Anna Szabo talks about never giving up on her dreams

Never Give Up on Your Dreams with Anna Szabo

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Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Anna Szabo, ISV Platform Expert at Salesforce. Join us as we chat about getting started with Trailhead, how to decide which certifications to go for, and why we all need to embrace failure.

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

Give yourself a chance

Anna wanted to be Salesforce certified for a long time before she actually jumped into Trailhead and got started. “To be honest with you, I didn’t believe I could,” she says. But in 2022, she decided she’d get her certification by the end of the year.

She left notes for herself everywhere that she’d be a certified Salesforce Administrator, but still couldn’t seem to get started. On May 23, 2022, she wrote herself a poem:

“Give Yourself a Chance” by Anna Szabo

When feeling scared, just give yourself a chance!

By analyzing paralyzed, you can’t advance.

To make some progress, starting is a must!

While outcomes pursuing, please the process trust!

Just give yourself a chance so you can soar!

View learning as a blessing, not a chore!

For outcomes to happen, you must start the process! 

Engage in learning to ensure your progress! 

Yes, you can do it; give yourself a chance!

At future, not the past I recommend you glance.

A vision helps you through the journey to advance!

Get started please! Just give yourself a chance!

Within 30 days, Anna earned her admin certification. She became 19x Salesforce certified in 1 year, and earned the All Star Ranger rank in only 477 days. Today, she works for Salesforce as an ISV Platform Expert and has helped over a thousand Trailblazers get their certifications, too.

Be the CEO of your career

One of the most common questions I get asked at events is some version of, “How do I decide which certifications to pursue on Trailhead?” Anna’s advice is to be the CEO of your career and, as CEO, you need to look at which certifications are demanded in the marketplace. What shows up on job listings? What about for your dream job?

When you’re going for these certifications, Anna encourages you to embrace failure. “Studying for these exams only exposes how much you don’t know,” she says. Even with all of her accomplishments, Anna had to retake several certification exams. Keep on giving yourself a chance and you’re bound to succeed.

More content from Anna to help with your certifications

In addition to her role at Salesforce, Anna creates a ton of content to help other Trailblazers follow their dreams. If you’re thinking about getting more certifications or going for your first, make sure to check out her YouTube channel or find her on LinkedIn.

This episode is jam-packed with inspiring words and motivation, so be sure to take a listen if you haven’t already. See you next week!

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Full show transcript

Mike:
This week on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we are talking with Anna Szabo, who is an ISV platform expert at Salesforce, but she’s also 23 times certified in everything Salesforce. Holy cow. I mean, she’s got tons of certifications and a very inspiring story, which is why we had her on. She really aggressively went after these certifications. And so I think it’s something that everybody can sit down, kind of aspire to. Obviously you don’t need to have 23 certifications under your belt, but she has some really great tips on motivating yourself and staying true to being inspired.

But before we get into that episode, I want to be sure that you are doing one thing, which is following the Salesforce Admins podcast wherever you get podcasts. So it could be iTunes or Spotify or iHeartRadio. And the reason I say that is that way every time a new episode like this one comes out, it’s automatically going to be downloaded onto your phone and so you can listen to it right away when you are heading to work, or if you’re like me in the Midwest and you’re digging out of yet another snowstorm. So with that, I’m going to go shovel some snow and let’s get Anna on the podcast.

So Anna, welcome to the podcast.

Anna Szabo:
Hey, Mike. Thank you so much for having me. It is such an honor to be a part of your community, and I would like to say hi to the Trailblazer who is listening. My name is Anna Szabo and I became 19 times Salesforce certified in one year and earn the all-star ranger rank in 477 days. And I would like to share with everybody everything I learned on my Trailblazer journey so that perhaps I can encourage and empower you, Trailblazer. The purpose of my life is to encourage and empower people and I promise you, on my Trailblazer journey, I’ve needed so much encouragement and empowerment and people invested in me. So hopefully today through this podcast, I’ll be able to invest in you.

Mike:
Yeah, well, I mean that’s a perfect intro. Why don’t we get started with why you decided to get certifications and get into the Salesforce ecosystem?

Anna Szabo:
I’m definitely not an overnight success story that many Trailblazers think I am. I started first using Salesforce in 2015 and I wanted to become Salesforce certified but to be honest with you, I didn’t believe I could. And I worked on my mindset and in 2016, I actually invited my entire team to come to the Atlanta Salesforce connections for an entire week in May of 2016 and I got so excited. I was so inspired and I wanted to become Salesforce certified, but unfortunately, I didn’t believe that I could. It felt that it was too out of reach for someone like me. And when I say someone like me, I mean the person who is very insecure, is filled with self-doubt, and doesn’t genuinely believe in themselves. That’s the kind of person I am. And of course, when I encourage and impart Trailblazers in my LinkedIn posts, I always say that the key to unlocking your future is located in your past.

And of course, those things are rooted very deeply. So for seven years, after I started working in Salesforce and I wanted to become Salesforce certified, for seven years, I did not attempt even one certification ever. And I was very intimidated by Trailhead all these years because I couldn’t even figure out how to navigate it honestly.

So what changed is in 2022 in February, I decided. I decided that I will become Salesforce certified. I wrote it on index cards. I placed it all over my home, in every drawer, in every room, beside my bed, in my nightstand. But I wish I could tell you that immediately I started becoming Salesforce certified and studying on Trailhead. However, that’s not my story. It took many more months. I actually ended up writing myself a letter, which is a poem, and I ended up writing it to myself on April 7th, 2022 and it’s called “Give Yourself a Chance” and I’ll share that poem with you.

And after that letter, I still did not take my chance. I still was paralyzed by this anxiety, by overwhelmed, by self-doubt, and it took me until May 23rd, 2022 to actually take action. And once I did, once I broke free from that prison of self-doubt and insecurities, I became Salesforce certified in 30 days on the first attempt, and I became 19 times Salesforce certified in one year. Today I work at Salesforce as an ISV platform expert, and I am 23 times Salesforce certified, and I took 30 exams since then.

So here’s my poem I would like to share with you called “Give Yourself a Chance”. When feeling scared, just give yourself a chance. By analyzing paralyzed, you can’t advance. To make some progress, starting is a must. While outcomes pursuing, please the process trust. Just give yourself a chance so you can soar. View learning as a blessing, not a chore. For outcomes to happen, you must start the process. Engage in learning to ensure your progress. Yes, you can do it. Give yourself a chance. At future, not the past, I recommend you glance. A vision helps you through the journey to advance. Get started, please. Just give yourself a chance.

Mike:
That’s really cool. Thank you for sharing that.

Anna Szabo:
You’re welcome.

Mike:
You kept that by your bed you said in your dresser?

Anna Szabo:
My poem?

Mike:
Yeah.

Anna Szabo:
Not my poem. I wrote on index cards everywhere that I am a Salesforce Certified Administrator, and I looked at it for months before I actually took action. And that is why today when I mentor Trailblazers… By the way, I haven’t just been blazing my own trail. I’ve helped more than a thousand Trailblazers become Salesforce certified and even land their dream jobs in the Salesforce ecosystem since June 2022. I’ve done this through one-on-one coaching, mentorship via global webinars I’ve done all over the planet, and also through my written articles on LinkedIn and of course through my very popular videos on YouTube that helped thousands of Trailblazers achieved their Salesforce goals.

And I’m especially proud to say that I’ve helped minority women through one-on-one mock job interviews as a minority woman myself, of course, I’m an immigrant here in America. I’m an immigrant from Russia. I helped women from Venezuela, India, Russia, Honduras, Thailand and I’ve also mentored many men as well. And I’ve mentored heavily many people in the African-American community here in the United States. So that’s something I’m very proud of.

And what I tell people is you have to write with your hand on paper what it is that you envision yourself becoming, and you have to put it everywhere, all over your home so you cannot avoid seeing it. And then hopefully by planting the seeds, even if you’re slow like me and it takes you years, seeds will take off eventually, like they did for me, and I became 19 times Salesforce certified in one year, and I earned my All Star Ranger rank on Trailhead in 477 days. Today, I encourage everyone to learn on Trailhead and to just give themselves a chance. Please don’t wait seven years like I’ve done. Please don’t do it to yourself.

Mike:
Well, that’s amazing. And certainly that many certifications is quite above and beyond what a lot of people have and I think most people aspire to. I think one question that I would love to know is how did you decide with that many certifications, what topics and features to do next? Which certification did you start with? And then kind of tell me a little bit about your thought process on well, after I do this one, I’m going to do this one next. I feel like a lot of the questions that I get when I’m at World Tour or a lot of the evangelists or Admin team gets is, so I did this one, now what do I do? So what was your thought process for that?

Anna Szabo:
That’s a wonderful question. Thank you so much. The purpose of my life is to encourage and empower people. And empowerment is all about the sense of agency, having the sense of agency over your life and your career. So being the CEO of my career, I don’t imagine what certifications I need. I go and I look what is required and what’s essential, what’s demanded from me in the marketplace.

My only goal and dream, that I didn’t even believe was possible for me, was to earn the Salesforce administrator certification. When I earned it, I literally screamed. I couldn’t believe it said pass on the scream. I cried. I filmed a video, sent it to my mentors. I jumped up and down. And once it was all over for me, of course, I filmed multiple YouTube videos for my channel, Anna Szabo on YouTube, and I shared my entire experience to encourage and empower others, and then I started applying for jobs.

I was shocked. I was absolutely shocked. I interviewed with 60 different companies, six zero, 60 different companies. Most of them were Salesforce partners. And I was applying for Salesforce Business Analyst and Salesforce consultant roles. And from the first interview with a recruiter, they would tell me, “We want you to commit to earning multiple certifications a year. When you earn this certification, we’ll pay you $250 bonus. We’ll add $5,000 to your salary base.” Other companies would say, “Once you earn this certification, we’ll pay you a thousand dollars. Once you earn this super badge,” they would say, “we’ll pay you thousands of dollars bonus because we really need it for our Trailblazer Scorecard in a partner community,” and I was stunned. I documented everything, every interview I had, I documented everything, and I only saw one common denominator among all my interviews. And that is that Salesforce certifications are demanded by companies from Trailblazers.

The more you have, the more valuable you are in your job search to those companies. Why? Because those Salesforce partners are ranked by Salesforce based on their Trailblazer Scorecard. And in that Trailblazer Scorecard, each partner has specific certifications required for them to get projects from Salesforce to generate revenue for themselves. And once I figured that out, which initially I was shocked, I never heard such demand for Salesforce certifications.

I actually have an MBA and a doctoral degree in criminal justice. I graduated from four universities, three of them with high honors, two of them on full scholarship. And I’ve never heard anybody being so excited about my MBA or any of my degrees as people are excited about me having Salesforce certifications. So what I did is I wrote down certifications they all demanded, and I decided to go after those certs.

At the time, the newest and most exciting certification was Salesforce Business Analyst. That’s the reason why that was my second certification. I passed it in 30 days on the first attempt. So now that I established this pattern of passing my Salesforce certifications in 30 days on the first attempt, I felt like I can conquer the world, and I really got it. I have my secrets of how to prepare and I will be a success story. So my next certification was Sales Cloud Consultant. I prepared to succeed. I followed all my own advice, and I completed the Sales Cloud Super Badge, and I failed that exam.

And 15 minutes after I failed it, I had a meeting with a 28 times certified Salesforce Architect, and he was shocked when he saw me. He asked me, what is going on with you? What happened? Why are you like this? And I said that I feel overwhelmed and I feel like quitting Salesforce because that’s not something I can do. Look how stupid I am. I failed a Salesforce Sales Cloud exam. He said, “What? That’s why you’re so stressed out. Hold on,” and he pulled up on a screen his entire Webassessor account, and he started scrolling through his certification results of many years, nearly a decade. And all I see on the screen is fail, fail, fail, pass, fail, fail, fail, fail, fail, pass. I was speechless.

And I said, look at one certification, Platform Developer 1. He failed it for eight years and then he passed it. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was live. So it was not photoshopped, and I knew it was live, and it was beyond my comprehension because I had a disability of being a straight A student. I was always a straight A student, always on the Honor Roll, always on a physical board. My picture was featured for super accomplished students for all the years I had in school. And I believe being a straight A student is a complete and total disability because you have to be willing and able to fail if you’re going to go for these difficult technical exams.

So that cured me. That was really good medicine that I received from him. And I worked on my mindset for two more weeks to overcome all that physical pain I felt in my body from failure, from trauma that activated all the trauma that I’m not good enough, I will never measure up. And I went for my second attempt and I passed the Sales Cloud Consultant exam successfully. And then of course, at that time, I was already having so many job interviews. I realized Sales and Service and Experience Cloud are core, and I must get those certs because they’re core and they’re required everywhere. For any job you go apply, it would have a whole list of certifications for you to check. Do you have admin cert? Do you have Platform App Builder? Do you have Sales Cloud? Do you have Service Cloud? Do you have Experience Cloud? Do you have CPQ?

And when I became six times Salesforce certified in 108 days, I landed a job as a Salesforce Consultant at the partner agency and for my six certifications, because they were valuable and improved the Trailblazer Scorecard for my employer, I was paid $5,000 signing bonus. I learned that the salary of $125,000 salary base, and I was told that if I get Marketing Cloud Consultant certification, I would be paid $1,600 bonus. Of course, being a single woman who pays her own bills to me, there is no reason why I would not do it. Absolutely no reason. Of course, I went through it right away. But to unlock Marketing Cloud Consultant exam, you had to pass Email Specialists, and then while I was doing that, rules changed and it was Admin required.

So I went for Marketing Cloud Email Specialist, and I failed. I went for Marketing Cloud Admin, and I failed. I went for Marketing Cloud Email Specialist again and I passed I went for Marketing Cloud Admin and I passed. I went for Marketing Cloud Consultant and I failed, and then I failed, and then I failed, and then I failed again. And after I failed it four times, I told myself, “Okay, that’s enough. This is only a proof that you truly are stupid. Please stop trying,” and I felt so devastated, but that was my decision that I won’t be trying any Salesforce certification anymore because it was just a proof what my mom said that I’m incapable. And my friend Shaniqua and I had a conversation right after I failed Marketing Cloud Consultant exam for the fourth time, and just very gently in passing, nothing special, she said, “Yeah, I passed my Salesforce Admin exam on the seventh attempt.”

What? What are you talking about? You took Salesforce Admin exam seven times. She said, “Yeah.” It was completely against everything I was taught growing up. I was taught that if I don’t get things from the first attempt, I’m stupid and I don’t deserve to live. I need to die. I’m a shame to my family. That’s what I was told every single day. And it felt to me like a crime failing Salesforce Marketing Cloud Consultant exam four times. And when Shaniqua told me she gave herself seven chances, I felt like, who allowed that? Isn’t it law violation? Are you not supposed to be jailed by the police for doing that? Who gave you the permission to believe in yourself so much? And Shaniqua gently shared with me her mindset, and she said things I’ve never heard. She said, “Yeah. I just decided that I will try for as many times as it takes until I succeed.”

I know in the physical realm there was no fireworks and the earth was not shattered, and there was nothing happening in my physical realm. But in my spiritual realm, there was earth-shattering going on and fireworks and rainbows. And I felt it was my thinking paradigm about me and how many times I could try, it was permanently changed. I was transformed as a person. I went to my mirror and I ask, “Anna, why would Shaniqua give herself seven chances, and you would only give yourself four?” And I remember crying, and I remember looking at myself for a very long time.

And everything I’ve gone through with my family, and I was born out of wedlock. My father was in prison, he never acknowledged me. I was told that I was illegitimate, stupid, and worthless every single day. And all of that was just in front of me as I was asking myself. And I decided to leave it all in the past, to grab a key to my future right now and to make firm steps toward my new self. Because right now, in front of this mirror, I’m deciding to give myself as many chances as it takes, no matter how many. Now. And I changed because I decided. So I took Marketing Cloud Consultant exam two days later, and I passed it on the fifth attempt.

So today, I tell Trailblazers to embrace failure, you must prepare for success. You must be diligent. You must practice growth mindset, great work ethic. You must be committed. You must have resilience to bounce back after these failures. And you must have humility because starting for these exams only exposes how much you don’t know. And if you’re somebody like me who has had an accomplished career in digital marketing. I hold seven awards in digital marketing, one in digital self-enablement for my role I played at companies global and local on go-to-market teams, and I was not used to failure. I was accomplished. I graduated from four universities and I’m smart. And what else? You need to drop all of this, all of that is not of service to you when you start learning Salesforce because learning Salesforce, you learn one thing and 1 million things you don’t know are exposed to you.

That’s why humility is essential, because you will feel stupid and overwhelmed. But step by step, if you allow yourself to embrace failure while you’re preparing for success and you give yourself chances, you will be able to get to a place that is beyond your wildest imagination. I feel like I’m living my dream life. And I got here one microscopic step at a time. I just took it one breath at a time, one step at a time.

So I failed eight Salesforce exams in one year. And I believe that the only way to success is through failure. If you are not failing, it means you are not trying something new every day and you’re not learning anything new, which means you stagnate in a dangerous health hazardous comfort zone. So you must practice growth mindset instead of fixed mindset. And if you start stretching yourself beyond your comfort zone, that is where your growth lies. That is where your accomplishment is located. But to get there often, you do need to go into the past and get the key to unlock your future like I did.

Mike:
Well, thank you very much for sharing all of that. I think that was incredibly inspiring and touching, and I appreciate you giving us some of that insight. That’s certainly a lot. As we wrap up here, the thing that I’m thinking of is maybe a lot of people have at the tip of their tongue, with so many certifications and having worked so hard to get that many, what are you looking at learning next? What is Anna’s learning path look like for 2024?

Anna Szabo:
Thank you. Right now I have a Platform Developer 2 certification that is required for my job as an ISV platform expert here at Salesforce. Platform Developer 2 certification is very difficult. The trail mix is 57 hours, and it requires also three Super Badges. It’s about 150 hour commitment.

Mike:
Wow.

Anna Szabo:
When I was applying for this job, that job required multiple certifications for you to earn within three months and fortunately, I already had them. So within 12 months, you were required to earn Platform Developer 2 certification. And honestly, if I didn’t have my experience, earning all the Salesforce certifications for an extended period of time with commitment, growth mindset, diligence, and humility, I wouldn’t be able to apply for this job and commit to a job that required a Platform Developer 2 certification. But I did apply and I did commit, and I’m working this job now after many job interviews I passed, including being interviewed by a certified Technical Architect, I was able to land my dream job at Salesforce and I’m delighted to work on this incredible team. I love my colleagues. I love working at Salesforce.

And the only reason why I was able to get my dream job was because I started on my Salesforce certification journey and studying on Trailhead because here at Salesforce, everybody’s required to be Trailhead Ranger. And between my interviews starting and my interviews ending, I went from three Star Ranger on Trailhead to six All Star Ranger on Trailhead. And I promised my interviewers that I would earn that Data Cloud consultant certification, and I did earn it right before I started this job.
I would like to say that whatever your mind can conceive and in your heart you can believe, you can achieve. And I give God all the glory for my story because I decided and committed to practicing faith every day. And I practice faith through faithful action because faith without work is dead. And I’ve been practicing my faith every day, every day, every day since May 23rd, 2022.

And I want to say a couple of things about Trailhead, if I may, because I’ve met many Trailblazers who do not take Trailhead seriously. You just start learning wherever you are at your convenience, in your pajamas from your bed, and you acquire skills in just a few weeks for free that can help you go get a job immediately. That’s exactly what I did. And you can also do a Trailblazer. So I highly recommend take Trailhead seriously, expand your mindset beyond your comfort zone, practice faith by taking faithful action every day with diligence and please, give yourself a chance.

Mike:
Well, I think that’s a fantastic way of wrapping up this episode. Anna, thank you so much for being on and sharing everything with us and telling everybody to give themselves a chance. I appreciate it.

Anna Szabo:
My pleasure.

Mike:
So see, I told you that was a great discussion with Anna and boy, a lot of really positive vibes. How cool was in that poem that she shared with us? I think that was very inspirational, and thank you for writing that. I don’t know if anybody else has written a poem to help motivate them to get certifications, but that certainly sounds like a fun thing to do in 2024.

Now, if you enjoyed this episode, I want you to again share it with one person. If you’re listening on iTunes, it’s super easy. All you got to do is tap the three dots and click share episode, and you can post it to social, which I would appreciate, or you can text it to a friend. Maybe there’s a friend you know that is struggling to get some certifications and could use an inspirational story.

And of course, if you’re looking for more great resources, your one stop for everything, Admin is admin.salesforce.com, including a transcript of the show and links to Anna’s YouTube and Anna’s sites. You can see her profile. And then of course, be sure to join the conversation, the Admin Trailblazer group, that of course is in the Trailblazer community. And those links are down below in the show notes. So until next week, I’ll see you in the Cloud.

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