failure. If you’re intimidated by technology, don’t let that stop you. If you want to learn to code, go for it. It’s possible. And failure is normal. I was rejected multiple times before I landed my job at Google, and I didn’t pass all my certifications the first time around. It’s all part of the process.

But 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! Today, I’m an 18x Salesforce certified pro.

You get more when you give more

Along with continuous learning, I’ve also found giving back to the community has been a driving force for my career.

I’ve given back through sharing my experience and advice as well as highlighting the success of others on my blog, SFDC99.com, contributing 4,000+ answers to fellow Trailblazers’ questions in the Trailblazer Community, giving over 20 presentations at events like Dreamforce and user group meetups, and regularly sharing content on my YouTube channel.

I also really enjoy being a part of the Trailblazer Community. I’d say my biggest contribution to my fellow Trailblazers is my near-weekly blogging on SFDC99 since 2013. I’ve always preferred contributing via my blog because I can reach so many more people that way.

I’ve also traveled worldwide to present at Trailblazer Community Groups and Community Conferences in places such as India, Australia, Austin, Seattle, Phoenix, Philly, and Vegas. And, I’ve done a lot for the veteran community, such as a 15-week developer training program.

These are all initiatives I do for fun, but they opened doors for me by expanding my network. They also give me resume-worthy credentials, open new opportunities, and most importantly, provide me with more fulfillment and appreciation for Salesforce than any regular job could.

The community nominated me to become a Salesforce MVP because of my contributions to their learning and success. I also shared my story and received a Golden Hoodie during the Dreamforce ’18 Developer Keynote. Both of these honors mean a great deal to me because it means my contributions are making an impact, and others are inspired by my story.

Eight tips for your Salesforce journey

My story is one of grabbing opportunities, pure determination, and trying again when things don’t go as planned the first time. If I can do it, you can too! Here’s how:

  1. Find your true Salesforce passion.
    Plan your long-term Salesforce career based on the best possible career paths for your interests.
  2. Get certified.
    It’s all about the certs! When you skill up, you grow your career.
  3. Get certified again!
    You can never have enough certs.
  4. Believe in yourself (and reward yourself too).
    Play the long game! And celebrate with rewards along the way to keep your motivation high.
  5. Remember, you don’t fail — you learn.
    I’ve failed 15+ certs, and I treated each time as a learning opportunity. It’s all about the journey.
  6. Go all-in with the Trailblazer Community.
    This is the place to get the support you need to succeed and help others do the same.
  7. Fully appreciate your journey by giving back along the way.
    Answer questions or help people navigate the Salesforce ecosystem. Good karma will come back to you!
  8. Keep your eye on the personal ROI.
    You will get more personal return from helping others than working extra hours on the job.

And finally, find your favorite go-to resources. Mine are:

Trailblazer Community Group: Architect Trailblazers
Blog: Salesforce Architects
Salesforce Community Sites: Stack Exchange and Idea Exchange

Follow David in the Trailblazer Community at trailblazer.me/id/dvdkliu.

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