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Explore the Journey to Salesforce Certified

Explore the Journey to Salesforce Certified

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It’s been a few weeks since Andrea Tarrell and I spoke at Salesforce World Tour NYC about the journey to getting Salesforce certified. As someone with five years of experience in the ecosystem, I have been able to earn many Salesforce certifications along the way and have always wanted to help others achieve their certification goals as they have helped me. 

That’s why I am still so happy I was able to join Andrea as a co-presenter. Our team was excited to share our certification journeys and knowledge with the community, and we hope this post that recaps our World Tour presentation is helpful as you work toward earning Salesforce certified designations.

Jordyn Jaffer and Andrea Tarrell presenting at Salesforce World Tour New York in December 2022.

Salesforce Certified 101

If you’ve been in the ecosystem for a little bit, then you’re probably familiar with the process of becoming Salesforce certified and what certifications are available. But, you should still pay attention. 

The Salesforce certification program is constantly evolving. What used to be a collection of a handful of certifications has expanded to over 40 certifications across Salesforce roles over the years. The certifications are typically connected to a specific role customer and partner role persona that Salesforce has defined.

Salesforce Certified Persona Roles

 Salesforce certified personas are spread across six roles:

  • Admin
  • Developer
  • Marketer
  • Designer
  • Consultant
  • Architect

These certifications are globally recognized achievements that Trailblazers can earn to highlight their expertise and skills in a specific topic or product. Varying in skill level from the initial Salesforce Administrator exam up to the Technical Architect board review, there are plenty of certifications for you to consider in your journey. 

Check out the amazing visual on this page, which our friends at SalesforceBen put together to highlight the different certification pathways available to you.

Certification Exam Details

Each exam typically consists of 60-65 multiple choice questions. You’ll notice that each exam provides a specific percentage of questions you need to answer correctly to successfully pass the exam. 

These passing percentages are important to pay attention to as you prepare for your exam date. For example, you may be able to pass the Data Architect exam with only 58% of the questions correct, but the newer Business Analyst certification needs 72% correct for you to pass. 

For those who have attempted exams but might not have passed, some exams are moving toward just 3 multiple choice answers for each question and could make the experience easier for those who have a hard time picking the best answer for each question.

Why Should You Get Salesforce Certified?

So now you have some knowledge of what Salesforce certifications are, but you might be wondering “why should I bother getting certified?” 

Boost Your Career

As mentioned earlier, Salesforce certifications are widely recognized and can even potentially help when transitioning into other careers. That’s because they showcase transferable industry skills. They are also considered a resume-worthy accomplishment that will definitely help you stand out in the job market. 

According to a survey from the 2022-23 Mason Frank Careers and Hiring Guide, 86% of respondents said Salesforce certifications help professionals stand out in a competitive job market, and 90% of Salesforce certified respondents said their certifications make them more marketable. 

Source: Mason Frank

Prove it to Yourself

For myself and many others, certifications have become a source of personal gratification. If you are doubting yourself when it comes to a specific topic, it’s amazing when you’re able to prove to yourself and to others that you have the knowledge of that Salesforce topic. 

It is worth noting that going after a Salesforce certification with minimal experience is not usually advised as a certification can never stand in the way of actual experience of a Salesforce product/feature. Finally, certifications showcase your commitment to your personal and professional development and can ultimately provide you an opportunity to boost your earning potential.

Story Time! How We Got Our Salesforce Certifications

Andrea and I have had very different experiences when it came to our Salesforce journeys, as with everyone else. But I love that our journeys have slightly connected as we both strive to provide the best experience to our clients at Sercante. 

I knew who Andrea was, especially since we were both based in Atlanta for two years. But I never imagined working for her company or speaking next to her at a Salesforce event. 

This is why I love when trailblazers share their journeys; people realize that they can have similar experiences as long as they show a willingness to learn and lean on the community. Who knows, maybe you’ll join us at Sercante in the future as well… (we’re hiring!)

Andrea’s Certification Journey

Andrea Tarrell, CEO and founder of Sercante and The Spot, began her Salesforce career as most of us have: as an accidental admin. 

Working as the one-woman marketing department for an insurance brokerage, Andrea was tasked with learning Salesforce at HNI Risk as the company didn’t have a Salesforce administrator at the time.

Andrea wasn’t interested in getting a certification during this time because she didn’t see the value in them. But, she started to appreciate the Salesforce ecosystem when she caught the Salesforce bug at Dreamforce in 2011. “Without exaggeration, attending Dreamforce was truly a pivotal moment in my career trajectory,” Andrea said. This was also her first introduction to Marketing Cloud Account Engagement (Pardot), and the experience led her to implementing Pardot at HNI shortly after.

Joining the Salesforce Partner Community

During the Summer of 2016, Andrea decided to leave the Wisconsin area to head down to Atlanta, Georgia without any jobs or friends in place. She later joined the Salesforce partner, Configuro, as the Pardot practice lead and director of marketing and suddenly had a reason to get certified. 

Salesforce consultancies usually request their employees get certain certifications to determine their tier ranking in the Salesforce AppExchange. So, Andrea knew she had to make up for lost time. 

Over the course of a year at Configuro, she achieved six Salesforce certifications, including the retired Marketing Cloud Social Specialist certification. During this time, she also leaned on the Trailblazer Community heavily to network as much as she could.

Founding a Salesforce Consulting Firm

After starting The Spot for Pardot (now officially The Spot) in September 2017, Andrea started to consider opening up her own consultancy as well. Sercante was born and has grown into a nearly 70-employee consultancy with expertise in Salesforce, Marketing Cloud Account Engagement (Pardot), Marketing Cloud Engagement (OG Marketing Cloud/Exact Target), and various other services such as analytics and digital services. 

Andrea noticed a new fire to continue learning things relevant to her clients early on and achieved an additional six certifications over the course of a few months. She has also been named a Salesforce MVP as well as a Salesforce Marketing Champion and serves on a few Partner Advisory Boards as she continues to strive to make marketers successful on the Salesforce platform.

Still not sure about getting Salesforce certified? Read Andrea’s hot take on the value of certifications in this blog post.

My Certification Journey

Similar to Andrea, my Salesforce career began right out of college when I moved down to Atlanta, Georgia to join the Atlanta Braves as a CRM and Analytics Trainee. 

The Braves were using Microsoft Dynamics at the time, and they were beginning their migration to Salesforce. While completing data analysis tasks, I started to learn Salesforce on my own when I saw a need within the organization. 

Getting Promoted to an Accidental Admin Role

By the time we went live with the implementation in July 2018, I was promoted to CRM specialist and served as the Salesforce and Pardot admin while working closely with the newly hired Salesforce developer. I went for my first certification in December of that year. Then I tackled three more in an effort to prove to myself and my coworkers that I was worthy of the Salesforce and Pardot admin role. 

When I decided to move on from my role at the Atlanta Braves, I took three certifications in the same weekend (Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, and Advanced Admin) to bolster my resume for future roles right before I left Atlanta.

Focusing on Community

In December 2019, I moved back up to Boston, Massachusetts with no job prospects in place. Thankfully, I was able to find a job with my alma mater, Northeastern University. 

During this time, I took a step back from my focus on learning to focusing on getting more involved in the Salesforce community. I was happy to serve as a co-leader of the Boston Women in Tech community group. 

The community group leadership role inspired me to apply for a spot in the inaugural Salesforce Marketing Champion class, to which I was accepted. It was definitely a shock to me at the time since I was no longer in a marketing-related role when I worked at Northeastern. That’s why I worked to earn my Pardot Consultant certification.  I wanted to prove that I was worthy of being a Marketing Champion. 

After achieving the Pardot Consultant certification, I earned one more certification during two years at Northeastern: Education Cloud Consultant. I ended my time with Northeastern just one certification shy of my ultimate 10 certification goal.

Becoming a Salesforce Consultant

Now onto my third and current Salesforce job. I started my consulting career with Sercante in September 2021. I came in with certification goals in mind, but working at Sercante has provided me with a new perspective on certifications. 

My focus should not only be on my personal growth, but also on the company’s growth as we look to take on new clients with different needs. I went for three certifications in the first few months to reach my goal of 10 and display some of the more recent experience I had, such as Experience Cloud from Northeastern, and Nonprofit Cloud from my first major Salesforce implementation at Sercante.

Now as I have moved into a more technical role at Sercante and have failed exams that I was nowhere ready to take (looking at you CPQ Specialist), my career and certification goals have become more defined. I am now looking to move toward the Application Architect and B2B Solution Architect certifications over the next year while continuing to learn new features and products to serve my clients’ needs. 

If you want to learn more about my overall Salesforce journey and my answer to the commonly asked question: “Can someone have too many certifications?” stay tuned for more articles from me. You can also get my take on how to keep imposter syndrome at bay in this blog post.

Tips for Success

Now that you’ve learned about Andrea’s and my certification journey, you may be wondering what certification you should work toward. While I believe everyone’s journey is different and do not need to follow the same path, we wanted to highlight which certifications are best to start with depending on which role path makes the most sense for you.

Which Salesforce Certification to Earn First

Here’s where you should start on your Salesforce certification path depending on the type of role you currently hold or are looking to fill.

Which Salesforce Certification to Earn First

Everyone —> Salesforce Associate
Awesome Admin —> Salesforce Administrator
Daring Developers —> Platform Developer 1
Dream Designer —> User Experience Designer
Moment Marketer —> Marketing Cloud Administrator / Pardot Specialist
Confident Consultant —> Business Analyst
All-Star Architect —> Platform App Builder

Regardless of which role path you take, we also recommend that you start with the new Salesforce Associate certification as a great introduction to the Salesforce platform as a whole. Read a guide to earning that certification in this blog post.

How to Study for Salesforce Certification Exams

When if comes to studying for your exams, there are multiple places you can go to get the expertise and knowledge you need to take the exam:

  • Trailhead: This should be your first stop on any certification journey as you’ll be able to find the following for nearly every certification. View all Salesforce credential guides here.
    • Certification Exam Guides
    • Certification Trailmixes
    • Superbadges
  • Community User Groups: There are user groups all over the world that are run by members of the community, similar to myself. The discussion topic of the meetings vary by time of year and by group, but some might be specific to certain certifications. I helped develop an annual (virtual) certification camp amongst the Boston groups that have met two years now and already have plans to come back in Fall 2023 to tackle another certification. Find all Trailblazer Community Group listings here.
  • Training Courses: You will find many training courses out there, but I highly recommend you look at reviews and make sure the content in the course is accurate. If you are in the marketing space, I highly recommend you check out one of Sercante’s training courses in the new year. I’m taking the Salesforce Marketing Cloud Bootcamp Course starting in January and would love to see some of you there as well!
  • Salesforce Certification Days: These are half day webinars that Salesforce periodically runs for multiple certifications such as Admin, Sales Cloud Consultant, Platform Developer 1, and more.
  • Amplify Study Groups: Amplify is a nonprofit organization that amplifies historically excluded voices in technology, and those who support them, to become fearless leaders. They offer study groups to their members, typically on a seasonal basis, for certain certifications. You can also sign up to be a facilitator for these study groups as well if you’re looking to share your knowledge. Become a member here.
  • Blog Posts: This one might seem obvious as you’re already on our blog site, but many Salesforce blogs share articles on specific certifications to help provide tips and tricks on how to pass them. Here’s the blogs that Sercante has produced so far:

Next Steps Toward Getting Salesforce Certified

We hope the resources and perspectives in this post are helpful to you as you work toward your own Salesforce certifications.

Hot Tip: Check out this page to read more about the certification journeys of my colleagues. 

We would also love to hear from you on your certification journeys! Please leave a comment below or mention us online using the #certificationjourney hashtag.

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  • Jordyn Jaffer (she/her) is currently a Marketing Automation Strategist at Sercante, specializing in Pardot and Salesforce support. After graduating from Northeastern University with a BS in Mathematics, she began her Salesforce/Pardot career as the accidental admin for the Atlanta Braves and became the expert for all things Salesforce and Pardot for the organization. Upon leaving the Braves at the end of 2019, she moved back up to the northeast and started working in the Student Financial Services department at her alma mater. She helped implement FinancialForce and Northeastern’s first community portal as one of the Salesforce Administrators for the university. Now at Sercante, Jordyn works with clients to implement Pardot and Salesforce and provides additional support and training when needed. Her motivation to continue learning the Salesforce platform and bringing that knowledge to others has helped her thrive in her role thus far. Outside of work, she enjoys drinking beer, hanging with her pets, attempting to read a book, and thoroughly enjoying all sorts of television shows.

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