Today, I am excited to have a new post in the Origins series where we hear from Admin Heroes on how they got their start with Salesforce. Today’s story comes from Geoff Flynn. Enjoy!
I’m a relative newcomer to Salesforce, having been a user since 2012. I knew of the platform to that end, and knew that it was a cool product, but I had no idea just what it was capable of and how far it could take my career in such a short period of time.
It was 2011 when I heard that my boss’s boss was implementing Salesforce for our department and that I could be in charge of. I knew very little except that it was a “CRM” and as far as I was concerned, it was just another system.
I’d been working for the same company since 2007 and I had worn a few hats over the years.
- Financial Analyst
- Systems Analyst
- Project Manager
Right around 2008 there was a corporate decision to roll out Cognos Business Intelligence platform. I was put in charge mainly because I understood computers and Excel in cases where most people did not. I was never formally trained in either, although I did have a job in the university where I had to learn and use Excel without the mouse. If my boss caught me using the mouse for something where a keyboard shortcut was better, he would take it away! True Story! Looking back, that was probably one of the biggest things that set me apart from others.
I lead the planning, requirements, design, implementation, and rollout of the BI platform for the department and continued to run it for a few years after that. I was building custom reports in something called Reports Studio, designing cubes, and planning for the future.
By this time I managed most of the financial systems for the department and my title had shifted to Project Manager – I even took some courses in it.
I was happy doing this. I enjoyed my job but it still wasn’t great. Then 2011 came and I had to shift my focus to something new – Salesforce.
Just as it was starting, I had lost some faith in the company and I went on two interviews that would have taken my career in a totally different direction. I didn’t get either of them so I went back to my normal job and got back to work.
I did what most people do when they are told to learn something. I got a trial edition and poked around, completely lost and bewildered. We hired a consulting company to help us implement and I was to be the point person.
We did a typical quick start with some customization, getting feedback from all business units and me keeping their ideas in check. I learned what Salesforce could and couldn’t do:
- Can build a totally custom forecasting model
- Cannot have a regular page layout with more than two columns
We implemented the system in just under four months. We also purposely kept the corporate IT department out of the loop when it came to our implementation. It was us (business) and the consultants.
Our company didn’t have much of a budget for continuous improvements so I was forced to take on almost all of the Admin and Developer work myself. I took ADM201 and read a lot online. I was able to manage what I needed to, and even build triggers to post to Chatter and taught myself some basic Visualforce charting.
Looking back, the code was terrible but it worked and I could see just what the platform could do. That was of course balanced by me saying to business users at one point that they can’t show subtotals in a Summary report because I didn’t know you could summarize a field value. That was embarrassing and I ended up slipping it in in stead of admitting my mistake.
For the next year I balanced my team between maintaining and learning more Salesforce, and keeping the BI platform above water. I hated working with the BI team because I couldn’t make a single change that took less than a month. I knew that with Salesforce I could make it in 30 minutes. I had been arguing with them about a delta load for 2 years, and in Salesforce I turned on reporting snapshots and had something to monitor the next day.
As opposed to most people who are Admins, I had been in the department for years so I never had a problem getting people’s attention, or “getting a seat at the table.” If I needed something I could walk right into the general manager’s office and get his full support. What I had more trouble doing was getting people to embrace data quality and consistency in a sales organization that is more about relationships than it is about revenue metrics. Managing expectations and explaining to someone that I can’t make a chart that looks like a thermometer were the hardest parts of my job.
After about a year of that I got a call from a consulting company about a Project Manager role that they were looking to fill. We went back and forth, I did an interview, but I was 50/50 on whether I even wanted it or not. I had a good job, a fantastic boss, and a really good pension building up.
I called the company that implemented for us and asked what they knew about this other company and after less than two minutes the person asked if I wanted to come work for them instead. Within two days I had confirmed that I was making the move to the firm that I knew well and that I had worked with already. My wife had a stead job, we were getting married in 2 weeks, and I figured it was now or never to take a chance.
I’m forever glad that I took the chance, that everyone supported me, and that I’m still loving it to this day. I had no idea just how much I still had to learn, and I’m continually learning on a daily basis.
Every job has it’s challenges, but I get to see my work on a daily basis and meet so many people along the way. Figuring out all the different solutions pushed me onto the Answers Community on a more regular basis and after a few votes on ideas I thought were missing, I started jumping in from time to time to answer questions.
Soon enough it was really bothering me when I would see people post the wrong answer and I was in there all the time. I’ve learned more from answering people’s questions than I ever could have taking more certifications (I have five already) or reading more implementation guides. I’m challenged to answer something new on a daily basis.
I also decided to start a blog, with the real goal of finding ways to maximize Salesforce in my own life – www.ExploitedDevOrgs.com. My philosophy is that if I can’t be happy with it in my own life then I should be providing it to clients. This has turned into another avenue for my own learning and I only ever post hoping it will help someone out there, at some point down the road.
I still get the most satisfaction on a daily basis about helping others because I know just how much it would have helped me if I had known about the community back when I was an Admin.
Success Community Profile – my other contact info is there as well.