The Accidental Admins are fellow Salesforce travelers with educations and career paths that point everywhere but a career in technology.
We all stumbled across Salesforce quite unintentionally and mostly through a manager saying, ‘hey, so you are going to be in charge of our Salesforce project.’ Since then, we have all built a career around the platform in different ways – some as local admins, others as consultants – but we all share the same enthusiasm for Salesforce and how it can transform careers & lives.
We are sharing a bit of everything we’ve learned along the way, a mix of the personal & professional, and plan to bring a unique voice to the Trailblazer community. We hope that this site can serve as an inspiration to other accidentals, a resource for our fellow Trailblazers and maybe be a little entertaining along the way – The Accidental Admins
Tom Hoffman – Lost & Found
Pittsburgh Admin User Group Leader | Practice Lead @ Spark.Orange | Salesforce MVP
Smart kid with lots of potential goes to college and makes every bad decision possible, returning to his rural town of 700, rudderless and with no a direction in life. Yup…that was me.
After a handful of more poor choices and false starts, I started to find my way. As I was moving between careers and side-gigs though, I never had a sense of security about where I was going or felt sure about my future until I found Salesforce. For fun…here is a quick list of jobs I’ve had along the way:
- Layout & Classified Pagination @ Delaware State News
- Computer to Plate Tech @ Delaware Printing Company
- Substance Abuse Counselor @ Delaware Correctional facilities
- Pledge Campaign Associate @ United Way of Delaware
- Clinical Supervisor – Therapeutic Communities @ State Correctional Institute Pittsburgh
- Therapeutic Support Specialist @ After-school program with children on the Autism Spectrum
- Foundation Director @ AMD3 Foundation & Team Leader for Operation Walk
- Campaign Manager @ State Representative Campaign
Nothing screaming business & technology consultant huh? My accidental admin story begins with my time at AMD3; choosing a CRM solution was one of my first important tasks at the foundation and 10 free .org licenses was the only sales pitch that worked on me!
I became the de facto admin, failing spectacularly at first, eventually achieving some great successes that led to substantial growth with fundraising and managing programs across 4 business units. I became more interested in the platform and it was at a Salesforce.org event that I met fellow Accidental Admin, Kristi. That night we decided to co-found the Pittsburgh Non-Profit User Group to support other organizations making the same journey.
Since starting the group, with help from a few mentors and after a lengthy search, I was able to make the transition to full-time Salesforce work. Since then, I’ve been working on my craft, learning from others, and trying to help fellow accidentals along the way.
Kristi Dellinger – Global Do-Gooder
Pittsburgh Non-Profit User Group Leader | Salesforce Consultant @ CGI
In 1997 Madeline Albright became the highest ranking federal government official in US history and a pre-teen began to dream of following in her footsteps. I had long dreamed of venturing beyond the US borders and her appointment aspired me to even bigger things. In college, I grew more focused on the world of disaster relief logistics. It took me to New York City and the United Nations to research humanitarian crises and Pittsburgh with AmeriCorps where my first week on the job was spent responding to a hurricane in Cuba.
But real life had other plans and I was just along for the ride. I returned home to take on a critical role in the family business when a medical crisis threatened everything. After spending many years honing my skills in process improvement, logistics, and customer service with the family business, I returned to my passion, taking a job in logistics and inventory management with an international medical aid organization.
When we realized that the current silos were not going to work to grow the organization, we began searching for a solution and stumbled onto Salesforce as a means of managing volunteers, recording monetary donations, and tracking the life cycle of medical supply donations. It certainly wasn’t love at first sight. I was the admin for this new system that most people seemed to hate. As the days past, I started seeing the potential. We could really do great things.
Tom and I came from similar circles, our organizations having teamed up on various projects in the past but it wasn’t until one fateful night at a Salesforce.org event that the wheels were put into motion. One could say the rest is history. When the time came to think about making a change, I was able to make the move to full time Salesforce work and begin spreading my love of Salesforce to others. If someone were to offer me the opportunity to work logistics for World Food Programme, I would jump at it, but until then, being an accidental admin is a great journey.
Kenny Barry – From Architect to Architect
Salesforce Consultant @ CGI
My first year as a Salesforce user – let alone admin – was like drinking from a firehose. Before ever logging a case or creating a lead, I was at Salesforce University’s Destination Success earning my ADM201 cert with nothing but a few Trailheads under my belt. Never did I expect that week of training to be more impactful for my career than my graduate degree.
My typically atypical #AccidentalAdmin story began with an undergrad in economics and architecture building both econometric models and scale models. Lacking the patience for a PhD or the insanity required of an architecture career, I set out to channel this knowledge into a career in economic development through a Master of Public Policy.
I spent my first few years in the real world managing programs designed to create jobs, finance public infrastructure, and develop underutilized real estate. Though I planted the seeds for an admin career with courses like database management and change management, I could never be truly prepared for the next chapter of my life.
As a result of asking too many questions about our organization’s data and processes, I suddenly found myself managing the client side of a large-scale Salesforce implementation project, a responsibility which naturally grew into an admin role. Since then, I’ve logged a number of admin success and horror stories while Tom has continued to groom me as a Padawan intent on becoming a declarative Jedi.
As a consultant, I now live for opportunities to win the adoption of technophobes, cut the fat from “because we’ve always done it this way” business processes, and customize Salesforce to do things it was never designed to do.
Becky Willis – About that Master’s in Teaching
Pittsburgh Women-in-Tech User Group Leader | Senior Salesforce Consultant at M&S Consulting
Growing up, I always wanted to become a teacher. My dreams were to teach elementary school kids to love math and science, my two favorite subjects. Like my fellow Accidental Admins, life sure had other plans.
After spending three years teaching in South Carolina, I decided to quit mid-year and move back home to raise my daughter near family. Truth be told, I owe my whole career to my lil’ Trailblazer. You see, once we moved, I found myself working in the IT department of a Pittsburgh grocery store chain, logging years of tech equipment into an Access Database. Word got around that I liked numbers and reporting and had a knack for the analysis that goes along with it. When I went on a maternity leave, I came back to work to find out I’d had another baby while I was out – I would be helping bring Salesforce Service Cloud to our help desks and had landed a role on the project implementation team.
I immediately started drinking the Salesforce Kool-Aid, learning more than I needed to as a Business Analyst / Reports Admin. Configuring buttons and visualforce pages, drag-and-drop changes to UI and reports, and seeing efficiencies happen before my eyes had me hooked. Before I knew it, I was configuring the IT help desk’s Service Cloud and would take on support and administration of their entire Salesforce org after two years working with the tool.
Life had other plans for me and just as my first org was about to go away from Salesforce, the User Group network helped me land a new role as Salesforce Admin for Excel4apps, a software development company where “if it’s not in Salesforce it didn’t happen”. In 2018, just days after having my first cert exam failure learning experience, I came home from Dreamforce to find out the company had been sold and I needed to find a new place to love where I worked. Along came the opportunity to consult with M&S Consulting and in the time since joining them I’ve had experiences with several different industries and ways to use Salesforce that it has been like getting another degree without all the books and tests. I also am 3x certified – Advanced Admin + Service Cloud Consultant – and looking to add Non Profit Cloud Consultant to my list in 2020.
I’m still using that teaching degree when it comes time to share the love of Salesforce with fellow trailblazers at my clients, amongst my team, and in the Pittsburgh Women in Tech User Group. That dream sure transformed thanks to the Salesforce Ohana. I’m still working to make the world a better place, one click at a time.
Shannon Gregg – Oh, so that’s what you do with a Lit Degree
Head of Business Development Operations @ Acurian, Inc.
It’s contagious…come close only if you dare!
Jess C – Is duct tape available on AppExchange?
…there’s no point talking about anything prior to 2011. It’ll be irrelevant, and given how hard I partied in my early 20s, likely to be highly inaccurate.
However, when the fog cleared and it became clear that I’d exhausted every possibility of a ‘real’ job gained by conventional means (CV, first stage interview, “love that tie Bob”), I turned to the world’s oldest profession. Consultancy.
I developed a particular niche in working with small construction businesses – undoubtedly owing to the tons of relevant construction experience I’d amassed as a literature dropout.
I cut my teeth in the deeply dull world of Quality Management System Accreditation, drafting and implementing policies and procedures and guiding companies through annual audits of these systems. It’s work I deeply loathed, so it shouldn’t surprise you that to this day I maintain 11 of these accreditations for my current employer.
But the work gave me an eye for designing efficient procedures, so over time, more of my clients began to utilize me for more generic business advice:
Client: “I want more of the money, quicker.”
Me: “Yes, that would be good. Do these three things to get more of the money, quicker.”
Client: “Wow! That’s brilliant. Also I need an extra accreditation for my Quality Management system.”
And then one day in 2015 a conversation went like this:
Client: “I’m just about to invest in Salesforce licenses.”
Me: “Cool, what’s that?”
I was so fascinated with finding the answer to my question that I stopped taking on other clients and spent a year tinkering with the platform. When the contract came to an end, I knew I wanted more than anything to be a salesforce consultant. So I knew exactly what I had to do. Can you guess?
If you guessed “take a permanent position in a small but successful construction firm using a unique blend of paper, spreadsheets and – yes, that’s a fax machine in the corner, fight tooth and nail for your first license and roll Salesforce out to one disinterested user as a time,” then you just earned yourself a gold star. Go you!
Next stop, ADM201.