What is Salesforce?
Salesforce is a cloud-based platform that provides a litany of services, from Sales CRM (Customer Relationship Management) to their Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Commerce Cloud, and host of other “Clouds.” The cloud term refers to the notion that Salesforce stores all data in remote databases accessed via an internet connection. Salesforce hosts all customer data in the “same cloud”, meaning that you store your data in the same “location” as everyone else. All this is made possible with cloud infrastructure, built to follow the principle of multitenancy, a software architecture where a single software instance can serve multiple, distinct groups of users.
Think of Salesforce like an apartment building that floats in the sky! At any time, you can use an internet connection to “travel” to there, use your login credentials to “enter” the secure building, and gain access to your “apartment”...of data! In summary, businesses that use Salesforce can access their data from anywhere, even on the go using the Salesforce Mobile App.
What is a Salesforce Administrator?
Great question! For starters, one must understand that Salesforce is highly customizable, with robust automation tools that can lead users through specific tasks to ensure a smooth, focused, and error-free process and automatically perform specific tasks based on certain criteria. What's even more appealing is that Administrators can create these processes almost entirely declaratively, meaning no code. Admittedly, having a background in computing and programming logic certainly helps in this area, as writing some formulas or creating flows can feel like visual coding. Also, many organizations will need more customization than what the platform declaratively allows, especially if they are looking to integrate with external APIs, create custom UI Lightning Components, or require complex business logic. That is where Salesforce Developers come in. But that’s another blog for another certification. Salesforce Administrators wear many hats, but the main objective is to secure their organization, save time and avoid waste. They do this in many ways, such as optimizing and automating sales and business processes, configuring user interfaces that streamline processes, ensuring validity and integrity of the organizations’ data, creating reports and dashboards to visualize those reports, and even more! Phew, that was a mouthful! Like I said, many hats!
All in all, Salesforce is a highly versatile, powerful, and comprehensive platform that provides countless solutions to almost every industry, and the Administrator is there to oversee and maintain it all. After living in the Salesforce world for as long as I have, it’s easy to see why they are the most prominent cloud-based CRM company in the world. It is easy to understand why there is such a demand for their products, which fuels the need for Salesforce Consultants, Developers, Architects, and Administrators.
How Did I Determine Which Role to Start With?
I chose to start my path as an Administrator, although I ultimately see myself being a Salesforce Developer or Consultant. The Administrator path allows someone new to Salesforce to become familiar enough with the platform to see “The Bigger Picture”, gaining a deep understanding of the platform as a whole. They know what tools come out of the box and how to build tools that don’t, create and analyze data models, secure an organization, and control what users see and have access to. The best analogy I can think of is the difference between someone who says “I know how to write Java code” and someone who says “I know how to build Java applications”. There’s a difference between knowing how to write code and when to write code for complex business requirements. In short, it is my opinion that having a Salesforce Administrator background provides the foundation that makes you a better and more useful Salesforce Developer and opens up the path to pursuing Architect positions or maybe becoming a Salesforce Consultant.
How I Got Started
Trailhead is a Salesforce platform that educates “Trailblazers” on all things Salesforce. It consists of trails, modules, and projects, all of which take you through various topics and allow you to apply the information inside of what’s called a “Playground”. This particular environment simulates a Salesforce organization that you can then manipulate for educational purposes. At the end of each topic in a trail, module, or project, you will have a quiz or validation of whether you completed the required steps inside your playground. In a way, it’s a gamified way of learning Salesforce, featuring points at the end of quizzes and challenges, as well as earning badges when you complete any trail, module, or project. Trailhead made learning about the power of the Salesforce platform fun, and I admittedly find that some of the jokes and cultural references embedded in some of the trails give me a chuckle when I read them. All I had to do was sign up for a free account and then start blazing!
Trails I Started With
My first goal was to pursue an Administrator Certification, so I started here. This Trailmix walked me through all of the concepts I was tested on during my Salesforce Administrator Certification.
Keys to My Success
When going through the trails, I made sure to read absolutely everything. I didn’t skip reading any paragraphs; I paid attention to the information and did my best to absorb it. They contained critical knowledge and examples, with well-written descriptions and analogies to aid understanding. If I read the material and felt like it wasn’t absorbed, I reread it. Everything needed to understand the topic is there or provided in References.
Many modules contain references at the bottom of a lesson, with links to videos and documentation. The videos are fantastic, especially the “Who Sees What” series that overviews Salesforce security principles. Also, the referenced documentation is comprehensive and descriptive. It can take a bit of practice to navigate through documentation, so getting used to this early was well worth the investment.
Lastly, I earned all the Superbadges in the Admin Set and the App Builder Set, and took them seriously. They are very challenging and provide real-life-driven scenarios where you receive business requirements in plain language, which you must translate into Salesforce-driven solutions. They provided me with the best learning experience as the instructions aren’t as clear as the modules, meaning you have to think critically and extract the knowledge from the modules to be successful. If I was stumped, I had to go back and look at the source material. Fortunately, Salesforce does provide Superbadge Challenge Help Pages with links to the specific source material required to complete each step. In addition, I should note that Salesforce limits the number of playgrounds you can have to 10, which means that as you learn, you may end up disconnecting a playground from your current account. However, I can always log into an old playground since I create login credentials for each of them. That way, even if I disconnect them in the future from my trailhead account, I can always go back in and reference some of the solutions and examples that I accomplished.
Let me start off by saying, the exam was not easy. It was essential to become familiar with the topics, style of questions and identify areas to improve. Fortunately, Salesforce offers an Administrator practice exam with 30 practice questions, which can be taken as many times as necessary. To be candid, I completed this practice test probably a dozen times. Many questions are select-all-that-apply, and getting one wrong means, I got the whole question wrong. The exam is 60 questions and requires 65% to pass, but it truly is not as easy as it sounds and requires an intimate understanding of the Salesforce platform, specifically in these areas:
- Organization Setup: 3%
- User Setup: 6%
- Security and Access: 14%
- Standard and Custom Objects: 15%
- Sales and Marketing Applications: 15%
- Service and Support Applications: 12%
- Activity Management and Collaboration: 3%
- Data Management: 8%
- Analytics - Reports and Dashboards: 10%
- Workflow/Process Automation: 12%
- Desktop and Mobile Administration: 1%
- AppExchange: 1%
As you can see, some sections are weighted more heavily than others. I used practice exams to identify my studying areas of focus and kept practicing questions in those areas. I was able to find and repeat enough free practice tests via search engine to feel confident enough to pass the exam. Once I got there, I signed up for the official exam, continued to study, and earned my certification!
And There You Have It!
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in the Salesforce universe, I’m happy to have shared my first steps with you in my journey. Helping individuals and businesses succeed is a passion of mine. At Innovia CoLabs, we know Salesforce is an ideal solution for many companies. With nearly limitless customizability, we can find ways to make it work for almost any business. If you have any questions about how Salesforce or any of our other services could be of benefit to your company, please reach out to us here!
Last but not least, if you’re thinking of getting your certification, do it! I believe in you! If you have any questions, comments, need guidance, or need any support from me, reach out and connect with me on LinkedIn or email me. You can also follow my journey here on Trailhead, as well. See you on the trails!