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Most experienced Salesforce admins did not set out with that goal in mind. Most of us fell ass-backward into it, enjoyed it so much that we stuck with it, and voila! A career happened. But the massive growth of Salesforce.com has attracted a lot of attention, and as their customer base expands, so does the need for admins and consultants. I’ve been asked, “How do I become a Salesforce admin?” quite a bit lately, and it has made me realize that the next generation of admins will most likely pursue that path, rather than stumble upon it by accident. Future Salesforce admins, this one is for you!

1. Determine what you want Salesforce to do. Do you have a full understanding of CRMs and all that they can do? If you had your own company, what would prompt you to seek out a CRM? If you don’t know business processes and how they can be improved, you can still become a Salesforce admin. However, business analysis is a large part of Salesforce administration, and without that part, you run the risk of making decisions which do not support core processes.

2. Sign up for a developer org. The best way to learn anything is by doing. Start by signing up for your own developer org – don’t be intimidated by all of the “developer” stuff on the page, it’s just a free Salesforce environment of your very own. You can create records, customize it, and try out anything you are curious about. Even if you already work for an organization that uses Salesforce, it’s best to try out your new skills someplace where you won’t affect real data (think flight simulation training for pilots – makes sense, right?). Once you’ve got your developer org, go right to the next step…

3. Read Salesforce.com for Dummies. There’s no need to struggle through Salesforce in the dark like I did, back in the days before admin blogs and certifications. This book will cover the basics and save you a lot of unnecessary searching. Of course it can’t keep up with all of the latest features – however, it contains enough basic information to still be very useful, just be sure to get the latest version.

4. Play! There are some exercises in Salesforce.com for Dummies, start with those. Create some data in your developer org. Create some imaginary users. Create custom fields, change page layouts around, and see what it looks like. Think about step #1 – business processes – and come up with a hypothetical business need that would require Salesforce customizations. While you are experimenting, click the “Help for this Page” link that is in the upper right of each page – this will take you to the help documentation for whatever object you were on, but it also has a complete list of help topics on the left for you to browse.

5. Watch some videos. Every year, there are hundreds of sessions at Dreamforce, many of them targeted at admins of all experience levels. Check out the Dreamforce YouTube page and watch the ones that look interesting to you.

6. Join the community. Salesforce has one of the best user communities I have ever seen. Ask questions, check out ideas that other people have posted (many of which were turned into features), and search for help on anything and everything.

7. Go to Dreamforce. If you or your employer can afford it, I highly recommend going to Dreamforce. It can be overwhelming, but go with a plan and you will come back with some great knowledge. I wrote a blog on Dreamforce preparation last year that you should check out beforehand. Oh, and you’ll want to make your hotel reservations now. The hotels nearest to the convention center are already full!

8. Keep learning! Having been a Salesforce admin for almost six years, I can say with absolute certainty that there will always be more to learn. And I’m sure I will be able to say that in another six years. Keep digging and learning – I find that when I begin to get bored, it means it’s time for me to try something new. Check out the Chatter workbook, the Analytics workbook, the the Security workbook – lots of fun stuff in there! (Where do you think I get some of my blog ideas?) Look into certification – you can take the admin training class, or you can just study like crazy and take the exam. And when you feel like you are really up for a challenge, start reading the Force.com Fundamentals book, and going through the exercises in your developer org. That was one of my favorite learning experiences!

I hope this is useful info for all of you new and soon-to-be admins out there! Please feel free to comment if you have additional advice.

Oh and last but not least… read my blog. Duh.

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