Episode 3: Mitesh Mistry Salesforce Career Conversation with ROD. One of only 300 Salesforce Certified Technical Architects on the planet discusses his career and how he got there.
[Below is a transcript for your benefit. Please excuse any typos.]
Lee: Hi there guys.Welcome to RODcast. In today’s episode I’m chatting with a Mitesh Mistry. Mitesh currently one of only a few hundred certified technical architects in the world and he’s going to discuss with us in this episode his journey to becoming a CTA. His favourite project to date in Salesforce and what it’s like to also work at the mothership of Salesforce and, and what he’s excited about for the future. So hope you enjoy.
Hello, it’s Lee Durrant here. Welcome to RODcast, the podcast where we get to meet and chat with some truly fantastic people from within the Salesforce ecosystem. My goal for this podcast is to help and inform people who either already perhaps work in the Salesforce ecosystem or maybe you’re thinking of breaking into it to understand what’s good about it, what could be better, and where there are opportunities. And what some of the most amazing people in this space, how they got into it and where their career took them and what their plans are for the future. Hope you enjoy it. And please help me to reach as many people as possible within Salesforce by leaving some comments and sharing, all feedback welcome. So yeah, hope you enjoy.
Speaker 2: So hello Mitesh. And welcome to our podcast, which we’re calling RODcast. Thanks for doing this, mate. How are you?
Mitesh: I am good, thank you. How are you doing Lee?
Lee: Yeah, yeah, getting there. Getting there, mate. Wish the weather was better but, not bad at all. But again, really appreciate you doing this. Quite exciting for everybody listening, because correct me if I’m wrong, you are a certified technical architect now aren’t you?
Mitesh: Yes, that’s correct. So I’m a Salesforce CTA as of May, 2018.
Lee: Last year. So that’s fantastic. Obviously as you know, as I explained to people listening before that that this podcast is all about the journey of Salesforce experts. You know from different sides of what you guys do. But someone like yourself, it’d be quite interesting for people to hear about how your journey began if you like with Salesforce and all of that. And then what led you to where you are today? Cause I’d be quite interested to find out if this was all planned at the beginning or whether it’s just happened organically as you’ve gone on.
Really. So if that’s all right, I’ll fire away with a couple of questions to get started. And then the obvious first thing to ask you is actually in the lead up to getting into Salesforce what, what were you doing? You were at university before.
Mitesh: Okay. So I mean, let me run through my background. So I studied software engineering at the university of Edinburgh. And as part of my experience there, I got a chance to spend a year overseas. So I worked for a company called Sun Microsystems who are now taken over by Oracle and I was looking after the global labs team there. So had a really good experience for one year out in the US that was my first technology role, looking into IT. Sort of hardware networking systems and understanding how they work.
And I also do a small role with the Royal Bank of Scotland where I was building some internal applications for them. As part of my work experience as well. So I had a bit of experience before graduating. And when I graduated I got a role working for Deloittes in their graduate consulting programme.
And my very first project was more doing Java development, a bit of Selenium testing as well. And we’re building a digital rights management solution for a really large media company in London. And after doing that build for three months, they wanted to use the salesforce.com platform to be able to capture different members, different musicians, and be able to correctly attribute money to them based on who is actually playing that particular media and the recordings.
So that was my very presentation introduction to Salesforce. I started working very heavy on Apex and Visualforce to really get into the nitty gritty of the Salesforce platform, understanding exactly kind of how the code based aspects of that work. And moving on from there as my career progressed, I started becoming more of a sort of solution consultant and growing more as the time progressed into a programme architect, and then as an enterprise architect after that.
So it’s kind of grown from being more of a developer to sort of all round consultant and then leading to become an enterprise architect, which I really believe is like the jack of all trades. We have to do bits of everything. So that’s kinda how I feel about myself.
Lee: So it’s fair to say, cause it was like 10 years ago that you got into Salesforce when you were at-
Lee: So it was essentially by accident at the time, cause had you heard of Salesforce in terms of the opportunities-
Mitesh: No, not at all. So I was introduced to it three months in, there was a project kicking off as part of the work we’re doing on this client. And that was really my first introduction to Salesforce. I didn’t know how scalable the platform, how flexible it is that I’ll actually be doing that for the last 11 years.
But I think very quickly understood that you can deliver solutions really, really quickly on the Salesforce stack. Projects which would typically be like 9, 10 months in Java or other platforms. You can wrap them up in two, three months in Salesforce and deliver a really robust solution for the customer.
So I think I’m the kind of person that I like to see gains and rewards and solutions really quickly. So when I saw Salesforce and just saw how capable it was, I thought, you know what, this is the exactly the stack I want to be aligned to. So that’s what I’ve been doing for the last 10, 11 years since then.
Lee: That’s answering my next question, which was at what point in those 10 years did you know that you wanted that to be your career, that one technology?
Mitesh: Yeah, so I think once I started working for another cloud consulting provider called Acumen Solutions from there on in, it’s pretty much been out and out Salesforce. So I got to understand not just the coding elements, but the all round platform, what is able to do the main features that are there and just how quickly and easily you can take a company’s entire like IT systems and infrastructure and have that fully hosted in the cloud in Salesforce. And literally manage the company’s entire business on the Salesforce stack. So the more I started to see that, I think it was like a natural alignment for me to kind of grow in Salesforce as the platform grows as well.
Lee: And obviously your early days with Salesforce, and I’m sort of thumbing through quite a lot of your background. Strange question, but have you ever worked directly for a what we would consider to be an end user?
Mitesh: No, not really. So it’s interesting you mentioned this. So whenever I’ve done projects, I’ve always done long term ones where I’ve been on the client site for over a year. And to be honest when you’re at a customer site for more than six months, you kind of feel like you’re at one with the customer. You’re kind of part of their team in essence. So although I haven’t done an end user role per se, I still have felt that when I’m on a customer side, I kind of feel part of the team that’s there in terms of length of the projects I’ve done whilst I’ve been there.
Lee: I guess that would only help if you’re working at a big consultancy that have big customers. Otherwise as you referred to earlier, you’re going to be bouncing in and out of projects quite quickly if it’s [crosstalk 00:07:26]. Okay. And is that good advice do you think to someone that perhaps is thinking of that journey, similar journey to yourself? It’s better to be with a partner so that you get the opportunity to learn loads of different things. Or is there-
Mitesh: I think as a junior, what I say is if you’re new to the Salesforce ecosystem, you want to make a break into the Salesforce space. And I think starting off at a partner is probably the best way to begin because you get a chance to experience different industries, different customers, and they all have different challenges and problems that they’re trying to address. And you get to learn different aspects of the Salesforce platform as you do different projects. And I think that grows your overall platform experience but also grows your overall customer experience as well at the same time. So I think my recommendation for anyone starting up a BS, start with the partner and then pick an industry that you’d like or pick an aspect of the Salesforce stack that you really like and then try and align yourselves with that.
Lee: which I suppose if you go back 10 years, whilst there was still vast opportunities at Salesforce, the way, it’s just gone from where it was 10 years ago to where it is now. The opportunities are just vast aren’t they? So I guess is it fair to say that you picked your moves just because of the opportunities that were in front of you at the time or was it all quite strategic to get to where you are now?
Mitesh: I think it’s based on opportunities that present themselves at the time. And you know, have different consultancies that focus on different clients as well. Like one of the previous consultancies I worked for, they were focused very heavily on financial services. They were doing a large implementation for the Financial Conduct Authority. Probably one of the largest Salesforce enterprise implementations we have in the UK.
So that gave me a really different flavour of Salesforce as well. So I’ve kind of chosen my moves, not just based on personal growth, but it’s based on sort of experiencing different aspects of the cloud as well at the same time.
Lee: Yeah. And we can be honest here, when you mean personal, are you referring to just basically having people that could potentially move just for sake of getting some more money somewhere else? Or is that what you meant?
Mitesh: No. So when I say personal growth, I mean like taking on more leadership roles as well. So transitioning from a developer to an architect, from an architect to team lead, project manager, enterprise architect. So those are all different roles in, in terms of what you do and responsibilities you take on.
So for example, the role I’m doing now, I’m the head of architecture. So I sit across all of the projects that we do in the United Kingdom, for the company I’m at, ERP consulting. So it represents a step up from… let’s say I may have been doing, let’s say Salesforce, where you focus more as a programme architect for a single customer for a certain amount of time. So that’s how I see growth in that sense.
Lee: Yes, I was going to get to that actually. So, well after your consulting experiences, you ended up getting what most people surely in this space would consider to be the dream scenario you work in directly for Salesforce. So what that like having come from consulting to then go to the mothership and work for Salesforce? What was that like?
Mitesh: Yeah, sure. So when I was working for Cloud Sherpas became Accenture, the kind of next step for me really was like, where do I go next? Is it end user? Is it another consulting firm? Is it Salesforce? And I felt at the time that Salesforce was a really good natural fit because two reasons.
Firstly being part of their professional services group, you start to get closely aligned to the product teams as well. So you get to have a deeper insight of how certain areas of their product work. Be able to actually influence like some things that may go into a certain product or an offering on the Salesforce side. And just really be part of the mothership and understand like in Salesforce’s eyes, what is their view on best practise? What is their view on how projects should be run? What is their view on how the product should be marketed and sold to customers?
I think it was really great to have that role over there and from there on I moved on to more of a programme architect role where you’re sold on to the customer for longer duration. But instead of being like a delivery lead, you’re kind of more of a strategic advisor where you’re guiding the customers, advising them and what’s the right way to use Salesforce. Not just looking at one aspect of their business, but looking across their full enterprise stack as a whole, and how Salesforce fits into their business vision. Where they want to go, where they want to take things. And I think that role that I had at Salesforce was really fantastic in terms of professional growth and I think personal growth as well in the responsibilities I had.
Lee: Yeah. I mean a lot of people that joined Salesforce kind of stay there for life don’t they, so it’d be interesting. Without going into too much detail, I appreciate, but be interesting to know what your mindset was to then leave. And a quick question, did you get your CTA at Salesforce?
Mitesh: Yes I did.
Lee: So how did that come about? Because I appreciate it’s a very, very tough thing to get. Did it help that you worked there or was it just a coincidence?
Mitesh: Yeah, so I mean, I’ll say a few words about this. So there’s the Salesforce Certified Technical Architect. That’s the topmost credential in the ecosystem.
It’s even [inaudible 00:12:46] and managed together. It’s below 300 as far as I know, across the world. So you really are an elite bunch in terms of what we’ve studied hard to achieve. And I say this many times, it’s it’s way harder than my university degree. People have worked their socks off to get there, so hats off to any CTAs who are listening to me.
What I’d say is, I think being at Salesforce it helped. They had a good sort of structured programme to get us through the exams. To go through the mock exams, which they gave us to train us up for that particular review board. But I think whether you’re internal at Salesforce or external outside, it’s the same journey for everyone, you have a set of areas which you need to study. There is practical experience which you have to gain through products which you do and being in the ecosystem for a long enough amount of time.
And I think being a CTA, there’s a certain maturity which you must have as well. And one of the criteria for the actual review board is the CTAs who are there, judging you. They have to really feel that if they were not, they’re doing their role today that you as a aspirant to become a CTA could be somebody who can replace them, and could be swapped out pretty quickly.
So it’s the sign of maturity as well. Getting through that particular qualification, but I am ever grateful for the support, guidance, words of wisdom that I got from people at Salesforce while I was there. It was really very, very good, the help that I got.
Lee: And I understand… And I think you can see online now that you’re quite forthcoming with your advice as well for people obviously who want to follow in your footsteps. You must get questions all the time from people who want to do it. And I believe you have… Do you have a blog or anything? [crosstalk 00:14:33]
Mitesh: Yeah, so what I’ve done been doing recently is to try and help new people along the journey for studying for this exam, I’ve created a blog called Salesforce diaries. So the website is Salesforcediaries.Blogspot.Com.
Lee: Diaries as in-
Mitesh: Yeah, salesforcediaries.
Lee: Okay, what I’ll do at the end of this I’ll share the link for that as well, but yeah, sorry. Carry on.
Mitesh: Okay, perfect. And what I’ve been working through over the last couple of weeks and we’ll be doing some in the future is publishing articles about certain areas of the CTA exam. And also certain areas of enterprise architecture, which is good for people to know, good for people to apply. Both from an exam perspective and also real life projects. And I’ll be working on that over the next couple of weeks and months as well.
Lee: Brilliant. Well we’ll make sure to share that at the end of this in the show notes. I’ve been around long enough to see in other technologies have all these certifications and then there’s one day where it’s a bit of a tipping point and it gets watered down a bit. Clearly we’re nowhere near that point with the CTA if there’s only a few hundred across the world, but-
Mitesh: Yeah. So what I’ll say is one thing. So obviously Salesforce we have, we have plenty of multiple choice exams. We have exams which are there for system and application architect and ones underneath that that get you there. I think that’s great. If people really honestly apply diligent learning to getting through those exams, they go through all the modules that you need to learn and train on. Then great, that’s fine.
But if people are simply doing it, not doing those modules, just jumping into the exam, you’ve kind of missed the real essence of the training that you need to go through to become a CTA or to say that, “Yes, I know this domain really well.” So my advice for people going for a CTA or just anybody learning about architecture is the stuff that is out there. Do you go through it, do you read it properly and do understand it because that’s what really makes you a strong architect. Your knowledge of those domains and deep knowledge as well.
Lee: Brilliant. Okay. So just jump back to some other questions. I have, correct me if I’m wrong, but you’ve been a contractor and a permanent employee in your time in the Salesforce world, so what does that feel like? What’s a difference do you think in your experience being a permanent member of staff somewhere and then going out into the wide world of contracting?
Mitesh: Yeah, so it’s an interesting question. I’m going to give a very interesting answer to this as well. So although this is my first role doing contracting. Being the head of architecture for VRP consulting, but my role doesn’t feel like I’m contracting. To be very honest with you it feels like a permanent role. I have my set of responsibilities in terms of the projects that I manage and deliver. But also internal responsibilities inside of VRP Consulting as well. So although it is technically contracting, I don’t feel it to be that way.
Lee: That is an interesting answer. And is it something that you see yourself doing for a long, long time or… I say to people a lot, the word permanent probably needs to be discarded cause it’s very rarely… In my experience as well do people stay permanently in one role? There’s almost too many opportunities out there. So would you see yourself going permanent again then and if the role was right or with your kind of experience now is it always fun to be doing new things?
Mitesh: At the moment I’m not seeing a distinction so I would say if the right opportunity is there, then yes, the permanence is fine as well. I think the main difference I would see is that being permanent, you obviously have the benefits, the employee perks, which you get job security and those other elements as well, which comes with that kind of role.
Whereas I think contracting is probably more, if it looks at it from a traditional sense, it’s more for those kinds of, people… If you want to have a six month project and then a break from that and then something you need to start. If you that kind of flexibility and movement, then I think contracting is good. But having said that, at the same time when I’ve been working full time for the companies I’ve been at in a consulting role, you kind of get the same thing when a project comes to an end and you’re starting up the next one. So again, it’s a fresh challenge from that on in so…
Lee: Well I guess that’s the benefit of working at a consultancy, isn’t it? [crosstalk 00:18:48]. Absolutely. Yeah. I was gonna say I think that the benefit of working for a partner is that you feel like a contractor, but with the safety net of being permanent.
I would assume based on what you said earlier if someone’s at the beginning of their career and they’re looking to go somewhere, get experience get the company to invest in them for certifications of what have you, then that’s always going to be best to do it as a permanent person.
I dunno whether you would agree with this, but sometimes if someone’s a contractor, their ability to learn and progress can be hindered because they, they bounce around doing the same thing at different companies as a specialist-
Mitesh: That’s true as well. I think with permanent roles there’s a bit more of a push to get through certain certifications the company… They may not mandate it, but there may be certain perks that you get from achieving certain certs. Where they may say, “Right, we want other staff members to have at least five.” That kind of thing. So there’s a bit more of a driver of push supports as well to get you through an initial set of certifications for Salesforce.
Lee: It’s funny you say that. That’s leading to my next question, which is along the lines of people in their career. Do you as someone who probably recruited people or has done in your past, do you value experience over certification or the other way round or a mix of both? What’s your take on that?
Mitesh: Okay, so from my perspective I think I see as a bit of both. So having the certifications is good. If someone studied for them diligently, they’ve gone through the modules to be able to get through it and they understand the aspects of the certification is assessing then great. You know what you’re certed properly valid at that point.
But at the same time I also believe that application of that is probably the most important element because that’s when you really start compounding your knowledge and having a deeper understanding of what something means. Simple example, I can talk about single sign on and seeing that in like theory compared to the challenges you faced doing that in practise. I think the cert and experience in my mind to make you a really good sort of architect or knower of the Salesforce stack, they go hand in hand and they have to go hand in hand.
Lee: That’s a really good point. And, and so a good tip for people listening to this, whether they’re administrators all the way up to wanting to be at CTA, if you have a certification, brilliant. But try to put across how you’ve applied that knowledge in a real role. Is that a good bit of advice? I think probably. Cool. OK. Just, and I know there’ll be loads of these, and bear in mind, I’m not very technical, I’m not technical. In all your 10 years, is there a particular project that sticks out in your mind as the one you’re really proud of for whatever reason, and if so, what is that and what did you do and why are you proud of it?
Mitesh: Okay, sure. So for me, I think the project that I’m most proud of is one that I did for a company in the UK that manufactures tyres. It’s a global company. They have a site in the UK. They manufacture tyres for forklifts and trucks not just in the UK but beyond it as well.
And this was my first complex integration project where I was linking up Salesforce with SAP. I was managing a team of contractors looking after their delivery of this and at the same time this was being tied into Field Service Lightning. So it was the first successful Field Service Lightning project in the whole of EMEA region. And integration, as you can imagine, was actually core to the solution working out and being successful for this particular company.
So we got it working, we got it live. Many trips to towards Birmingham to visit their sites and get things up and running. But I think for me, just to be parts of the end of the project phase where we’re handing over we’re training the customer and you actually see them using the system. Seeing the problems they have or success that they’re having as well as using the platform and being with them to guide them in that journey of using Salesforce. I think that’s the kind of happiest that I’ve been doing a Salesforce project at the very end, after implementation.
Lee: Fantastic. And just to make sure I heard you correctly that was the first Field Service Lightning project in EMEA.
Mitesh: That was the first Field Service Lightning project in EMEA region. Yes.
Lee: Wow. No pressure then. Was that when you were at Salesforce?
Mitesh: That was when I was at Salesforce, yes.
Lee: Fantastic. And if you have something that you would say is your favourite thing about either Salesforce the product or Salesforce, the ecosystem or Salesforce, the company actually, what would you say is your sort of favourite thing about those things?
Mitesh: Okay, so a couple of things. I think firstly, the platforms always evolving and it’s evolving based on community feedback. So with the ideas exchange, people can list out what they want to see in the next release or in upcoming releases. Internally teams at Salesforce review that and product teams and they build that into the solution. So I think having a product that’s community driven, which is listening to people’s feedback actively in building on it, I think that’s amazing to have that inside of Salesforce.
And I think secondly, if you look at the acquisition Salesforce have made the platform to what it was 10 years ago. It’s grown so much in scale and breadth that there’s always something new to learn now in Salesforce. You just kind of be stagnant. So I think on those grounds it’s a really good platform to know and be a part of.
Thirdly, despite its breadth, it’s still quite a small ecosystem. And we ended up sort of making good friendships with people and getting to know other people in the Salesforce space. Who you sometimes do end up working together on projects, which you just didn’t think you’re gonna work together with them. Again, so it’s a really cool community to be part of. And I think…
Lee: So yeah, I think you’re right. It’s still… For someone with the amount of experience that you’ve got, there’s probably a lot of faces that you recognise over the years when you’re with the customer, you know at the tours and the dream forces and what have you. And it must be nice to see some familiar faces when you’re walking around.
Mitesh: I think one more thing I mentioned as well is that through Salesforce and the customers that I’ve worked with, I’ve had a chance to work on projects across the world pretty much. And I think that gives a really good cultural experience to see how do companies work overseas, both from a way of working perspective, a culture perspective. I think that’s been something great as well. Never had a chance to do with, with using Salesforce and being part of companies that implement Salesforce
Lee: And actually going back to what you said a minute ago. Saying in fact that you know with all the acquisitions are being made and there’s always something new to learn. When your at the top of your game as you are now as a CTA, how do you maintain that? Is that I mean it might be a stupid question, but is that every 12 months you have to resit to be a CTA again?
Mitesh: No. So there’s no sort of resit in that process. You still have to take the baseline certs and recertify yourself in those. But I think he onus is more on the individuals, so to stay on top of the stack and what things are coming, what things are new. It’s really down to the person themselves to review things like release notes that come out, but also look at other technologies coming into the Salesforce platform.
As a CTA we don’t need to go into the full depths and nitty gritties of how they work, but certainly what those products do, what their features, what the capabilities are. Being able to make a recommendation for using or not using something. That’s something which we have to be able to do. So this is why as a CTA I need to keep on top of what companies Salesforce are acquiring, for example. What things are going to be in the future of Salesforce platform. So we make the right recommendation to the customer.
Lee: Fantastic. And I’m nearly finished. Appreciate I’ve taken up quite a lot of your time. What would you say you’re most excited about in the next few years with Salesforce as a tool and as an ecosystem?
Mitesh: Okay. So for me it’s similar to my previous answer. The way sales force is growing, the new capabilities that are being added to the platform through either acquisition or through growth in the platform. And also the ways in which building in Salesforce is changing as well. So if you look at things like lightning web components, how Salesforce transition to using lightning, I’m sure there’s something else that’ll come up in the future as well.
There’s blockchain, Salesforce is bringing that into the platform. So because the product itself is evolving in line with the kind of technology developments that are happening in the wider marketplace, it gives me as somebody who works in this space, a chance to grow and learn those things as well at the same time through my role. So that’s what keeps me really tied to Salesforce, if you see what I mean.
Lee: Absolutely. Yeah. You’ve covered this already, I’m sure, but I’ll ask it again anyway. What’s one tip for somebody at the beginning of their career then at Salesforce? They’re you from 10 years ago, what would be that one tip for them just to get them started or to perhaps just kickstart their career in Salesforce?
Mitesh: Okay. So for me, I would say if you’re a junior person wanting to grow in the Salesforce space, whether you want to become a project manager, a business analyst, a developer or an architect, learn the basics of the platform rather than understand them. Because wherever it all you do in the future, if your foundations are solid as a business analyst, you’ll make the right recommendations. As a developer, you choose the right approach to doing something. As an architect, you’ll pinpoint the right technology. So I think it’s good to kind of have a good solid appreciation of the off the platform. Not, I’m not seeing the full in and out details, but understand it, learn it, know it, and then pick your choices from there afterwards.
Lee: And to be fair, 10 years ago, Trailhead didn’t exist. So of course the fact that that’s there. There is no real excuses there for people to get stuck in and do exactly what you just said.
Mitesh: So I think from a Salesforce point of view Trailheads give a good introduction and then having a chance to maybe build out a sample project inside of Salesforce that hands on experiences there’s no… There’s nothing that can replace that, let’s just say. And that’s what I advise as well. So Trailhead is a good starting point. Salesforce is got plenty of their materials online as well in terms of notes and then trying to have some practical experience. The combination of the three is a really good entry point for anybody coming into the Salesforce platform.
Lee: Perfect. I love that. Mitesh, thanks so much mate for being a brilliant guest and I’m genuinely congratulations on your journey so far. Sure its, I mean, well you know you’ve got long way to go yet, but certainly it sounds like it’s been a very good ride. Obviously look forward to keeping in touch with you and seeing how that plays out, but thanks very much for joining us today.
Mitesh: Cool. No worries. Thank you very much Lee.
Lee: So they have it straight from the horse’s mouth. Exactly what clinic takes to become a CTA. Thanks again Mitesh Mistry. That was brilliant. My takeaways from that would be some great tips about starting out and also learning the basics of the Salesforce platform and what it can do in a high level kind of environment.
And then if you can of course getting some experience with a partner, it’s always a good good way to learn in the stages of your career because you’ll get to experience different industries, different tech companies, maybe as Mitesh did as well, get to work overseas and get to experience different cultures as well as the industries and the companies and things like that.
So that’s a good tip. I thought it was quite interesting what he said about certifications as well, that they are obviously really good. But the best way to progress your career when you go into interviews and things like that is to be able to articulate your real world experience that relates to what you learned to get that certification.
So if you can think about that, that’s always a good thing to do.
And I thought the last one, which was getting the CTA certification was harder than a university degree. So I hope hasn’t put you guys off. What I’ll do is I’ll share the show notes for you so you can see the links to the websites, that Mitesh referred to and you guys can share any comments you have, and keep your eye open for that for the next edition of RODcast. Thanks so much. See you soon.