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When Jenn Sanders started her CRM consulting business in 2010, she settled for low pay and less-than-desirable clients. Believing she lacked the expertise to command big, or even respectable, fees, Sanders asked for -- and got -- $16 per hour for her first consulting gig.
Lacking Salesforce certification at the time, it seemed as if clients trusted her to handle only small tasks. And her client list was nothing to write home about: a roll off dumpster company and a business that specialized in diaper cakes.
Years earlier, Sanders' mother -- a technologist who had worked for Texas Instruments -- told her, "You learn Salesforce, girl, and that will be your meal ticket." Taking that advice to heart, Sanders took the Salesforce administrator course in November of 2013, and earned her first Salesforce certification.
Flash forward to April 2017, and Sanders now holds four Salesforce certifications: the two available administrator credentials, a Sales Cloud Consultant certification under the implementation expert umbrella and a Certified Force.com Developer certification which is being phased out, which has prompted her to spend the next year earning an App Builders certification.
With quadruple recognition from Salesforce University, as the certification program is called, Sanders now has the confidence to laugh at her first consulting fee. Around the time she earned her first certification, Sanders had increased her fee to $75 per hour. Armed now with four Salesforce credentials, she has no problem commanding $125 per hour. Her mother's advice, she said, was right.
Salesforce administrator course opens doors
The administrator track is designed for professionals who focus on the administrative functions of a Salesforce solution in their workplace. With a deep organizational understanding of Salesforce, it defines user requirements, customizes the platform for a user's needs and helps users maximize their solutions.
For Sanders, who works and lives in Austin, Tex., this means serving as a Salesforce administration coach of sorts for clients. One client took her on as a consultant, and, after reviewing her credentials, told Sanders to evaluate its Salesforce Pardot B2B Marketing system and build it out as she saw fit. The client gave very few instructions, leaving Sanders in charge.
Sanders believes her certifications, alongside her experience and knowledge, adds heft to her resume. As her consultancy has grown, and as she has become more adept at Salesforce, her projects "became bigger and better, with me going more from being at a mechanical level of administrator, doing only configurations and following clients' directions, to being more at an architectural level, planning and making critical decisions."
As described by Salesforce, the Certified Administrator credential is for candidates with "extensive knowledge of Salesforce customization and configuration who also are skilled at managing users and exploring how to get the most out of the platforms' capabilities."
A candidate for the Certified Administrator certification has 90 minutes to complete 60 multiple-choice questions, and must notch a 65% score to pass. The exam seeks to find out if a candidate can manage users, data and security; maintain and customize Sales Cloud and Service Cloud applications; and build reports, dashboards and workflows.
To take a Certified Advanced Administrator exam, the next highest certification, candidates should have experience using the advanced administration capabilities in Salesforce and be highly proficient in designing advanced reports, dashboards and automation processes.
Here, candidates also have 90 minutes to complete 63 multiple-choice questions about "leveraging the advanced administration capabilities of Salesforce; optimizing Sales Cloud and Service Cloud applications; and designing advanced reports, dashboards and business process automations." Again, 65% is the minimum passing score.
An opportunity to teach certification courses
Both administrator exams cost $200, with a retake fee of $100. The two certification tracks also require holders to take three exams annually to maintain their status. These exams cover new solution releases, and cost $100 each.
Sanders got a half-off discount on exam costs for three of her initial certification tests because she took them at Dreamforce shows. Not to mention, companies that she previously worked for, while running her consultancy on the side, paid for all but one of her exams.
She didn't find the exams difficult -- and, in fact, she didn't study for any of them -- because she had already become familiar with Salesforce customization, management and other concepts while consulting. But she did fail her initial Certified Force.com Developer exam because, although she thought it would quiz her knowledge of computer code, it didn't. She wasn't familiar with what was actually on the exam: the terminology describing how Salesforce was built.
Sanders said she also didn't expect the Certified Force.com Developer certification to be retired in March 2018, but its sunset is a reflection of how it isn't based in code, she said. She'll have to prepare anew for when this category segues into the App Builders certification class.
The $50 increase in Sanders' hourly pay and the way she is viewed by prospective clients more than justifies the money she and employers have spent on her training and annual update exams, she said. But her four certifications have opened yet another door: She was accepted into Salesforce University's instructor certification program this year. After 90 days of training, including a week of teaching alongside a master instructor, and yet another exam, Sanders can become an administrator instructor.
She was fortunate to find a backer to foot the $10,000 cost, and is looking forward to a new chapter of work with a "PhD in Salesforce," she quipped.
Having four certifications, including the two administrator credentials, "definitely gave me a boost in earnings," Sanders said. "I also could have never had an opportunity like the instructor program. This all wouldn't have happened at all."
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