How to get started in the Salesforce Community? What’s an “accidental admin”? These questions, and more, came up during my “Ask me anything” session.
I was thrilled to be interviewed by Sarah Hughes and give the audience the opportunity to get important questions about the life of a Salesforce Admin answered, and to get to know me a little better…
How did you get started in the Salesforce Community?
I always tell everyone it took me quite a long time to get involved in the community – and I hope to encourage everyone to get involved far sooner than I did, as it transformed my career and my experience with the Salesforce ecosystem. I didn’t even realize the Salesforce community existed for about two years.
I’m a typical “accidental admin” and fell into Salesforce administration whilst working as a Sales Support Manager for a heavy machinery dealership. We wanted to upgrade to a new CRM system and I was lucky enough to get to select and implement it – I chose Salesforce.
Eventually I realized that there were user groups and community events. I started going to those and saw some really amazing speakers that opened my eyes to what Salesforce could do. That inspired me to start speaking at events and see if I could help people in the same way.
I’ve always had a passion for writing (I have an English Literature degree), and while speaking at Inspire East, someone said: ‘you know, it would be great if you did some blogs as well’. It was Paul Ginsberg that suggested that I set up my own blog, so I created The Everyday Admin in 2018.
What’s an “Accidental Admin”?
I love the phrase “accidental admin” and it applies to so many people out there in the ecosystem.
An “accidental admin” is someone who’s fallen into Salesforce: they’ve been doing a different job, they don’t come from an IT background, they don’t have an IT degree. Typically it’s people who work in sales, sales support, data analytics, or maybe marketing. Somewhere along the line, they get lumped with Salesforce – but, like me, they soon realize that Salesforce is far more fun than their day job and want to pursue it full time!
After doing Salesforce administration as part of my day job for several years, I was lucky enough to be offered a full time Salesforce Admin position in 2016, and I haven’t looked back. My boss at the time told me I was making a huge mistake and I would get “pigeonholed” as “just” a Salesforce Admin. Taking that job was the best decision I ever made – my Salesforce career has been my saviour, and is my absolute passion.
How did you upskill in Salesforce?
I started using the Salesforce platform in 2014 as part of my role as Sales Support Manager. Sadly, this was before Trailhead which was launched in 2014, but not quite in time for my first implementation!
Despite using Salesforce, I didn’t get certified for about two years.
I actually got my first full-time Salesforce Administrator role by accident because the company had said it was a prerequisite that whoever they employed had to be a Certified Administrator. Somewhere in the communications between myself, the company and the recruiter, that little detail got missed!
Getting certified is such a great thing to do; I’ve since passed three more and am now 4x certified with another planned very soon. I didn’t realize how important they were until I started doing them because I had no idea exactly how much the platform was capable of, or best practice. I think certifications have been a huge part of me becoming a much better Admin than I was for the first few years.
Why are Certifications Important?
I’m very passionate about getting everyone to make time to get certified, regardless of whether it’s required by your company. I think it can be quite dangerous to be an Admin without any certifications because you don’t know what you don’t know.
My experience has been that each company uses Salesforce differently and a lot of companies don’t use some of the features, such as Leads or Quotes, for example. If you’re working for one of those companies, you might not be exposed to that sort of functionality and what it can do.
When I started doing certifications I realized there were all these features we could be using, which can significantly impact the return on investment from using Salesforce.
How can Salesforce Ben help with Certifications?
Salesforce Ben is probably one of the largest community blogs and we have resources on all sorts of Salesforce topics.
One of the key areas that we focus on is certification guides; we’ll explain what the exam will cover, key parts of the exam that you should focus on because of their different weightings, study plans and test taking tips. Our guides are written by people who have passed the exam, so they have firsthand knowledge. In addition to that, we also have a lot of practice exams on the website as well.
How did the pandemic affect your role as a Salesforce Administrator?
In my previous role, as global Salesforce Admin for an engineering company, my job became busier than ever during the pandemic. As other projects slowed down, Salesforce became more of a priority, and people were coming to me with requirements because they had additional time to work on the projects they’d been putting off.
I think that companies that have been able to pivot and work on their digital transformation are the ones that will be more successful because we expect so much more from companies now than we used to. We expect them to have great websites. We expect them to have live chat and for their support to be fantastic. We also expect them to know who we are and have this complete 360 view of us. All of these things can only be achieved by using a platform like Salesforce, by having integrations, by using automation.
Tell us about your User Group?
I lead the Bristol Salesforce Admin user group and I love to get speakers to do sessions about Salesforce products or features; to show members what’s possible and what products or bolt ons are available to them. In particular, we enjoy sessions on topics like Salesforce Flow, which is a huge point of interest for everyone at the moment. I try to keep everyone up to date around release time and run sessions with the top 10 new features; this is great for those of us that don’t have time to read the full release notes!
That’s one thing I really love about Salesforce Ben; like clockwork, as soon as the release notes come out, there will be a great article on Salesforce Ben to tell you about the greatest and latest features you need to know about.
Do you think Salesforce is becoming a bit too complex for Admins with so many new features in the last couple of years, such as Einstein?
My experience with this has been that the Einstein features that come with the Sales and Service Cloud platform are very admin-friendly. I’ve written a number of articles for Salesforce Ben about Einstein features, such as Opportunity Scoring which I found to be simple to set up.
I think in general that being an Admin is a tough job. There’s always so much to learn and it’s a learning curve with every release or new feature. I like it because I’m prone to getting bored but I also know that it’s highly pressurized because when people want new features, they want them fast, and they don’t appreciate that the Admin has to learn them as well.
Are features such as Territory Management still relevant to passing the Advanced Admin exam?
I did my Advanced Admin exam and passed it in 2019, but I procrastinated about it for two years. I found it daunting because it had so many of the features that people don’t use often such as forecasting and territory management.
Salesforce has been working hard on enhancing territory management and the original territory management has been retired – there is now a newer version, so it is still a relevant topic. This was similar to forecasting which at one point, had two versions that could appear on the exam. It’s probably a better time to take the exam now because previously you would have needed to know about both. I found that there was a huge overlap between the Advanced Admin, Platform App Builder and Sales Cloud Consultant, so if you can pass Advanced Admin then I encourage you to study up for those two as well.
What’s it like to be a woman in the Salesforce ecosystem?
This is a really, really interesting topic and one that I’m really passionate about because a lot of women don’t get involved in STEM subjects, or if they do, they tend to drop out of those careers very quickly.
So when we talk about engineering or we talk about IT, even if women are training in them, they leave those industries very quickly. A lot of people will find things like IT intimidating, and don’t think that they could have a career change into an IT role, but over 50% of Salesforce Administrators are women!
The really important thing to be aware of is that anyone can do it. It doesn’t matter what your background is. It doesn’t matter what your education is, what your career has been like. It doesn’t matter if you have an illness. If you have taken time out to have children and stay at home, anyone can do it. Salesforce is probably the most accessible technology to someone who wants to get involved in the IT industry.
Everyone that I know outside of the Salesforce ecosystem is amazed at the resources we have, the community support, and how easy it is to retrain using Trailhead and resources from Salesforce themselves. There are also programs out there to support you such as Supermums.
What are your best tips and tricks to stay motivated when you are preparing for one of your Salesforce exams?
It can be really hard to stay motivated, and it can be so hard to find the time as well when you’re working full time!
First, you need to find resources that support your learning style. Some people enjoy written content, while others will enjoy videos.
Next, to stay motivated, I use practice exams to continuously test my progress. I never take an exam unless I’m scoring over 85% on the practice exam so it gives me something to work towards. When I do a practice exam and I’m scoring lower (around 60%), it gives me a nudge to knuckle down and keep studying. It’s normal to be apprehensive; the exams are deliberately very, very tough.
Where have you found the best resources for transitioning to Lightning?
Salesforce’s own resources on transitioning to Lightning are very good. You can use Trailhead to complete the badges and trails about moving to Lightning. The other thing to consider would be the Trailblazer Community as there are specific groups such as Lightning Now where you can post questions.
As an Admin, how did you cope with the transition to Lighting?
We are just the same as our users; everybody hates change and the same applies to administrators as well. When I switched, I didn’t like it initially and kept wanting to flip back to Classic, but you have to persevere and keep going with it until it feels intuitive.
After a great session with Sarah, discussing Salesforce and the Trailblazer Community, it became clear from our conversation and the questions posed by the audience that there is a lot of imposter syndrome out there. One thing to remember is that everyone finds it difficult at some point and it can feel like all the features and products are overwhelming.
It’s okay to feel like it’s confusing and that you don’t know everything. We have to get more comfortable with saying, “I don’t know but I will find out”, and be confident that the resources are there to support us.
You don’t have to feel like you have to know everything. That doesn’t mean that you’re any less of an Admin. I have things I’m good at, I have things that I’m not so good at. At the moment I’m trying to use Salesforce Flow and it’s very new to me. So I’m reaching out and I’m speaking to my friends who are ‘Flow gurus’ and they’re supporting me. You just have to be brave enough to reach out and ask people for the help that you need because the whole community is there behind you.