Jump-Start a Salesforce Career – Get Certified and Move on – Part 5 of 5 #ForceFriday

Salesforce has offered an excellent certification program for years now. Salesforce Administrators should strive to achieve at a minimum the Admin 201. This exam is fairly easy to pass as long as you study and put the effort in to learn the material. To really show your knowledge at the Salesforce Administrator level you should pursue the Advanced Admin and Developer certifications. You can learn more here – http://certification.salesforce.com/ 

Now, I say move on. Get certified and then move on. I don’t mean to belittle the usefulness of Salesforce Certifications. They are the college degree of the Salesforce world. A degree is a gatekeeper and so are Salesforce Certifications. If you aren’t certified, you have to go the extra mile to prove your abilities. So, get your certifications and move on.

Now, here’s my simple tips for passing the exams:

 

Finally, know that your certification gives you confidence in your abilities. Take that confidence into the role you want.

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Jump-Start a Salesforce Career – Find a Mentor – Part 4 of 5 #ForceFriday

Mentors are amazing, Salesforce mentors doubly so. Mentors can have immense benefits on your career progression and sometimes open doors that otherwise would be closed to you. There is no replacement for a personal relationship with someone.

I’ve outlined three places to go and find a mentor within the Salesforce world. That said, this blog post is a little shameful plug for a mentor/mentee matching initiative that I’m trying to get going within the Salesforce Community. If you are taking the time to read this blog, first, #ThankYou, and second, please take some additional time to take this interest survey:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1e88JJMY4Q81HpEmj4zd94f40EM-eHVxAfLcqROcnmS8/viewform

Now… to the good stuff.

How to find a Mentor in the Salesforce world:

Ask you local user group leader

You local user group leader is connected. They likely know everyone within your local user group and a simple conversation requesting an introduction to a potential mentor is all it takes. At the next meeting, pull them aside and share with them your goals and aspirations and that you are looking for a mentor relationship to help.

Message a Community Leader directly

The Salesforce Community is full of groups for every role, position, feature, etc. There are individuals that are active within those groups that I would consider Community Leaders. These individuals are your best bet to reach out to and ask to mentor you. Now, its important to not be presumptuous in your request. Not everyone has time to commit to a mentor/mentee relationship. However, if you remain flexible and ask for any references to others that might be willing to mentor you then you are more likely to get a good connection.

Use your LinkedIn Network

If you are like me you’ve spent years adding people into your network on LinkedIn. Like Facebook, not everyone you are connected with is really a friend but more of an acquaintance. However, you likely are connected with a few people that you do have a stronger relationship with. Reaching out to these people and explaining what you are looking for might lead them to introduce you to the right mentor. I don’t recommend sending out mass emails or form letters to everyone in your network. Actions like that are disingenuous as are easily recognizable.

 

 

Jump-Start a Salesforce Career – Build and Highlight your Soft Skills – Part 3 of 5 #ForceFriday

Whenever I interview candidates I always test soft skills. That is to say, I always try and discover how a candidate communicates with a team member, a customer, and in a superior/subordinate situation. Especially for customer facing roles, its important to test how candidates communicate in customer situations. Soft Skills are those skills you can’t really quantify but rather mature over time. Knowing how to delivery and communicate information in a given situation so as to elicit a positive response is key to any role, regardless if its customer facing or not. Technical skills are a must but in today’s open workplace you can’t hide. Given two equally qualified candidates I go with the one that presented their Soft Skills better than the other.

Here are a few tips to build your soft skills and highlight them in an interview situation.

Be Creative! – Creativity breads passion

Have you ever thought to yourself… “There should be a Salesforce org to track that?” for something in your life? Don’t lie, you know you have. I use my Free Developer orgs for all sorts of things in my life. Its sort of my outlet for creativity and I love talking to people about it. For example, when I was in the Army I used a Free Developer org to track and maintain the location and count of inventory items in my company, roughly $40,000,000 in assets. This was previously tracked through a complex process involving lots of printed packets of paper and an Excel Spreadsheet so large we couldn’t email it. Using a Free Salesforce org eliminated several errors, countless hours of searching for inventory items, and a simple scheduled dashboard eliminated a painful hour-long weekly call with my commanding officer.

Is there something in your life you can track with a Salesforce Org? Check out Geoffrey Flynn’s Blog – http://exploiteddevorgs.com

Be resilient! – Where do you get your Resiliency from?

You may not think of resiliency as a soft skill but you need to. Resiliency is your ability to stand tall in the storm, relying on your skills and experience to get your through any situation. Where do you draw your resiliency from? Tell me! Whenever someone inevitably asks you “What are your three greatest strengths”… tell them you are resilient and follow up with a situation where you were. Resiliency is a reinforcing feedback loop. The more resilient you are the more tough situations you can handle. You should be prepared with a situation to share in your past experience where you were resilient. If its Salesforce related, all the better.

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So you failed eh? – Show your human side

You’ve failed. You know you have. I know you have. So does the person interviewing you. What I want to know is how you failed, why, and how you handled it. Did not follow best practices and put a change directly into production that caused some serious errors? Maybe you missed a deployment timeline? Did you not test some code thoroughly before pushing it to production? How did you handle that situation? What were the outcomes? Its important to be prepared to show that you have indeed failed in the past and that you learned from that situation. More importantly is to show how you handled that situation. Did you communicate the situation well to the stake holders? What methods did you use to ensure the lowest possible impact to your customer? Showing how you handle situations when you fail is more important that showing how you resolve the situation. Technical issues nearly always get resolved. In my experience, its not how your failure was resolved that gets remembered but rather how the situation was handled.

Jump-Start a Salesforce Career – Network, Network, Network! – Part 2 of 5 #ForceFriday

No seriously, network! I mentioned in my last post that I’d share my experience on how I started my Salesforce Career.

I started out at Salesforce Premier Support without any Salesforce experience. That’s certainly not the norm. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of Salesforce before I applied. I had a good friend of mine from my college fraternity who was working for Salesforce at the time. He referred me and the rest is history. But you have to ask yourself, why did he refer me? Why me over someone else? The reason… Simply put, he knew me.

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My fraternity is just one part of my network. In this instance, it happen to pay dividends. I’m no longer with Salesforce and now with a Salesforce Partner. How did I get this new role? My Network! People want to help other People but the reality is that they like helping people they know.

There are several ways that someone just starting out in the Salesforce World can grow their network.

I make it a point to attend my area’s User Group and the Non-Profit User Group every month. There’s always something interesting to learn at the session and there’s time to network with other Salesforce Professionals. But just don’t attend – Participate! Offer to give a session on a topic you know. Offer to coordinate a partner to come and give a talk. Being seen as a leader in your group, even if you aren’t the user group leader, gets you recognized.

Salesforce does an excellent job of collaborating people together. Join all of the major chatter groups and the job groups. Be a good community member and the good karma will come your way.

Meetups are even better for networking, in my opinion, because they tend to be smaller than a User Group Meeting.

  • Be Active on Social Media

LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc. We all have them but are you using them to their full affect. But using your Social Media accounts for something other than wasting hours of your life scrolling down can help you jump-start your career. I recommend joining and being active in the LinkedIn Salesforce Groups and following Salesforce community leaders, MVP’s, and Salesforce evangelists on Twitter (http://www.runconsultants.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Top-50-Salesforce-Influencers-on-Twitter_Run-Consultants1.pdf).

  • Start Blogging or write what you know in a guest blog

Blogging is easy and essentially cost free unless you count the time you put into it. However, I’ve found that whatever time I put into blogging I get equal benefits in learning and networking. If you don’t want to commit to a full blog then reach out to the blogs that you follow and offer to make a guest post.

  • Leverage your Non-Salesforce Networks

Just because a network is not Salesforce related doesn’t mean its not useful. Make time to attend and participate the networking events, speakings, and other learning events for these networking groups. As I mentioned, it was a non-Salesforce related group that connected me to the person that recommended me at Salesforce. It works!

Jump-Start a Salesforce Career – Get Some Experience – Part 1 of 5 #ForceFriday

I recently read a post/rant on the Salesforce Community from a frustrated job seeker who was looking for a career change and had chosen to pursue Salesforce. That got me thinking about my own Salesforce career and how that got started. My story is the exception to the rule because I was hired on at Salesforce without any Salesforce experience. The one thing I had going for me was I had a connection with a current employee that worked at Salesforce and recommended me. I’ll talk more about having personal connections in the Salesforce world in a future post.

I wanted to put together some detailed posts for those who are looking to transition their careers to Salesforce or are just starting out in the Salesforce world.

My first Pro Tip: Get some experience!

That’s a catch 22 since you need to be hired somewhere to get experience but you need experience to get hired! False!

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There are several ways to get some Salesforce experience without getting hired somewhere. Here are just a few:

Volunteering your time gives you the ability to do some good in the world as most of the companies looking for volunteers are Non-Profits. This also has the added benefit of getting you some referenceable experience that you can speak to in an interview. There is no replacement for real-world project experience. None. Forget Trailhead, certifications, training courses, online tutorials, community involvement, etc. – (Note: Those are important) – None of those compare to having actual experience in the market place.

Freelance marketplaces provide you with a way to get real world experience on small and short term projects. But these are the perfect type of project for someone just starting out because they teach you engagement skills, sales and customer acquisition skills, scoping, project delivery, and how to deliver customer success. These have the added benefit of also giving you referenceable projects that you can put on your resume. Who knows, it might even turn into a full time consulting gig!

Identify companies you want to work for and volunteer your services Pro Bono as a trial/internship. Be honest and upfront about your experience level and intentions. I have the utmost respect for someone that could say:

“I want to work for you as an X. I don’t currently meet the requirements but I’m fixing that. I’m willing to work for you pro-bono to prove I’ve got what it takes.”

This might not be a popular option or even an option at all due to individual circumstances. But if you can do it its certainly an option that differentiates you from all of the other resumes that hit hiring managers every day.

 

Tricks all Salesforce Admins Need part 7 of 7 – When to Implement a Validation Rule #ForceFriday

Validation Rules are great! They force data quality, ensure users follow a process, and are part of a mature system. But, sometimes it can be difficult to determine when and where to implement a validation rule. Below I describe a framework (I know, my favorite) that will help guide what should be implemented as a Validation Rule.

Without further ado, I give you a Validation Rule decision framework.

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When deciding if a Validation Rule is needed or not ask yourself three questions.

Should your field be required?

Is the field part of a step process?

Do you just need a warning message?

 

~ If a field needs to be require every time a record is edited then a Validation Rule should not be used. A Field Level requirement should be implemented.

~ If a field needs to be required sometimes (i.e. specific criteria) then a Validation Rule should be used.

~ A step process is any business process that has field dependent requirements. Validation Rules can be implemented to validate each step in the process, ensuring no steps are skipped.

~ Warning messages or “Soft Errors” aren’t supported by Salesforce just yet but please continue to vote for this idea – https://success.salesforce.com/ideaView?id=08730000000Bra7AAC. Validation Rules prevent the saving of a record whereas the warning message would allow a record save but display a warning based on your criteria. However, there are other options outside of Validation Rules which you can explore.

  • Use a Formula to display a dynamic message based on your warning criteria
  • Use a Visualforce page to display warnings
  • Use the Process Builder to push a Chatter Post (based on criteria) to users indicating the warning

 

** Note: Some Standard Salesforce Fields can’t be made required at the Field Level (e.g. Address Fields). The work around is to use a validation rule. You can vote for this idea if you run into this issue – https://success.salesforce.com/ideaView?id=08730000000lAndAAE

Tricks all Salesforce Admins Need part 5 of 7 – Productivity Boosting Chrome Extensions #ForceFriday

Today’s #ForceFriday post isn’t anything new to the Salesforce Blogosphere but I wanted to call out the Chrome Extensions that I use in case you aren’t using any at all or are looking for a short list of the ones you really need. Each of these Extensions is a tool I use to be more efficient and productive throughout my day.

Salesforce Boostr
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Get it: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/boostr-for-salesforce/kegohbhdgaoaoanbpconbeleanhdodlo

Why you need it:

Salesforce Boostr does a few things that admins will love:

  • Ability to search when adding items to a change set
  • Filtering by type when adding to a change set
  • Showing all items of a given type on one page when adding to a change set
  • Displaying the API Name next to field names when editing a field set
  • Using Pascal Case for the API Name when creating new objects and fields
  • Preventing the placeholder text from filling in the setup area sidebar

Salesforce Boostr solved a problem I have experienced FOR YEARS! I owe @mattsimonis so many beers. When Salesforce introduced the quick find search bar in Setup that made finding and navigating to Setup sections easier but the placeholder text sometimes doesn’t load fast enough and you click into the search box faster… forcing you to re-type. Its been a problem with Chrome for years and now its not.

 

Salesforce.com Enhanced Formula Editor
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Get it: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/salesforcecom-enhanced-fo/cnlnnpnjccjcmecojdhgpknalcahkhio?hl=en

Why you need it:

Formula fields are an advanced topic that falls solely in the bucket of the Salesforce Admin Role and Responsibilities. Good Admins know formulas! Formulas can get large, cumbersome, and you can end up spending much more time fixing syntax errors that could have been avoided. Enter the Enhanced Formula Editor which makes writing formula’s easier by coloring functions, allowing for easy tabbing, highlighting brackets, find and replace, and much more.

You will save time on your next formula. Trust me.

 

Force.com LOGINS
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Get it: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/forcecom-logins/ldjbglicecgnpkpdhpbogkednmmbebec?hl=en

Why you need it:

Think of all the Salesforce logins you have right now. Even Admins at smaller companies will have at minimum 2 (Production and a Developer org) but if you’re like me you have probably 100+ logins you’ve accumulated over the years and maybe 20 or so that you use one a regular basis. Between all the developer orgs for testing, Sandboxes, and production environments its difficult to keep track of everything. Force.com LOGINS provides a One-Click login to either Production/Sandbox and allows you to select a new tab or new window. Its a good password manager for Salesforce logins and saves me time by not having to deal with lost username/passwords all the time.

 

Those are the top ones I use specifically for productivity. There are many more Chrome Extensions our there. Here’s a good list to get your started – http://www.insightsquared.com/2015/10/14-salesforce-extensions-for-google-chrome/

Tricks all Salesforce Admins Need part 4 of 7 – The Power of the Bucket #ForceFriday

You’ve may have heard of the Power of One but I’m starting something new… The Power of the Bucket!

Salesforce Reports have the ability to create a custom bucket. The Bucket is essentially a custom formula that groups fields dynamically within a report. Previous to the bucket feature, an administrator was needed to create a custom formula field to do the grouping. The bucket field is much more flexible as it can be used by any user that has access to edit reports, can be changed on the fly, and doesn’t require the consumption of a custom formula field.

As a simple example, I created a Bucket Field that groups Opportunities by Amount:
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And you can see the results here:
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I wanted to call this feature out not as a tool that Admins can use but rather as a tool Admins can train their end users on in order to avoid custom development (i.e. Formula fields) as they aren’t needed for reporting purposes. The trick is, if you can empower your users through training on bucket fields you get to avoid creating custom formula fields for reporting purposes and your users have a better user experience with Salesforce.

Now for the admin stuff… You can use a Custom Bucket Field in a Report Summary Formula! Super Cool!

How to use a Bucket field in a Formula field

Training to get your users started:

Add a Bucket Field

Using Bucket Fields

 

Tricks all Salesforce Admins Need part 3 of 7 – Effective Embedded Analytics #ForceFriday

Also called Report Charts, Embedded Analytics gives Salesforce Administrators the ability to publish a filtered Dashboard component directly on the page layout so users can see key metrics for that record without navigating to a Dashboard. Embedding certain types of metrics are more effective than others and in today’s post I am going to focus less on the How To of implementing Embedded Analytics and much more on the What To.

If you are interested in learning how to implement Embedded Analytics Salesforce Help and Training provides an excellent guide:

https://help.salesforce.com/HTViewHelpDoc?id=reports_embed_showcharts_pages.htm&language=en_US

What we need here is a Framework! I present to you: The Embedded Analytic Decision Diagram!

Embedded Analytics Venn Diagram

Venn Diagram anyone?

 

 

 

At the intersection of Actionable, Measurable, and Relatable we find our ideal candidates for embedded analytics. I’ll explain each in due time. Using this framework can help you identify what is going to be most effective to display. There’s a limit of 2 report charts per page so you want to make sure that you are displaying the most effective information you can with the limited space you have.

Measurable

Let’s get this one out of the way quickly. If you can’t report on it in Salesforce then you can’t embedded it as a Dashboard component on the page layout. Your metric needs to be something that can be measured. This is the concern of the Salesforce Admin because there may be relational database changes needed in order to create the reporting needed.

Let’s take the example of an Apartment Complex. Apartments have Residences (Accounts or Person Accounts) and they consume Resources (Apartments, Garages, Parking Spaces, Electricity, Water, etc.). A measurable metric might be water consumption by Resident displayed over several months. In order to report on this within Salesforce water consumption records must be related to the Resident through a Lookup or Master-Detail relationship.

Relatable

Take stock in your audience of the the component you are considering. Can Jane Sales Rep understand the data presented in this component? Can Joe Support Agent use this data to better serve the customer? Does the component .ell a story?

These are some simple questions to ask but they each dive into what the data behind the component is trying to tell you. I like to refer to this as the story behind the data. If you have data for data’s sake then its not useful. The narrative the data tells you is much more useful. What’s even more useful is if that narrative matters to the person viewing it.

Opportunities in Pipeline might not be directly impactful to a Support Agents duties but certainly might be useful for a Sales Rep. However, Number of Escalated Cases in the last 3 month may tell a much better narrative to both the Support Agent and the Sales Rep, something they both can relate to. Understanding the narrative behind your data will help to determine a relatable component.

Actionable

Much like data that doesn’t tell a story, if your users can’t do anything with it the data you give them the data is useless. When considering embedding analytics into a page layout we need to consider what actions our users might be able to take based on the data they are presented.

Let’s take our Water Consumption report example from above. Water Consumption is related to the Resident and measuring it over several months certainly can tell a story. But who cares if your users can’t do anything with it. Let’s say we are displaying this data in a component to a leasing agent who is working with a resident to sign a new lease. The leasing agent sees the component and notices a spike in water consumption in the last three months. She discusses quickly with the resident the possible reasons for this and finds out that the kitchen faucet has been leaking. The leasing agent can then easily dispatch maintenance to fix the issue, improving customer loyalty and satisfaction.

When implementing a component on the page layout, embedded with field level data, we need to consider what actions might be taken from a quick analysis of the data itself. If the data won’t result in your users taking action then its not going to be effective.

Tricks all Salesforce Admins Need part 2 of 7 – Dealing with Multiple Orgs #ForceFriday

If you are like me you have a laundry list of Production, Sandbox, and Developer orgs that you work with. Keeping track of everything can be daunting. The moment you realize you spent an hour working in the wrong org is right about the time you realize you need some organization. I have three tricks for admins that work with multiple orgs that help me organize my logins as well as ensure that I’m working in the correct org.

Enable Multiple Username Login Hints

http://releasenotes.docs.salesforce.com/en-us/spring14/release-notes/rn_forcecom_security_login_hints.htm

This feature allows you to save Usernames directly in the Login.Salesforce.com login page and then click on the one you want to use instead of typing in the username. Useful if you only have a handful of orgs you work with and an easy option to turn on.

Force.com LOGINS Chrome App

This app only works with Chrome so if you use a lesser browser then this option isn’t for you. That said, use Chrome.

Force.com LOGINS use to be completely free but has recently become a $2.99 annual fee. However, that’s only for 11 or more logins being stored and I get way more thank 3 bucks worth of saved time with the one click logins and the ability to store usernames/passwords/security tokens as well as group orgs together for organization.

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/forcecom-logins/ldjbglicecgnpkpdhpbogkednmmbebec?hl=en

Name your Users’ Display Name with the Org Name

I like to append the name of the org I’m working with to the last name of my user. This is mainly to ensure that I’m working in the correct org. You can also update the Chatter photo of your user with a different picture but who has 20 different good head shots of themselves… Naming your user ensures that you see the name on every record and everywhere you go within Salesforce so you know that you are what environment you are working in.

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My Primary Developer Org Display Name

Additionally, naming your users’ display names differently to indicate which org you are in also helps when sorting out which org to login to via Salesforce1.

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Multiple-Org view in Salesforce1