Tameem Bahri on writing “Becoming A Salesforce Certified Technical Architect” and helping Salesforce professionals on their journey to CTA

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Ben Duncombe 0:00
Tameem, thank you so much for joining us – a lovely evening in the UK no doubt.Tameem Bahri 0:05
Absolutely. Pleasure to be here. Thank you, Ben.

Ben Duncombe 0:08
You’re coming out of winter now as well. So you must be relieved.

Tameem Bahri 0:11
It was, I think, this week, this weekend over the past weekend was the first where we enjoyed some real sun. So yeah, absolutely.

Ben Duncombe 0:20
And I hear I saw some posts this morning that the evenings are a bit lighter, which must be a relief for everyone that’s been in lockdown and things like that, to actually not have just dark days, the whole day must be welcomed.

Tameem Bahri 0:33
Absolutely. We’re really looking forward to the days where we can go back to normal.

Ben Duncombe 0:38
Absolutely, yeah, absolutely. So we’ve got a lot to run through today, we’re going to cover your career, your book, and some advice you have for other people coming through. But I always like to start looking backwards and looking kind of how you got to where you are now and what your first steps into the world of IT were like, so what was it that interested you about IT? And why did you kind of see yourself pursuing a career in IT?

Tameem Bahri 1:03
For me, it was kind of, you know, a childhood passion. So it started, you know, probably when I was 14 years old, or so, I was, you know, drawn and fascinated by the fact that you can create things in code and create things that other people can use and can you know, like, utilize in their day to day life. It of course started with, you know, the normal calculator application, but then, you know, things started to get more spicy. So yeah, it’s kind of, you know, a childhood passion.

Ben Duncombe 1:33
So was it? Was it something you picked up quite easily even in the early days? I guess the complexity back then was a little bit easier for you than what you’re doing these days. But yeah, did you? Were you a natural in the world of IT?

Tameem Bahri 1:45
Well, I won’t call myself natural, but when you’re younger, you have that appetite to try and fail and you know, it’s fine. You try and fail and try and fail all over the place, and it’s fine. You’re just trying and finally, you will learn and you will be able to do the things you wanted to.

Ben Duncombe 2:04
Absolutely. So then from having that passion to then pursuing a career in IT, what were the next steps? Did you study? Did you go down the computer science route? Or what was your process?

Tameem Bahri 2:16
That is exactly what happened. So I carried on with university, I started my career a little bit early, because I was working part-time while I was at uni. And you know that kind of gave me a little bit of early satisfaction since these early days. Because again, you know, you’re actually applying what you’re learning immediately. And you can learn more than you know, ahead of what do you get back in the evening? So yeah, it really started there

Ben Duncombe 2:46
Yeah, nice, so from uni, and then you’ve left uni now, you’ve got your computer science education behind you. What were the early days, like, what did you do? Were you straight into software engineering, what was your early career, like?

Tameem Bahri 3:01
I worked, I worked for different software development houses. So I started as a software developer for different software development houses. Eventually, I moved to Salesforce, but not before something like seven years or so, or eight years. So I used to code in Delphi, for those who are old enough to remember it, I used to code in .Net, obviously, Java sometimes

Ben Duncombe 3:26
Sure. So were there any lessons that you picked up really early in your career that you feel have kind of set you up for success, and that could be as a developer, like principles or standards, I guess that you’ve always adhered to, that have enabled you to go on and have the success you’ve had in your career?

Tameem Bahri 3:45
Well, I guess the key important characteristic, I would call for a professional in this field has to be resilience. So you have to be willing to try and try and try again, until you succeed in something, have to have that grit. Today it’s probably a little bit easier with Google around so you can Google your way around. But in the olden days, you have to do everything by hand, you have to learn the hard way. But today, the software landscape is much more complex than before. And you know, it’s a much challenging set of requirements from clients or from enterprises and the like. So it’s more challenging overall. That and the fact that you also have to stay humble, you have to keep your feet on the ground, and you keep learning all your way through.

Ben Duncombe 4:35
Yeah. Being humble is really important. Especially in Salesforce, right, where you can never know everything. And there’s always something new to learn. So you can’t proclaim to being an expert. And it was funny. I was on a podcast recently with a guy another CTA, and I said, “well, you mastered development”. And he was “I didn’t master development. Like you can’t master development. I was a good developer, but I wasn’t a master because there’s always something new to learn. There’s always going to be an area of weakness”

Tameem Bahri 5:02
Exactly, and it’s a fast-moving industry. So what you learned today, what you’re very good at today is not going to be the same in five years’ time. So you have to keep learning, you have to have that personality, you have to stay humble, and keep learning, you know, keep open, keep learning.

Ben Duncombe 5:19
So what interested you about Salesforce? Because at that point, you’re a software engineer, the market, I guess, because we’re going back a few years now, right? You moved into Salesforce a number of years ago. So the .Net market, as an example would have been a busy market back then.

Tameem Bahri 5:34
Yes, it was. And it was a hard move. So I had to switch to Salesforce. At that time, I joined the company, which eventually turned to become a Salesforce client. And the CIO was embarking on that kind of digital transformation, moving, you know, a lot of the existing software from the .Net platform to Salesforce. So I had to learn it. It wasn’t something that I was happy to do at the beginning, but I managed to do it. And it was an exciting experience. Because once you actually, you know, start breaking that ice between you and the new technology, you start to discover what it’s all about. And to me, it was like, “wow, so I don’t need to worry about servers anymore. I don’t need to worry about creating a data access layer anymore, I don’t need to worry about these things. Oh, look at look how fast I can create a Visualforce page.” So it’s like, a lot of, you know, things were very appealing to me. Okay, so let’s see, let’s explore more of what we can do on this platform. Yeah, you gradually start to learn that it’s not all about coding, because coming from a development background, you think about coding straightaway. But eventually, you learn that this platform is also open for non-coding kind of configurations. And you start to like them as well. And you start to use them more and more often.

Ben Duncombe 6:52
Did that take some time, though? Because as a software engineer, and having come from coding .Net and other technologies, did you have to really battle with the, “I just want to code and I just want to build?” Or did you really quickly accept that you know, you didn’t always need to code

Tameem Bahri 7:13
No, it was a learning curve. So you start with, you know, like, whenever you receive some sort of requirements, whenever you understand the business needs, you go straight away and do it, like you used to do it, all the time, you create everything. Well, after, you know, in .Net world, we used to create everything, like literally from top to bottom. And here, you know, it’s probably just going to save some time with some, you know, reusable modules, Iike save access error. But eventually, you start to find out that, well, you know, “I could have saved a lot of time if I did it with the overflow rule, or with a field update” or today, you know, we have Lightning Flows and so on. So, so you start to learn more about the environment. This is why I was saying, you know, being able to learn, being open to learning is one of the key values that an IT professional should have, well, these days and in the olden days to be honest.

Ben Duncombe 8:08
Sure, so you are an Architect, you’ve gone down the architecture path, but had you not gone into the Salesforce space, is that a career you were pursuing anyway, architecture? Or did it become more obvious, because of the way that Salesforce career paths are structured?

Tameem Bahri 8:25
Well, I was kind of working as a Software Architect, before switching to Salesforce. As a Software Architect, you have to be more technical, obviously, you have to come from a development background in order to become a Software Architect. It’s unlike the definition of Architect, let’s say in Salesforce, but it was something I was, you know, kind of in that field already. So it was a natural transition.

Ben Duncombe 8:50
And then when you moved into the Salesforce world, you were in a development role. But did you, like, was it, were you straight into designing at that point?

Tameem Bahri 8:59
Well, designing was, kind of, we used to do designing, even in software development, but it’s a little bit different from designing in the Salesforce world, in the Salesforce world, you need to pay more attention to the business needs, and you need to focus a little bit more over a need to pay extra attention to how things are structured around a particular functionality in order to serve the customer or the end-user, depending on the use case. In software, you kind of receive the requirements a little bit more mature or you know, like further developed then if you have Salesforce, and then you can start designing how you’re going to structure that in a software. How are you going to develop that for functionalities? Is that going to end up as an executable DLL, for example, or within the main executable is that going to be a reasonable library, how you’re going to structure these into multiple classes. So that is the kind of design aspect here that you use more often whenever you’re dealing with software development.

Ben Duncombe 10:00
Sure. So if you could look back at some of your career moves, were there any particular strategies you had? Or looking back, are there any moves that you feel were kind of taken in order to get you to be in the position to become a CTA?

Tameem Bahri 10:17
And that is a great question. Because I believe that, you know, the decision of switching from a client to an SI was very important for me. At some stage, I felt that you know, I’ve spent enough time working with this particular industry, the one I was working for.

Ben Duncombe 10:35
This was in Dubai, right?

Tameem Bahri 10:37
This was in Dubai in property management. And despite the fact that we used to, you know, like develop and roll out Salesforce for multiple sister companies, which gives you that, you know, exposure to multiple projects, but at the end of the day, it’s kind of, you know, some similar kind of business, and I wanted to get more exposure into other types of businesses, something that you get is much easier when you are in an SI environment or consultancy environment. So that was very important to me. Also, the switch to the UK market, which is much more, you know, mature, you get the chance to play on a bigger stage. That was also very, very important.

Ben Duncombe 11:14
What about the differences between sizes of SI’s? And I guess what the SI’s do? Like how important do you think that is in people’s career decisions for where they want to be? So you’ve worked for like a McKinsey, which would be different from an Accenture, right, and a Capgemini, in terms of the kind of projects I would imagine they do.

Tameem Bahri 11:35
Yeah, that is a good point. When you’re working in a smaller environment, or you know, like a boutique, you get the chance to experience a lot of different things. So you are responsible for a lot more than what you do in bigger projects. While in bigger projects, you get more responsibilities in managing teams, you get the exposure into more sensitive areas, more challenging client environments, because obviously, with bigger projects, there’s a lot of attention a lot more, you know, kind of stress in that environment. So you get, you know, like, you’re going to learn something different in each of these environments. For someone, it’s good to be in both environments at some time in your career.

Ben Duncombe 12:21
Yeah, I guess it’s not a case of one being better than the other. It’s just what you can take from each experience I guess, rather than saying, you know, big’s better than small and boutique’s better than. So, you’ve been the lead for development programs within consulting partners within big SI’s. And a lot of our audience are striving to be a CTA. And we often, you know, when we’re speaking to people about their career decisions, they’re looking at “how can I get to the next stage and be ready to be a CTA?” So when you’ve observed and assessed people on their journey to being ready to be a CTA, at what point do you think someone is truly ready, and what do they need to have done, to be ready to go and, maybe not start the Review Board, but start the process for being ready for the Review Board?

Tameem Bahri 13:12
This is also something very important, because a lot of the candidates that I worked with, they kind of, you know, felt that they are ready, but then figured out that well actually they’re not. It’s a little bit challenging with the certificate because it’s unlike the other certificates where you, you know, need to study the materials and then go and just, you know, do the exam and pass. This one is actually a real presentation of a real-life challenge in front of, you know, three seasoned CTAs. So you have to have a lot of, you know, breadth and depth in the knowledge. And you have to master a set of, you know, soft skills. In a lot of, you know, the occasions I find that the candidates already have that kind of, you know, depth in knowledge, but not necessarily the breadth, because of the background perhaps, and, you know, like how they got into the Salesforce architecture world. So they know a lot of the platform, but they don’t necessarily know a lot of things outside the platform. That was one of the things I continuously noticed. And the other thing was the ability to tell that end-to-end story in a short time, that kind of, you know, soft skill – is you need to be able to describe a solution for a particular requirement in no more than 90 seconds. It’s a bit drawn from the elevator pitch, but it’s not really sales. It’s, you know, here you’re explaining a solution, but you have to explain it in such a short time, otherwise, you don’t really understand how the solution is. And then finally, the time management. So when I start to coach the new candidates, we kind of spot the areas that need to be developed. And we normally you know, like doing mocks is very important for the candidate. And for the mentor to know where that candidate stands. And we normally expect each candidate to do between five and nine mocks, before they can actually start planning for the Review Board. And it’s normally on the upper limit, it’s usually in the nine plus. So it really depends on each candidate. But again, you know, if you’re starting your journey, now, try to join a study group, try to present, try to actually do one of these mocks. And then, you know, try to gauge where, where you stand against, you know, the other presenters. And this will help you to understand where are the areas that you need to develop. Obviously, if you have a mentor, then that will make things much easier. If you don’t, then, you know, this is where the other trainings and, you know, books can help.

Ben Duncombe 15:55
And so the three areas, you’ve got the technical skills, the platform knowledge, the soft skills, and then the time management. Probably the hardest one of those from what I can see to improve and develop is the soft skills because the platform knowledge can be learned over time. You work on more projects you pick up and you develop those skills. You can learn from others like YouTube has everything these days, right? So you go on YouTube, there are videos, am I right, in that assessment of the soft skills is often the hardest part for people if they’re not there yet to develop? And have you seen people that have been way off in the soft skills department, develop those over a period of time and then pass the Review Board?

Tameem Bahri 16:35
Yeah, well, I would call it equally important, I wouldn’t say it’s the most difficult part to learn. Because the technical skills are also, depending on the case, they could become a little bit challenging. They could become a little bit hard to learn. So not all of the candidates that I’ve worked with came from technical backgrounds. There are people who are not technical by nature, they are functional, they are great Functional Architects. And they are pursuing the CTA. And again, we need to think of the motive behind why you’re pursuing the CTA certificate. But that aside, I’ve worked you know, with some brilliant Functional Architects and they were targeting the CTA certificate. And for them, the technical knowledge was challenging to learn. Was challenging to get to the required level of detail that you need to pass the Review Board. So again, it really depends on the background, and the kind of projects that you got exposure on, and the kind of roles that you occupied. So in some occasions, you find Architects who spent a lifetime locked down, in a release manager kind of role, away from the part where you solution something, or you create a solution, where you solve a problem. And this will, you know, like, impact your ability to develop that particular skill, which is absolutely crucial. So it really depends on your background, depends on the background of the candidates, which paths, they will find more easy to develop over more difficult to develop. To your other questions. Yes, I’ve seen some candidates who really struggled with soft skills. And I believe, you know, they managed to overcome that.

Ben Duncombe 18:19
Okay. That’s good to know. So what’s your advice for someone then that, like you mentioned functional and technical and obviously, like, I guess anyone that’s performing as a Functional Architect, they’ve been around the ecosystem for a while to get to that level. So what about people because we’re seeing more and more people come from a completely non-IT background, like people that might be starting their Salesforce journey now and Salesforce have done a great job in presenting the ecosystem as a welcoming to all, and a thriving ecosystem of opportunities. And a lot of people have come in and they don’t have that IT or depth or exposure and haven’t experienced the things that you or some of the Functional Architects had previously. So if they were starting their journey now, what do you think some of the kind of core fundamentals they would need to learn and to go away and grasp in order for the CTA to be a realistic path from the broader IT landscape?

Tameem Bahri 19:12
Well, I’d like to first take the opportunity to explain that for Salesforce world, it’s not only about CTAs, there’s a lot of opportunities. And, as you mentioned, there is you know, like a great chance for a lot of talents from different backgrounds to join the ecosystem. Like you don’t have to become a CTA to reach the top of your career or very high levels of your career. There are multiple paths. I’ve mentioned Functional Architects, something like domain Architects as well. But there are you know, industry Architects that we noticed in the past few years, for example, the Vlocity Architects, you know, Marketing Architects. So there’s a lot here, it’s not necessarily the CTA as the only path for everyone. If the CTA is particularly appealing for candidates, this is where he/she wants to go, then definitely go for it. It has to be a personal motive. Again, career development is good. But don’t let that be your only motive, because you can develop your career without becoming a CTA. But it has to be a personal motive, it has to be something from within yourself that I want to be there, I want to be known as a CTA, I want to be part of that group. This is kind of, you know, self satisfactory thing. It’s what I want to be, where I aspire to be, that kind of thing. This will last, and this will help you to pass that rough journey. And if you are coming from a non-technical background and want to go for that journey, by all means, do it, it just means that you need to spend a little bit more time getting to know the technical required details of the platform and of a few things outside the platform as well. So you also need to learn a little bit things, not necessarily Salesforce, you but you need to learn in order to understand the power of Salesforce was built. This kind of breadth in knowledge will help you answer the questions that you don’t know their answer during the Review Board. Sometimes you might come across a question that you don’t necessarily know the answer. But you can guess and you can guess correctly if you have that breadth. You can assume things and you know, again, the breadth will help you assume the right things that you’ll draw your solution on top of.

Ben Duncombe 21:29
Sure. So your book, so it’s out now. And I know it’s going down well with the audience that I follow on LinkedIn. So it’s a book that will help people learn to design secure and scalable solutions. So there must have been a reason or something you’ve seen wrong over the years. And you’ve thought right, people need a book to kind of address some of these problems. So what are some of the problems that you consistently see with the way that people are designing solutions that perhaps could be done better?

Tameem Bahri 21:59
I think one of the key values that the certificate itself is promoting, is specific activities and artifacts that are required in order to, you know, go ahead and implement and govern the implementation of a Salesforce project. And it’s not necessarily what we do in our day-to-day life. So these artifacts are somehow you know, like, I’ve worked with candidates who would create these artifacts during the presentation or during the mock, but they don’t do that in real projects. I was always wondering, like, why you don’t do that? Why are you separating these two things, you know, I’m learning something theoretical, I’m doing something different in practice. This is not the case here. What we’re creating, and learning in order to pass the CTA is actually what Salesforce and what the SI’s want you to do in your day-to-day job in order to deliver the Salesforce projects without issues. Without scalability issues. Without you know, security issues, without integration challenges. For example, you won’t be able to support, when you’re designing a solution, and you’re not really in trouble now. You’re still in the design phase. If you don’t create a data model diagram, and you don’t explain that the rules are for each of these objects, then you won’t be able to support a large data volume object upfront. You’d come across it when it’s just too late, when it’s already become a large data volume object. And it’s already impacting the performance. That’s the kind of, you know, things that the certificate is promoting, and you actually do in your day-to-day life.

Ben Duncombe 23:39
So why don’t people do that? Is it just because they’ve become comfortable with their day-to-day jobs? And they feel they already know? And they can solve these problems ahead of time? Or is it laziness, like what why aren’t people following the correct procedure and process to ensure success?

Tameem Bahri 23:54
No, these people are not lazy, it’s just that, you know, they don’t necessarily feel that this is something required or that it’s something needed. It’s an extra effort. And there’s always a time pressure. People, in particular, Salesforce architecture, they’re very much in demand, they’re always, you know, like, under pressure in delivering projects, they don’t necessarily have a lot of time to, you know, do the other things. But, you know, actually, investing time in creating these artifacts, does save you a lot of time resolving the problems that comes from the fact that you haven’t created them, later on. Take, for example, the integration interfaces, if you don’t create a list of all your integration interfaces, highlighting exactly which pattern you’re expecting on each of these interfaces, how you’re going to authenticate for each, and how you’re going to secure the data for each. That’s an effort that you’re going to do in the in the Review Board. And it’s probably going to take something like 10 to 15 minutes. In real-time projects, let’s assume you know like a few days. It’s obviously more challenging. But if you don’t do it, and, you know, the development team went ahead and decided to build the integration interface in a different way, you will spend much more time in meetings to resolve the problems in that particular interface. And then you know, probably escalations and, you know, all the things that you don’t really want to experience.

Ben Duncombe 25:21
Yeah it’s interesting. And I think, obviously, the book is targeted at Architects, right? It’s helping Architects on their journey. But is it also something that people that are striving to being an Architect like that’s their goal, they should be reading now as well, to get these kind of patterns and thought processes in their head so that when they are designing solutions it’s something they naturally follow anyway?

Tameem Bahri 25:43
I would say that the book is, as you mentioned, is targeted for Architects, for people who have spent something like you know, three years at least in the industry, in architectural roles in Salesforce. For people who are new to the field, they might find some of the information in that book useful. Obviously, they’re going to need more time to start preparing for the CTA journey. But as you mentioned, you know, like a good chunk of the information in that book can be actually useful, even for people who are not necessarily yet on the CTA track.

Ben Duncombe 26:18
How was the experience of writing the book? And I guess, what was the relief factor, when it was finished?

Tameem Bahri 26:26
So I had the thought of writing this book a while ago, because, you know, like, I had created, you know, some of the materials in the book for quite a while. But it’s just my first book, I didn’t know where to start. And at some stage, you know, the publisher, one of the editors reached out to me and said, “well, are you interested in writing this book?” “Oh, yes, I am interested. But can you help me, I don’t understand how you actually do that.” And, you know, they were very helpful, actually. And the fact that one of the areas that I had, the particular concern was, was the fact that I’m not actually native. Writing an email or writing slides is easy, but writing a book is a little bit of a, you know, a different level. And I had a concern there, but they said, you know, like, “don’t worry, we have the tools, we have people who can help you.” “Okay, so let’s do it”. And it really requires a lot of commitment, you know, takes a lot of effort, a lot of commitment. But at the end of the day, if you have the right motives, you’ll be able to go through that, you know, and deliver. For me it was, you know like I really wanted to do something for the community. I had the pleasure to be supported by seasoned CTAs, mentors in my career, that also played a great role in being able to go for the Review Board. This is not a luxury available for everyone. I know that. And this is why I thought that you know, having a book that will be the personal mentor for everyone, that that is really good for the community.

Ben Duncombe 28:01
Yeah. 100%. And so you’re already planning book two, are you putting your pen down for a while?

Tameem Bahri 28:06
I’m thinking a break. It was really an intense journey. But I have some ideas.

Ben Duncombe 28:14
Nice. So a couple of final questions before I let you go. So you mentioned the different types of Architect that you have now in the ecosystem. So you’ve got functional, you’ve got technical, obviously, I guess solution, technical, you’ve got marketing, you’ve got Vlocity with the industry stuff. So how has your role as an Architect changed over the years? Like, what has the expectation of an Architect lessened? Because there are more Architect types? Or does the role of a Technical Architect just continue to grow with the scale of the platform?

Tameem Bahri 28:42
It’s an interesting question, because the role of the Architect is slightly different than what was you know, like, a few years ago, there are more roles open now for Architects. Think of the acquisitions that Salesforce does in the market, you know, like Demandware and Mulesoft. There’s, you know, like an ever-growing community here, and definitely requires a different set of skills and knowledge, the classic Salesforce Platform Architects are still in high demand today, they might find themselves required to learn a little bit of the kind of vertical solutions that are in the market. So you probably need to learn, for example, about Financial Services Cloud, or the Health Care Cloud or Vlocity, one of the industry product clouds, you have to, you know, get more exposure into the vertical solutions, and probably into the other non-platform solutions, like Marketing Cloud. Marketing Cloud is, you know, becoming more and more closer to to the platform. So you have to go beyond just the platform and start to think of how can I go cross-cloud and deliver that end-to-end solution using multiple clouds and multiple products? Yeah, but it’s always you know, an interesting journey.

Ben Duncombe 30:01
Absolutely. So what does keep you engaged and passionate about the Salesforce world? Because obviously, you’ve been in the space for a while now. What still excites you to get up and to design solutions?

Tameem Bahri 30:13
I think it’s the same motive that I had since you know, I was 14 years old. It’s being able to create something that someone else would use it and will find it useful. So being able to design something that, you know, the clients, the customers will find useful, will enjoy and they know will make their life easier, will give them value. That is still that satisfactory element that really gets me awake in the morning.

Ben Duncombe 30:42
Just solving slightly more complex problems now than when you were 14 years old.

Tameem Bahri 30:47
Oh yes, not creating calculators anymore.

Ben Duncombe 30:51
Yeah. Well, thank you so much, really appreciate the chat. And it’s great to hear more about you, your story, and also the book. So for anyone listening or viewing, where can they contact you if they have any questions? And also, where can they find your book?

Tameem Bahri 31:04
So the book is available on Amazon. And it’s also available on Packt, and there’s a book club in Packt. The details are all in the book page. And I can be reached out on LinkedIn.

Ben Duncombe 31:20
Perfect. Well, thank you so much. And yeah, really look forward to seeing how our audience find the book and hopefully it helps a lot of people on their journey to CTA. So thank you very much for everything you’ve done for the ecosystem.

Tameem Bahri 31:32
Absolutely a pleasure to be here. Thank you, Ben.

Make sure you’re following Tameem on LinkedIn and feel free to reach out to him with any questions regarding the topics covered in the podcast episode, and that you check out his book, Becoming A Salesforce Salesforce Technical Architect.

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