Talent Hub recently spoke with Osama Nasir, a Salesforce Certified Technical Architect to discuss the certification process, his journey from Developer to CTA and his top tips to anyone else on the same path. From starting out in Salesforce in 2009 to becoming a fully Certified Technical Architect late in 2015, Osama is able to offer some extremely valuable insights.
How did you get into Salesforce and what has been your career progression to this point?
- After I graduated from university I joined an International Delivery Centre of a Chicago based CRM consulting firm as a developer. There, I started working on multiple CRM tools including Oracle CRM on Demand, Sugar CRM and Salesforce and the journey is still on. Following the market, Salesforce became the obvious choice and I decided to specialize in Salesforce.
- During this journey I have enjoyed working as a fullstack developer, release manager, senior architect, contributor as a mentor at various salesforce customers and in the partner ecosystem.
- I feel excited about the innovation that Salesforce is bringing every day. Recently I also completed an IoT course from MIT, to prepare myself for more exciting upcoming projects. There is still a long way to go and I am passionate to continue this journey.
Did you always see yourself as being a CTA one day when you first started in Salesforce?
- I always wanted to be a technologist rather than a specialist. I started my first Salesforce project as just another ‘gig’ and to be honest, it captured my interest and I decided to take a deep dive into the platform. For me, being a CTA is an honour that has come with added responsibility of being a trusted advisor for clients.
How did you progress from Developing to then performing Technical Architecture on projects prior to having the CTA?
- I was working for a Salesforce.com customer as the only certified developer and witnessed the exponential business growth. As a result, we ran into significant architectural issues. Salesforce was identified as the strategic platform and hence there was a need to assess and improve the architecture to support the business growth. It also allowed me to step up and drive the development team due to heavy implementation on the salesforce platform.
What soft skills did you need to develop in order to make the step up?
- I believe you have to be on top of your communication skills (complete, concise, sharp) in order to convey your ideas to the stakeholders.
- To be able to think on the fly is also very critical when it comes to being a CTA. Often you are thrown into situations where you have to defend your idea or a solution in front of C level execs. To successfully overcome it, you need to be able to think and respond carefully.
- Handy Tip: I’d suggest this approach extremely important for the CTA review board.
At what point did you decide to start with the TA cert and how did you plan and prepare to ensure you were ready?
- I had plenty of salesforce development and integration experience with various systems. It was just by coincidence that when I was going through the CTA study guide I realized I had already covered most of the topics. So, I decided to formally pursue the cert. I booked the Stage 2 exam and got stuck to it. You can always keep on studying for an exam and you will never feel completely prepared. I always follow “Fail fast” approach so that I can move on and look into the weaknesses. I sat the stage 2 exam and passed. It worth mentioning here that the time invested in gaining platform knowledge and the hard work done in implementing salesforce solutions successfully paid off.
- I had been very lucky to be part of Steven Herod’s team. He has prepared a CTA development program consisting of mock exams. The program is conducted in an exam like environment and a team of CTAs assess skills. It helped me in identifying my weak areas and improving these.
What insight can you give readers into the actual certification stages?
- For the multiple choice test, I would suggest platform knowledge and development experience is essential. Focus on getting a good grasp (i.e. knowledge and experience) on all Salesforce features such as Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Types of APIs, Integration Patterns, Security and Authentication, LDV, Communities etc.
- To pass review board, you would need in-depth knowledge (that you have already gained while preparing for stage 2), excellent soft skills and critical thinking. Designing your solution and presenting it in front of platform gurus (judges) in limited time (really short time) is quite challenging. Make sure you practice hypothetical scenarios along with your presentation skills. You should treat the judges as your customers so make sure you clearly explain the technical part of your solution so that it is understood by them. There is no single correct solution but it all depends upon your assumptions and constraints given in the scenario. So make sure you can justify your solution during the review board.
- With the increasing number of Salesforce CTAs globally, reaching out to them for advice/suggestions and recommendation would be very helpful. It would also help you in developing your interpersonal skills.
- Last but not the least, make sure you have plenty of experience as a Technical Architect, project manager and release manager before you present in front of the review board.
How has the Technical Architect certification added value to your skill set?
- It has given me more confidence to be able to help businesses achieve their goals using the platform.
- It does feel great to be a part of the elite club but comes with more responsibility.
What are your thoughts on the new domain certifications?
- I believe SFDC have made it a bit easier for the new candidates but its going to take longer to become a CTA if you successfully pass all the domain certifications.
- Being able to focus on only one domain at a time will become handy and the candidate should be able to nail it down.
What advice would you give to a Developer who one day wishes to be a CTA but feels a long way from it now?
- Think like a TA: I’d start by suggesting to rise above and start thinking like an architect. This is a major change in how you approach a problem. Technology Architecture involves outlining the components of a system and the interactions between them. One of the differences between a developer and an architect is that developer thinks in terms of code while the architect thinks of components involved, whole enterprise health and RoI. The architect considers non- functional requirements like performance, failure handling and scalability
- Soft Skills: Polish your soft skills. A lot of developers code to excellence and just need to work on clearly articulating the solution to the stakeholders.
- Try to work on roles where you deal with governance. Ideally, you should have worked on projects with different methodologies(agile/waterfall) and understand the differences.
What skills do you feel are vital for anyone looking to become a TA?
- In addition to what I have mentioned above I believe it is very helpful to be familiar with other technologies. Whether it’s different scripting languages or middleware technologies. Apart from Salesforce I have been involved in some implementations of web apps using Microsoft technology. I have also been a part of salesforce integration with multiple middleware tools. My knowledge related to computer networks also turned out to be extremely helpful to get my CTA.
- The crux would be passion, knowledge, experience and soft skills are the basics to start with.
To see more detail on Osama’s career you can view his profile here – https://ae.linkedin.com/in/osamanasir