Thinking of changing careers into Salesforce? Read this!

Hello, and welcome to Another Salesforce Blog!  Here I will be posting solutions to problems that I couldn’t find an answer to in hopes of helping those who find themselves stuck when using the Salesforce platform.

Today, we’ll be talking about how to make the switch into Salesforce development from a service role.

Another Salesforce Blog Logo

If you’re reading this, you probably already know this, but my name is Evelyn, and I’m a software developer. I’ve been working as a software developer for just about three years now. I started my first programming job as an entry level Java/J2EE developer at a big name tech company in early 2019. Since then, I’ve worked positions at two startups as an associate and then as a mid-level developer.

That part isn’t very interesting, so I will spare you the details.

The reason I’m writing this is because I want to help people make a career change into tech like I did, and, presumably, the reason that you’re reading this is because you’re looking to make that jump.

Some background information on me:

  • I’m a college dropout. I went to school for engineering, life happened, I didn’t finish my degree in my first (or second!) attempt.
  • I went back to school in 2017 and completed my bachelor’s degree in 2021.
  • My degree is in Computer Information Systems, but it is NOT in programming. It’s actually in network management. This is important because…
  • I taught myself how to code.

There are a lot of potential options for computer science careers (click this link to learn more!), but I am most familiar with software (specifically Salesforce) administration and development, so those are the two paths I will be focusing on the most.

Disclaimer: I am not a career coach, and I am not employed by any of the companies I mention. I’m not receiving any compensation for this (unless you want to buy me a drink for taking the time to do this, in which case you can donate to keep my website running here). This is me just spreading my knowledge so I can help some folks out. There’s a mass exodus from service jobs right now, and I know a lot of folks who are looking to get into something more stable without necessarily having to go back to school. This is me paying it forward, you can pay it forward later.

What is Salesforce?

Salesforce is the world’s premier Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software.

Why Salesforce?

Well, frankly, because Salesforce administration and development changed my life. The opportunity to do both has allowed me to go from barely scraping by to making six figures in a matter of years. It’s used across every industry you can imagine. Schools use Salesforce. Hospitals use Salesforce. Engineering firms use Salesforce. Sales companies use Salesforce. I work for a company that builds legal software entirely on Salesforce. The opportunities are endless.  Not only that, but it’s free to learn, free to practice, and the languages required to do Salesforce development transfer into other roles. There’s a huge market for Salesforce roles, with more roles added every year. And, most importantly, you can start in one position and work your way into a dozen potential roles, all with seemingly infinite upward mobility.

Sounds great, what’s the catch?

Anyone can learn how to code. My disclaimer is that, like all jobs, not everyone will like it, and, like all jobs, not everyone will be good at it. That being said, anyone can learn to do it, especially with all of the cheap or free resources available nowadays.

How to know if you’ll like it:

  • Do you enjoy spending time on the computer?
  • Do you enjoy solving brain teasers or puzzles?
  • Do you enjoy researching topics?
  • Do you value both collaboration and independent work time?
  • Do you enjoy loose requirements that allow for both a little bit of structure and a little bit of creativity?
  • Do you prefer to work flexible hours with set meeting times?

How to know if you have the potential to be good at it with practice:

  • You enjoy spending time on the computer.
  • You’re not easily discouraged.
  • You don’t easily go down unrelated rabbit holes, you zone in on what you’re doing.
  • You’re good at meeting deadlines.
  • You don’t take feedback personally.
  • You value learning.
  • You enjoy thinking through complex problems.

You might not like it if:

  • You hate sitting at the computer or at a desk.
  • You struggle with out of the box thinking.
  • You have a hard time admitting when you don’t know something.
  • You value competition over collaboration in a workplace.
  • You prefer to work solo.
  • You’re looking for a straight, no variation 9-5.

Misconceptions about software development:

  • You don’t have to be great at computers.
  • You don’t have to know math beyond the basics.
  • You don’t have to have a degree in it or go to a boot camp for it.

Still with me? Great! If not, that’s okay, you stepped outside of your comfort zone and took a first step in finding a new career. Sometimes that means ruling something out, and that’s okay!

For everyone who is still with me, let’s start with the basics.

How does one go about learning how to code, and how do you learn Salesforce?

There are tons of free programs and apps that have gamified programming. What this means is that you can pull out your smart-phone, open an app, and learn to code like you’re playing a mobile game! You can rack up streak points, bonus points, compete with others, you name it.

One of my favorite websites and apps for this is Codecademy, which is where I learned the bulk of my JavaScript. They have both a free version and a paid version, and both are well worth the time and any money spent. The reason I like Codecademy so much is that it compiles your code immediately, so you always know whether or not you’re doing it right. There’s also a mixture of written code, drag and drop, multiple choice, and various other methods to learn the language of your choice. Codecademy also offers this helpful quiz that helps you figure out what language to learn first.

I can also personally recommend SoloLearn, which is totally free, offers a mobile app, and is how I learned object oriented programming.

The last resource, and the one that I mention most frequently, is Trailhead. Trailhead is the training portal for Salesforce, which is the software that I primarily work on. Salesforce has their own proprietary programming language, Apex, which is based on the language Java. There are also Lightning Web Components, which are based on HTML, JavaScript, and CSS, and make database calls using Apex. One of the reasons I recommend Trailhead so highly is that they offer certifications that are worth their weight in gold. I am, as of this writing, four times Salesforce certified (Administrator, Platform Developer I, Platform App Builder, and JavaScript Developer I), and these certifications have paid off with dividends. Trailhead is completely free to use, and now offers a mobile app.

Whoa, that’s a lot of information. I still don’t really know where I should start.

First, if I’ve sold you on this, take a look at the Trailhead website and look at the Salesforce Careers module. This will be able to give you a better idea of what kind of career paths there are within the ecosystem. If it still sounds good, take the Career Development Planning module.

Whether you are thinking about going down a path as an Administrator or Developer, I recommend starting by studying for an Administrator certification. The reason for this is that a Salesforce org is a giant database. Knowing how the database works and is structured will help you when you learn how to code.

Salesforce Administrator Trails

The great thing about being a Salesforce administrator is that there are lots of opportunities for growth. You can grow within the Admin role into a Senior Admin or Architect, or you can build skills while you learn to code.

If you haven’t ever coded before, start with a Java course on Codecademy or Sololearn once you’ve played around with Trailhead. Once you know a bit of Java, try the Salesforce Developer path. Salesforce’s proprietary language is based on Java, which is an object-oriented programming language.

Salesforce Developer Trails

This is great, but sounds like it will take a while. What steps can I take today to make sure I’m ready when the time comes?

  • Get on Linkedin. Connect with me and other Salesforce professionals. Join some certification study groups. Post an occasional update about your journey. Interact with posts that pique your interest.
  • While you’re on LinkedIn, update your work information if it’s been a while.
    • Max out the number of skills you can add, and endorse members in your network.
    • Write recommendations for people you’ve worked with, and ask if they would consider writing a recommendation for you.
    • Use “action” language to describe past and present positions.
    • Provide metrics when available.
    • Remember that LinkedIn can fit whatever you can’t fit on your resume, so don’t be afraid to use that character count.
  • Speaking of resumes, update yours. Again, use action language and provide metrics when possible.
  • Watch some videos on mock interviews and brush up on your interview skills. Practice in the mirror, practice with a friend.

I’ve attached two of my old resumes for your perusal below. The first is from 2018, sporting my maiden name, when I got my first software job. The second is from when I got my most recent position. Notice the differences between the two. Even with some of the same content, note the difference in use of action words, the use of metrics, the use of industry terms.

Alright, now, what’s the big takeaway?

The most important thing you can do when you’re switching career paths is to find connections between your past roles and your aspirational roles. For example, soft skills are highly sought after in the tech world. One of my favorite examples, although not on my resume, is that I was a barista for a long time. How this translates to software development is that I am a pro at taking complex instructions and distilling them into a consumer pleasing product. I know how to ask the right questions to suss out what a product owner is looking for. Practice articulating these skills and find those connections, because they are there.

Thanks for reading, let me know if you have any comments or questions!

-Evelyn, Another Salesforce Blog

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