#SalesforceQA – Jakob Klok, Salesforce CTA & Chief Architect @ Cognizant

In our most recent #SalesforceQA, we caught up with Salesforce CTA and Chief Architect at Cognizant, Jakob Klok.

Jakob discusses how someone starting out in their career can make the most of all the ecosystem has to offer. Jakob also mentions how the CTA certification has added value to his skillset and offers his top tips to others looking to become a Salesforce CTA.

Salesforce Republic (SR): To kick-off, could you tell us a bit about what inspired you to pursue a career in Salesforce

Jakob Klok (JK): I had the good fortune to be at DreamForce in 2011. At the time I was working in software product development. Salesforce was already famous for having introduced Software as a Service and Multi-Tenancy, and I was exploring the possibility of using Salesforce as the Platform as a Service to bring our software to the cloud.

It was the power of the platform that attracted me to Salesforce. Things that on a regular software project would take considerable time to develop were extremely quick and easy to configure in Salesforce.

SR: You have had an incredibly successful career in the ecosystem, working for some of the biggest consultancies, how can someone starting out in their career make the most of all the ecosystem has to offer?

JK: I would say that a combination of hands-on experience combined with a deep understanding of the platform is the basis for success.

What worked well for me in the beginning was working on multiple small projects. I was doing everything from requirements gathering to end-user training, and from configuration to testing and deployments. Having experienced colleagues around also makes a big difference.

One of the great advantages of the Salesforce ecosystem is that there are lot of great learning resources available. There is Trailhead, Online documentation, and of course free Developer Orgs. In my view, studying for certifications is a good way to become proficient in a certain domain.

Whenever possible, I combined studying for certifications with the project work that I was doing. For instance, I studied for Data Architecture and Management while working with an org that had very high Data-Volumes. When studying for Integration Architecture, I was building integrations between Salesforce and ERP systems.

SR: You are also a Salesforce CTA; could you talk us through how you planned and prepared for the cert to ensure you were ready? 

JK: After obtaining the System Architect and Application Architect certifications, I decided to first take a few more certifications: Experience Cloud Consultant, Mobile Solutions Designer, and Platform Developer II. While not required for CTA, I found it useful to have this additional knowledge before starting the final part of the journey to CTA.

The company that I work for, Cognizant, has a CTA program. Through this program I could join FlowRepublic CTA Coaching. I was also part of a great community group called the Salesforce CTA Study Group Benelux.

In summary, preparing for the CTA certification involves doing mock reviews, identifying knowledge gaps, studying to close the gaps, improving diagramming and communication skills, and doing more mock reviews. By the time you appear for the board, solving a scenario should be almost routine. You have practiced it many times before, you know exactly how to do it, which diagrams to create, how to present it, and how to answers questions in the Q&A.

SR: How has the CTA certification added value to your skill set?

JK: Preparing for CTA has made me gain a deeper understanding of the platform. I became aware of gaps in my knowledge and studied those areas so that I came to know exactly how those things work and why. I also became more aware of platform limits and how to avoid exceeding them.

It has also improved my communication skills as an architect: speaking like an architect by using the right terminology and expressions, how to present a solution, and creating high quality diagrams.

SR: What are your top tips to others looking to become a CTA?

JK: One thing is to think about why you want it. Becoming a CTA is not the path for everyone. Some people may be more on the functional or business consulting side, rather than technical architecture. Other people may be technical, but more from a coding perspective.  

When you do decide to pursue CTA, dedication is important. When you have a full-time job, you’ll probably find yourself working on CTA preparation in the evenings and weekends.

Having an employer that supports your CTA journey is key. Ideally, they should sponsor a coaching program and the exam costs as well as give you some time during working hours to prepare.

Preparing for this certification is not something to do alone. Try and find like-minded people to work together with. I recommend joining FlowRepublic coaching if you can. In my experience the structured coaching program that they offer is very beneficial. There are also various community groups that do mock reviews.

There are many resources out there to help you prepare. There is a book written by Tameem Bahri called “Becoming a Salesforce Certified Technical Architect” which does a great job of explaining how to approach all the parts of the review board.

Practicing mock reviews is also very important, both as a presenter and as a judge. Thankfully nowadays there are many mock scenarios available. There are those published by Salesforce but also many contributed by the community.

SR: Finally, are there any emerging trends you think Salesforce professionals should be watching out for in 2022 and beyond?

JK: For Salesforce professionals it is increasingly difficult to keep up with all the new clouds and platforms. Besides the core clouds (Sales, Service, and Experience), we have several Industry Clouds, Salesforce for Industries (former Vlocity), Field Service, Tableau, Tableau CRM, CDP, CPQ, Einstein AI, Commerce Cloud, and so on. I don’t think it is possible to be an expert on all of these, so I expect to see Salesforce professionals specializing in certain areas, whether that is an industry, a cloud, a technology, or a domain like B2B or B2C.  

If you’re a Salesforce professional and would like to join Jakob in our Q&A series, please get in touch with us today!

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