One of the things that I love most about Salesforce is the Community. Over the course of my Salesforce career, I have learned more from the community than from Salesforce itself which is why I highlight user groups in many of the Admin Hero posts. Today, I am starting a new series titled Origins where Salesforce MVPs share their story and provide lessons learned and helpful wisdom to Administrators getting their start.

Today I am happy to introduce Leyna Hoffer. Leyna is a fellow MVP and co-leader of the Twin Cities User Group, and this is her story!

Like many others, I didn’t start my career as a Salesforce Administrator. I kind of “fell into it.” In 2002, I was working for Silicon Graphics (SGI), a supercomputer company, as a Database Coordinator. When the decision to purchase Salesforce.com (SFDC) as their CRM was made, they needed someone to take on the administration. They asked me if I was willing to learn, and of course, I said, “sure.”

I attended the Admin 201 class in San Francisco, learned a ton and even though I didn’t know it at the time, began forging relationships with people that would shape my career in the years to come. My instructor was none other than Erica Kuhl, who is currently the Director of Salesforce Success Community.

I rolled out Salesforce to the Sales and Marketing Teams at SGI and we were off and running. I thought I knew everything there was to know about SFDC. I was the “guru”….

Well in 2006, I had an opportunity to go to work for IDeaS, a software as a service company that provides revenue management solutions for the hospitality industry. This was a chance for me to expand my knowledge of Salesforce, as IDeaS was a very small company (200 employees), that was truly using Salesforce to run their business. Everyone from Sales & Marketing to Customer Service to HR was using Salesforce in some capacity – it was being used internationally – and they were integrating it with their back-end systems. It became very clear to me that I had only scratched the surface as a Salesforce admin.

So in order to live up to my “guru” reputation, I reached out to the Salesforce community. From my instructor in that Admin 201 class I had taken, I learned that there was a local User Group run by other Salesforce users – not by Salesforce – but by other companies, just like mine that were using Salesforce to run their companies. I got very involved with the user group and soon found that sharing info with other companies, asking them questions about how they solved issues, etc. was a great way to learn and grow. I got so involved in fact, that another user group member and I eventually became the Co-Leaders of the group, and began planning and executing the bi-monthly meetings.

This was when I began to really extend my reach as an admin. Ever since its inception, while I was still at SGI, I had been using the AppExchange to help find solutions – both partner solutions that came at an additional cost, as well as free solutions that I could download and then customize to fit our business needs. I wrote reviews on the apps that I downloaded and tried to guide others, through the user group, to solutions that might fit their needs. At Dreamforce in 2008, Salesforce recognized me as one of their AppExchange All-Stars. This gave me an opportunity to meet and network with even more users that were just like me. This, once again, expanded my network and my knowledge.

In 2008, I also made a move to the insurance company BlueCross BlueShield of MN as a Sr. Business Analyst. As you know, all companies use Salesforce differently, and BCBS wasn’t using as much of Salesforce functionality as I had been used to in my previous positions. In an effort to not lose any of my Admin skills, I decided to continue my Salesforce education. Lucky for me, the timing coincided with when Salesforce rolled out their Certification program. I was one of the first 500 Certified Admins, and I then went on to take the Advanced Administrator certification as well. I have since received three more certifications; Developer, Sales Cloud Consultant, and Service Cloud Consultant. More education and experience led to more opportunity.

Before long, I was offered a position at Merrill Corporation, a financial services company, as the Manager of CRM Services. While this position was definitely hands-on Salesforce Administration, it wasn’t just tactical. It was a much more strategic position and involved managing a staff to carry out that strategy. I really had an opportunity to impact the business with all the knowledge and experience that I had gained over the past seven years.

During this time, the Twin Cities Salesforce User Group had continued to grow and grow. More learning, more partners to be exposed to, more people to bounce ideas off. In order to communicate and network with all of these key SFDC individuals, I started using all the tools available to me; Facebook, Twitter, the Idea Exchange, blogs, etc. I became more visible and was able to be helpful to more people, as well as have more people to ask for help. This really extended my reach.

At 2009’s Dreamforce, I was one of the first 18 individuals recognized as a Salesforce MVP – a program where Salesforce identifies people based on their accessibility, responsiveness, knowledge, leadership, and credibility within the community. This was a great honor and I am in some excellent company. Since the first 18 were recognized, Salesforce has continued to add members to this program and this community has become my go-to group of people whenever I have a question or need advice. Being recognized as a Salesforce MVP also did something amazing to my telephone. Suddenly, it was ringing daily with offers to continue expanding my Salesforce career.

I was fortunate to go on to several new Salesforce adventures: Global CRM Director for Chamilia, Sr. Business Analyst for Magnet 360, and now my current position of Sales Systems Manager for Edmentum. This position is fast-paced, challenging, and uses all the skills that I’ve learned over the past 12 years. I got here through taking advantage of every education and networking opportunity that I could along the way.

So in my opinion and experience, the building blocks to Salesforce as a career are:

  • Education – whether that is self-training, certification, taking advantage of all the Hands on Training sessions provided at Dreamforce, attending Webinars or any combination of those.
  • Getting involved with the Salesforce Community
  • Network, network, network
  • Attend Dreamforce. This year will be my 11th Dreamforce, and I have walked away from every single one with new relationships that have shaped my career.

I’m also of course, very passionate about local User Groups. This is THE place to meet other companies that are using Salesforce and learn about how they are using it. Volunteer to present a solution that you’ve come up with for your company and who knows – you could just be doing a live interview for the company of your dreams without even knowing it.

Having a social presence also gives you exposure to people beyond your local reach. Tweet and follow those who tweet about Salesforce,  join and participate in Salesforce networking groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. Make your presence known and build your brand by helping others in those groups with your solutions.

And don’t be afraid to leverage the relationships you’ve forged with Salesforce partners, your Account Exec, etc. I have been very fortunate to have some great Account Execs over the years who have helped steer me in the right direction, plant ideas in my brain, and really help me to move forward. The same could be said of some of the Salesforce Partners who regularly attend the Twin Cities User Group. They are part of the community, and I really value those relationships.

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