My career at the end of 2016

Around 2008, I had the opportunity to become a project manager. At the time, it was a fun and refreshing change from fixing computer monitors, installing printer drivers and untangling the spaghetti of network cabinets. I got to sit in meetings, listen to people talk and ask questions. As a naturally inquisitive person (to the chagrin of some), I really took an interest in the talking and listening. In one way or another, this path continued until the middle of 2015. Out of the blue, I was asked to join a small team who would be responsible for evaluating and implementing a project management tool within the company I was working for at the time. As a team, we tried out a few “professional services automation” tools with little success, before landing on a piece of software that ran on something called “Salesforce”. We watched a few demo videos, had a number of Skype chats with a pre-sales rep and by Christmas 2015, found ourselves signing up to FinancialForce PSA.

Prior to training in February, our “org” had been provisioned and I was sent the credentials we would be using to configure and look after the system. I didn’t really understand what I was looking at or what it was capable of, I only knew that since I had full permissions, one accident click could mess everything up. After one day in training however, I felt so inspired and amazed by what the system could do, I found myself creating workflow rules to cover some of our out of hours labour rates. At the time, I couldn’t believe how easy it was to think of a use case and implement it. One of my favourite party tricks when showing it off to management was to have them suggest a field that we may need on a page and have it ready to demo by the time they’d finished their sentence. To say I fell in love with this platform is an understatement. Which is why it came as a difficult blow when the company decided to cancel the pilot. No amount of business cases and persuasion could change their mind and at the end of 2016, I found myself not wanting to let go of Salesforce.

Blazing a trail(head)

2017 was going to be the year that I make things happen and I was determined to get a project manager job at a Salesforce partner. So the interviews began… And it wasn’t good.

At the time, I had plenty of good experience managing infrastructure projects that followed a strong waterfall plan. I had no background in delivering software against an agile plan and that was a dealbreaker for everyone. I wasn’t going to be knocked down though, I just needed to keep my chin up and try again and again and again.

And again.

That was until I interviewed at a company called Arcus Global… Where I didn’t get the job. Thankfully though, they saw something in me. Like so many other places, they knew I didn’t have the right skills to run an agile project. However, my enthusiasm for Salesforce pierced through and they asked if I was interested in coming in to interview for a technical consultant role. At first, I was incredibly unsure. It had been 7 years since my last hands on job and even though it was something I wanted to do, I didn’t think I had the ability. My other half convinced me to go and so I took the interview.

No less than 10 minutes after the interview had finished, I received a call in the car with an offer.

With no actual commercial Salesforce experience outside of a failed pilot that ran for 10 months, how the hell was I going to become a consultant? And so with a whopping 14 Trailhead badges in my back pocket, I put my two month notice period to good use. Every single evening, I got my head down and completed at least 1 module. I soaked up every lesson point, carefully completed the projects and skilled the hell up to ensure I was a ranger (100+ badges) by the time I started my new job. I forget the exact number, but I think it was around 115.

I wanted to prove to others (as well as myself) that I was worthy to have the role I was given. Funnily enough, since I’d completed so many badges before day 1, I’d unknowingly got through much of my first 2 weeks induction.

Planning my next three years of certs

Since the end of 2016, I always knew I wanted to get Salesforce certified. Finally, I was in a position where I not only benefited from it, but my employer would actually pay. During a one to one, I was given a few probation goals, which included planning the certs I would like to take.

I carefully studied the exam guides and identified five that I thought would be beneficial.

  • Administrator
  • Sales Cloud
  • Service Cloud
  • Advanced Administrator
  • App Builder

This seemed like a nice little plan for the next two to three years. I thought to myself that if I got my head down, I could smash these exams in no time at all. Three years from now, I’d be 6x certified and my imposter syndrome might have worn off by then.

Salesforce Certified Administrator – August 1st 2017

I’d long since bought several revision guides for the admin cert from Udemy.com and now charged with a clear plan and the all important go ahead from my boss, I booked the exam and gave myself 6 weeks to prepare.

I was actually encouraged to take the App Builder exam, as that would prove to be more useful in my job, but I felt it was important to get the basic end user/system administrator certificate first. I wanted to learn and demonstrate that I could do the absolute basics before moving onto the more difficult exams. This need to demonstrate was more for my benefit than anyone else, but I also knew that the admin cert was a prerequisite for later exams, so I would need it anyway.

So, charged with the revision material, I took a few hours out of every Monday to get my head down and study. I watched videos on Udemy, I completed some mock tests (also on Udemy) and ran through Trailhead over and over.

By the time August 1st came around, I was completely and utterly prepared to take that test. I had skilled up and worked myself to a point where I felt I knew everything I would need to pass. I wouldn’t say that I was expecting an easy exam, but, I thought it would be a comfortable experience. It was not. I found that exam, just like every other since, to be difficult, awkward and designed to throw you out. If an answer refers to a feature that you’ve never heard of, you need to ask yourself is it because you’ve never encountered it or because it doesn’t exist.

I got a sharp shot in the arm during this exam and I walked away with the feeling that you shouldn’t solely study to pass these. They’re designed to take the culmination of your experience, (top it up with a few bits of revision) and apply it to case study based questions, eg “Company X wants to do Y and Z. Whats the most efficient way to achieve this?” You’re not going to get that kind of knowledge from reading a list of features and menu labels. You need to get your hands dirty, you need to make mistakes and you need to learn from it all.

Thankfully though, I passed. But again, it wasn’t easy and to this day, because of the way I prepared for it, I felt it was the toughest. So that’s one certificate down and suddenly, my imposter syndrome wore off a tiny bit. Not much, but a little. The next hurdle was to be the App Builder cert, which I aimed to get before the end of 2017.

Next time: A blog, an exam and an epiphany.