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 Dale Ziegler. Enjoy!

How did I become a Salesforce professional?  There really was no singular event, but I’d like to think a culmination of stuff that happened in my life to get me to where I am today…and 34 years is a long time!

  • Age 7: learned about computers when my mom would take me to work with her
  • Age 8: my grandparents got me the PreComputer 1000. It had mostly trivia-ish functions, but also had a “programming” function where you could write lines of code, not unlike QBASIC.  I was, again, in nerdy kid heaven!
  • Age 9: taught myself spreadsheets on Lotus123 on the family computer by copying my parents’ checkbook register for grocery expenses. Hello data entry!
  • Age 15: my dad was less-than-thrilled to come home to find I had re-arranged all the program group windows AND changed the entire color scheme of Windows 3.11. I told him “everything still works, it’s just easier now!”
    • Retrospect: that’s when I first become a “disruptor”!
    • He subsequently “disrupted my process” by putting the mouse on the left side of the keyboard with no possibility of moving it back to the right (my mom and I are right-handed, he was left-handed).
    • I (in a nerdy way) thought I got the last laugh by teaching myself all of the keyboard shortcuts, rendering the mouse nearly useless.

dz image for post

Fast-forward to college…and here’s where it gets lengthy…

I entered the University of Kansas (Rock Chalk Jayhawk!) in the fall of 1998 as a math major with intentions of dabbling in computer science.  I walked out of the 1st semester with a 1.86 GPA, academic probation, a sympathy “D” in Engineering Calculus 3 because I at least went to office hours to affirm I was beyond lost, and a kind-but-firm request from the math department to pick a new major.  My back-up option: Broadcast Journalism.  Who wouldn’t want press passes to every KU football and basketball game?!  Then everything changed that one horrific Tuesday morning in September 2001.  I only needed about 20 minutes of watching the events of 9/11 to know Journalism was not my calling.  I couldn’t, in good conscience, make a career out of standing behind a camera or holding a microphone seeking answers as the world struggled to grasp tragic events and innocent lives lost.  But it was my senior year.  So I did the work, got my BS, and just said “I’ll figure it out”.

After 2 years of odd jobs following graduation, I applied with a temp agency.  Within an hour, I was placed at a local trucking headquarters with a 6-month data entry assignment.  It was Monday-Friday, 8:00-5:00.  Perfect!  Those 6 months allowed me to show my Excel skills, and taught me Access.  That 6-month temporary assignment then turned into a 7-year permanent job with the company, responsible for the accuracy of the territory management system, eventually evolving into sales deployment analysis, where I was responsible for deploying 400 sales reps across the US and Canada, by zip/postal code, and ensuring all stood an equal chance of hitting their monthly sales goals.  I learned SQL.  I helped design an entire relational database to manage the month-to-month changes in sales territories.  I helped design an Intranet application for my Sales Operations teammates to query the changes, and I built integrations between the data and Microsoft MapPoint to give Sales’ leaders the ability to see the data impact against territory boundaries.  I was adult nerdy heaven!

But like with everything, a change was brewing.  In the space of 18 to 24 months, nothing felt comfortable, and nothing felt right.  (Everything will end up alright, don’t worry!)  In January 2009, the company told its employees that in order to make payroll for the year, everyone had to take a 10 percent paycut, but could earn 5 percent back after June, then the other 5 percent after December.  July came, and no 5 percent back.  Then at the end of July, I was met with divorce papers, complete with alimony and child support requirements for my (then) 3-year old.  Then I was tasked with multiple projects of sales deployment analysis that decreased our sales force from 400 to 250.  Not only did I have to run the numbers, but I knew who was getting laid off, I knew which of those 150 were my friends, and I couldn’t say a word because of the non-disclosure agreements.  Then in December…you know, the one with CHRISTMAS in it…the company announced everyone had to take 20 percent paycuts to make payroll.  The situation was toxic, both professionally and personally.

But I needed to work, so I put my head down and stuck with it. In July 2010, my mentor and friend announced he was leaving the company to go work for the railroad and start up a Sales Operations team.  3 months later, on my birthday of all days, he called me to say “I have a job for you.  It’s a higher-level strategic position, but I think you’re ready for it.  We have this thing called Salesforce, but no one’s ever really touched it, so I need an administrator.  Meet me for a lunch interview”.  To him, I said “OK!  Absolutely!  Thank you for thinking of me!”  In my head, I thought “what the heck is Salesforce?”  Whatever!  The railroad was doing well, and a trusted mentor thinks I have a lot of potential with a new opportunity!

So in January 2011, I began my journey as a Salesforce Admin.  The solo admin.  But there was a very steep mountain in front of me.  For one, I inherited a Professional Edition org.  Second, it was cluttered with massive duplication due to an unattended data dump of accounts and contacts from legacy systems born years prior.  Third, there was the Opportunity object with 250 fields and 50 validation rules!  But I attended ADM301.  We quickly upgraded to Enterprise Edition.  I began playing in the Sandbox.  I began attending the Kansas City User Group meetings, although they didn’t make sense to me at first.  Then I attended my 1st Dreamforce in August (the Metallica one, for a point of reference).

When we landed in San Francisco, I had no idea what to expect.  I had never been to a major conference, and my mentor (now Director) and I agreed to attend as many sessions as possible to figure things out.  That first day, I attended 4 or 5 sessions and it clicked!  It all finally began to click!  We met for a beer after Day 1’s sessions had wrapped up, and I was beyond excited to talk through all the ideas I had gleamed from my day.  “We can build custom objects to do this…and we can build a few formula fields to do this…and we can use those things to build awesome dashboards…” and, and, and.  After 8 months, I was finally feeling confident in becoming a Salesforce Professional!  Once back in Kansas City, we were invited to some meetings with the CMO, and I was charged with many projects to start elevating Salesforce from being “just a database” in my company.

So in case you missed the last paragraph…DREAMFORCE (wink wink)!  Dreamforce is where it all came together for me.  Dreamforce.  Dreamforce.  (Go register for Dreamforce, if you haven’t already).  …and Dreamforce.

The rest of my story is like when a movie ends, and they tell you where the characters end up in the future.  Shortly after DF11, I met Amanda, the woman who would eventually become my bride (insert colon close-parentheses emoticon here, and her love and support through this crazy Salesforce adventure means more than anything to me!).  In 2012, I had a couple opportunities to present to the Kansas City User Group.  Dreamforce 2012 (Chili Peppers) was spent learning how the Dev Zone operated, and that it wasn’t ONLY for the hard-core coders.  In 2013, I began using Twitter to learn more about the community, and started listening to Mike Gerholdt’s ButtonClickAdmin podcast.  That summer, I met the man himself when he came to Kansas City for the User Group meeting, and I had the privilege of treating him to some amazing KC barbecue (#beforetherewasBBQForce) and picked his brain over all things Salesforce.  I also met local MVP’s Jarrod Kingston and Mark Ross.  Because of Twitter and BCA, planning Dreamforce 2013 (Green Day and Blondie) was a breeze and wildly successful…despite having to leave Amanda with our new 1-month old…  2014 found opportunities to meet Jennifer Wobser, Eric Dreshfield, THE SteveMo, Brent Downey, Cheryl Feldman, Nick Lindberg, the birth of #BBQForce, and invitations to speak at Midwest Dreamin’ and Dreamforce 2014 (Bruno Mars…who I did not go see because I’m a lifelong Giants fan now living in Kansas City, which meant my brain was consumed with baseball in October!)

Now it’s 2015, and I find myself looking forward to another Midwest Dreamin’ in July, another Dreamforce in September…and as luck would have it, my wife will be home with another new 1-month old!  But I still LOVE Salesforce.  I LOVE watching my org grow and evolve.  I LOVE setting up impromptu GoToMeetings with other #awesomeadmins and #soloadmins from around the world to hash through issues and brainstorms ideas (just ask, I’ll do it!).   But most of all, I love looking back and thinking about how I had no clue I’d ever be where I am today!  With many many MANY thanks to Salesforce!

5 thoughts on “ Origins: The Story of Dale Ziegler ”

  1. Great to hear your story, Dale! I remember meeting you at an Admin best practices session at DF13. It’s inspiring to see how far you’ve come since then!


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