Salesforce Architects are some of the most in-demand professionals in the Salesforce ecosystem. Using their expertise, they map the structure and function of your Salesforce solution – ensuring it remains functional, safe, and economical, as well as suitable for the specific needs of the business.
As a term, “Salesforce Architect” is perhaps a little too easy to ‘throw’ around. Without fully understanding the demands of a project, some organizations may believe their requirements justify the hiring of a Salesforce Architect. However, the reality may be that an admin is more than capable of fulfilling their needs.
Would you agree that the role of the Salesforce Architect is clearly understood? And what do you think are the most common misconceptions around the role of Salesforce Architect? These are the questions we wanted to address to ensure that the correct professionals are matched with the right roles.
Thankfully, more than 1,100 of you contributed to the Careers and Hiring Guide, giving us a glimpse into the sentiments of:
- Salesforce Architects
- Aspiring Salesforce Architects
- Those who work with Salesforce Architects
- Those who have no clue what Architects do!
Is the Role of Salesforce Architect Clearly Understood?
Architects apply their extensive knowledge and intuition every day. They are ‘reserved’ for projects/orgs that – simply put – actually require an architect. Here are some signs that a project/org requires an architect: it’s multi-cloud, multi-platform, and involves movements of large data volumes.
First, we asked Salesforce Architects whether they felt others truly understood their role. As mentioned earlier, the term “Salesforce Architect” is easy to over and misuse, which has caused contention amongst the community.
The results are not surprising. Close to three-quarters of the architects who responded (72%) agreed that other Salesforce professionals they work with understand what the role entails. On the other hand, a quarter (25%) disagree that hiring managers are clear on the role.
It’s possible that hiring managers have mislabelled job descriptions as a result of not fully grasping the skill sets required for specific tasks and projects.
Misconceptions About Salesforce Architects (According to the Architects)
Drilling into the specifics, architects believe that:
- People think that the role is purely technical, with a lack of awareness that it’s also about understanding an organization’s needs.
“One of the misconceptions that I see a lot is that architects have to be highly specialized, in a particular domain, or they have to have a wealth of technical knowledge. It leads to people thinking you’re a walking encyclopedia, asking a lot of demanding questions.” – Lilith
“It’s just not a technical position – it’s a position where you need to be a good communicator. Of course you work as a subject matter expert, and need to have a holistic (bird’s eye view) of all the moving parts of the system – but you’re not Google! As architects, you also have to search Google for answers.” – Ankit
- They don’t understand the difference in skills and responsibilities between Solution, Technical, and Enterprise Architects.
“Here’s the thing, there are different “flavors” of architects. The lines can get blurry between some of them, for example, what is a “solution”? What counts as “technical”? And where do these end, and the others start? I see these definitions differ between companies and also by project. My advice is to not think that you have to fit into a particular box.” – Lilith
- There’s an assumption that you can make it as a Salesforce Architect with certifications alone:
“[People believe] that all it takes are certifications to become a Salesforce Architect. However, you need extensive hands-on experience, with an ability to understand business processes, and solid communication skills and critical thinking.” – Application Architect, United States
On that note, almost three-quarters (72%) of Salesforce Architects tell us that it is not possible to accelerate your career as an architect without extensive, hands-on experience of role-related tasks.
We’re surprised that this number wasn’t higher. Judging by the description of an architect’s role, with all its nuances, it becomes clear that the knowledge required cannot be book-learned. Instead, extensive, hands-on experience with the Salesforce platform (often acquired over time) is the best way to learn and progress.
“Whether or not you go the certification route, becoming an architect without any hands-on experience – whether for smaller tasks or full-blown projects – it’s going to be very tough to become an architect without having the hands-on experience first.” – Lilith
Support for Aspiring Salesforce Architects?
As Salesforce Architects are some of the most in-demand professionals in the Salesforce ecosystem, it’s no surprise that becoming a Salesforce Architect is a goal many professionals aim for.
More than half (56%) of respondents who are not already a Salesforce Architect aspire to be one in the future.
We’ve established that the knowledge required cannot be book-learned; it requires extensive, hands-on experience with the Salesforce platform (often acquired over time) as the best way to learn and progress.
Over two-thirds (69%) understand the role of a Salesforce Architect and what they need to do to progress into that role. Examples include developing your technical knowledge, gaining consulting experience, getting exposure to integrations, developing your project management skills, and taking on more responsibility.
“Master admin level competencies, move to developer-related competencies, and then to architect level books/modules/classes.” – System Administrator, United States
From the architects’ point of view – those who have ‘been there, done that’ – there were some additional tips:
- Research and learn about different technologies.
- Gain an understanding of the complete downstream system.
- Gain a greater knowledge of the platform.
“Read about design methodologies, look at case studies of solution design, learn about the base Salesforce architecture and understand the platform.” – Solution Architect, United States
Easier said than done? With all the nuances involved in an architect’s role, are there enough resources out there to forge a career?
Almost half (45%) of Salesforce Architects consider that Salesforce is doing enough to support and upskill architects. However, 21% believe that more could be done.
“One of the main differences between, perhaps, being an admin and being an architect is a much greater appreciation of the way everything links together, the importance of architectural design and how the pieces slot together in terms of integrations and other tools.” – Christine
Who Is This Job For?
With a significant proportion of people in and around the ecosystem misunderstanding the role architects play in projects/orgs, it’s no wonder that the following sentiments arise:
- “This job is for a Salesforce Admin, not an Architect”.
- “This job is for a Salesforce Architect, not an Admin”.
In fact, almost half (48%) of those who are not architects have been asked to complete tasks or projects that are outside their capabilities or scope of their role, including solution design, configuration, and integration – tasks that should have been worked on by an architect.
Projects and tasks conducted by non-architects include:
- “I’ve undertaken complex process flows, integration, and configuration of third party software prior to a Salesforce integration.” – Administrator, United States
- “I’ve undertaken a data model restructure.” – Administrator, Australia
- “I’ve integrated and migrated systems.” – Systems Administrator, Singapore
- “I’ve undertaken an integration with a legacy system.” – Product Owner, France
- “I’ve designed a solution and took part in build planning.” – Functional Consultant, United Kingdom
- “I’ve worked with Apex coding and designed an entire workflow.” – Technical Support, United States
- “I’ve architected complex data models and integrations.” – CRM Manager, United States
- “I’ve architected an application for an entirely separate business unit.” – IT Manager, United States
- “I’ve done architecture diagrams, solutioning for major projects, integration creation, completely refactoring existing Salesforce technical processes, and led major company projects.” – Application Manager, United States
Becoming a Salesforce Architect: Considerations
1. Time and Capacity
Here’s how Lilith forged her path to become an Architect, and how she manages her role:
“If you want to take the path that I took, where you start taking on more responsibilities as you go, you need to have the capacity to do that. It’s likely to come on top of your regular work, as maybe your employer isn’t too happy to just say: ‘Okay, you’ve never done this before, but we’ll take a chance on you’. You’ll need more time to complete the work, which could result in longer working days.
“If you do want to go for the certifications, study time takes a lot of effort too. Think what the impact is going to be – your social calendar, your friends, and your family. Build understanding that this is a path that you really want to embark on, whether it’s CTA or architect career, just make sure that you get the green light to go for it.
“Look at the company that you’re working for, how is the atmosphere? Do they have that learning mindset? If not, then can you talk them into having that learning mindset? Even your employer has to understand, whereas within the Salesforce ecosystem it’s just a given (i.e. everyone wants to learn).
“Even if you gain a certification, it’s not forever – you have to complete maintenance exams periodically. Keeping on top of everything means you will remain a valuable asset in a project team.”
2. Project Variety
Learning is a habit that is ingrained in an architect’s mindset. There may be certain areas that you do not yet have experience in, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid these projects. Instead, it is an opportunity to develop your skills and expand your knowledge base. However, it may mean that you adjust expectations (both your own and those of the client), which might even involve financial sacrifices.
“As a freelancer, I was choosing projects that would expand my knowledge. If I was offered a project around something that I had not worked on before, I would even charge a lower rate – it was not just money that I was gaining, I was also gaining knowledge. If you look at my project history, 50-60% is Service Cloud, but the rest is varied. I’ve worked with startups with five users to enterprise clients with 10,000 licenses.” – Ankit
3. Imposter Syndrome
Ankit describes himself as an “accidental architect”. When he started out as an architect, he perhaps didn’t realize how much of the experience he already had was valuable.
Imposter syndrome is so common in the Salesforce ecosystem, and embarking on a new role can intensify feelings of: “Do I know as much as I think I do, or maybe I don’t know enough”. Here’s how Ankit tackles his imposter syndrome:
“I still feel like an imposter at least once a week. Architect is a lonely place, at the top of the pyramid. You could feel like you don’t have anybody to turn to. But having those friends, your “circle of trust” means you have people around you whom you can count on.
“When I first became an architect, I didn’t know what I should charge. I asked my architect friend, “what does an architect get paid?” I was surprised at his answer, but he advised me not to undersell myself: “You are worth every penny. Don’t worry about it, just say it.” My palms were sweating when I was negotiating with the client, but it worked out well. So you need to have those people around you to give you constant feedback.”
4. Location and Communication
Another constraint could be geographical location. Do you need to travel to carry out work effectively? Here’s Lilith’s experience as an architect:
“Of course we’ve experienced the covid pandemic, and not being fully over yet, travel is more restricted.
You’re on top [of the architect pyramid], and that involves communicating with everyone. The job of an architect involves a lot of calls, and a lot of checking to make sure that whatever comes from the business side is communicated and translated into something that is understandable and executable for the technical side.
Geographical constraints do apply, especially in the architect role. Be present on site (in workshops for example). Time zone restrictions can make it difficult even if it’s a remote session. A few of my colleagues work offshore from India, which means their working days have to adhere to European or even US time zones.”
“If you want to be an architect, you need to like meetings. If you don’t like meetings, then this is not the job for you. Some days, I spend at least 3-4 hours just in meetings and taking notes.” – Ankit
We’re looking forward to continuing our mission to communicate the Trailblazer ethos with these results from Mason Frank’s Careers and Hiring Guide 2022-23.
Is becoming a Salesforce Architect part of your career path? It’s a goal that many professionals pursue, and over the space of just a few years, we’ve witnessed significant evolution in this role; the Salesforce Architect has shifted from IT-focused specialists to those who want to achieve seniority without moving into the management team or becoming a project delivery manager.
As Salesforce (as a technology) becomes more established with each year that passes, seniority and salary should increase as Salesforce specialists gain more years of experience.
Join Julia, Christine, Ankit, and Lilith for an open-panel discussion – they speak from personal experience about the roles and responsibilities of a Salesforce Architect, as well as strategies for overcoming potential obstacles.