What I Wish I Knew Starting Out In Salesforce

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What I wish I knew starting out in Salesforce

I am going to let you in on a little secret.  Working with Salesforce is not something I had ever planned.  And to go one step further, I didn’t even know about Salesforce.  That is until I started a new job where I was sitting near the company’s Salesforce Administrator.

Fast forward eight years, my career in the Salesforce ecosystem has taken me on a completely unexpected and enjoyable ride.  During that time, I have learnt so much both professionally and personally.  I have worked many roles within the Salesforce ecosystem – as an Admin, a System Analyst, Application Manager and a CRM Manager.  And during that time, I have been fortunate enough to work with multiple companies.  Why fortunate?  This gave me exposure to many different business processes, multiple industries and different Salesforce org setups.

But starting out is the hardest step.  As with learning anything, it was a bumpy ride at first.

So why am I telling you all of this?  Well, recently I was part of a project team which launched Salesforce to a brand-new team.  And this got me thinking of things I wished I knew when I was starting out with Salesforce.  This led to put together this list to help those starting out with Salesforce.

Now before we jump in, there is so much which could go into this list.  If you are reading this and think of something else to add, please don’t hesitate to add it to the comments below!

You’re not alone

Salesforce can be a daunting place for newbies, especially if you have the keys to the castle.  As an admin, there is so much to learn.  Equally there is so much that can be damaged if you are on a full system admin profile…  I remember being so fearful that I would accidentally update something I shouldn’t.  Or remove a record accidentally.  I really didn’t trust myself.

It was also my first time being an Administrator for a system.  And to make matters worse, I started as a Salesforce Administrator the same week my colleague was going on annual leave for two weeks (lucky him!)

But to this day I still remember the first case I got.  It was someone who was getting consistent emails, every time someone did something to an opportunity they owned.  I had no idea where to even start…


This leads me to my first piece of advice, for anyone starting out in the Salesforce world, get involved with the community. Salesforce has been driving ‘Ohana’ values for many years and this extends to the broader community.

You will find a seemingly endless supply of people helping each other over on the Success Community (now called the Trailblazer Community).

There are so many groups.  There is practically a group for each Salesforce product.  For those starting out two awesome groups to check out when starting would be Success Getting Started and the Who Owes Me A Beer group.  But there are so many to recommend, so go on and explore.

There are also official Salesforce User groups.  These groups gather together like-minded Admins to talk about experiences and best practices.  There are also many informal gatherings which you may be able to find on platforms like Meetup, or the above mentioned Trailblazer Community.

Find a Mentor

Additionally, there are many people who are also willing to mentor users.

There is a freely available program setup by James Goerke for people who wish to find a mentor (or wish to volunteer their time to help a mentee).  If you want to find out more you can listen to James on the Salesforce podcast or get involved with the Mentorship Central group here.

Formulas are freaking awesome…

Shifting gears, some of the more complex aspects of Salesforce Administration are typically driven by formulas (or code but I am not going into that here).

I can say, hand on heart, that I hated formulas when I started out.  They just seemed so complex.

But taking the time to learn formulas and how they apply to Salesforce will be knowledge you can use them practically everywhere in the system.  For example:

  • Formula fields, to calculate values to display to your users as a field on a page layout. Or even setting a default value for a field.
  • Validation rules, to help guide users on required fields/data/values (i.e. ensure a phone number is in the right format).
  • Report Formulas, to add extra calculations for your users within a report.

Even relatively simple formulas are used in Filter Conditions throughout the system (e.g. list views, sharing rules or reports).  So basic understanding of how AND, OR and () work together is a must!

To start learning, check out this earlier post or, the Salesforce Help section has an example guide of formulas.  And don’t forget to check Trailhead, Salesforce’s free learning system.

Admin Hacks…

Starting out, you need obviously need to learn how the system works before learning shortcuts and hacks.  But one thing I wish I recognised earlier was, Salesforce at its most basic level is simply a database.  My point here is that any system has patterns and rules everything adheres to, and Salesforce is no exception.

This is key to understanding the patterns within Salesforce.  But one of those patterns relates to how Salesforce structures its URLs.  These patterns can lead to shortcuts such as URL Hacking (in Classic), which Admins have been using for a long time now to speed up the time to create a record, by pre-populating fields for the user.  These hacks are now being superseded by Quick Actions, but if you still work within Classic it may be worth learning how these work.

Finally, Welcome to Salesforce

There is so much to learn when starting out to Salesforce, and way too much to cover here in a single article.  It is a massive platform and continues to evolve and grow, with three releases every year. But, by getting involved in the community, leveraging tools like Trailhead and focussing on continual learning, you will get up to speed soon enough.

If you are reading this and have any tips to also share for newbies to Salesforce, please feel free to add them to the comments below.

4 thoughts on “What I Wish I Knew Starting Out In Salesforce

  1. Great article. One thing that really helped me was signing up for a developer instance (now also admin playground) and creating some goals around learning SFDC. This is a great way to learn about functionality without breaking anything in production orgs. My first project was inspired by a Dreamforce session in 2007 and was to create an app for something I was interested in. So I made a beer tasting app (I’m Australian after all). Just by doing that I learned about data modeling, custom objects, relationships, user interface considerations, field creation, workflow, page layouts, security and more. Really helped my understanding when starting out and I recommend it as a way to get hands on experience.

  2. Your journey is so incredible to read about. As you mentioned, any ride is bumpy, to begin with, and I’m so glad that your’s has let you provide us with such clarity about how to start with Salesforce on the right note. Kudos to you from my team and I here at Cymetrix Software!

    1. Thanks Nikita, glad you enjoyed the article. As you rightly say, anything new can be bumpy to begin with but it takes practice and perseverance to get past that stage.

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