Switching Careers to Salesforce: 5 Lessons Learned

By Marilyn Brown

Raise a hand if the following scene sounds all too familiar: You work tirelessly for years pursuing a degree in a field you think will lead to your dream job. Then you graduate and enter your coveted profession, excited for what lies ahead. A couple of months (or years) go by and an unsettling feeling begins to grow. You change jobs a couple of times and think, “maybe I just haven’t found the right company”. Then it hits you – it’s not the company, it’s the role itself that’s not right for you.

I found myself in this exact situation a few years’ back – my career in marketing and events was draining and I began to lose my passion for it. Salesforce had been a part of my duties since I joined the company, but once I really started leaning in and learning how to leverage it, I was hooked! As a result, when the possibility of another CRM replacing Salesforce was on the table, I made the difficult decision to move on so I could become a full-time Salesforce Administrator.

Once I decided to try my hand at a Salesforce career, I knew I needed practical, hands-on experience (beyond studying for an exam). I worked with my users to identify impactful new features, then practiced implementing them in Trailhead before building in our org – a great, free resource that allows you to learn the right skills at the right time.

If you run into issues applying what you’ve learned, I can almost guarantee that someone in the Trailblazer community has already completed and shared their solution for what you’re attempting (more on that later!). In the same way, I’d now like to share some of the key lessons I learned in using Salesforce as a catalyst for career transformation.

Lesson 1: Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

You‘d be surprised by the career development support many companies are willing to offer if you simply ask. The key to this is ensuring that you tie the request back to a benefit for the business.

My initial role as an admin boiled down to writing requirements, which I passed to an external developer to execute – for a significant fee, of course. During my first review, my boss asked what I needed to progress in my role. I told him that with a modicum of training, I could pull most of the work we were outsourcing in house – costing us less in consulting fees and increasing responsiveness for our users. The company then paid for my first Salesforce course and certification. When I delivered on my commitment, they paid for another course and exam the following year.

I highly recommend this approach to anyone interested in pursuing a career in Salesforce. The company appreciated my initiative and I was able to take on additional responsibilities as I learned new skills and became more comfortable in my role.

Lesson 2: If You Have a Lifeboat, Use It

Once I felt I’d developed the skills to make it as a Salesforce Admin, I had a major decision to make. It can be frustrating to acknowledge that a profession you’ve invested so much in just isn’t working for you; the sunk cost of time, energy, money, etc. can leave you drowning in a job for years. The idea that kept echoing in my head (and finally tipped the scales) was this: Just because you built the ship, it doesn’t mean you have to go down with it.

40+ years is a long time to be doing anything other than something you love. Salesforce reignited my passion for my craft. Jumping into this ecosystem with both feet, while terrifying, was the best decision I’ve made in my professional life so far. It has been my lifeboat.

Lesson 3: There Is No ‘I’ in Technology

The team you join can make or break your tech career. A healthy division of labor is essential for a Salesforce Admin to do their job well. When you are attending every meeting to gather requirements, it doesn’t leave much time to actually solutionize and build. This is why effective business analysts are worth their weight in gold. They meet with stakeholders and distill their needs into actionable requirements, all while assigning priority and scheduling feature delivery.

Your team structure is also critical to work-life balance. My current team is well staffed with talented admins, developers, and business analysts, with a positive company culture that means we support each other when issues arise. I know that when I am out of the office, problems are being solved and our projects are continuing to progress. It can be daunting evaluating all of the opportunities that exist in the tech space, especially when you first change fields. Know that taking the time to find a ‘rockstar’ team will pay off in the long run.

Lesson 4: Know Your Customers

For me, moving from a career in marketing to a career in Salesforce was a major shift for several reasons. One of the biggest differences was my audience, as I was no longer dealing with external customers. However, I quickly realized that much of the work I had done in previous roles, including building relationships and brand ambassadorship, translated directly to my new internal function.

It can be easy to become siloed in the technology space, building only what is asked for in terms of requirements. But I have found that some of the most effective changes I’ve delivered have been the result of casual conversations with my users, where I’ve taken the time to learn more about their day-to-day tasks.

Understanding their processes allows me to put myself in their shoes and be proactive in presenting new, impactful features to address their pain points. When you treat your internal stakeholders like valued customers, they become your best brand ambassadors, working with you to ensure changes and feature rollouts go smoothly.

Lesson 5: Knowledge Is a Gift – Never Stop Learning

It’s no secret that the technology industry is fast-paced. Salesforce has three major releases a year, so if you’re looking for a job where you can pass an exam and then close the books for good, this platform may not be for you. However, if you love to learn and explore the latest and greatest updates, this ecosystem is paradise!

Between release notes, webinars, Trailhead modules, and other resources, Salesforce makes it easy (and free) to level up your skills at your own pace, or as the need arises. I am consistently impressed by how well Salesforce listens to admins and developers, leveraging feedback to innovate on behalf of their customers. I also love being a part of such a zealous community.

Go ahead and post a question in the Trailblazer community. Blink and you’ll have responses from several talented professionals in no time at all – people who are taking time out of their day to help you out, partly because they’re keen to give back, and partly because they love what they do!

Final Thoughts

I hope this post proves useful to you when considering Salesforce as a career. If you love what you do, you will do it well and the rest takes care of itself.

The Author

Marilyn Brown

Marilyn is a Salesforce Certified Admin and Platform App Builder who loves working with companies to map their processes to Salesforce best practices.


    June 11, 2023 8:48 pm
    I can’t agree more Marilyn, I moved (after redundancy) from a senior charity role where I led the Salesforce side of things (after 20 years in senior marketing/comms/fundraising/project rules) to a SF non profit consultancy. Best choice I ever did! One other word of advice - understand your end users skills and what they’re going to do with the work you produce… I once wrote a report ready to export / mail merge and found out a day later they were copying and pasting every field out of Excel (which they could have done from SF of course) as they didn’t know how to Mail merge. Was eye opening!

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