Well, this is my 4th “How I Became …” article. Of all the articles I’ve written, these have been the most popular. Letting people know your path helps others envision how they can do it too, and that the course is NEVER perfect. It resonates. And I enjoy poking a bit of fun at myself while relating those Non-Perfections.
I could say that first, I became a Business Analyst, then I became a Salesforce Administrator. Combining the two and BAM – I’m a Salesforce Business Analyst. But if you’ve read the previous three “How I Became” posts, you know the story is a bit more interesting than that.
And Now – The Rest of the Story
This story could be subtitled “The Art of the Pivot.” There are so many re-directions.
Frankly, I have become a bit frustrated with Business Analysis in my geographic area. I love the job, but it seems to have stagnated, or perhaps the market was saturated here (at the time of this writing, I was still in Kentucky). For whatever reason, I have not and I do not know any Business Analysts in this area that have experienced sustained financial growth. In actuality, most have been flat for several years. Something had to change. But what?
I had just wrapped up a stint with the Transportation Cabinet in October 2019, a terrible time to begin a job search. With it being the end of the year and with Holidays around the corner, no one was in a hiring mood. But I didn’t know how terrible it was going to be.
Too much time on my hands.
So in December, I was just about to catch up on my favorite podcast, ChooseFI. The guest was Bradley Rice, and the topic was “The Case for Part-Time.” Bradley was sharing his story about making more than full time pay as a part-time Salesforce freelancer. I’ve talked about that previously here. With my free time, I decided it was time to investigate. And if I’m going to try something different, it needed to be a game-changer.
With that as an introduction, and if you’re not familiar with Salesforce, let me back up a bit. Salesforce is a platform that hosts enterprise-level software for businesses. It is not an MLM. Some people see the word Sales, and hear the enthusiasm of those in the “Salesforce Ecosystem” and think there must be something up. No pyramids. No cold calls. It’s Information Technology.
Bradley’s interview gave me enough breadcrumbs to investigate. Go to Trailhead.Salesforce.com, sign up for fully functional training environments for free, take online courses on how to do everything for free, then get certified and apply for jobs. The only cost is for the exam at $200.00.
Giving your career a boost for the cost of about 2-3 months’ work and $200.00 – that’s a great deal.
So, in January and February, I was still applying for traditional Business Analyst jobs and was going deep in the interview process. But all of them were about 80 minutes away. And each was wanting that one specific technology, and I never had it. Nevermind that Business Analysts are on the requirements side – it’s the developers that need the technology. I’ve even heard feedback from interviewers saying, “Our hiring manager is crazy for not hiring you. You can learn this in a week.” Still, that was keeping me from winning.
And in this case, winning would have meant a job with wages the same as 5-8 years ago, driving 80 minutes each way to Louisville, a city that was soon to be in the news way too much.
Every Rejection was a Confirmation
I continued pursuing certification. I knew I had to do this. In February 2020, I sat for the Salesforce Certified Administrator exam and passed.
Oh, but we all know what happened next, don’t we?
Yep, the COVID-19 pandemic shut virtually everything down. And I realized I needed to double down on things.
First, now that I am newly certified, I needed to expand my network to a whole new audience. It was an audience that wouldn’t have heard me without the credential – I couldn’t start sooner. My LinkedIn profile got an overhaul. Then I reviewed it with Bradley and overhauled it again. Branding is a huge deal, and I was changing my brand. Bradley was just starting to build a new community for helping people like me called TalentStacker, and I was one of his earliest students. Much of the rest of my story was done with his influence.
Next, I realized that one certification was going to get lost now that many more people are entering the job market. And many of those had experience that I didn’t have.
How do I leverage what I DO have?
Another LinkedIn overhaul.
Revise my job target strategy.
Create a new set of Resumes.
Get my name on Salesforce Communities and network there too. That’s a whole new world to explore.
What other certification can I get quickly? Oh – one of the credentials is called Platform App Builder. This is 70% covered by the first certification but deals more with – well – building apps on the Salesforce platform.
Backing up again. I had mentioned that Salesforce is a platform. It does have several core sets of products, such as Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Service Cloud, Non-Profit Success Pack, and others. However, Salesforce was the inventor of the app store, called App Exchange. Third-party applications can be built and purchased there. Also, custom applications for an organization can be built to run in a Salesforce environment (or Org). So, building apps is what the Platform App Builder is all about.
And when I say “Building” and “App,” I most likely do not mean coding. Salesforce has native tools allowing for the production of sophisticated applications without writing code. And of course, if you need something beyond those capabilities, you can write code. I would explain how that works, but I had to study it for five months to understand it myself fully.
It has been a great surprise how much you can do in a low code model.
Back to our story
In March and April, I continued building my network in the Salesforce ecosystem and pursuing the next certification. I got the Platform App Builder in April 2020.
Overhaul my LinkedIn profile again. Change the messaging a bit.
What about those Salesforce Communities? Oh – there’s one for job postings. I better make sure to get on that. And there’s Admin and Local groups.
With the new competition, I need to get some experience. But how?
Bradforce and T.E.A.M 4 Travis
I contacted Bradley, who at this point was hitting a stride in helping people like me, and got some feedback about how to volunteer for organizations to gain experience through the Non-Profit Success Pack. NPSP is offered at a considerable discount to Non-Profits. With Bradley’s help, I was able to sign up through Taproot to help a brand new Non-Profit get started using Salesforce.
T.E.A.M 4 Travis was started to raise funding to help identify children that have Asplenia, a rare and often undetected disease where the spleen is either missing or non-functional. Travis was an energetic four-year-old who, after catching a typical childhood illness, died because his immune system couldn’t fight it off.
So, now I’m getting some experience. Is it enough yet? I don’t think so. And the job market confirms it as COVID-19 rolls along.
What can I do to get attention? I haven’t done anything on video. Is that a possibility?
What is my Strength?
My strong point is Business Analysis. After all, I’ve been doing it for over a decade. Can I do something on video there?
Sure I can.
In the previous summer, I had developed a course for Agile Analysis Certification (AAC) through IIBA. I taught myself how to create videos and turned the AAC class into a self-paced course, and submitted it to Udemy. The process wasn’t pretty. It took about 40 hours to produce 3.5 hours of video.
Is it a rip-roaring success?
Yes. Well, in my opinion, the only opinion that counts, the course has accomplished precisely what I had hoped. Although the original “Virtual Classroom” version had about 65 students, the Udemy version has to date has this many students – three.
And two of them were given a free pass for helping me out while I was learning to do videos. The other – half off.
Honestly, I wasn’t doing this to be a huge hit. I viewed it as the kind of thing that can help later, whether anyone buys the course or not. We’ll see if it does.
More networking. LinkedIn overhaul. Remove ancient jobs. Better focus.
Then it hit me. I need to acknowledge what I’ve been doing with these odd items that have not paid more than $40. The course and TEAM 4 Travis were hidden. I needed to sell my experience toward Salesforce. Instead of just saying I have certifications, who am I now? And how can I promote that?
Then I understood something Bradley had been saying all along. I needed everything to scream Salesforce. Until then, no one believes me because I did not think it myself.
If I don’t believe that, as a Business Analyst, I am already a consultant and that with my recent experience, I can go a long way with Salesforce, then I’m certainly not going to convince anyone else. Perhaps my biggest lesson is never to let myself believe the voice saying “impostor” instead of the voice saying, “just do it.”
I mean, I have set out to do so much – two certifications, learning to video and producing over 3 hours of self-paced content, starting a new organization on Salesforce – and yet I still did not believe in myself. The unbelief was showing by how reliant I was on Business Analysis instead of Salesforce.
So what do I want for my career after all of this, and how do I communicate that?
Be sure that I’ve had goals for this process all along. But those goals needed to be clarified and take root in my resume and LinkedIn profile. They needed to be a reflection of who I am and what I want.
I came up with this.
“Sr. Salesforce Consultant and Business Analyst with a passion for the elimination of Technical Debt and Process Redesign on the world’s best SaaS CRM platform.”
Sr Salesforce Consultant? Yes – I began listing my Salesforce accomplishments under the umbrella of a Sole Proprietorship company “Applied Agile Analysis,” which is the name of a blog I started well over a year before. That’s not the most appropriate name for the company trying to transition to Salesforce, but that is an advantage. No one knows I’m the only employee. The name reflects my Agile Analysis background. I had a lot of material under that name. And if I say I’m the Senior Salesforce Consultant in a company that focuses on Agile – maybe there are other consultants with a different emphasis. Plus, I am the most senior member of the (one person) staff.
Imposter syndrome – conquered. I’m selling what employers need to hear from me now. I can deliver the goods, but only if given a chance. The title removes the barrier.
But if anyone questions, what do I show them?
Shhh! Don’t tell my wife
OK, I have CBAP, AAC, PSM-1, SCA, and SCPAB certifications. My wife has forbidden me from getting any others this year. And to date, I haven’t. But I have prepared.
Several recruiters have pointed to one of the Salesforce Consultant certifications as the Magic Elixir I am missing to hold their attention. So now, I have completed the trailhead courses for Sales Cloud and am 75% through the Focus on Force training.
And while doing that, more networking.
And out of the blue comes an email from one of the Salesforce communities. It’s the one where I posted that I need a job about six weeks earlier.
Development Consulting Partners
Dorian Earl saw my post and contacted me about freelancing. He has formed a company of freelancers and was winning significant projects. His team includes Administrators, Developers, Consultants, and Architects, and it had just been awarded Partner status with Salesforce.
My first project is a software company catering to education. They have only budgeted 5 hours per week. But over time, I can string together several of these projects, each time demonstrating increasing capabilities and without worrying about losing that one big job again.
This is exactly what Bradley had been talking about as a goal. How Dorian was doing it was a little different.
My client had over 15,000 leads, and they were severely duplicated. We installed a system to help clean up and prevent future problems.
Finally some Momentum – Liberty IT Solutions
I had barely been on that job a week when I got a LinkedIn message about another opportunity. This one, I could tell, was serious. They wanted to talk to me today. Then HR would line up an interview with the director tomorrow, and the HR person would follow up immediately after that.
Now for the comedy portion of our show
The interview with Liberty was scheduled for a Thursday morning. The night before, I drove to visit family. And by family, I mean family that just got a new dog – a rescue – one that we think had been abused.
Leo is a 9 lb. Yorkshire, with a bad attitude. He doesn’t trust anybody. I spent the night trying every doggy treat known to man, only to be met with growls and snarls and barks.
Thursday morning, I’m getting ready, and Leo comes after me as fast and hard as he can. He was going to bite, and I barely got my door shut before he face-planted. Ten minutes later, I left the room to set up for the interview and – repeat.
At nine pounds, Leo is no threat. But tell him that. And it is my mom’s dog. And there’re laws against retaliation, not that I’d ever hurt the little guy. Mom – I can’t have Leo acting like that during my interview. So she takes him to the van and sits with him in the driveway during the interview.
Nerves calming, let’s start the meeting link. Oh – it’s Microsoft Teams. That is the one conference service that I’ve never been able to get to work consistently. And the streak doesn’t end today.
My video conference became audio only on my cell phone. Which means I can walk around, and no one knows that I’m not sitting still. I’m more comfortable because I’m the ultimate pacer.
The company is looking for a Business Analyst with Salesforce experience. They were dealing with duplications – and guess what? I’m working on a bunch of duplications right now. They want someone who can mentor others – and guess what? I just developed a course training Business Analyst that has been presented in virtual classrooms as well as self-paced formats.
I told you that would be helpful. But there’s more.
I have previously shared about my survival of a major medical event in 2018. The results of a botched out-patient surgery has given me some of those pre-existing conditions which are so dangerous in this COVID era. Because of that, remote work was a virtual (pun intended) requirement. And this job offered it.
Everything was clicking. Plus, Liberty serves Veterans Affairs. This isn’t just a job for a corporation. This is helping those who fought for our freedoms.
In spite of the events – It All Worked Out
That afternoon, the HR representative texted that the company is extending an offer.
A trail that involved year-end hiring freezes, career pivots, pandemics, more career pivots, working for free, study, learning tons of new skills, prayers, tears, frustration, hopes, and hopes deferred – has finally ended with hopes fulfilled.