My Unconventional Journey to Becoming a Salesforce Designer

Angela Conway
Jun 10 · 9 min read

Hello, I’m Angela, a Salesforce consultant specialising in Design Strategy at PwC UK. For me, 2021 is a really exciting time to be a design-focused leader in the Salesforce ecosystem: because this year, Salesforce is launching their new Designer role. This means that from now on, alongside existing roles (such as Administrators, Architects, and Developers), Designers like me will have formal opportunities to learn and grow their careers by bringing their design skills to the Salesforce platform.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Salesforce, it’s that everyone is welcome and can thrive in this ecosystem. I’ve met Trailblazers with all kinds of different career backgrounds, myself included. Before joining this community, I had forged a decent career in service and experience design. But it was a health journey that compelled me to pivot and apply my human-centred design skill sets to Salesforce solutions.

To mark the launch of the Designer role, and celebrate the new avenues this opens up for design-focused people, the folks at Salesforce have asked me to share my somewhat unconventional journey into a career in Salesforce Design Strategy.

It started with a charity that left a lasting impact

In 2010, I was diagnosed with a brain tumour. I was in my final year at University of Edinburgh and one evening, suddenly had an immediate, excruciating headache. When I got to the hospital, the doctors found I was having a brain haemorrhage, caused by an underlying tumour. Because of where it was located, it was safest not to operate unless it started growing…but five years later, the tumour did begin to grow and it was time to undergo major open brain surgery at Newcastle’s RVI Hospital. Surgery was tough, and recovery was tough. I woke up with 30 metal staples holding my head together. Although the surgery was successful, the previous brain haemorrhage and other things my brain had gone through had taken a toll; leaving me with sometimes debilitating fatigue issues, word-finding problems and some loss of peripheral vision. I went through a six month brain injury rehab course to understand and accept my ‘new normal’.

Angela giving a talk for The Brain Tumour Charity
Angela giving a talk for The Brain Tumour Charity
Angela giving a talk for The Brain Tumour Charity.

During this really turbulent time in my life, The Brain Tumour Charity was there for me, giving me key information to help me at the different stages of my journey. They’re the world’s leading organization dedicated to supporting people with brain tumours and funding research, and they’re based here in the UK.

Once I was well on my road to recovery, I got more involved with the charity by fundraising and giving talks to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of brain tumours. And once I started working with them, I learned that Salesforce powers their essential work.

Experiencing the power of a compassionate customer journey

Segmented customer journeys are well-used in the world of commerce, but in going through my brain tumour journey first-hand, I got to experience the impact an intuitive and empathetic customer journey can have on someone’s life. If you’re visiting the charity website because you’re fundraising or holding a bake sale, that’s a very important and much needed interaction; but you need to be served very different content from someone who has just gone through surgery and is staring at hospital walls at 2am trying to figure out their next steps, like I was.

“Salesforce helps us identify who a web visitor is and what they’re interested in so we can better support them on their care journey.”

– Sarah Lindsell, former CEO of The Brain Tumour Charity

The Brain Tumour Charity was using Salesforce to shepherd me through the most challenging period of my life. They were able to help me understand my options as a patient, things to look out for or ask during consultations, and connected me with a community of people going through similar experiences to me for support and advice. Learning how Salesforce had empowered them to do that left a lasting impression on me.

Becoming a human-centered designer

Before and during recovery from my surgery, I worked as an account manager for a digital agency specialising in service and experience design. I gained valuable insights from working with interaction designers, content designers, creative designers, service designers and more. Around 2019, I was beginning to become more curious about design strategy and perhaps making the leap to a consultant role; where I’d take a more hands-on approach to the design of services and experiences.

Before I made such a big leap, I was keen to test out what being a human-centred design strategist would be like in a safe environment — and in my personal life, I found the perfect opportunity to do just that.

Angela standing in front of a white wall with colorful sticky notes on it. She is writing with a sharpie on a blue note.
Angela standing in front of a white wall with colorful sticky notes on it. She is writing with a sharpie on a blue note.

While working hard through the week in my job, my Sunday mornings offered a place to quietly reflect at my church. There’s a regular prayer we recite quite often on a Sunday morning, which asks for “vision for our planning, and wisdom for our actions”. At this time, these words felt especially poignant to me, as the church was looking to make some strategic decisions about where they focused their energy in coming years. Hearing this need for wisdom and vision in the church’s strategic focus, I volunteered to take an informal design strategist role by running a Design Thinking workshop with members of the congregation.

First, we identified the different types of people and partnerships we wanted to improve experiences for; like, parents, couples preparing for marriage, the bereaved, Sunday worshippers, genealogy groups and those attending fundraisers. Next we explored what peoples’ needs might be, within those different groups. Ultimately, we’re now able to suggest, iterate and prototype some key changes to strengthen those partnerships, and better meet the needs of our community.

During the workshop, I remember seeing that lightbulb moment on peoples’ faces as they stepped back to approach their strategy differently. It was inspiring, and confirmed to me that I was making the right decision to pivot my career path.

Adding Salesforce to my design toolkit

Like so many others, I was later laid off from my consultant role due to COVID-19, which ended up being the push I needed to think about where I wanted my career to go next. At this point my service and experience design background included design thinking, user research, agile and iterative prototyping, journey mapping, and more. Inspired by my experiences with The Brain Tumour Charity, I was intent on adding Salesforce to my design toolkit. I also knew that the Salesforce platform and ecosystem offered such a rich playground for designers.

I started with the basics. First, I hit Trailhead and took the Salesforce User Tour. Then I earned badges on some basic modules like Accessibility Basics, Platform Basics, User Basics, Customer Journey Basics. I thought it would be fun to explore badges and trails linked to content that interested me, so I found Customer-Centric Discovery, Demo Storytelling, App Design and Prototyping, Career Development Planning, the Business Value of Equality.

After a while, I wanted to get a bit more strategic and work towards an end goal. I found that the Salesforce Administrator Certificate was a stepping stone to a lot of the paths I wanted to take. I decided to focus my Trailhead time on learning from the modules and trails leading me towards the Admin certification.

In my job search, I knew I wanted a career that combined my design background with the capability of the Salesforce platform, so I looked for open roles where I could apply my skills as a design strategist to Salesforce. I was so excited when I found a job posting for a Salesforce Consultant at PwC UK. I applied and found that where my service and experience design and consulting backgrounds showed that I was capable of bringing a human centred angle to the role, my Salesforce Administrator Certificate proved my early commitment to getting to grips with Salesforce as a platform. After a few rounds of interviews (in which I set out my CV on an interactive Miro board, and walked through my V2MOM), I got the job!

Once I accepted my role at PwC UK, I had a couple of months to wait until I started. I used that time to study up and take my Sales Cloud Consultant certification. Since joining, I’ve also passed Service Cloud Consultant and App Builder. Now with Designer being launched as an official Salesforce role and soon a UX Designer certification to be released, we’re able to craft and refine a specific Design Strategist role and career path even further.

Making an impact as a designer today using Salesforce

I’ve heard Salesforce described as a box of Legos, and I think that’s an apt description. It’s a bunch of useful pieces, or tools, you can put together in an infinite number of ways to design a functional model. Salesforce is massively customisable based on use case, aims and user needs. But so many choices can be daunting. For instance, if you add lots of functionality users may become overwhelmed.

Employing a human-centred strategy in the development of Salesforce solutions ensures that you are fully understanding the needs of users and their stakeholders. This is why designers bring such a valuable lens to the Salesforce ecosystem. We get to ask the important “what if” and “how might we” questions, and then create experiences that have an enormous impact on people’s day-to-day work lives.

When shaping Salesforce implementations, I am passionate about using human-centred design methods to empower my clients and their Salesforce users by making the most useful, relevant, and intuitive experiences possible.

When you’re designing in Salesforce, you’re essentially designing how an organisation operates; the internal cogs that bring the services it provides to life. It’s ripe for iteration and optimization, and offers opportunities to facilitate processes that are better for users and better for the world.

How to get started

As I mentioned earlier, this is an exciting time to start thinking about becoming a Salesforce Designer. If this is something you’re considering, here’s how you can get started:

  • Trailhead modules are your friends! I like that the process is hands-on and self-directed. I am empowered to decide what I want to learn. For Developers, Administrators and Architects, there are clear career paths to aim towards, and soon that’ll be the same for Designers. You can get started now by checking out this Trailmix to Build Your Design Career on Salesforce.
  • Superbadges are one of my favourite things on Trailhead! If you’ve learned the theory but are doubting yourself over your ability to put it into practice, completing a Superbadge gives you the confidence that you know your stuff and are able to apply your knowledge without step-by-step direction.
  • Trailblazer Community, find yours! I rely on my work colleagues, my local Newcastle Women in Tech group and local User Community Group.
  • UX Design Certification, get ready! You are going to love learning about Salesforce Design to earn this certification. How do I know? Because I got to be part of the core team who wrote this exam. That’s right, it’s being written by subject matter experts who are actually working in the field. It’s fun, challenging, and can help you make that career change you’ve been dreaming about. (And, you can take this UX Design Certification Preparation Trailmix to brush up on all the skills you’ll need!)

You may have a design background and want to explore adding Salesforce to your design tools. Or maybe you’re a Salesforce administrator, developer, or architect and you want to learn more about Salesforce Design. Whoever you are, there is a ton of wonderful content out there to support your journey.

I am just one of the many people who have found and embraced Salesforce via a somewhat unconventional career journey and life path. I’m excited to know that, as Salesforce launches the Designer role, there’s now space for a whole new wave of unexpected, curious people to find their niche right alongside me.

Interested in expanding your Salesforce skills and gathering with Trailblazers worldwide? Sign up at no cost for TrailheadX (airing virtually on June 23) and select “Designer” in the dropdown. RSVP today.

With thanks to Madeline Davis, Margaret Seelie, Noelle Moreno and Adam Doti at Salesforce for some really fun collaborative sessions, wise wordsmithery and for honouring my story. Thanks to my PwC colleagues for their consistent support, cheerleading, and appetite to embrace design strategy. Thanks to The Brain Tumour Charity for being by my side as I navigated my toughest life challenge to date, and for introducing me to Salesforce.

Learn more about Salesforce Design at www.salesforce.com/design.

Follow us on Twitter at @SalesforceUX.

Check out the Salesforce Lightning Design System.

Salesforce Design

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