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 John Graf. Enjoy!

When you ask someone how they got into being a Salesforce Administrator, the story generally follows a similar line.  They were an end user who, through just a bit of research, found that their company was missing great opportunities by misusing their Salesforce Org.  They stepped up to the plate and found that they had the chance to make a huge positive impact on their company by developing their skills on the Salesforce Platform.

This may not be the root story for all of the #AwesomeAdmins out there, but it seems to be the story to a huge number of us as well as my own.

The interesting piece here is not the common story among all these “Admin Heroes in-training”, but rather what was the drive to go down this path.  What was inside them that said, “We are doing this all wrong and I can make it better.”  So this is my story; not my story of how I found an Org that was a giant tangled mess; not a story of the arduous learning curve to becoming an omniscient Salesforce master.  This is my story of how I was aimlessly wandering the vast cubicle desert when I came upon a cloudy oasis.

After you graduate high school, you go to college.  I honestly never realized there was any other option.  This is a good fortune that I owe to my parents, as do millions of other people.   Retrospectively, it would have been a bit more beneficial if they had added, “Go to school for something worth studying.”

I went to the University of Oklahoma because it was twenty miles from home (this was literally the only reason I went there).  The advisor asked what I wanted to major in and I said I like movies.  Four years later I leave Norman, OK with a degree in Film and Video Studies.  I did not learn to make movies; I learned how to watch them.  I’m actually pretty good at it.  Give me any movie and I’ll hand you 12 pages on it the next morning.  Regardless, there was not much of a market for fresh-faced movie critics in 2004.

My first real job that did not involve driving with pizza, pouring whiskey, taping boxes or trimming trees was in a cubicle researching corporate actions.  Believe it or not, they did not hire me for my comprehensive knowledge of Stanley Kubrick cinema; so I felt the need to show them I could thrive in my job.

By then, I was married and a father so I felt the pressure to be a provider.  I devised my own system of Excel spreads sheets that helped me push out the most thorough and accurate reports in my department.  It took about 15 months before we learned that the team we were training in Romania was actually a replacement rather than an extension to us.

It is a hard day when you go home to your six month old to tell her you were no longer valuable to the company (I don’t think she quite understood what I was talking about at the time).  The lesson learned here was that a company will only value those that continue to improve the profitability of the company as a whole.

My next job was as a dispatch agent for a print management company.  I mastered the task of taking a call and scheduling a maintenance ticket on a Lexmark MFP in about 2 hours.  It was boring.  It was soooooo boring.  I was only really working for about 3 hours of my 8 hour shift.  I quickly asked if I could have something else to work on between calls.  Someone rolled a cart over to my cube and explained that these were all of the purchase orders for the company.  They were a chaotic mess.  I started sorting and organizing.

I called on each one to determine their status and then set up a spreadsheet that tracks the status of every order in the company.  It took me a month, but I finally shaved it down from 300 POs to 65.  My new task, which I devised for myself, was to track and update the list every day.  Soon, I got that process down to a couple hours.

Again, I went to the boss asking what I could do in my down time.  She gave me numbers to enter from a Physical Inventory Count at one of our warehouses.  I entered them into our system, ran a report and handed back a complete analysis with charts and graphs.  I was asked to develop a physical inventory count process for our 28 warehouses.  Inventory was something new to learn and it was exciting.  I wrote procedures, read up on inventory control practices.  The best part was when I was able to run reports showing how much money saved by the program.

Within 18 months, I was the manager of the administrative office.  Regardless of my success there, the dark side of business reared its head once again and I found myself unemployed with my second daughter on the way and a house for sale on a crashing market.

It became clear that my experience and education still could save me from having to pour margaritas to pay rent.  (Oh, the house sold but it took a while).  I blamed my unemployability on my degree in movie watching.  I was looking for something new to learn and found that Oklahoma State was offering a brand new program in Wind Turbine Technology.

They taught me the basic mechanic skills to climb a 200’ tower and repair a generator.  I actually learned more by taking on a leadership role in the Wind Energy Student Association.  At the age of 31, I was an old man on campus.  So I was surprised to find that this fleet of country boys was willing to take my advice on career development.   The further I got into the program the more I realized I may not be cut out for the Wind Tech line of work.  Toward the end of the two year degree program I extended my job search to include anything that came close to my experience.

In 2011, I struck gold.  Of course it took me a while to fully understand how rich of a strike it was.  World Water Works is a key player in Waste Water Technology.  They took me on as a buyer.  I did as I had done in all of my old jobs.  I fine-tuned the process for what was expected of me, and then looked into learning something new.  This is where I was given a login to something they referred to as Ascent.  Under further investigation I found Ascent to actually be an ERP app on the Salesforce Platform.  We were only using our org to a fraction of its capabilities.  I pointed this out to the CEO and he agreed.  I was asked to help develop our processes and take advantage of the features that are already in our tool box.

The type of person who becomes an #AwesomeAdmin is someone who finds something that isn’t working the way it should and can’t resist fixing it.  They have an incessant habit of learning new things.  They get bored when they are simply going through the motions.

World Water Works has become the perfect setting for me because Salesforce offers me something new to learn three times a year.  In the past, when I didn’t know how to solve a problem, I had to rely on my best instincts.  Now I have global community to talk to.  I don’t get bored with a job anymore.  Once I have perfected being a Purchasing Agent, I move on to being an Engineer or Sales Guy.  I am encouraged to innovate and think outside the box, and who would argue with that environment.  I no longer act under pressure to survive.  Instead, my actions are all fueled to impress my wife and now 3 kids.

I owe that to Salesforce and suspect it will be a greater part of life for years to come.

4 thoughts on “ ORIGINS: The Story of John Graf ”

  1. This is the kind of detail story I can share with high school and college students when we talk about what their future looks like based on where they are and where they think they want to go. ..because of the career they are pursuing. Thank you so much for sharing!


  2. Hi
    My name is Catherine. I have been working as the admin for a little over a year for the state of MD. I am always looking for new and improve ways and features to WOW my managers. We use a lot of custom object and VFPs, which makes it a little hard to utilize most of the standard features in SF. I would love to get assistance on creating the most understandable, clear cut, designed Dashboard ever. We are also looking at rolling out Chatter. Need to know the pros and cons here too. Can you call me at 410-545-8674. I am here from 8:30 am to 3:00pm Monday – Friday. thank you.


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