My Salesforce story (dare I say love affair?!) started 12 months, I was working in the travel industry in a sales capacity for a highly successful and reputable company. I'd been working in travel for over a decade and was surrounded by an experienced, talented team, perhaps the best that I had ever worked with. I was good at my job, had lots of loyal and repeat customers, and was generally enjoying my work life.
Then Covid hit and everything changed. My secure, reliable job suddenly became a little precarious, my earning were more than cut in half due to the loss of commission and I found myself questioning the future of not just my role, but my career in the travel industry. I sat down and weighed up my options and after some research decided that I wanted to get involved in the Salesforce ecosystem.
Fast forward 12 months and I am extremely proud to call myself a Lead Salesforce Consultant for Art of Cloud. I work for a company that completely aligns with my values of honesty, integrity, and producing the best work for clients as efficiently as possible. Every day is a school day as my colleague Dean says and I feel like every day I am improving bit by bit and being exposed to a wide range of industries and environments. Salesforce and Art of Cloud not only helped me change not only my career but also change my life.
Here I will try to recap some of what I consider the most important signposts I've come across along the way although if you want to learn more about my story please connect, reach out, or visit my website davejmassey.co.uk.
I feel very fortunate to have had a number of key successes over the last 12 months however I would list these 3 as possibly the most important ones.
Landing My First Salesforce Job - Without this milestone, there would be no story. For 2 months I approached every Salesforce Consultancy, End-User, and Recruitment Company that I could. I made 100's of phone calls, sent 100's of LinkedIn messages, and even more emails. I spoke to many people, some helpful, some not so much so. But through grit and determination, I was able to secure a chance to prove my worth and show what I could do.
7 Salesforce Certifications - In 12 months I have secured 7 Salesforce Certifications including two of the most niche ones - FSL and CPQ. I can't even calculate how many hours I have spent on Trailhead, Focus on Force, and in my own Dev Orgs but I would estimate that I spent in excess of 15 hours a week in self-study on top of my standard 40-hour work week. I've sacrificed a lot of the last 12 months but in my opinion, it's been worth every minute. I feel it's important to express that I didn't study to pass the exam, I studied because I was interested in each product and wanted to understand it more and see its true potential, the certification was a by-product of that work.
Transferrable Skills - Having worked in Sales and Service my entire working life I have developed strong soft skills and I perhaps undervalued these. Through the years I have dealt with people from all walks of life ranging from people just like me through to celebrities, football stars, and royalty. I've dealt with escalated complaints, sales targets, training programs, and mentorship. These experiences have allowed me to refine my ability to ask the right questions, know when to speak and when not to, and have given me a wide understanding of the whole business process from sales through to service and administration. I feel this experience and knowledge have really helped me hit the ground running and provide maximum value to my clients.
The Opportunities for Learning
It's not all been plain sailing and there are so many skills that I need to develop and refine which have been brought acutely to my awareness. Here are 3 of the highlights.
Excel Skills - Ever spent hours and hours trying to get Excel to do something? Trying vlookups, formulas, and anything else that you can think of? My excel skills are not particularly fantastic and when it comes to working with data, particularly in an ETL setting it can be a bit of a challenge. I once worked on a spreadsheet for nearly 4 hours unable to do something, I then asked a colleague (Dean!) and within 60 seconds he did what I needed to do!
Double Checking Requirements - A further mistake that I have made is not double checking my understanding of a client's requirements and then having to completely rework the Flow that I spent an entire day building. Just because you think you understand doesn't mean that you do, and I always ensure that I am on exactly the same page as the client before I start working on anything.
Test, Test, Test - I know, I know. Its rule number one, test, test, test, and test again. I consider myself pretty comprehensive when it comes to testing but I guarantee you the same day you hand over your work to the client, something will come up that you never encountered. Now when I build solutions I ensure that I try the most outlandish scenarios to ensure that my work is bulletproof. It's important to me that what I hand over to the client is my best work every time, as the saying goes - 'how you do anything, is how you do everything'.
I've learned a huge amount over the last 12 months and trying to boil it down to a shortlist has been incredibly difficult, however, here it is.
Pick your Boss - If your looking at breaking into the Salesforce world or your perhaps looking for pastures new, picking your next job is imperative. One of my friends gave me the advice 'don't pick your job, pick your boss' and that's what I did. I was very lucky to have 3 offers for my first Salesforce job however there was only one place I was going to go. Within 60 seconds of my interview at Art of Cloud with Ben and Liz I knew that it was them I wanted to be my bosses, and it served me well. Not only have they had the faith and patience for me to tackle work that is perhaps suited for someone more experienced but they have also challenged me, made me question my decisions and designs, and have helped inspire me to aim to reach my full potential. Without them, I wouldn't have achieved half of what I have done.
Set Boundaries / Time Management - Salesforce is not just my job or career, it's my passion but I have to mindful that if I spend all day every day working I'll burn out and hinder my future progress. I ensure that the study I do doesn't affect my family life and that when I am working on something complex I block that time out and become uncontactable. It took me a while to learn this and I was always available, it meant that when I was doing something rather complex such as configuring CPQ, FSL, or building some extravagant automation I would get interrupted and lose my train of thought. It would then take me a good 30 minutes to get back into the swing of things, now I make sure that doesn't happen, and not only has my efficiency improved but so has the quality of my work.
Front Loading - Too many times we are in rush to get started, without realising we take an acceptable amount of information to achieve the purpose of a project but not exceed it. I now purposely take extra time to really understand what is needed, not what is asked for, but what is truly needed and wanted. This allows me to make sure that I cover all the deliverables of the project but also provide the extras that make a difference and turn the project from being good to being great.
Ask for help - At Art of Cloud I am fortunate to have an incredibly talented team around me, while everyone has a certain level of fundamental knowledge we each have our own little niche and area of expertise. When I first started I felt like a fool for asking questions, I had 2 Certifications at this point, I should be able to do these things without any hand-holding. I was wrong, in my first couple of weeks I wasted so much time trying to figures things out on my own for too long, I think it's really important that if there is something we don't know we spend the time finding the answer but if you have been working on something for hours and hours and haven't made any progress, ask your colleague. You will speed up your learning process and you will help them strengthen their knowledge, also, nobody knows everything, you can leave your ego at the door.
There are many many people I owe my thanks and gratitude to and the list is too long to include here however here are a couple who have had a huge impact on the last 12 months.
Kayleigh Massey - My wife and biggest supporter. When times have been tough K has helped spur me to carry on, she has had unwavering faith in my journey and has helped me when I have questioned if I am cut out for this.
Anthony Judge - My study buddy, career coach, and most importantly, friend. Ant has provided a sounding board when I have needed one and has helped me carve out a plan for growing my Salesforce skills.
Ben Stevenson and Liz Rhodes - My Bosses and the ones who took the chance on me. Without the chance they gave me I'm not sure where I would be or what I would be doing and as I mentioned earlier, the level of support, belief, and coaching they offer on a day-to-day basis has been fundamental in my growth.
The Art of Cloud Team - Both past and present members have been instrumental in my development, from helping me through my first couple of days, providing ongoing support and mentorship, through to cracking some of the funniest one-liners imaginable these guys make my job incredibly enjoyable, rewarding and fun!
So there we have it, my 12-month Salesforce adventure. There is so much more that I could've written and so many experiences that I would love to share which I might do at a later date. If there is anything I can help you with on your Salesforce journey please let me know.