Greg Grinberg recently reached the pinnacle of Salesforce achievement — Certified Technical Architect (CTA). I had the chance to chat with Greg about his journey to becoming a Salesforce CTA.
What path brought you to where you are today?
I started working on Salesforce in early 2009 — through Gireesh (Silverline’s CEO), who needed a software developer’s support to figure out this whole Salesforce thing. I hadn’t heard of it at the time but when I dug in it looked interesting and seemed like a big space. I haven’t looked back since.
I would say I started as a developer. That was my background. I was a math major in college, but had been doing computer programming for many years. So I started just doing traditional Salesforce development, writing triggers, Visualforce pages, etc. because we didn’t have Lightning, Heroku, or any of the other Salesforce technologies back then. And from there I branched out. I expanded that skill and I became a senior dev and became very comfortable with all the programmatic aspects of Salesforce. As I started managing more complex projects I was taking on the Technical Architect role too. I started getting into the integration side of things and working with MuleSoft a bit, working with Extract, Transform & Load (ETL) tools, etc. And then over time as I got more experience, more of my role shifted from a hands-on keyboard type doing development to presenting in front of clients, generating artifacts, diagrams — things like that.
How long have you been with Silverline?
Well, basically since the beginning. I was working as a contractor for a number of years. I think I switched to full time around 2013.
What did you do to learn more about Salesforce early on?
They didn’t have Trailhead back then when I started, so it was a lot of experimenting. What helped was that Salesforce was a much smaller platform back then. At the time, one person could know all of Salesforce pretty quickly — which is nearly impossible today, right? It was a lot of poking around and working with the different clouds. Salesforce used to have this really cool thing called the Force.com cookbooks, where you would build almost a whole application on Salesforce and were able to see why, how, and where you use various features. Consulting in general is really helpful for learning Salesforce because you are thrown into projects and get a wide variety of experiences.
Do you have any advice to someone who might be hoping to follow in your footsteps and become a Salesforce CTA?
There’s plenty of paths to learn more about the platform. Join user groups, use Trailhead, talk to other experts — senior devs, Solution Architects (SA), Technical Architects. It’s a lot of effort but if you put it in the time, you can learn the platform. The harder part is the presentation skills and the structure in the Q&A. That’s not an easy thing to practice in real life.
My number one suggestion is presales. Presales work is probably the best prep you can get. If you can’t do presales, get in front of people as a consultant and get in front of clients. It’s especially important to get experience in front of a hostile audience or an audience that you know is going to ask you a lot of questions and try and poke holes in your ideas. That’s really valuable, and probably the best preparation you can get. Preparing for the Salesforce CTA is not just a process of memorization for multiple choice tests, and the testing items are realistic scenarios.
How did you prepare for the Salesforce CTA test?
I spent close to a thousand hours preparing for the review board between coaching, studying, and everything in between.
I had a lot of great internal resources that I could leverage. There was a group of us, including Gillian Reynolds, who also just achieved CTA. We would watch Joe Castro YouTube videos, and have weekly meetings. We got executive buy-in for a more formalized coaching program through FlowRepublic with Sebastian Wagner.
Everyone interested in going for this should also join the architect and trailblazer community groups. Ladies Be Architects is an awesome community-run group as well. They have a ton of great content.
How has your role as CTA changed how you approach projects?
In terms of changing my approach, I have more tools in the toolbelt. I’ve developed new techniques in terms of identifying artifacts.
The largest change was in early stages and how I do my analysis — on site doing discovery, and how I present my findings back. It’s also a huge confidence boost. When you walk into a room as a CTA, you get a certain default level of trust, and clients understand the implication about the level of expertise they’re working with.
It’s nice to be part of the community — nice to chat and meet in person, exciting to have the opportunity to build out a network.
Are you training to become a CTA? Want in on our study group? We’re hiring.