My first encounter with Salesforce was during one of the first meetings I had as a Junior Web Developer back in Leeds. We were discussing building a CRM whereby I would be handling the front-end requirements. Tim – the only Salesforce Developer in the company at the time – said it could all be done out-of-the-box using Salesforce, while raising his eyebrows and (rightfully) looking somewhat smug. I originally humoured his point and the conversation moved on. I hadn’t heard of Salesforce…how good could it be?
Just over two years later as a sprightly 20-year-old, I moved away from my home city to live in London to pursue Salesforce full time, joining a Platinum Salesforce Consultancy, CloudShift, as a Technical Consultant and have never looked back!
Even now, having found an ecosystem like Salesforce, “Impostor Syndrome” is real. I have learned the importance of having mentors, both from an educational standpoint, but personal too. Of everyone I know, I genuinely believe I had some of the best mentors in the game with Lee Beardshaw & Patrick Fischer. They encourage me to continue to shape a career I am so enthusiastic about and allow me to grow as an independent professional.
I wanted to write this article to share my experience so far, including tips learned from friends in the industry, and provide some advice to those early in their careers.
1. Not having professional experience
The first thing to say to anyone without experience is “perfect, go get some”. And by that, I mean to say that nobody has experience until after they start working full time, in any industry. This can be easier said than done but to gain hands-on experience you need to get out there and find a job. Don’t forget that you are a clean slate and are ready to learn. Don’t be afraid to admit a mistake or ask an ‘obvious’ question. The expectation is there for you to ask and learn as much as possible. Being hired into a graduate or junior position is an investment by the company into your future.
2. Not having a degree (or how to put it to use)
For starters, I did not go to college or university. I got an apprenticeship right from school and I don’t feel like I lost out or had a disadvantage against friends that went to higher education! Granted, having that computer science degree is going to help a developer understand software design patterns early on. However, from experience, you can learn that any day. If a willingness to learn is appreciated by your employer, you aren’t going to miss out on the job. Especially if you’re excited by it!
The tech industry is amazing in the sense that you are measured by so many more dimensions than conventional jobs, including the skills you currently have, your personality, and your future potential.
3. Switching from a non-technical career
An enormous misconception is that Salesforce, or any technical industry, is dominated by programmers. There are arguably more roles in the Salesforce ecosystem that aren’t actually developer based.
One of the smartest and most thorough professionals I worked with and learned from started out in a Styrofoam packing job. He has been running a Salesforce consultancy for years. Coming from a non-technical background isn’t an issue.
4. Being eager to learn, but from who?
Speaking to friends in the industry, everyone wants to learn from the “best of the best”, and for someone to take a chance on them.
This is where I believe joining a consultancy as a junior is often the best bet. Depending on your location, consultancies often hold initiatives to invest in young people, so they can learn from the best in the business, grow internally but also take advantage of those sweet employee perks & social events!
For example, at Cloudshift we have a Tech Academy Program that brings in juniors with little to no experience but a lot of dedication to learning. We provide 1-2-1 mentoring, a career path plan, and direct access to people with years of experience.
5. Not having any connections
Naturally, your connections will build up over time but you need to get out there! There are events happening all the time: User Groups, Women in Tech, World Tours and the holy grail that is Dreamforce.
I have participated in a few events in Leeds, as well as some in London. Not only did I feel the connections built and career benefit first-hand, but you’re always bound to make friends after a few drinks too!
Or, if you just want to start with one person in the industry to help you out, I’m active on LinkedIn so reach out!
In short, put yourself out there. Apply to junior roles or programs to set yourself up for long-term success. If you’re lucky to be in the industry for years to come, it makes sense to take advantage of your early position (like I did) by learning and absorbing as much as possible now.
There will be hurdles in the future as you progress, but everyone is aware of how human we are, especially your boss. Be sure to make friends at social events too as these connections will be invaluable as you progress!