Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Jenny McNamara, Salesforce Admin at CINC. Join us as we chat about how she became obsessed with Flow Builder, the importance of Salesforce basics, and why you need to get yourself to a Salesforce live event.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Jenny McNamara.

Be the translator

Jenny started as a business analyst, serving as the scrum master for multiple teams in her organization. When the Salesforce team needed more help, she jumped at the chance to specialize and become an admin. In both roles, you need to be able to translate what people are saying into the why behind it.

“Technical people and client-facing people don’t always speak the same language even though they’re all trying to accomplish the same thing,” Jenny says. A stakeholder may ask for a new data field when what they really want is a way for that information to show up on a dashboard. And tech person may not want to do that because it makes the org a mess. You need someone with an understanding of both sides of the organization to step in and translate.

Flow all night

When Jenny first started focusing on Salesforce, the thing that got her hooked on the platform was learning Flow Builder. She was still a business analyst at that point, but the Salesforce Admin on her team was having trouble building something and asked her if she could look into Flow a little bit so he could bounce ideas off of her.

Jenny sat down for a quick glance at what Flow was all about, just enough to help out. Before she knew it, she had learned enough to solve the problem in a single night. Some people binge Netflix, Jenny binged Flow Builder.

The magic of Salesforce live events

We met Jenny at TrailblazerDX, where she was really excited to dive into the fundamentals. “The better your basics are, the more of the foundational things that you really master, the better you’re going to be at everything,” she says.

Getting to live Salesforce events has been so important to Jenny’s career in Salesforce, and she recommends it for people at all experience levels. You never know who you’ll meet, and you already have something in common to talk about. You can learn about something you didn’t know existed, which could take your career in a new direction. You might even find yourself staying up all night to learn more.

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Full show transcript

Mike Gerholdt: Flow Builder, formerly Salesforce Flow, provides declarative process automation for every Salesforce app, experience, and portal, with point-and-click automation. But what if I told you it’s also a great stepping stone to getting started as a Salesforce Admin?

Today on the podcast, our guest, Jenny McNamara, who’s currently a Salesforce Admin, got hooked on learning Flow as a way for her to grow her business analyst skills and become a Salesforce Admin at her current company. Now, before we get into the episode, be sure you are following Salesforce Admins Podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. That way, you get a new episode every Thursday, right on your phone. Let’s get Jenny on the podcast. So, Jenny, welcome to the podcast.

Jenny McNamara: Great to be here. Thanks for asking me to be here.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah, it was fun. So, we actually, I don’t know, the social term is bumped into each other at TrailblazerDX, but you are actually sitting a row in front of me, taking vigorous notes on a team member session, and I wanted to ad hoc get some feedback from you. And so, we started talking about your career and how you got to TrailblazerDX. And so, let’s just kick off there. How did you get started in the Salesforce ecosystem and get to TrailblazerDX this spring?

Jenny McNamara: Oh my gosh. Okay. Well, I went to TrailblazerDX, first of all because my mentor told me I should go, who also happens to be my boss. I’m really lucky that I have a great boss and mentor. But as for how I got started in the Salesforce space, I, a little bit stumbled into it in my journey from going from more of a client-facing role and wanting to get into tech. And at my company we used sales Salesforce, and so I was a user before I moved into the space.

And in trying to get into tech without knowing how to code, I was thinking, “Oh, I might have to learn how to code and look at that.” I became Scrum Master certified and then became … A business analyst is actually the stepping stone I took. From my client-facing role, I became a business analyst for several teams, one of which was our Salesforce team internally. And then there was a need for more help on that team, and so I transitioned into the Salesforce administrator role, as there was a need there, and I really enjoyed that work and I enjoyed going in between what our stakeholders needed and what their problems were, and then actually being able to execute as opposed to just handing it off. So, I guess that was the bridge there.

Mike Gerholdt: There’s always a bridge somewhere. Tell me a little bit more about business analysts, because I think there’s a lot of people, and I know there’s a whole business analyst community on the Trailblazer group that talk about that, but what was your role there? What did you do? What was your day-to-day?

Jenny McNamara: As a business analyst, my role was very much the liaison, I guess, between the tech teams I was working with and the stakeholders internally. All of the teams I was working with were internal tech teams with different focuses. So, I was coordinating with all of the internal stakeholders and hearing what their needs were, identifying if what they were asking for was actually their need. And then, coordinating it all the way through with the tech team to say, “Okay, how can we fill this need?” And going back and forth.

So, my day-to-day there was very, I would say, actively communicating with our internal users and stakeholders and also the tech team. I feel like I was put in that role because I spoke both languages.

Mike Gerholdt: Cool.

Jenny McNamara: And I think there is a need a lot of times, for someone to be in that role, because a lot of times technical people and client-facing people maybe, right?

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah.

Jenny McNamara: Don’t always speak the same language, even though they’re all trying to accomplish the same thing.

Mike Gerholdt: Right. So, as a business analyst, how much Salesforce did you actually know?

Jenny McNamara: Oh, when I got into that role, I knew Salesforce as a user. I didn’t know anything behind the scenes.

Mike Gerholdt: Okay. Do you feel that had you known more about the technical aspects of Salesforce as a business analyst, you would’ve been a better business analyst?

Jenny McNamara: Yes, and I actually started learning more about Salesforce pretty quickly after becoming a business analyst, so that I could be better at it.

Mike Gerholdt: Oh. Gotcha.

Jenny McNamara: Because I found pretty quickly as I entered the role, that the tech team that brought me on board as a business analyst really wanted to leverage my knowledge of all of the processes that our company uses, because I had been in a couple other roles beforehand, so I had a lot of underlying knowledge about all of our company processes. And that was really useful to that team because they knew tech, but they weren’t sure how to fit it into the business processes sometimes.

Mike Gerholdt: Right. Yeah.

Jenny McNamara: And so, what I learned once I got over there is, “Great, I’ve got a lot of great background in the business processes and where there are some opportunities, but if I don’t know what’s possible with the technology, at least at a certain level, I’m not going to be as effective as I can be.” So, I started diving in to see what was possible and how things worked with Salesforce, pretty early on, although it was at a very basic level at the beginning.

Mike Gerholdt: Mm-hmm. What was some of the first stuff you started to dive into that got you hooked on the tech side?

Jenny McNamara: Oh, man. I will say that the first thing that had me really hooked was flow, and usually when I say that, people are confused.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah, because it’s literally like learning to swim in the ocean.

Jenny McNamara: So, I had a request of my tech team that was going to fulfill a need for our stakeholders, that was going to require a screen flow.

Mike Gerholdt: Ooh.

Jenny McNamara: And our admin at the time was new to flows, and so he was learning that and he was having some trouble with it. And he was the only admin at our company at the time, and so, he didn’t really have a lot of people to chat with to say, “Hey, how can I accomplish this?” As a business analyst, I want to help facilitate and remove barriers for anyone, wherever I can, right?

Mike Gerholdt: Mm-hmm.

Jenny McNamara: I want to identify those issues and solve them. And so, I asked him one day what I could do to help, and he said, “Hey, if you can just learn a little bit about how flow works, so that I can bounce some ideas off of you.” I was like, “Okay, great.”

So, I got on Trailhead, which is my favorite thing, and I started learning about flows and I thought it was so cool, I decided that I was going to try and do what he was trying to accomplish, myself, just to see, get some hands-on experience. I think I stayed up till three o’clock in the morning doing this. I think I started at probably seven o’clock in the afternoon. I was like after work, going to just spend an hour maybe looking at this. I was up until, I think, 3:00 AM and I basically did the whole thing, but I was so excited I just couldn’t stop.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. I mean, I think I can akin to that on streaming services as well. You know?

Jenny McNamara: Yes.

Mike Gerholdt: So, when I introduced you, I said Salesforce administrator, we’re talking now about when you were a business analyst. Before we make that jump, what were some of those conversations that you were having or that you would advise others to have with … It sounds like you have a great mentor who’s also your boss, but how did you have that career conversation to be like, “Okay, I am now learning these skills and I want to go into this role.”?

Jenny McNamara: That is one of those things I a little bit lucked into. I had been asking my boss at the time, before I became a business analyst, I was trying to find ways to grow and what to do because I had told him I wanted to go towards tech and he didn’t really have an answer, because he wasn’t in tech.

What he did is he connected me with his coach, who connected me with someone in tech, to do some mentoring. And that is how I learned of the tech team’s need for people like business analysts. And that’s how that happened. So, I think it was really me trying to figure out how to get over there and then talking to people and connecting with people and finding what the need was.

Mike Gerholdt: Right. I mean, yeah, I can always look back at parts of my career and say, “Part of that was luck.” But I do also firmly believe you make your own luck.

Jenny McNamara: I’m with you on that. I think you do. I think if I didn’t ask the question, if I wasn’t trying to find the answer, it wouldn’t have just fallen in my lap. On the same token, I think I am quite fortunate.

Mike Gerholdt: So, you got yourself to TrailblazerDX this spring. How’d that happen?

Jenny McNamara: I’m lucky enough that my company provides a stipend we can use for educational purposes, and so, I used mine to fly out and attend TrailblazerDX, and it was fantastic.

Mike Gerholdt: So, what were some of the sessions that you felt really gave you value in terms of starting in your Salesforce admin career?

Jenny McNamara: Oh, man, some of the sessions that I really enjoyed went back to basics and others let me flex some more advanced skills. I find that’s a little bit of my internal struggle all the time, is I like things like flow, that are really exciting, but I really always need to be drawn back to basics because the better your basics are, the more of the foundational things that you really master, the better you’re going to be at everything.

So, as I answer that question, the things that I remember the most and took away the most would be some of the basics, like, I went to a session that was all about, “Okay, with new profiles and permission sets and things like that, what is the best way to structure these?” And that’s so basic. And for some people it’s not as exciting as flow, but it’s so important. Right? I remember things like that. I really enjoyed the session that we met at. That one was all about the essential skills for admins, right?

Mike Gerholdt: Mm-hmm.

Jenny McNamara: And that one had a lot of things that I had heard before but are good to return to. And a lot of those things I had not heard until I met my mentor. She’s very good at the foundational things.

Mike Gerholdt: Oh.

Jenny McNamara: She has a very strong understanding of best practices and things like that.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. What’s interesting, so that’s been on our team for quite some time, I actually threw out an original version of that way back in 2011 at Dreamforce called The Seven Habits of a Highly Successful Admin. And it’s gone through different iterations to where it is now.

I’d be curious, having seen that and also knowing that you’re working on a team, it was very much written individualistic, because I know many of our Salesforce admins are the only person in their organization. Right? It tends to be an unequal curve of, one person or many people, and very few in between. Right? How do you feel like those habits applied when you’re as part of a team?

Jenny McNamara: I think the habits are still really important, right? You still need to cover all of those things. I think when you’re part of a team and you have different strengths on the team, you can let some people cover some of them more strongly than others.

Mike Gerholdt: Right.

Jenny McNamara: Which is something that recently with my team we’ve noticed, “Okay, some of us are better at some things than others.” I don’t think any of us want to be the sole person doing any one thing, but it’s nice to have someone to lean on, “Oh, I know this person is a little stronger with this. Let me ask what they would do in this instance.”

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah.

Jenny McNamara: So, I think with the habits, some of us are stronger with some than others and might notice if we’re behind on something or whatever it may be. But I think with a team, you get the advantage of not having to be great at everything, because you’ve got different skill sets on the team.

Mike Gerholdt: That’s a very good perspective. So, that was a lot of the past. Let’s turn the gaze forward. Salesforce administrator now, you’re a year in, did you say?

Jenny McNamara: I am about a year in now, where I actually stepped into the administrator role as opposed to just the business analyst.

Mike Gerholdt: From being BA?

Jenny McNamara: Mm-hmm.

Mike Gerholdt: Okay. What’s the next year, what is the goalposts ahead for you?

Jenny McNamara: The next things on my list are really, I think all the time for me is to keep looking at the basics. I like to try and get into Trailhead every once in a while and do the things … I just find a module, like, I would like to get into starting to study for my advanced administrator, because that will show me some more foundational things that I just … Sometimes I find things I didn’t even know existed. Right?

Mike Gerholdt: Right.

Jenny McNamara: So, I think, I want to do a mix of returning to basics consistently and anything to do with automation. I still love flows, it is the first thing that I love, but I want to become the master of flows, basically.

Mike Gerholdt: Oh, wow. That’s an audacious goal.

Jenny McNamara: It is. I don’t think I can do it in a year, but…

Mike Gerholdt: I mean if you do, then holy cow. I think I will say there’ll be a standing spot on this podcast for you, because the appetite for flow content is never ending.

Jenny McNamara: Oh goodness. I mean, I guess I’m one of those people too, I love to hear about them. I like to hear what people are doing with them and how you solve the problems, because I’ve worked on several flows since I’ve been on this team now and I learn something new every time.

And then, there’s new ideas that you can vote for in the IdeaExchange, which is great, and I love when they release new features. And I haven’t looked at the spring release notes, or I’m sorry, the summer release notes yet, to know what’s coming out, but I’m excited for whatever is new. I always like to try and use whatever’s new in some way.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. I guess to that learning point, how do you balance … You said you like to get into Trailhead, I think there can be people I know struggle with, “Boy, I’ve got so much to do at work all day and then I get home.” Do you work in an hour? Do you block some time on your calendar during the week? Or, are you fully like, “Ah, I get home and seven o’clock I’m doing Trailhead.”? What’s that for you?

Jenny McNamara: That varies, I think, depending on what my work looks like. There are times where I’m doing it outside of work hours. Sometimes my brain is full at the end of the day because I’m doing something new. For example, recently I was setting up in our test environment, voicemail for Service Cloud Voice, using the newer, out-of-the-box voicemail solutions. And we had had it set up previously, using more heavily customized things. So, we’re moving away from that so that it doesn’t break when we upgrade the phones.

So, before doing this, I hadn’t done much with the phone setup. It was just a piece of it that I hadn’t really had to touch yet. So, a lot of learning was happening during hours. I was in Trailhead during work hours saying, “How does this work? How is it supposed to work?” Attended the Devo office hours that happen every week, to ask some questions and soak in some more knowledge there. And I think all of that is learning and it’s applied to what you’re trying to accomplish.

Mike Gerholdt: Right.

Jenny McNamara: So, sometimes it’s directed more towards what I’m trying to accomplish at work and then if I’m not doing as much of that during work hours, yes, I will block some time before work sometimes, or I’m a night owl and sometimes, I don’t know if I should admit this to the world, but I’ll be awake and excited about learning something at 11 o’clock at night.

Mike Gerholdt: Well, we know you build flows up till 3:00 AM, so.

Jenny McNamara: I already did say that, didn’t I?

Mike Gerholdt: Secret’s out of the bag there.

Jenny McNamara: Yeah, I am that person that will stay up. I am very good at staying awake when I’m excited about something. Sometimes you’ll find me on Trailhead in the middle of the night.

Mike Gerholdt: Which is the middle of the day for other people, so you’re fine.

Jenny McNamara: Yeah. So, same idea as, “Well, it’s five o’clock somewhere.” Right?

Mike Gerholdt: Right. Exactly.

Jenny McNamara: It’s always a good time.

Mike Gerholdt: Looking back at how you’ve gotten to where you’re at so far, if current self, the 2023 Jenny could go back and give a piece of advice to Jenny when she was getting started, what would that be?

Jenny McNamara:I think, diving into the basics sooner is good and finding some of the resources that Salesforce actually provides, like you guys, make for admins sooner, would be what I would tell her. I’d say, “Hey, look at these resources. Go actually dive into them. They’re important.”

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah.

Jenny McNamara: Because I didn’t know about that stuff. My boss now wasn’t my boss right away, and there were a lot of things I didn’t know. And knowing that stuff sooner is, like I said before, when you have a really strong foundation in what the best practices are, and I’m not saying I do, I’m saying I’m working towards that, I think it just makes everything easier. When you know about the best practices, for example, your flows are better

Mike Gerholdt: In theory. I mean-

Jenny McNamara: Not just in theory, in practice. I look at some of the first flows I did and I go, “Oh my goodness.” [inaudible].

Mike Gerholdt: It couldn’t be because they were at 2:00 AM? I mean, I’ve looked at stuff I’ve built-

Jenny McNamara: I think no matter what time of day I did them, I would’ve made those decisions because I didn’t know better at the time.

Mike Gerholdt: So, do you feel for somebody that’s maybe listening to this and thinking, “Wow, I’m in business analyst, but I’ve always wanted to get more into the technical side, become an admin, perhaps pursue architect or developer, a different career path.” Do you feel the same advice applies?

Jenny McNamara: I think so. I think the foundation is really, really important. I think finding a good mentor is really key. Again, I feel very lucky in that one, that it happens to be my boss. So, it was pretty fortunate there. I think that’s really important. I think using Trailhead and actually getting to a Salesforce event, TrailheadDX was something else and I think it’s something that you need to do if you’re going to be a Salesforce professional.

Mike Gerholdt: I mean, I would agree. I feel like it’s that way with just about everything. It’s one thing to participate in an online group or discussion, or maybe even a Zoom call, but it’s another to be there and immersed with other people doing that, right?

Jenny McNamara: Yes.

Mike Gerholdt: That to me is, that’s the point at which if there’s a switch, it’s going to get flipped.

Jenny McNamara: Yes. And at TrailblazerDX, I enjoyed the basics stuff that I did, but I also went and learned … I went to a session about Lightning Web Components for admins and Visualforce pages for admins. And those aren’t typically admin things to do, but it’s good to understand how they work, because then you’re going to have better conversations with your developers that you’re working with. And then, you can figure out, “Oh, I think that’s really cool. I want to try it.” And you have some base knowledge to build off of.

Mike Gerholdt: I couldn’t agree more. Jenny, it’s been a pleasure having you on the podcast today and sharing with us your journey and giving us some advice on where you’re headed.

Jenny McNamara: It’s been great being here. I’m sorry I was a little bit hard to track down there.

Mike Gerholdt: I mean, it happens. It’s okay. You’re busy building your career, so no fault there.

Jenny McNamara: Well, I appreciate you asking me to be here and I’d happily do it again if anyone wants to talk flows, I’m your girl.

Mike Gerholdt: What a great discussion with Jenny. Now, if you enjoyed this episode, can you do me a favor and just share it with one person? If you’re listening in the iTunes app, just tap the dots and choose, “Share episode.” Then you can post it on social or text it to a friend.

And if you’re looking for more great resources, your one stop for everything admin is admin.salesforce.com, including a transcript of this show. And be sure to join our conversation in the Admin Trailblazer Group in the Trailblazer community. Don’t worry, the link is in the show notes. So, until next week, we’ll see you in the cloud.

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