The Salesforce Administrator’s Career Path

The Salesforce Administrator's Career PathWith the widely successful Salesforce University there have been many questions coming in about advancing your career and what are the ‘right’ steps. We have User Group Leaders conducting surveys that sometimes leave us questioning the value of Certifications in the job market.

While I do not believe I have all the answers to the questions here is what I do know about career paths in the Salesforce Administrator space, “they are what you make them”.

That may not be very helpful advice at first, but let’s take a look at the journey of an administrator and the different skill sets needed to advance your career. Let’s also throw in some information about Certification and what it really means to be a Certified Salesforce Administrator these days.

Career Path

In 2004, there was no such thing as career Salesforce Administrator. A few people got ‘lucky’ and were in the right place at the right time, or had business savvy and were technically inclined, or saw the writing on the wall and knew this was going to be big. These people helped create a movement that generated a career path as a Salesforce Administrator.

Beginner Administrator

It can be quite confusing to enter into this marketplace. Yes, taking the Certified Administrator test is a great starting place, but that certification will only get you so far. The test itself ensures that you know basic product information about each cloud. What is lacks, it real world experience and hands on configuration.

That is the key to making a transition into Salesforce ecosystem. You must be able to listen to the business talk about their problems and turn them into tangible solutions. Don’t approach an interview as, “I’m the newbie”. Approach it as, “I am certified and let’s talk about your business challenges”.

If you can translate business acumen into technical solutions, you have just taken your first step into the Salesforce.com Administration world. Where would you learn something like that? Try degree courses in Information Technology.

Intermediate Administrator

If you have already been working as a full time administrator for 2-3 years, you need to start focusing on how to provide more value. Most of us get stuck in a reactionary mode because we have been so focused on the learning side and just doing a good job with the basics that we forget how to be proactive.

Career advancements come when you show how you can be proactive and solve a problem the business might not have realized they had. Do this by conducting your own User Experience Tests. I do this by a system I call SET. This is where you get the business to nominate their best Salesforce User and whom they consider to be their best Sales Rep. Most of the time these will not be the same people. If this is not the case, ask for a secondary volunteer.

Take these two volunteers into a conference room for an hour, having each of them bring one hour’s worth of Salesforce work and have them execute that work. Your job is to be a fly on the wall and just watch and take notes.  Do not correct, do not train, just watch.

Then take all of your findings and break them into three categories: Training Needs, System Issues, and Enhancements. This will provide you with a product roadmap in all three areas that you can present back to the business. Remember it’s Ready, SET, Go!

Advanced Administrator

Now we are getting into the fun one, the admins who have become a staple in their workplace and administration skill set for 5+ years. The first thing to realize in this position is that you do not know everything. The second you think you do, you will stop learning from the community. That focus will stop you in your career path. If you don’t keep learning, you won’t keep innovating and innovation is the key to upward momentum.

I recommend joining answers and your local user groups. The best way to learn and be pushed is to give back. Different people from different companies have different viewpoints and will challenge you to think of solutions in a new light. This will allow you to become a thought leader, not only for your company, but in the greater community.

Certification

To be clear, I do think being certified is an important step in one’s Salesforce Career. The intent here is just to clear up some of the information about what it means to be certified and more importantly what to expect from your certification.

What Does it Mean?

Well it means that you have articulated a clear understanding of the base features of the products offered by Salesforce from an administrative perspective. It indicates that you are able to understand things like security, creating a field, custom objects, etc. from a ‘how it was designed to be used’ perspective.

Now, that right there is key. We said ‘designed to be used’. That does not indicate practical experience from turning business requirements into tangible solutions. The thing that catches some ‘Certified Administrators’ off guard is their first business meeting when they are gathering requirements, but the requirements they are capturing don’t match up with what was on the certification exam.

They don’t follow the specific scenarios you studied so hard for. At that point just take a breather. Think about the fact that the certification has given you several tools and it is how you combine them that will make the difference.

What can I expect?

Higher certification levels do not automatically dictate higher income levels. There! It’s out in the open for commentary.

The trick with gaining higher income levels and career advancement will not simply be because you passed a new certification exam. It will be from a combination of performance and aptitude factors. Yes, getting advanced certifications doesn’t hurt, but don’t rely on that alone to push you upward.

Make sure to keep the learning going, as mentioned in the advance admin section. Being a thought leader and an advanced certified professional will take you further in your career.

This is just the start of the career movement. We are here to help. Please leave a comment below with your questions or concerns and we’ll do our best to provide answers and clarity.

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5 Comments


  1. Toni

    June 15, 2015 at 9:14 am

    Great post–especially for newbies! If I am trying to find my first Salesforce Admin job after getting the Admin 201 certification, is there a particular profile of an organization that’s good to target? I.e. large organization where I’m working under a Sr. Admin or small startup where I’m the subject matter expert? Thanks!

    Reply

    • Brent Downey

      June 15, 2015 at 11:50 am

      Great question Toni! I believe it really depends on what you want to do. I’ve worked in both types of companies and there are pros and cons to both. In both organizations I am the SME, but exposure to the different parts of the organization may be different based on the company. I would suggest understanding what it is that you want out of the company. Do you want to travel? Larger companies may provide a better opportunity for travel. Do you want to manage a team? Again, you may want to look for a larger organization or an organization that is deeply entrenched in Salesforce. Small companies tend to be great from a cultural fit, and you have the ability to have 1:1 engagement with internal customers. There tends to be less red tape and faster iteration happening in smaller companies. Think about what you want out of the position and company, then target the companies that fit that need. Good luck!

      Reply

  2. Pam

    June 18, 2015 at 10:46 am

    Hi Brent! I have reached out previously on LinkedIn, and am an SF expert end user on the Client side leaving my current company on June 30th. I’m looking to obtain my Admin and Adv Admin certs ASAP. Do you have a reco on BIC training? I have googled this, and researched it to death but still have no clear answer. There are tons of companies, in addition to Salesforce.com, that do training – ranges of prices, in person vs. self study vs. virtual classroom, etc. It’s very confusing and overwhelming, frankly. I just want to get high quality training with the most information and detail for my money so I’m set up for success. Any recommendations? Thanks!

    Reply

    • Brent Downey

      June 22, 2015 at 8:40 am

      Hi Pam! I’m not sure what BIC training is, but I assume you are referring to Salesforce certification training. There are multiple programs out there for training. Usually, there is a nominal fee which is usually the sum total of most departments education budget (which can be frustrating). However, most of them are worth the money. It’s important to note that none of them are true certification prep classes. The content will cover a wide array of topics which may be covered on the test, and some classes don’t cover other areas which are specifically outlined on the certification’s study guide. That being said, I’ve heard good things about Stony Point and the classes they offer. Personally, I’ve ever only taken classes through Salesforce. The Success Community has a great program that I’ve helped out with as well. It’s a 16-week in-depth, mentor-led study. You complete weekly homework and once a night get together with the other folks in your “class” virtually to discuss what you learned and ask questions. It’s called Salesforce Certification Study Group. It has a great success rate and it’s totally free.

      Reply

  3. Prabha

    March 14, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    Hi Brent

    I was working as manual tester 9 years back. Due to personal reasons I was at home. Want to start my carrier again. Can you suggest me that Salesforce admin is good option for me. Thank you

    Reply

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