How can you build a career in the Salesforce ecosystem?

There has never been a better time to build an exciting and rewarding career around Salesforce, the world’s #1 CRM (Customer Relationship Management software). The global COVID pandemic has acted as a catalyst for digital transformation across almost every sector and industry. This, in turn, has resulted in the generation of millions of exciting and lucrative roles within the Salesforce ecosystem:

I should know. Having radically reinvented my life and career at the age of 48, and now being fortunate enough to have a job that I love with people that I admire, I have learned a thing or two along the way. It has been a wild and wonderful ride from Salesforce novice, to admin, to business analyst, to CIO of a partner business, to Tableau solution engineer. It hasn’t been easy by any means, but I wouldn’t change anything. My learning journey and career trajectory are far from typical, true, but there are many others who have achieved great success within the Salesforce ecosystem after coming from a diversity of backgrounds.

Here are ten thoughts on how to develop a fantastic Salesforce career:

1. Prepare as if your career depends upon it – because it does

Luck is simply the prepared person meeting the right opportunity. The time to begin learning is not when a potential opening arises – the time is now!

Never has there been a time in human history when we have had access to such a wide variety of quality, affordable and accessible learning tools. We have no excuse today for not upskilling and growing!

Here are some places to get started:

The challenge is perhaps not what to do, but what to do first. Here are my suggestions:

  1. Begin with the basics here
  2. Find out what you enjoy
  3. Have a road map for where you want to end up
  4. Target the administrator certification, Salesforce Certified Administrator

You’ve got the tools and resources at your fingertips – what you do with them is up to you.

“For Salesforce, it’s not only about creating new technology and career opportunities; we have to pave pathways to these new jobs.” Kris Lande, SVP Trailblazer Ecosystem, Salesforce

2. Take a chance

Life is too short to play it safe. The safe, easy path – the path of least resistance – is typically the one that leads to mediocrity, whereas the road to success involves risk, fear, and uncertainty. However, the payback for the struggle is worth it – including growth, resilience, satisfaction, accomplishment, and victory.

“The most dangerous thing you can do in life is play it safe.” Casey Neistat

There are three key choices that I made which led me to where I am today, and all three involved very significant risk – they were scary choices!

  • My first role to implement Salesforce when I had never heard of the thing.
  • Co-founding a Salesforce partner business when I had only 18 months of Salesforce experience.
  • Leaving our business and moving to Tableau as a solution engineer.

As I look back, I see now that those choices were pivotal, watershed moments, but I did not realise this at the time. I simply knew that the pathway to reward was one of risk – I had to take a chance if I were to move forward and grow upward.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

Change is scary – I get it. So, do something scary! You’ll be glad you did.

3. Play to your strengths

Most people learn and grow the quickest when they are doing something that they love. The Salesforce platform is now so broad and diverse that you have a great many choices for a career path, each with its own unique characteristics. Examples include:

  • Salesforce administrator
  • Salesforce developer
  • Salesforce consultant
  • Business analyst
  • Data analyst
  • Sales career
  • Service career
  • Project manager
  • Marketing executive
  • CRM product owner
  • …the list goes on!

Therefore, you would be wise to play to your strengths. That is, dive into the Salesforce technology, find what you enjoy, become great at it, and you are onto a winning strategy. This will set you up for success, for passion and expertise go hand-in-hand, and they are the currency of the Salesforce economy.

My journey began with implementing Financial Services Cloud, a Salesforce industry cloud. I then moved to building and deploying automated processes in Salesforce using a third-party Salesforce app, Conga Composer. From there, I took to marketing automation in Pardot. All these projects were challenging and rewarding, and I enjoyed them. However, it wasn’t until I got involved in building CRM Analytics (then Einstein Analytics) that I found my sweet spot. I dived into data analytics and machine learning with great gusto, and now I am very blessed indeed to work with this technology every day at Tableau.

What aspect of technology or business do you love to work with? What excites you about getting up in the morning and going to work or study? What are you curious about? What do you think about and tinker with in your spare time? Most likely, the answer to these questions is where you should focus your energy and build a Salesforce career.

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”  Steve Jobs

4. Build your personal brand

Many more experienced and qualified people than me have written volumes on this subject. For example, my friend, David Scott Nava, has some wonderful video content on personal branding in his YouTube channel here. Also, here is a good article on Forbes.

Never underestimate the importance of building your personal brand. When it comes to being front of mind for a suitable opportunity, you need to become known for your skills, your experience, your achievements, and your values.

For inspiration and guidance on how to build your brand, follow industry thought leaders on LinkedIn to see how they do it. Borrow branding concepts from how they’ve built their profile, the type of content they produce, etc. The key to branding is to create quality content consistently and persistently. The key to doing that is simply to get started, analyse the response to your content, and iterate/improve.

LinkedIn has become like an online resume for many and is a great platform for building and broadcasting your brand. Check out this post, 5 Free Ways to Build Your Personal Brand on LinkedIn.

5. Give back to the trailblazer community

In the Salesforce ecosystem, we foster our extended technology family, a wonderful network of trailblazers that acts as an incubator for innovation.

Jesus said, “Give, and it shall be given unto you.” I have certainly found this to be true in the Salesforce community. When you give your time, your energy, your learnings, and your story to the community, you always get back more than you give.

For example, when I began to experience some early success in my Salesforce journey, I started to share my story online to try and inspire others who were looking to blaze trails using this technology. The response was incredible. Not only did I receive a mountain of encouragement, but I even ended up earning the famed Gold Hoodie. Wow!

Get involved with Salesforce and you become part of an incredible global family:

The Salesforce trailblazer community loves to help. Reach out and you will be surprised how willing the community is to support you – to answer your questions, guide you to resources, and much more.

Use this link to find a Trailblazer Community Group near you.

6. Embrace the values

Salesforce is much more than technology – it is a community. Like all communities, the Salesforce family is built on non-negotiable values.

The core values of Salesforce are:

  1. Trust
  2. Customer Success
  3. Innovation
  4. Equality
  5. Sustainability

If you want to grow within the Salesforce family, embrace our values. We are all unique and diverse, yet our common bond is found in our ethics and ideals.

Check out this Trailhead module to learn more. Here is a key thought from this badge:

“Salesforce builds a culture of trust by being highly intentional about our culture, our values, our behaviors, and the experiences we deliver. We’re Trailblazers, inspiring each other and the industry through our values. Our behaviors build trusted relationships, and the experiences we deliver all feel like us. Building this culture of trust is our greatest competitive advantage and differentiator.”

7. Network strategically

My first Salesforce role was a 90-day contract to implement Financial Services Cloud. Now, I ended up staying for 18 months to build out Salesforce, Pardot, Conga Orchestrate, and CRM Analytics. However, I was unaware at first that this would be the case, so I went to work straightaway at building a network upon which I hoped to draw when it came time to find a new Salesforce role. I do not believe I would have the role I do today without having built a strategic Salesforce network.

How can you network strategically? Here are three ideas:

  • Attend Salesforce events
  • Join a trailblazer community group
  • Build a Salesforce network on LinkedIn – connect with purpose

One great tool for connecting with the trailblazer community is Trailblazer Connect.

Go on – get connected!

8. Stay curious

When you stop learning, you stop living.

If you would continue to grow and progress, you cannot afford to lose that curiosity that fuels a passion for learning. You must constantly question, analyse, critique, evaluate, and investigate.

What can you do to fuel your curiosity? 

  • Read – books, blogs, tweets, posts, and whatever stimulates your grey matter.
  • Listen to inspirational and educational podcasts.
  • Learn something that is really challenging.
  • Spend time with people who know things that you do not know.
  • Don’t let people tell you that something cannot be done.

9. Find a mentor

Meet my virtual mentor and friend, the man who inspired and encouraged me when I needed it the most – Zac Otero.

Zac was homeschooled until he was 16. He earned his GED and migrated across the country, taking on low-wage jobs in a pallet construction plant, popcorn factory and grocery warehouse before landing in Springfield, Missouri, slicing deli meat at a packing plant.

Zac faced some hard truths after his son was born; the new demands of fatherhood meant he needed to make more money.

That’s when his cousin introduced him to Salesforce. Fortunately, Zac’s 10-hours-a-day, six-days-a-week factory job didn’t require excessive mental focus, so he downloaded Salesforce training sessions to his phone and listened to them while he worked. After a year of studying, he took his first certification exam … and failed.

Motivating himself after the setback was difficult, but Zac soon had a renewed interest in achieving his goal when the plant announced it would be closing. He doubled down and earned his certification.

After the plant closed and Zac was laid off, he was out of work for four months. “I was getting unemployment and being Mr. Mom for my kid while my wife went to work,” he says. “It was a hard stretch. I was looking around for jobs, but there are very few Salesforce jobs in Springfield. I was still going to user group, begging people for interviews.”

That’s where he heard about a Salesforce administrator opening, and one of the members helped him line up an interview. Zac got the job.

Zac’s story of perseverance began circulating—so much so it caught the eye of top Salesforce executives. At the 2016 Salesforce Annual Conference, Dreamforce, he was awarded the Trailblazer Award, which recognises a member of the Salesforce community who’s done something innovative and inspirational.

Zac receiving the coveted Gold Hoodie in 2016

Find a mentor – someone who inspires you, encourages you, and pushes you to be the very best you that you can be. 

10. Keep going!

The ability to persist and persevere through troubles, failures, obstacles, weariness, doubts, and criticisms is one of the most needful abilities for those who want to succeed at any worthy endeavour. Certainly, this is true of those seeking to build a career on Salesforce.

Coach John Wooden calls this character trait “intentness”:

Intentness is the ability to resist temptation and to avoid rabbit trails of distraction. An intent person will stay the course and go the distance. He or she will concentrate on objectives with determination, stamina and resolve. Intentness is the quality that won’t permit us to quit or give up, even when our goal is going to take a while to accomplish….Intentness is patience with action. It’s not wanting and waiting; rather, it’s being able to wait while we act out a specific plan.

Many gifted people never achieve much in their lifetime, while many “average” people achieve a great deal. That is, many average people succeed, and many gifted people fail. One reason why is that those who succeed have grit – and grit outweighs giftedness in the balance of life.

My first six months as a novice Salesforce administrator / implementer were utterly terrifying. If I felt at first that I had no clue what I was doing, it was because I had no clue what I was doing! I could not even count how many times I wanted to run away and get a nice easy job. The project was so completely overwhelming that I regularly cursed myself for ever taking on the role in the first place. Yet, I persevered, and I am extremely glad that I did!

So, what’s stopping you? Start blazing trails!

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