Welcome back to another S-Docs Salesforce MVP Spotlight, where we highlight some of the most inspiring and influential individuals in the Salesforce community. As a native Salesforce app, we’ve had the advantage of working with hundreds of incredible admins, developers, architects, and other extraordinary people who make the community great. We’ll provide you with an exclusive look into their Salesforce journeys, featuring best practices, career advice, and favorite ways they give back to the community.
Salesforce MVP Spotlight: Brendan Conroy
Brendan Conroy is a 5x Salesforce MVP who’s an expert in implementing and administering Salesforce to help global corporations use the platform to its full potential. He currently holds five Salesforce certifications, including Administrator, Sales Cloud Consultant, and Service Cloud Consultant.
Brendan is more than just a Salesforce authority -- he also leverages the platform to help others gain a foothold in the ecosystem and learn Salesforce themselves. He’s a four-time instructor of a Salesforce Certified Administrator self-study course, a two-time instructor of the Advanced Administrator session series for the Salesforce Community, and an educator for Trailhead’s official Salesforce Fundamentals Program. To top it all off, he’s a mentor for the Trailblazer Mentorship Program and an active participant in the Trailblazer Answers Community.
Currently, Brendan is a Senior Business Systems Analyst at Twitter. Since his start with Salesforce seven years ago, he’s become an expert in all things Salesforce, an invaluable resource for the community, and one of the first 100 people to ever receive the Salesforce MVP title. We sat down with him to hear about his journey to becoming an MVP, his expert advice, and favorite ways of giving back.
"With all the help that the community has given me in my past, I almost feel obligated to extend the same to others."
Tell us about your journey to MVP status.
I was applying for a Director of Sales position about seven years ago. Midway through the interview, my soon-to-be boss told me that the job was already filled -- but they did have an opening for a Salesforce Administrator position.
I had no experience with Salesforce at the time, but I had been an admin for five other CRM systems in the past, so I understood the general process and accepted the job. I had four days after that to learn as much as humanly possible about Salesforce, so I went to YouTube and just started cranking through old hands-on training sessions.
Four months later, I became the head of Sales Ops. Since I had a lot of questions about Salesforce during that time, I relied on the Answers Community heavily at first. As time went on, I began answering questions myself.
Between January and October of that year, I answered over 800 questions, and that’s how I received the Salesforce MVP title initially. I was the 92nd person to become an MVP. After only 10 months, I was definitely surprised!
What are some good ways to get active in the Salesforce community?
There are a lot of ways! Answering questions on the Answers Community is one. You can also use Twitter and Linkedin to connect with folks who are established in the community like MVPs, user group leaders, or just people who actively post a lot.
Going to user groups is another great way to stay connected. If you’ve got the time, helping those who run existing ones can be very beneficial to both you and those you’re assisting.
You can also join specific groups through the Collaborate section of the Trailblazer Community. There are a lot of different industry-specific groups there that are filled with Salesforce advice tailored to your industry.
Any way you reach out and interact with the community can be beneficial.
"I think the most important thing is to think, ‘How am I gonna report on this?’ Understanding the full scope of a request before implementing it is pivotal. "
Giving back is a core focus for a lot of Salesforce MVPs. What’s your favorite way to give back?
At first, answering questions was the main way I helped people. Then I started helping people get their Salesforce certifications -- I was an instructor for a self-study ADM 201 course and the ADM 211 session series for the Salesforce Community -- and lately I’ve been doing mentorships.
I’ve had at least 5 different mentees in the last couple of months, and that’s always a really great experience. It’s typically a month-long program where we meet once a week and go over resumes, do mock-interviews, and talk about their career interests. I give them tips and tricks on how to position themselves better based on what I’ve learned during my time in the tech industry.
Another fun way I give back is going to colleges and presenting about why I love Salesforce and why students should be considering it as a potential career option. The presentations I do are something I wish I would’ve been exposed to when I was in college.
How do you find time to do it all?
With all the help that the community has given me in my past, I almost feel obligated to extend the same to others. Even if I am working 70 hour weeks, I still try to designate some time in order to help out the general community.
"My best advice to folks who are new to Salesforce would be to utilize Trailhead in order to get hands-on training within the tool and to pad out your resume."
Who in the community inspires you most?
I would say that there's two main people. One is Deepa Patel, my MVP mentor. I took one of her 15-week admin courses when I was pursuing my admin certification. After I passed, I became a session leader with her and instructed sessions for six different session series.
She's someone that has given so much back to the community. In addition to teaching multiple classes at once, she maintained the Salesforce Certification Study Group itself. She devoted a significant portion of her time to making sure that the program worked and the students really understood the curriculum so that they could ultimately pass the certification exam.
The other main person who really inspires me is James Garfield, a former Salesforce MVP. He was one of those people who immediately got back to me on the Answers Community any time I had a question while I was learning Salesforce. He’s a super bright person.
At one point, I had to completely change the object relationships at my work. He jumped on the phone for three hours and helped me through that process. There was a lot that could have gone wrong if he hadn't helped me out with that, and that's something that always resonated with me.
In addition to the people who inspire you, what else do you do to keep up to date on all things Salesforce? What resources are most helpful to you?
I think the main resource would ultimately be Trailhead. Trailhead is valuable because you can not only learn new skills, but also reflect achievements that you earn like Badges, Trailhead rank, and Superbadges on your resume.
Superbadges are great because you have to build out a reasonably complex, functioning process in Salesforce in order to achieve them. Even if you’ve never had experience with Salesforce within your actual job, you can call out superbadges during interviews and say that you’ve built a full length project that is essentially sanctioned by Salesforce itself. So my best advice to folks who are new to Salesforce would be to utilize Trailhead in order to get hands-on training within the tool and to pad out your resume.
SalesforceBen is great as well since he explains complex Salesforce functionality in plain English, so even if you’re not super familiar with the Salesforce platform, his blog’s overall presentation doesn’t use a lot of tech industry jargon and can be leveraged by newcomers to the system.
I also tend to go to YouTube a lot -- Brian Kwong, known as the Salesforce Wizard, has a great YouTube channel where he does release notes and overall functionality, particularly with Flow. He’ll show a pretty complex flow and how to set that up.
"You have to be able to interact with folks and really get to the heart of what they're asking. You have to think of things holistically."
What are some of your Salesforce best practices?
I think the most important thing is to think, ‘How am I gonna report on this?’ If you're not able to report on the data, then it may be extraneous. When I was in Salesforce consulting, the first thing I would ask is, ‘What do you want the reports to look like’? It’s just a very direct way of saying ‘What's the process, and how are you going to make the data match that.’ It can be one thing to say ‘what do you want to happen,’ but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to resonate with the data.
I also think that it’s important to break down a new request step-by-step in order to understand the “big picture” of what should happen and understand any considerations that might come out of making this change. For example, it’s common that I would get requests from users saying, “can you have an email be sent out to me every time (specific criteria) happens?” What the admin has to do with that information is to think, “okay, what are they trying to achieve here ultimately? How is that different from what they do normally? Are there any exceptions, etc?” If one does not do that, they may miss an important consideration that contradicts the request and end up making the wrong decision, resulting in frustrated end users (i.e. “We get emails about this every 5 minutes. Why is this set up this way?”).
So as a best practice, when getting new requests as an admin/developer, try to understand the full scope of what is to be achieved from an end-user standpoint, which users (internal or external) will be impacted, and if there are any issues that may have to be dealt with in the future if this is implemented. After that, determine the details such as timeline, what needs to be done in order to achieve the request, etc. I believe that understanding the full scope of a request before implementing it is pivotal.
Are there any must-have apps that you use?
It ultimately depends on the use case. Chrome extensions would be the most applicable ones that I can recommend. There's one called Quick Login As that allows admins to choose from a list of all of the users in their org and click to log in as them. I definitely recommend that one.
Another one would be Change Set Helper. I've worked with change sets prior to this extension becoming popular, and it would be such a pain to have to remember every change you've made. Change Set Helper automatically filters it for you. For example, you can filter all of the fields that were recently edited by edit and date and bring them to the top, as opposed to having to remember, “Oh, I edited these 30 fields. I better throw that into the change set.”
What’s the biggest piece of advice you have for your fellow Trailblazers?
Regardless of what industry you’re in, you have to develop some degree of social skills. As an admin, for example, you're dealing with sales, service, the C-Suites, marketing, finance...there's all kinds of departments that you're working with, so you have to be able to interact with folks and really get to the heart of what they're asking. You have to think of things holistically.
Additionally, call out Trailhead Superbadges on your resume if you have any. As I mentioned earlier, those are full-fledged projects that are essentially sanctioned by Salesforce. Even if you don't have a job that is specific to setting up Salesforce, you can do a full project life cycle by doing Superadges on Trailhead.
The Salesforce Community Advantage
As Brendan Conroy’s inspiring story shows, the Trailblazer community shines because of the many people within that are willing to dedicate their time to help others. After starting from scratch in 2013, Brendan quickly began using Salesforce to make a difference -- whether through answering questions online, teaching certification courses, or mentoring others on their own paths to success. We hope that his unique insights have inspired you to learn something new, share your knowledge, and get more connected with the Salesforce community.
To stay in the know on all things Salesforce and the community, follow Brendan on Twitter and subscribe to the S-Docs blog, where we’ll be posting more Salesforce MVP spotlights throughout the summer, along with the latest and greatest in the Salesforce world.