Having a direct impact on company revenue is a great way to get ahead, and a career shift to Salesforce development can help you do exactly that. Salesforce.com presents a major opportunity for developers, not only in providing customization and implementation support but also in developing apps for Salesforce’s AppExchange business app marketplace.
Salesforce.com has grown rapidly as a platform, providing CRM and marketing automation services in the cloud to sales staff, health workers, fundraisers, and other professionals around the world. Its ecosystem provides opportunities to consultants, marketing firms, and app developers, who have contributed more than 3,000 apps to AppExchange to date.
An increased demand for marketing intelligence, sales outreach, and lead generation has fueled a hot job market for developers targeting Salesforce.com. Here we provide a look at how you can cash in on this trend.
The Salesforce job market
The market for Salesforce talent is robust, with Monster.com reporting more than 1,000 job postings for Salesforce developers and related roles, including Salesforce architect and Salesforce consultant, as of June 2016. Companies are willing to pay top dollar; $120,000 is the average U.S. salary for Salesforce developers, according to CareerBuilder.
“I see a large demand for Salesforce development talent across every geographic region and industry,” explains Mike Wheeler, who teaches Introduction to Salesforce Certifications and Career Planning and The Complete Salesforce Administrator Certification Course at Udemy.com. “Contract rates for developers ranges from $65 to $85 per hour usually. Architect roles start at $150,000+ for annual salary and commonly exceed $200,000.”
Wheeler is a Registered Salesforce Partner and holds several Salesforce certifications, including the Salesforce Certified Sales Cloud Consultant credential and the Salesforce Certified Platform App Builder credential. He receives multiple inquiries from recruiters based on his LinkedIn profile each week.
“Cloud for Good hired 15 new consultants during the past 12 months, and we plan to hire about 30 additional employees over the next 12 months. Everyone we hire has extensive Salesforce experience combined with nonprofit and consulting exposure,” says Tal Frankfurt, CEO of Cloud for Good, a consulting firm in North Carolina.
“We expect to hire another 20 to 30 people for Marketing Cloud implementations alone,” adds Josh Pierry, CEO of Pierry Software, which focuses on Salesforce Marketing Cloud integrations and implementations. “The opportunity is incredible right now.”
That opportunity includes rising interest in analytics and marketing automation, led by early pioneers such as Amazon, to improve the bottom line; solving challenges around delivering effective social media and email marketing at scale; and increased demand for customization in managing customer data.
Switching to Salesforce: The digital agency route
Digital agencies that specialize in internet marketing strategies are among the chief organizations hiring Salesforce developers.
“The engineering team at DEG is growing, and that includes Salesforce specialists,” says Jim Nagorska, Salesforce Marketing Cloud engineering team lead at DEG Digital. Based in Kansas, DEG has more than 150 employees serving clients such as Mozilla, UMB Bank, and Hallmark Baby. Email marketing is a major focus for DEG.
“I have used Salesforce Marketing Cloud on a variety of email campaigns: weekly promotional emails, customer birthday emails, and welcome campaigns,” Nagorska says. “Abandon-cart email campaigns -- where a prospect has added items to their online shopping cart but does not purchase -- have been highly effective.”
A key skill in this area is database management. “Prior to working on Salesforce, I had developed database skills working with SQL Server, Microsoft Access, and other database services,” Nagorska says.
“Prior to DEG, I was at another organization where my role was IT administration/senior production programmer. In 2008, I had my first exposure to Salesforce products when I was asked to work on a product,” Nagorska says. He joined DEG in 2011 with a focus on ExactTarget messaging platform. In 2013, Salesforce acquired ExactTarget and subsequently rebranded the product as Salesforce Marketing Cloud.
Nagorska took a self-study approach to learning Salesforce products.
“In addition to experimentation, I have participated in the annual Salesforce conference called Connections,” he explains. The conference includes tracks on data integration, email marketing, and analytics. Salesforce also provides webinars, online training, and developer accounts to help professionals learn the products. “Salesforce periodically introduces new features such as AudienceBuilder, which was interesting. This provides a way to manipulate data without SQL,” he says.
Salesforce opportunities beyond sales and marketing
Salesforce.com is well-known as a means for helping sales staff close deals and manage customer information, but that’s only part of its opportunity for development skills.
“In June 2016, I started as a Salesforce business analyst at Philips Healthcare. In this role, I work with InfoView, which is a biomedical and imaging equipment asset management tracking software built on Salesforce,” explains Jill Remley, who previously worked in the banking industry.
Prior to her role at Philips, Remley had some experience with Salesforce as a user tracking sales and similar activities at a payroll company. “I also served as a Salesforce administrator for a nonprofit for about a year before getting certified and making this my career,” she explains.
Remley has also invested in her professional skills. “I used Salesforce’s Trailheads training, took Mike Wheeler’s Udemy Salesforce courses, and have earned a Salesforce administrator [certification],” she adds.
Remley’s experience shows that Salesforce skills can be applied in several industries that may not be immediately obvious: nonprofits, payroll firms, and health care organizations.
Many recruiters are searching for Salesforce talent to fill a variety of roles.
“I have placed a range of independent consultants from Salesforce project manager/architect to admins and developers. Many of our recent clients have been in the education field and seek high-level project managers or architects,” explains Alexandra Aycock, delivery specialist at EdgeRock Technology Partners.
“While technical knowledge and experience are essential, they are not enough for professionals interested in pursuing senior roles or moving into consulting roles,” Aycock adds.
Yes, developers can create a career performing heads-down coding for Apex (Salesforce.com’s programming language) and Visualforce (its UI framework), but they should still be able to speak with the business. “Soft skills and communication are highly important,” Aycock says.
Salesforce training resources
There are a variety of paths for breaking into Salesforce development. One place to start would be to explore the resources offered directly by Salesforce, which has created several online and offline communities to help developers grow their skills. “Superbadges and Trailhead Trails are two ways that Salesforce developers can demonstrate their interest and skills with Salesforce,” says Wheeler.
What do these self-guided training programs involve?
Superbadges are microcredentials that cover four competencies: Apex, security, Lightning Experience (Salesforce’s process automation platform), and reports and dashboards. Superbadges are a low-commitment introduction to the Salesforce ecosystem. The reports and dashboards superbadge takes approximately six hours to earn.
Salesforce describes its superbadges as a precursor to determine readiness for certification. They are also a way to gauge your interest levels in a Salesforce career. “I would recommend completing as many Trailhead modules as possible. Every skill set is covered -- whether you are a developer or an admin, Trailhead includes tools to test your knowledge of the platform,” says Frankfurt.
Salesforce Trails are online guided learning paths through modules and projects. They are offered at three skill levels: beginner, intermediate, and advanced, with only two trails available at the advanced level. The Develop with Mobile SDK (covering iOS, Android, and hybrid mobile apps) could be a promising entry point for mobile developers seeking to expand their range.
For a deeper experience, Salesforce offers several certifications, including Administrator ($200) and Architect ($400) certs. Experienced coders can start with the Platform Developer I credential; others familiar with coding can begin with the Force.com Advanced Developer credential first. Those with little to no technical background should pursue the Salesforce Administrator certification first. This enables you to learn the platform and go down the path of becoming either an administrator, consultant, or a developer, explains Wheeler.
Rounding out your Salesforce dev résumé
Data skills are an important ingredient to success in Salesforce development.
“My initial work with Salesforce came through an ad hoc request when I was in a previous role,” explains Nagorka. “My expertise at manipulating data with SQL queries, Excel, and other methods helped me learn the product.” The ability to evaluate data quality and transform it to meet client requirements is also helpful.
For Pierry Software, Salesforce certifications are essential.
“Salesforce certification is a minimum requirement needed for any aspiring Salesforce developer. At our company, we only work with certified developers, so you won’t make it past HR if you don’t have one,” Pierry says. “If you are new to the space, my advice is to earn the Salesforce Admin Certification, plus a Marketing Cloud certification. Our ideal candidate has the certifications and a couple of years’ experience working on the platform.”
A foundation of non-Salesforce skills is also important.
“We like our developers to have familiarity working on data structures, ETL process, and ideally some programing experience,” Pierry adds. For those interested in Salesforce Marketing Cloud, a robust understanding of digital marketing channels such as email and SMS is helpful.
To achieve long-term growth in Salesforce development at an implementation firm, professionals need more than tech skills.
“Success and growth at our company comes as a result of outstanding client service, creative solutions, and the ability to upsell the client authentically and appropriately,” Pierry says. “Our star performers leverage their familiarity with the technology to solve a real pain point for the client.”
In addition, Pierry finds it helpful to read industry publications such as Ad Age, Media Post, and Adweek.
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This story, "Hot job alert: Become a Salesforce coder" was originally published by InfoWorld.