Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we’ve got another developer story for those of you thinking about careers and what to do next. This episode, we’re talking with Miranda Ragland, founder and CEO of M7 Unlimited. We caught up with her at WITness Success 2018 to talk about how she became a Salesforce developer and the work she does to help enable others to become proficient on the platform.
Join us as we talk about how Miranda built her career in programming and how trying to automate her timesheets eventually lead her to a career as a Salesforce developer.
You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Miranda Ragland.
Coding from the age of seven.
Miranda’s been a Salesforce developer since 2006. “I really really love taking advantage of the platform to make it easier for end-users to get their work done,” she says, “I tend to focus more on admins and consultants because I love building tools for their and it’s a fantastic platform to build on.”
“I’ve always been a curious person by nature,” Miranda says, “and I was really lucky to have access to computers when I was really young—early 80s. And just by being curious by nature I wanted to know how they worked, so I took apart our family computer.” She started coded when she was seven years old, creating a game in BASIC and even debugging it. “There’s this feeling of accomplishment when you figure out what’s going wrong,” she says, “when you have that aha moment and it works it’s an amazing adrenaline rush.”
How getting rid of extra clicks lead to a career.
As Miranda picked up more programming languages, she was constantly on the search for what would come next. As an early internet user (like 1991 early), she was curious about how things worked at a lower level, so she taught herself C and Visual Basic, and then moved on to assembly, C++, C#, and Enterprise Java. “I had to log into Salesforce log my time slips, and it wasn’t a particularly well-automated system back then in 2006,” she says, “so I decided I wanted to learn how to make this more efficient because I was tired of all the clicks so I learned how to write an S control.”
At this point, Miranda was working with a consulting company that just so happened to have a client that needed help with a Salesforce integration, which at the time meant using Java to push data into the platform. Just as she was getting to know and love Salesforce, Apex came out. “I absolutely fell in love, and I haven’t looked back,” she says.
Why you already have what you need to learn to code.
When we caught up with Miranda at WITness Success 2018, she was working with registered consulting partner ITequality, which she co-founded. “One of our goals is to change the face of consulting,” she says, “and bring awareness to mental health and LGBTQ issues.” Their first client was looking for a developer to update a Visualforce page with some static text in it. Instead, Miranda was able to show them how to make that content live in Salesforce in a way that they could update it themselves.
If you’re thinking about jumping into coding, Miranda wants you to know that you already have everything you need to succeed. “It’s just structured problem solving,” she says, “people look at code and they get intimidated by it, but really coding boils down to breaking things into smaller, more digestible chunks and then you tackle those smaller problems.” The more comfortable you get with the concepts, the easier it’ll be to pick up new languages.
Full Show Transcript
Gillian Bruce: Welcome to the Salesforce Admins podcast, where we talk about product, community, and careers to help you become a more awesome Salesforce admin. I’m Gillian Bruce. Today, listeners, we have another really fun developer story for you. Yes, I know this is the admins podcast, but I’ve heard a lot of feedback from people in the community thinking about careers, progressions, what to do next, and a lot of people have asked me about, “Hey, I’m thinking about maybe becoming a developer.” Well, that’s why I’m surfacing some of these amazing interviews that I’ve recorded actually a long time ago that were with more developer type people to help you learn a little bit more about their career path, what they do as developers every day, to maybe inspire you to think about that as a possible skillset to add to your admin tool belt.
Gillian Bruce: So, today, we are sharing an interview with Miranda Ragland. Now, Miranda is another amazing woman that I was able to sit down with at WITness Success, which is a very amazing community event that’s held in the summer. It’s about women in technology. This was from WITness Success in 2018, I sat down with Miranda to learn a little bit more about how she became a Salesforce developer, about some of the incredible work she’s been able to do to help enable others to become proficient on the Salesforce platform. And I wanted to share that with you because I think it’s a pretty fun conversation. You can really hear her passion in terms of how she discovered what she loved to do, and what led her into the Salesforce ecosystem, and what she loves about working on the platform.
Gillian Bruce: Now, one thing you’ll notice is that Miranda, at that time, was working with ITequality. Now, she is the founder and CEO of M7 Unlimited. She’s still the co-leader of the Orange County Women in Technology User Group. And without further ado, please welcome Miranda to the podcast. Miranda, welcome to the podcast.
Miranda Ragland: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Gillian Bruce: Well, I am so happy that you’re here. We are here at the 38th floor of the Grand Hyatt in Downtown Denver for WITness Success and the view is ridiculous.
Miranda Ragland: It’s spectacular.
Gillian Bruce: Yeah, I have never seen so much of Colorado in one gander there. So, we’re at WITness Success, which is an amazing community event about women in technology. I really wanted to take advantage of my time here to connect with some amazing developers. I know, usually I’m an admins podcast, but we wanted to start telling some developer stories. So, Miranda, tell me a little bit about what you do.
Miranda Ragland: Well, I am a Salesforce developer. I have been, actually, since 2006.
Gillian Bruce: Okay, so just a little while?
Miranda Ragland: Yeah, I’ve got some experience. Yeah, and I really, really love using the platform, to just take advantage of the platform, to make it easier for end users to actually get done, get their work done, basically. I tend to focus more on admins and consultants, because I love building tools for them.
Gillian Bruce: That’s cool.
Miranda Ragland: And it’s a fantastic platform to build on.
Gillian Bruce: That’s great. You’re a developer passionate about building tools for even the super users, the admins, the consultants. That’s a pretty unique niche thing to focus on because you’re dealing with very demanding customers, I would assume.
Miranda Ragland: Well, I’m also a consultant developer as well, I’m a co-founder of ITequality.
Gillian Bruce: Awesome.
Miranda Ragland: So, I do a little bit of it all, but my real passion is for, actually, giving back to our community.
Gillian Bruce: That’s great. So, tell me about ITequality.
Miranda Ragland: Well, we are a registered consulting partner. We started in 2017, and one of our goals is to change the face of consulting and bring awareness to mental health and LGBTQ issues.
Gillian Bruce: I love that. It’s this magic intersection that is happening, especially nowadays, right? A lot of people are talking about these things that they never before were talking about. So, thank you for creating that. That’s amazing.
Miranda Ragland: Well, I didn’t do it alone.
Gillian Bruce: I like that. It always takes a village, right?
Miranda Ragland: Yes, and an amazing visionary that I’ve been working with.
Gillian Bruce: That’s awesome. So, Miranda, tell me a little bit about your journey to becoming a developer. How did you decide that this is what you wanted to do? Tell me a little bit about that.
Miranda Ragland: I’ve always been a curious person by nature, and I was really, really lucky to have access to computers when I was really young, early eighties. Just being curious by nature, I wanted to know how they worked. So, I took apart our family computer.
Gillian Bruce: I’m sure your family was excited about that.
Miranda Ragland: My parents weren’t too happy about that. My dad walked into the room and there was the computer all in pieces all around me. I’d snuck into the garage and took his, like it was like a screwdriver.
Gillian Bruce: Oh my gosh.
Miranda Ragland: And I just unscrewed the computer. I started taking things apart and I put it all back together. It all worked.
Gillian Bruce: Well, that’s good.
Miranda Ragland: I swear it was like in the cartoons, just dollar signs were popping out of my dad’s eyes. And ever since then, my parents encouraged me to do anything I wanted with computers.
Gillian Bruce: That’s great.
Miranda Ragland: I had a neighborhood friend who had started programming and said, “Check this out. You can tell the computer what to do.” And so, I started coding when I was seven years old.
Gillian Bruce: Oh my gosh. That’s incredible.
Miranda Ragland: And it’s been a lifelong love.
Gillian Bruce: At seven years old, what kind of things are you doing? Like, take us back. What were some of the cool things that you started doing when you were that young?
Miranda Ragland: My favorite thing was I created a game in basic. I followed a tutorial from Byte Magazine, and there was a bug in the code, and so it would crash right after you started it. And I was just learning to code at that point, and I figured out how to fix it.
Gillian Bruce: Wow, that’s awesome.
Miranda Ragland: And so, we had this little snake chasing its tail game–
Gillian Bruce: That’s great.
Miranda Ragland: … that we played, and it was fun.
Gillian Bruce: And you figured out the bug in the code, which is kind of awesome. So, that must have felt pretty amazing, right?
Miranda Ragland: It did. It did. It’s one of the things that’s really stuck with me, there’s this feeling of accomplishment when you figure out what’s going wrong, and sometimes it feels like you’re going to tear your hair out and then you have that aha moment, and it works. It’s an amazing adrenaline rush. At least it is for me.
Gillian Bruce: Oh, totally. I can imagine. I see it on your face as you’re telling me this story. I know it doesn’t translate via audio, but I think we can hear it in your voice, too. That’s really awesome. So, tell us a little bit more about your journey from finding a bug in a game that you coded from early on to becoming a Salesforce developer. Tell us a little bit about kind of how you chose to create your developer path, right? What did you study? What are some of the languages that you started learning? Take us down that route.
Miranda Ragland: So, the very first language I learned was Pascal. I used, I think it was Turbo Pascal 7, and then, I pretty quickly picked up basic, but I wanted to do more. The Internet had just come out and like I said, I was a really lucky kid. I got access to the Internet in 1991.
Gillian Bruce: That’s amazing, that’s right when Al Gore invented it, right?
Miranda Ragland: That’s not how I remember it, but he did have something to do with getting it approved. So, yeah, I had early access to it, and I was really, really curious about how things worked at a lower level, and I learned about the C language. And so, I convinced my parents to buy me a book on learning C. And so, I learned C, and then visual basic came out, and I started doing UIs and everything, and that was really cool. And then, I had gotten to a period where I did some things I’m now ashamed of, but it was really cool.
Gillian Bruce: You were learning.
Miranda Ragland: Well, I was part of the AOL scene and I wasn’t just a script kitty, I was the one writing scripts.
Gillian Bruce: That’s awesome.
Miranda Ragland: So, it just all kind of … I just fell in love with the idea of programming and I continued to learn. I learned assembly. I learned C++, my first professional job was with C#. And then, when that project ended, I had a friend that needed help on a project for this consulting company that she was working for, and so, she brought me in and it was Enterprise Java. And so, here I am learning Enterprise Java, meanwhile, I’m going to school for computer science.
Gillian Bruce: That’s amazing.
Miranda Ragland: I’m thinking, “I’m going to focus on operating systems, the really, really low level stuff. Maybe I’ll get into embedded systems, something like that. I want to be bare to the metal. This is awesome.” But my professional career was pulling me away from that, and so, all of a sudden I’m doing Enterprise Java, picking this up, because Java, C#, C++, they’re all kind of iterations on prior technologies. It’s all very, very similar. So, I picked up Java really, really quickly and this is what led me to my Salesforce career. I had to login to Salesforce to log my time slips.
Gillian Bruce: I see. All right.
Miranda Ragland: It wasn’t a particularly well automated system back then. This is back in 2006, and so I decided I wanted to learn how to make this more efficient because, I was tired of all of the clicks that it took. So, I learned how to write an S-Control.
Gillian Bruce: Just because you wanted to make your time sheet entry easier. That’s amazing.
Miranda Ragland: Exactly, and then, something amazing happened. We had a client that needed to do an integration, and so all of a sudden I’m using Java to push data into Salesforce, and I’m starting to learn the platform more. I’m really starting to love it, and then Apex came out, and I just absolutely fell in love, and I haven’t looked back.
Gillian Bruce: Apex, lots of love for Apex. I love that. That’s so cool. What a cool journey you’ve had. You can really hear the passion and your dedication to improving systems and making things work better. That’s just so cool, and I think you’ve learned every single language that exists, it sounds like.
Miranda Ragland: Oh, no, there’s plenty. That’s one of the biggest challenges. It’s kind of impossible to learn it all. There are so many brilliant minds working on things and coming up with new concepts, and new approaches to doing things that, yeah, I’ve got … I think I have a rich history, and there’s some stuffs that are going on in the industry, and I look at that and just like, “I don’t even know how that works.”
Gillian Bruce: It’s just so why, yeah, that’s amazing. Okay, so from writing your first S-Control, what’s a big cool project you’ve worked on or what’s one of those moments where you were starting to do more stuff on the Salesforce platform where you’re like, “All right, this is cool. I just did that.”
Miranda Ragland: One of the things I’m most proud about, something I did with the prior company, and it was before communities and before any of the visual building tools. I developed the engine for dynamically rendering visual force pages, and it was all driven by data out of Salesforce, and it was just so amazing seeing it come to life. And I was being told, “Well, the platform can’t do this.” “Oh, yes, it can.”
Gillian Bruce: Don’t challenge me because I will prove to you.
Miranda Ragland: Yeah.
Gillian Bruce: That’s awesome.
Miranda Ragland: Some of the stuff that I’m most proud about, my actual first client with ITequality, they had a visual force page that had some static text in it, and they needed a developer to go in and update it. And so, I told them like, “No, no, you don’t. All we need to do is refactor this a little bit. And we’ve got tons of options for you to be able to actually have this content live inside of Salesforce. And if you just need to change the wording of a blurb of text, here you go, here’s the custom setting.”
Gillian Bruce: Yeah, empowering them instead of being dependent on asking for help every time they wanted to change a word.
Miranda Ragland: Exactly.
Gillian Bruce: That’s really cool. That really speaks to that whole idea of, you’re passionate, helping, making it easier for all of these users to do what they’re supposed to do, to get their work done, to be more efficient. Really, that’s awesome. That’s awesome. So, Miranda, tell me, for maybe some of those out there who may even be new to coding or a little intimidated, what’s one thing you recommend that they think about when maybe thinking about learning something on the code land?
Miranda Ragland: I would want to remind them that they already possess all of the skills that they need to do this. It’s just structured problem solving. People look at code and they get intimidated by it, but it’s really just, you learn a language. It’s a different way of expressing yourself and really coding boils down to breaking things into smaller, more digestible chunks. And then, you tackle those smaller problems. And so, it really is just structured problem solving. So, if you’re feeling any kind of imposter syndrome, or that you just can’t grasp this, you can, just stick with it and tell yourself that you can.
Gillian Bruce: That’s amazing advice. That is great. I think that’s going to help inspire a lot of people who are maybe on the edge and like, “Oh, no, no, that code looks so intimidating.” But that idea, like, yeah, it’s structured problem-solving. That’s a beautiful way to break it down, [crosstalk 00:15:18].
Miranda Ragland: Then, something amazing actually happens. The more you do it, the more comfortable you get with the concepts of how you solve the problems using code, you can start moving to other languages and pick them up really rapidly, because the concepts are all the same. It’s just the syntax that changes.
Gillian Bruce: That’s great. Yeah, you’re like unlocking a whole new world, right? You kind of understand how these things relate.
Miranda Ragland: Yeah.
Gillian Bruce: That’s great. All right. Well, Miranda, before I let you go, I do want to ask you a lightning round.
Miranda Ragland: Okay.
Gillian Bruce: All right. So, your lighting round question is, what is one of the weirdest developer terms you’ve heard?
Miranda Ragland: Weirdest? There’s so many acronyms.
Gillian Bruce: I know, you have so many to pick from.
Miranda Ragland: Sure. The weirdest one. Wow. This is oddly tougher than I thought it would be.
Gillian Bruce: Or, maybe one of the ones that really struck you in your learning curve, of like learning how to code.
Miranda Ragland: The one that popped to my mind was Enterprise Java Beans.
Gillian Bruce: That’s fantastic.
Miranda Ragland: And POJOs, I heard POJO, and I was like, “Is that a sandwich?”
Gillian Bruce: What really is that? I don’t know what either of those are.
Miranda Ragland: Yeah, that’s just the Plain Old Java Object, but when you’re new to the industry and everyone’s throwing around all of these slang, it can be really, really intimidating.
Gillian Bruce: Totally.
Miranda Ragland: And you come up with these explanations of what it is in your head, and then, you find out that you’re terribly wrong, and then, it becomes second nature.
Gillian Bruce: You said Enterprise Java Beans and I’m thinking like huge, huge coffee beans that are like enterprise level. Maybe they look like the USS Enterprise, I don’t know. My brain is a weird place, but that’s … Yeah, that’s great. Well, Miranda, thank you so much for joining us today. I so appreciate your time and appreciate you sharing your story, and I think a lot of people are going to get really great inspiration from it, and looking forward to seeing what you do next.
Miranda Ragland: Oh, thank you so much.
Gillian Bruce: I’m so thankful I get to share Miranda’s amazing interview with all of you, listeners. I hope you enjoyed that. We got really into the weeds there about fun, different languages. I just love how Miranda discovered from a very early age, at the age of seven, that she was inspired and passionate about computers. It starts with her taking apart her family’s computer, right? And putting it back together again, thankfully, it worked again, but then she got full support from her parents to pursue a career in computers. And so, at seven years old she was coding a game, and troubleshooting a bug, and basic. And then, she was part of kind of the advent of the Internet age and was really early in on building things, even writing scripts for AOL, learning C++, a bunch of different languages.
Gillian Bruce: And then, she actually learned about Salesforce because she had to log her time sheets in Salesforce and was like, “Hey, wait a second, this is not very efficient.” Being the amazing developer and problem solver she is, she taught herself how to write an S-Control to make that a smoother process, and then she was a part of the Salesforce ecosystem, and since then, she’s built some amazing things. She fell in love with Apex and didn’t turn back, is what she said. She’s built some really fun things like developing a dynamic engine to render visual force pages in Salesforce, one of her first early projects, and doing things to help enable admins everywhere.
Gillian Bruce: I love how she talked about her passion for helping admins really be successful on the platform and make their lives easier and their jobs easier. And just a recent project that she talked about on the podcast was enabling a client that she was working with to say, “Hey, you don’t need a developer to change the text on this page. Let’s refactor it from the ground up so that you as an admin who does not code can actually go in there and make changes yourself.” In the process, she ignores the people who says, “You can’t do this. You can’t do this. This is not the way it works.” She loves finding a way to solve this complex problems, which she has done.
Gillian Bruce: And on that note, she had some great advice for those of you who are maybe thinking about learning how to code, or maybe a little hesitant, don’t be intimidated. Code is just structured problem solving. It’s just another language that you need to use in order to solve problems. You’ve already got the skills that you need to do this as an admin, because you’re solving problems like this every day, they just aren’t in code yet. So, breaking things into small chunks is another great way to think about it. This is what you’ll see developers do, is kind of breaking down line by line to identify where problems are and where you can improve things.
Gillian Bruce: She also really encourages everyone to fight the imposter syndrome, to stick with it. You will get this, have some confidence, and the more you do it, the easier you’ll find it to translate your skills between different languages. So, pay attention to the concepts that you already know as an admin in terms of problem solving, and how the platform works. You’ll be able to apply those to any development that you might want to learn or develop, or skills that you might want to add to your tool belt. So, I wanted to really thank Miranda for sharing her wisdom with us, sharing her story, hearing her passion. Seeing her light up as she talks about how she discovered different things along her career journey was really fun.
Gillian Bruce: If you want to learn a little bit more about maybe becoming a Salesforce developer, great news, we’ve got resources for you, so go to Trailhead. There is a trail called developer beginner trail. I put the link in the show notes, so you should definitely check that out. If you want to learn more about the weird developer term, Miranda shared with us Enterprise Java Beans and POJOs. I actually found an article that talks about both of those and put that in the show notes so you can look that up if you want. Trailhead is a great way, not only to learn about maybe becoming a developer, but also a way to prepare for your next Salesforce certification. So, whether you have no Salesforce certifications, or you’ve got plenty, go to Trailhead to prepare for your next cert.
Gillian Bruce: It should be something that every year you add a new certification to your tool belt. It’s a great way to prove to employers your skills and to help build your confidence as a Salesforce administrator, or developer, or architect on the platform. As always, you can go to admin.salesforce.com to learn about how you can become a more awesome Salesforce admin with blogs, webinars, events, and even more podcasts. Please remember to subscribe to this podcast and share it with your friends to make sure you get the latest and greatest episodes delivered directly to your platform or device of choice the moment they are released.
Gillian Bruce: I want to thank you so much for listening to this episode. Please also connect with us on social. You can find us @SalesforceAdmns, no I, on Twitter. Our guest today, Miranda, is also on Twitter @MirandaJanell. Her link is in the show notes, and you can find myself @gilliankbruce. Thank you so much for listening to this episode, and we’ll catch you next time in the cloud.