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 Kevin Hastings. Enjoy!
My IT career came full circle when I became a Salesforce Administrator. I became interested in computers in 1992 while working as a Cryptologist in the US Navy. We had computers installed and all of the sudden we were processing our intelligence in a whole new way. I immediately wanted to know everything about how to make our work more efficient using the new equipment. I had not finished college and I had no formal computer training, so I re-enlisted with a plan to earn my BA degree, build a career around computers, and to start a new life for myself as a civilian in Colorado.
The Navy sent me to C-School for computer programming in Pensacola, FL and I worked hard to graduate #2 in my class. My Division Chief and Division Officer didn’t know what to do with a “programmer” at my new duty station in Chesapeake, VA; so I went around and I made work for myself. I found projects that made me valuable to the people in my Division.
I chose my degree path and mapped out the next 2yrs of my life to earn my BA degree. I worked 80hrs a week for 2 years to learn everything I could about computers and to earn my degree by attending night classes 2x per week and full days in the library every Sunday. For the first time in my life is was focused and I was very clear on my intention. Finally.
I still remember the day I asked a shipmate what he was working on. He would sit down near me on Tuesdays with stacks of papers and he would go thru them, writing things down. He told me he was preparing his presentation for the Weekly Officer Briefing; he needed to show them statistics on our intelligence gathering. I was intrigued and I set my focus on automating his efforts. I taught myself to write dBaseIV code because it was the only database tool I had access to. The day he compiled his statistics in minutes instead of days was incredibly rewarding to us both.
Soon after that, our Division had new Unix systems installed and I became the Unix Admin. I started down a career path that was not nearly as much fun as solving business problems. And I remained a Unix Admin into my civilian life in Colorado. I always found the work stressful and difficult. I moved on to Oracle DBA work and I felt the same way. I wanted to solve business problems, but I had the “golden handcuffs” where I was making good money and I had a little status with my job title. I had lost my way in doing the work I was best at and I didn’t know how to get back to helping the business run smoother.
My new wife talked me into a career change where I would be helping people again. That lead to a 6 year career in commercial real estate where I made cold calls (creating Leads), setting meetings (scheduling and lead management), negotiated lease agreements (contract management), billed for my time (Invoicing), created reports on my progress (reporting and forecasting), and tracked available office space for lease (data management). I tried using ACT!, Outlook, and Excel to run my business. They were all inadequate and frustrating options.
By 2009 we had two little boys and the commercial market was crashing. My diminishing commission income wasn’t consistently covering our daycare expenses. So I committed to being a stay-at-home Dad while my wife, Angie, continued her successful career as a Data Architect. Now, this was not what I planned for my career. But with a baby and a toddler demanding my attention 18hours/day, I didn’t have too much time to think about it my first year at home.
In my second year as a stay-at-home Dad, our boys were getting easier to manage and a series of events lined up in my life. A neighbor mentioned his company was having a very hard time finding anyone to work on their Salesforce configuration. Then my wife came back from a conference and she mentioned that a CRM tool named salesforce.com was really getting hot in the industry. I knew Salesforce was a CRM tool, but I didn’t know much more about it. I started reading up on it and what I learned brought back memories of what I first loved about my IT career from my Navy days. I was drawn to helping users to be more productive. To make their work easier and to automate their processes.
So, I enrolled our kids in daycare for a week, and I signed myself up for the Salesforce DEV401 course held in Denver. It all went on the credit card. An investment in my new future.
I spent the next year self-learning the finer points of Salesforce Administration and interviewing whenever possible. The interviews were difficult for me because I was still fighting extreme tiredness from studying and keeping the kids entertained. And I had no real experience administering Salesforce yet. What to do?
I volunteered to do work for a non-profit. Then I worked for an independent Salesforce Consultant for a few months to build my experience. I want to say neither of those opportunities presented themselves to me. I actively looked for months to find someone to work for. It is only thru networking and building trust from people around me that I got referred for those first two opportunities.
This lead to my finally getting my first full-time job as a Salesforce Administrator. I am still grateful to my manager, Pierre, for taking a chance on me. My learning curve was very steep the first year at that company, but I found the 9 years of IT experience from many years ago helped me to adapt and to do well.
As of 2015, I am a Functional Salesforce Consultant with Salesforce ADM201 & DEV401, Birst and X-Author (Apttus) Certifications. When clients see my resume, they don’t ask me about my technical abilities anymore. They want to know how I can solve their business challenges.
And that’s when I knew I made the right decision to focus my career on salesforce.com. It’s all about coming up with solutions to my client’s challenges and making their work more productive.