My Trail into the Salesforce Ohana and passing the Salesforce admin exam

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In 2015 I was introduced to Salesforce, or one could say Salesforce was thrown onto my lap.  I started working for a start-up non-profit immediately after my Navy retirement.  I didn’t know what Salesforce even was, nor did I know about the training opportunities, Vetforce, Trailhead, or any other organizations/resources.  But like any motivated Veteran I did what I had to do to solve the problem, get the business running, and capture/report on program metrics.  In 2016, I was introduced to another non-profit needing Salesforce administration / business analysis, so was able to continue my work with Salesforce.  After a little over a year working with Salesforce Nonprofit Success Pack, I ignorantly (and arrogantly, I suppose) thought I had what it would takes to pass the Salesforce Administrator exam… and I of course failed.  The one thing I learned from this experience is that I needed formal training, exposure to Sales and Service clouds, and guidance/mentorship.

My Trail to Success

Now here I was with 4 years of administration and consulting experience with Salesforce (all in non-profit industry), a day-to-day job, and some other side consulting work, but life and work consumed me and still no certification.  I then received a message on LinkedIn from Monica McNeal stating that Merivis was hosting it’s first cohort in Seattle.  My wife and I had a very brief conversation and she simply stated, “you have to do this for yourself and I’ll support whatever it takes for you to get this done”.  So now I just had to figure out how I was going to manage studying for 5 weeks, juggling a work schedule that typically requires 60 – 80+ hours per week, and retain what I needed to retain.  But I had to do it.

The first thing I did was map out my goals to ensure I obtained my certification.

Goal 1: Embrace the Salesforce Ohana!
  • In all my years with Salesforce I was a bit self-isolated from the SF Ohana… I didn’t join groups, was hesitant to ask questions, didn’t wear Hawaiian shirts. I suppose this is due to my initial learning of Salesforce was being thrown in the fire and not having a true understanding of all the powers of Salesforce and this amazing community.  Hence my first exam result failure, again.
  • Looking back over the past several weeks… my learning about what Salesforce really is, realizing it’s truly a 2nd family, and “drinking the blue kool-aid”, was one of the biggest factors of my success… however, I am still a newbie and have so much more I want to do and explore with my new Ohana!
 Goal 2: Set a schedule for studying… wake up at 4 AM and go to bed around 11 PM.  Eat, sleep, and breathe Salesforce.
  • Be strict on yourself. Let people know about your achievements along the trail.
  • For the most part I adhered to this goal. Towards the end I started getting more relaxed.
Goal 3: Obtain Ranger status in Salesforce Trailhead.  For those that do not know, Ranger status is completing 100 “badges” in Trailhead.
  • Complete the Vetforce guided Admin Trailmix. Dig deep on the admin exam topics modules.  I also completed Build Your Admin Career on Salesforce trailmix… along with other miscellaneous topics that would get me in and using Salesforce.
  • I completed this on week 3 of my training.
Goal 4: Complete at least 1 Superbadge in Trailhead.
  • I completed the Security Specialist Security is a HUGE part of Salesforce and the exams.
  • I completed this on week 4 of my training.
Goal 5: Take time off work to complete Merivis’ 1-week in-person class at Salesforce in Bellevue, WA.
  • I did this, but must admit didn’t let work go completely, I continued to keep up with most of my day-to-day work.
  • This week in-person was so helpful… not only for preparing me for the exam but broadening my Salesforce Ohana.
Goal 6: Take and pass my certification test in 5 weeks (prior to my family vacation).
  • I started the Merivis Course on May 31st and took my exam on July 2nd (4 weeks and 4 days).

The Result

I met some amazing people and added tremendous value to my network.  I have learned so much about the Salesforce Ohana, the powerful community it is, and that my desire to be a continuous learner fits in very well within this ecosystem (if this isn’t you, Salesforce isn’t for you).   I cannot stress how important being an active member in the Salesforce ecosystem is to every Salesforce professional and aspiring Salesforce professional.  And, yes I did validate my experience and passed my Salesforce Administrator certification exam.

Exam Prep Tips (This is a highlight of what I shared with my Merivis cohort hours after taking the exam)

It was a very hard test… not going to lie there, to me it seemed harder than any of the practice tests I took and I took everyone on FocusOnForce and did the Webassessor practice exam.  First and foremost, don’t get discouraged at the start… the start of my exam was a kick in the mouth… I was super worried after the first 5 questions.  But I kept to my plan, which as read the questions once or twice, if I didn’t 100% know the answer I marked it on my paper and wrote a very short thought (ie. “I think it’s Support Process”, or “definitely not A and C”).  Then at the end come back to all questions you marked for review… most can be broken down to best 2 answers… but still even at that level make sure you are looking at fine detail of the question, such as, use of “all”, “every time”, “none”.

Read each question for fine details!!  You have plenty of time to complete the test. A lot of questions came down to very minuscule detail or 100% understanding of the topics.  It’s good to memorize something, but most questions are scenarios that if you haven’t done it in a playground or an org, you’re not going to know.

Security and Access is very tricky… you have to know it and I thought I had it down pat, but the scenarios are very complex.  I felt there was a lot about the desktop and mobile customization that I didn’t know.  do this trail and know the fine details,

Activities: I’m glad I read through this the night before… got a 100% on this section, BUT, the questions really tripped me up and had to really know fine details about how you can use activity timeline and for which objects.  Study this documentation and click through the links.

Know all about workflow and process builder…then I would read through some help on it… lots of questions about which to use and know time-based work flows.  Some of the questions are almost verbatim from the documentation, such as this link about time-based.

Know your standard objects… how they are related and how they interact with custom objects.  Pretty straight forward.  Same with the Service and Sales questions… you definitely MUST know it well and how a case works… Sales Processes and Support Processes etc.  Again, on top of being in the org, the documentation definitely helped me.

Know EVERYTHING about Data Import Wizard and Data Loader… especially which objects they support, which handles duplicates, how they interact with workflow and validation rules.

My Final Recommendations:

  1. Build and grow your Salesforce Ohana! Embrace the Salesforce Ecosystem!
  2. Take an in-person, formal class… not just for learning but to help with #1.
  3. Get into the platform more than a few hours a day until you take the test… do as many scenarios as you can from trailhead or the exercise guide… promise it will make you more comfortable!! Create a scenario based on your current and past work.  I did some on talent acquisition, creating objects, permissions, the whole 9 yards!
  4. Become a Ranger before taking the exam… as with #1, it just gets you in Salesforce doing real-world administration.
  5. Read the Help / Documentation for the big things (workflow, objects, security, reports / dashboards, data management, sales/marketing and service/support)… there was TON of questions that came straight from there, just modified dates or scenarios)!! Some sections in there give examples and you will see very similar scenarios on exam.   And it’s just good practice to review and understand documentation, whether it’s Salesforce or any other system.
  6. Do practice exams and have a routine when you do them. I have drove one morning to my office that was similar distance to testing site and took a practice test… so I could even practice my routine… which included some mindfulness exercises and deep breathing (test anxiety is no joke!).
  7. Some folks along the way recommended using Quizlets… I looked at a few, but I really think my success for this exam was being in the system and doing.
  8. Have fun!! Salesforce is an amazing platform, with some of the best training that I’ve been through EVER.  Very rarely can you have full-access to a system to do real-world implementation and administration.  I can truly say that the past several weeks have been amazing for me, with the learning, networking, and growing professionally.

Best of luck to you and please let me know if I can help in any way!

Chad R. Hutchins

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