Amy Oplinger Singh: Choosing Your Salesforce Path

Amy Oplinger Singh: Choosing Your Salesforce Path

Amy Oplinger Singh: Choosing Your Salesforce Path
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Embarking on your Salesforce journey is akin to stepping into a jungle of endless possibilities, challenges, and growth. This is why we are excited to have Amy Oplinger Singh as our guest on Forward Thinkers, where we engage with HR and Salesforce experts.

As a ten-time certified Salesforce professional and a three-time Salesforce MVP, Amy has established herself as a trusted voice in the Salesforce ecosystem. She’s the perfect guide through the almost boundless environment that is Salesforce.

Amy formerly led the Salesforce Women in Tech user group in Akron and Cleveland, Ohio, fostering an empowering environment for women in the technology field.

She’s also an accomplished speaker, sharing her knowledge and insights at Dreamforce and various global Salesforce events. In this interview, we discussed her journey within the Salesforce ecosystem as well as some interesting insights that you might not have heard before.

From accidental beginnings to becoming a trusted consultant in Salesforce and customer success, Amy shared advice and reflections on the ever-evolving world of Salesforce.

Early Beginnings in Salesforce

The Salesforce ecosystem offers a plethora of opportunities for individuals and companies to carve out unique paths. Indeed, it’s why flair chose Salesforce as the foundation for its end-to-end HR solution.

When you start, Salesforce is a jungle of possibilities (yes, I’m sticking with this jungle theme) and wading through the platform can sometimes feel overwhelming. It’s perhaps foolhardy to try to tackle Salesforce’s capabilities all at once. But all types of businesses live there and likewise people with different roles and goals.

"I started by accident like a lot of people in the ecosystem," Amy explains as we dig into how she started on the Salesforce path.

"I loved sales, and through being a salesperson, used a lot of different CRMs. It wasn't until I worked for a company that used Salesforce that I was like: ‘wow, this is fantastic. Now I'm like driving a Corvette when I was driving a Hyundai before.'"
Amy progressed from being unfamiliar with Salesforce to becoming the person in her next job who advocated for the company to enhance its operations using the global CRM platform.

"I complained to my manager: ‘hey, have you heard of Salesforce? We should look at it, it's fantastic.’ And they took my advice. And then they told me that I was gonna help the consulting team implement it.

"I had no IT background, but out of my mouth came ‘okay’. And I worked with the consulting team there and really kind of spent my nights learning the backend of Salesforce."

When Amy first started out working on Salesforce, Trailhead didn’t exist. So can you imagine the hard yards that were required to get up to speed on all of Salesforce’s functions? Instead, she relied on a printed Force.com guide to enhance her understanding of Salesforce features, best practices, and customization techniques.

"I had printed the book, I still have that to this day and kind of taught myself the backend and really loved what I was doing. And at the end of the implementation, I asked if I could be the Salesforce administrator. I was told, no, you're going back to sales. So I was kind of devastated."

But Amy’s Salesforce story was only just beginning. Her curiosity was sparked, leading her to eventually leap into Salesforce full-time, taking a position training Salesforce account executives. She has since collaborated with businesses of all sizes, driving them to unlock the full potential and value of their Salesforce investments.

Taking Your First Steps in Salesforce

So what advice does a three-time Salesforce MVP and consultant have for newbies? Amy believes that with so many options available to people now, the difficult part is largely making a decision on which path to take.

💡
A Salesforce MVP, or Most Valuable Professional, is an individual recognized by Salesforce for their outstanding contributions to the Salesforce community. The award is given to people who go above and beyond in sharing their expertise, knowledge, and passion for Salesforce.

"I would avoid kind of pigeonholing yourself as an admin or a developer very early on. I would really keep my knowledge broad. Then as I got into it and started working more, I would kind of focus on a specialization, once you know what truly excites you," she explains.

"I immediately started as a consultant so I didn't really know the other avenues. But as I worked more in the ecosystem, I got to understand that." Amy is a firm believer that anyone can find their niche within Salesforce, you just have to figure out your skills and passions.

"Honestly, anything that you are passionate about or that you have an interest in, there is a role for you in this ecosystem. It's not only just being an admin or a developer, I don't mean to diminish that. But there is a whole ecosystem of ISVs, partners, and everything that are in and around this ecosystem. So there's a lot of opportunity."

Salesforce Certifications Done Right

There has been some debate amongst the Salesforce community over whether a stack of certifications always equal expertise. Echoing comments in her blog, she says that trying to fast-track Salesforce certifications is unlikely to help you become an expert on the platform.

"I think there's been a lot of social media hype around people that are like: ‘oh, I got 30 certifications in 30 days.’ It's not feasible. And we're deep enough into this market right now where that's not really what companies are looking for.

"They're looking for expertise, they're looking for value, they're looking for experience. And it's difficult because it's the cart and the horse kind of situation. So it's a difficult time right now for anybody, honestly," she says.

"I think the best thing that one can do is not focus so much on the number of certifications you have, but really make sure that you're focusing on the skillset – making sure you have the foundations of Salesforce knowledge down. A lot of people focusing on a number of certs might not have that basic foundation down and they can't answer a simple question for you."

If you want to get up to speed on Salesforce before sitting any certs, Trailhead is the place to be.

"I love Trailhead. It's really good for me because I don't work with hands-on configuration so much. I need to quickly get up to speed on all of the numerous changes that go on so that I can speak intelligently to my clients.

"Trailhead is always my first stop. There's a wealth of free information for people who are looking for it. It can help you skill up and really get your depth of knowledge and get you on the right path."

The Salesforce Community and Becoming an MVP

The Salesforce community is renowned for its vibrancy and good-natured spirit. It can also be a bit of a life changer, as Amy explains. She even met her husband as a byproduct of being involved in the community.

"I think a lot of us that are in this ecosystem feel very grateful for all of the opportunities that this has afforded us. And so it really kind of gives you a sense of: ‘Hey, I'm gonna help someone else come into this community because this is fantastic.'"

It’s the question that is on everyone’s lips. And as sure as I want Salesforce’s Golden Trailblazer hoodie, I also need to know the surefire way of becoming an MVP within the community. I mean, there are invites to exclusive Slack channels and MVP swag at stake. So what better way to find out than asking a three-time MVP?

Well, that’s not exactly how it works. You can’t just tick boxes. It's really about how much you contribute to the Salesforce community at large.

"So I think that that's the number one question that I've been asked in my career. How do I get to be an MVP? And my answer is always the same: I don't know. There is no set path that I can tell you to follow, other than be yourself, and be genuine.

"MVP (status) is awarded from the community. So you're getting nominated by your peers in the community for the work that you're doing – whether it be as a user group leader, mentoring, running a course, or teaching people how to use Salesforce."

A few years ago, Amy explains, an MVP nomination was like entering a quirky political race for some people.

"I don't see it happening too much now, but you know, for a few years, there were a lot of people that were kind of campaigning like it was running for office. And that's kind of the number one way to not earn a nomination."

Supporting Women in Tech

From 2016 until June last year, Amy was an active Salesforce Women In Tech user group leader, founding first the Cleveland group, and later the Akron group. She says it was an immensely rewarding experience.

"We fostered an open and authentic environment to discuss issues pertinent to women in the field including salary equity, career development, networking strategies, impostor syndrome, and personal branding. While our profession brought us together, the focus remained on empowerment, support, and growth.

"The connections and camaraderie built through Akron WIT will stay with me well beyond my time as leader. I'm proud of the community we created to uplift women in technology."

According to the Women in Tech Network, a prominent advocacy group dedicated to empowering women in the technology industry, females constitute less than one-third of the global workforce in technology-related fields.

Amy believes that the lack of women working in technology can be closely tied to visibility and leadership. Indeed, according to DDI’s 2023 Global Leadership Forecast, women in tech leadership roles fell to 28% last year.

"Having visible female leaders shows women there is a place for them at the top and provides role models for those rising through the ranks," she says.

"Companies need to make hiring and promoting women, especially into senior and executive level roles, a strategic priority. This includes initiatives like targeted recruiting, mentorship programs, and diversity requirements for candidate slates. With more women at the helm setting policies and culture, it will have a positive ripple effect.

"If we empower more women to reach the upper echelons of technology companies, it will go a long way towards fixing the gender imbalance across the entire field."

It’s the start of a new year which means everyone is looking around them to spot what facets of the global CRM they should be educating themselves on. Aside from AI, Amy quickly highlights Salesforce Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) software, and OmniStudio as evergreen areas.

"The ecosystem has grown so much since I started. CPQ is always going to be in demand. And now recently, even the different vertical industry clouds, you know, healthcare, media, and so on."

OmniStudio, Salesforce’s low-code suite of tools that allows users to create industry-specific applications, is also something you may want to get familiar with. With a drag-and-drop interface, it's a development time saver. Use cases include creating branded guided interactions.

"OmniStudio is going to be huge, so if anybody has that kind of interest in learning OmniStudio, I would highly recommend that. And then of course AI is on everybody's top of mind right now.”

It certainly is.

In the ever-expanding landscape of Salesforce, Amy Oplinger Singh's journey shows how accidental starts can lead to career and even life-changing contributions. From her early days navigating the Salesforce jungle to becoming a trusted guide through the CRM’s foliage of features, Amy's story shows the importance of adaptability and continual learning.

It’s been a delight to have her join flair’s Forward Thinkers conversation on HR and Salesforce. Check out the flair Youtube channel for more Forward Thinkers interviews.

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