Meet Zac Otero, #AwesomeAdmin and Analytics Trailblazer
Tell us about life before Salesforce.
I was home-schooled, and I did not graduate high school or attend college. I had a blue collar job as a machine operator, operating a deli slicing machine at a meat processing plant, ten-hour days six days a week. We worked in a man-made cave 200 feet underground to keep the temperature at a steady 55 degrees Fahrenheit. During this time, I had gotten married and had a son, these sort of life events tend to be a little sobering when you need to think about life insurance, health insurance, and saving for the future. I started looking for a better way to support my family. It was the middle of a recession, and the idea of going back to school seemed like a huge investment.
When did you first encounter Salesforce?
My wife's cousin, who, like me, was also home-schooled and didn’t go to college, was successfully supporting his growing family of six and I wanted to know how he was able to do it. When I asked him, he told me he was a Salesforce developer! He said I didn’t need a degree or background in IT to become a Salesforce professional. Then he mailed me his study guides since this was back in the days before Trailhead.
What was your studying schedule like?
The study guides were just the beginning; I dug into all the resources I could find, especially audio resources like Dreamforce talks, webinars, and the Salesforce Admins podcast! My manufacturing job was long shifts of repetitive motion, so I couldn’t read materials, watch videos, or take notes but I snuck in headphones under my protective gear and listened to podcasts and recorded sessions on repeat to absorb the information.
It was a wake-up call to have the factory closed right out from underneath all of us, driving home that if I stayed in that industry, I would not be in control of my career. Fortunately, I had already put in nine months of Salesforce studying so I knew I had a lifeline.
What were some of your biggest challenges during your journey?
At first, one of the biggest challenges was finding a way to study. Since I couldn't so much as bring a pencil into the processing room, I had to make the decision to learn via listening during the day. At night after my long day at work, I had to make the choice to keep studying and to look up and read more and try out the things I had been listening to. I had a very old desktop computer and I would try to keep my patience as it struggled to handle the browser and get me onto my free developer edition of Salesforce.
When did you first realize you were on the right path?
In 2015, the factory where I worked announced it was closing down, and we had only a sixty-day notice. It was a wake-up call to have the factory closed right out from underneath all of us, driving home that if I stayed in that industry, I would not be in control of my career. Fortunately, I had already put in nine months of Salesforce studying so I knew I had a lifeline. During that sixty-day notice period, I turned my studying into high gear. I passed my Salesforce Certified Administrator certification, and four months later I started as a Salesforce Admin full-time.
What do you love most about working with Salesforce?
The challenge! There is always a new challenge to overcome, a new brain puzzle to untangle. I enjoy trying to match business requirements with the tools in Salesforce. I like being the one who can connect the dots and make the business run better.
What advice do you have for someone looking to get started with Trailhead?
Pace yourself. Don’t get overwhelmed by Salesforce because there is so much to learn, you can get overwhelmed very quickly. Take it one day at a time and don’t be intimidated by all the resources. Focus on one thing – a Trailhead module, a specific feature, or recorded session – and then move to the next.
What does the Salesforce community mean to you?
The Salesforce community means everything. When I was listening to Salesforce podcasts and sessions day in and day out, the thing that was drilled into my brain was to “get online with the community, get on Twitter, join a user group.” I’ve made a lot of great personal and professional connections through my user group - including meeting the person who would hire me for my first Salesforce job!