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Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast we have Dave Nava, Transitioning Military Officer, 3x Trailhead Ranger, and Salesforce Admin at FourBlock, for a special New Year's motivational episode.

Join us as we talk about how Dave makes time to do all of the things, how he’s getting hands-on training with Salesforce, and what makes a great training session.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Dave Nava.

How Dave’s project management skills landed him in tech.

Dave is fourth-generation Navy, starting with his great-grandfather, and he’s served as a Naval Flight Officer for the past 20 years. He’s been working on his military transition for the past five years, “I knew that I’d be retiring about this time and that I’d be trying to something a little different,” Dave says. He looked at what he’d done over the course of his career and realized it amounted to project management, but when he talked to recruiters he realized that he needed to get more specific in terms of industry.

“I’d only been in the Navy, so I had no frame of reference for what was out there,” Dave says, but as he was searching he was lucky enough to run across Vetforce. “I love free stuff, so I took a look at it, did a couple badges and fell in love,” he says. Over the next five months, he did about 300 badges and has really felt like he’s found his niche as a Salesforce admin.

Making time for Salesforce.

So how has Dave made so much progress in Trailhead in so little time? “I get up at four every morning, and that’s my personal time to do Salesforce,” he says. Sometimes that’s taking a course for the next certification exam, sometimes that’s doing stuff in the org he works with to improve it, and sometimes that’s time for badges.

“I jumped into Trailhead and found that having a certification is nice,” Dave says, “but from a newbie perspective that wasn’t enough to guarantee me a job—what I really needed was experience.” Some quick research showed that many people were getting experience by volunteering for nonprofits. After reaching out to the community, he found a veteran-focused organization called FourBlock and has helped them add Chatter and go through their Lightning transition.

Training from making training sessions.

“I was the only one on the team that had Lightning experience because they were in classic,” Dave says, and that was mainly from Trailhead experience because it’s mostly in Lightning. “I was able to set up weekly training sessions which, to be honest with you, trained me as much as it trained them,” he says. His boss would give him a topic and in putting together the presentation he would broaden his knowledge.

For the most effective training presentations, Dave has found that it’s useful to focus on video of him actually doing the thing. Mixing up the visual style between that, images, and slides helps keep his audience engaged. Finally, it’s important to make sure that you leave time for questions at the end. If he doesn’t know the answer to something, that represents a great learning opportunity.

Throughout all of it, a big highlight has been the power of the Trailblazer community to help answer questions and learn together. They use a lot of third-party applications in his org to populate forms and do other key things, and he was able to get an answer to a problem in under 10 minutes (at 9 pm at night) from the Answers community.

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Love our podcasts? Subscribe today or review us on iTunes! Full Show Transcript  

Gillian Bruce:               Welcome to the Salesforce Admins Podcast. It's 2019. Let's kick off this year talking about product, community, and careers to help you become a more awesome Salesforce Admin. I'm Gillian Bruce and today we've got a really fun New Year's motivational episode coming your way. We are talking to Dave Nava. Now Dave is ... I don't know how he does all the things. And that's part of the reason I wanted him to be on this first episode of 2019 to kick off the year with a bang. He is a transitioning military officer. He's a three-times Trailhead Ranger. He's got over 347 badges I believe. He's a certified Salesforce Admin, found Salesforce through Vetforce. He is also a Salesforce Admin at FourBlock, currently getting his skills under his belt so that he can be employed full-time come July when he is fully retired from the military.

Gillian Bruce:               Dave has a great story, great energy. He is absolutely taking this idea of being a Salesforce Admin head-on and diving deep in and prioritizing it and doing all the things. I wanted to share a little bit of his inspirational message with you listeners to help you get some motivation to kick off 2019 on the right foot. So without further ado, let's get Dave on the podcast. Dave, welcome to the podcast.

Dave Nava:                   Thanks so much for having me. It's my pleasure to be here. Super excited.

Gillian Bruce:               Well, I have heard so many great things about you and I've enjoyed getting to know you a little bit. I wanted to introduce you to our audience, and the question that I like to use to introduce new guests to the audience is asking you the time-old question of, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Dave Nava:                   I never really had any doubt about what I wanted to be. I'm fourth generation Navy. My great-grandfather on down was Navy, so I always knew that I wanted to be in the Navy. When I was five I decided that I wanted to be a Navy SEAL. It didn't end up working out that way. I did join the Navy, but not as a Navy SEAL, as a naval flight officer, and have spent the past 20 years doing that.

Gillian Bruce:               That's amazing. Having that family legacy, I could imagine that makes it very appealing to want to do that as a kid especially. And becoming a naval flight officer, that's still a very elite thing to become. So how did you go from being a naval flight officer to now working in the Salesforce Ecosystem? Tell me a little bit about how you found Salesforce.

Dave Nava:                   I've been kind of working on what I call my military transition for the past five years or so. I knew that I'd be retiring here about this time and that I would be trying to do something a little bit different. I've loved the Navy, but I really want to seek out new challenges. So basically I looked at what I had done the past 20 years and it kind of amounted to project management, and so I decided that I wanted to be a project manager. But as I went through and I got my MBA and I got my project management certification, I started talking to recruiters, I kept hitting the same wall. They're like, "Well, that's great, but what industry do you want to be a project manager for?" And I was like, "I don't know. Just, you know, the project management industry." Because I'd only done the Navy, I really had no frame of reference for what was out there.

Dave Nava:                   And so the more I dug into it, the more I realized that tech was probably a pretty good field to be in, but I was just kind of out there searching for the longest time until I discovered Vetforce. It was by chance. I was on LinkedIn and someone had mentioned the program and that it was free, which is a key word that I usually focus on. I love free stuff. So I took a look at it, I did a couple badges, fell in love, and basically just kind of dove in. Over the next five months did about 300 badges and really figured out that I'd found my niche. And what I like about it so much is that I still have that project management mindset, but Salesforce lets me use all the skillsets that I would as a project manager, so organizing data, presenting information in new and dynamic ways, improving processes ... all that I get to do as a Salesforce Administrator. It's awesome.

Gillian Bruce:               So hold on a second. You said you got over 300 badges in a period of five months?

Dave Nava:                   Yes. I'm at 347 now. So it's-

Gillian Bruce:               That's incredible.

Dave Nava:                   I really enjoy Trailhead.

Gillian Bruce:               Yeah. Clearly. That's amazing. I mean, how do you make time for all of that Trailhead? That's a commitment.

Dave Nava:                   It is. What I do every morning is I get up at 4:00 in the morning and I sit for a couple hours and that's kind of my personal time before I go to work to do Salesforce. Sometimes it's doing a course online to study for my next certification exam. Sometimes it's actually working for the nonprofit and doing stuff in our org to improve it. But a lot of times, it's Trailhead. And so I'll just sit down and I'll do two or three badges and I do that every day, even weekends. It's allowed me to really learn a lot about the ecosystem, and not just from a functional and a technical standpoint, but really to learn about Salesforce culture, which is phenomenal, as you know.

Gillian Bruce:               Well, I am partial, this is true, so it's nice to hear that you like it, too. All right. So you dove straight in after finding Vetforce and went all in on Trailhead and really getting in there. What are you doing now? You mentioned this has kind of been, what, a five-year journey for you, but once you found Vetforce and kind of dug in, what happened next? Where are you at now? What are you doing?

Dave Nava:                   I jumped into Trailhead and I quickly found out that having a certification is nice and so I did go ahead and get certified as an Administrator. But that from a newbie perspective wasn't necessarily enough to guarantee me a job. What I really needed was experience. The more I researched it and looked into it, I found that a lot of folks were going and getting experience from nonprofit organizations on a pro bono basis as their Administrator.

Dave Nava:                   And so I had reached out to the LinkedIn community at large, and lo and behold, one of the veteran-focused nonprofits that I had actually participated in their program was looking for an Administrator. So I asked to be their Administrator. They knew me because I'd gone through their program and we had a good relationship. And so I've been their Administrator since August and took them through a Lightning transition and getting Chatter on board because they hadn't adopted that yet. It's been an awesome experience. Initially ... not just helping me pass the exam, but I've also noticed that recruiter interest has picked up because I actually have practical experience in a real-world production org.

Gillian Bruce:               Absolutely. And what's interesting about that is that you actually helped out the nonprofit that you were a part of is, you had knowledge of how that organization worked. So you could kind of take that business knowledge and then apply these newfound Salesforce skills, which is kind of what we call the Admin magic, right?

Dave Nava:                   Absolutely. And it was interesting because coming in, I could fix all of the things that coming through as a student I had noticed maybe weren't optimal, and provide solutions for that using Salesforce to improve business processes. That's just been immensely rewarding to be able to do that and then watch the changes take place and improve the user experience for future students.

Gillian Bruce:               Well, that's amazing. Thank you for giving back in that way. Let's talk about maybe some of the challenges or lessons learned that you've encountered along the way, in your kind of rapid learning of Salesforce and getting fully absorbed into the Salesforce Ecosystem. I imagine that there are probably some things that were either kind of hard to learn or surprising to learn. Tell me about some of those challenges you've experienced.

Dave Nava:                   I came into the job as their Admin basically with experience in Trailhead and that was really it, so it was starting from square one. Oftentimes when a user would ask me a question of how does this work or how do I do that? I would have to figure it out first. It was a phenomenal learning opportunity to be able to do that.

Dave Nava:                   Some of the biggest things, I guess, were process improvement and how to actually make the changes that I wanted to make, or effect the changes that I wanted to effect, in the business processes through Salesforce and learning how to do that from a practical perspective was difficult. But one of the ways that ... What helped was I was the only one on the team that had Lightning experience because they were in Classic.

Dave Nava:                   Right when I joined they'd gone through a Lightning transition and so I was able to leverage my Trailhead experience, which is mostly Lightning, to be able to kind of carry them through that process, develop a rollout strategy, and get everyone trained up. Then I set up weekly training sessions, which, to be honest with you, trained me as much as it trained them. So for instance, my boss would say, "Hey, listen. We'd really like to learn about Lightning email templates. Can you put together a course for that?" And so I'd go back, I'd look it up and figure out how to do that, put together a PowerPoint presentation, and then give a two-hour training presentation virtually on the phone and through web, answering questions as I went, writing down what I didn't know.

Dave Nava:                   One of the key things is just to have a curious mindset. For me as a problem solver, I do. I want to make everything better for people. And just also to have a customer service mindset, because really that's the business that we're in is customer service. Our users are our customers and we want to do whatever we can to make the Salesforce experience for them easy and pain free.

Gillian Bruce:               Absolutely. I love this idea of you ... You had the Lightning experience, which made you more appealing, more knowledgeable than maybe some other folks, and I think we've heard that as a theme on the podcast with Admins who have actually dug into Lightning and learned how to use Lightning. Whether or not their org is currently on it or not, being able to use Trailhead as a way to understand that experience is hugely valuable in the market, especially now. I mean, Lightning's been out since August of 2015, I like to remind people, so it's not new. But there's still plenty of organizations that have not yet transitioned, so having that skillset is a huge advantage.

Gillian Bruce:               The other thing that I thought was really interesting that you said is the idea of kind of not knowing all the answers and being okay with that, but teaching as a way to also educate yourself. So when you say, "Oh, let's learn about Lightning templates." And so you go look it up and put together a training and of course that helps you learn because you have to teach other people how to do it.

Dave Nava:                   Yeah. And the other thing that I learned was the awesome power of the Trailblazer community and leveraging the community, whether it's looking up help and training articles or it's going into one of the Trailblazer groups and asking a question, or even leveraging the answers to ask specific questions, it's been a phenomenal experience to have so many people be so willing to help you out at a moment's notice.

Dave Nava:                   I remember I was ... We use a third-party application to create forms and we use those forms, the data from those forms is then imported into Salesforce and it populates our objects. So in addition to learning how to use Salesforce, I have to learn how to use all these third-party applications, which I had no experience with and I had to know how to use them like right now. So I had put an answer in ... It was like 9:00 o'clock at night and I was just doing some Salesforce work before I went to bed, and no kidding, one of the top answer people responded like 10 minutes later, solved the problem within the span of 15 minutes. I was blown away that I'd be able to get such tailored help that late at night from complete stranger. It was just awesome.

Gillian Bruce:               Yeah. There is no underestimating the power of the Salesforce Ohana and the Trailblazer community. We hear it constantly on the podcast. I see it in action at events. You mentioned that not too long ago you went to the first ever Northeast Dreamin community event. Things like that really put the power of the community in focus.

Gillian Bruce:               One of the things that you said, Dave, was the idea that you do kind of a fair amount of training and you said focusing on user experience because it's about making your customers or your users happy ... What are some tips that you have maybe for folks about some training best practices or things that you've learned in trying to help other people-

Dave Nava:                   So PowerPoint is kind of the medium that I've used, just because in the military that's what we typically use. Some of the best practices I've learned are, you don't necessarily want to bore people with a million PowerPoint slides. So typically what I'll do for training is we'll link up in a Webchat, I'll share my screen and put the brief up, but what I've started incorporating is obviously pictures to kind of break up the text, so I use a lot of Salesforce mascots. There's funny ones of Codey eating ice cream or Astro in Lightning costumes. I'll pull from Salesforce images and kind of mix it up, but I also like to use videos and video content, so I'll record myself performing operations in Salesforce and kind of narrating it as I go so that I can imbed that video in the PowerPoint, then it's much more interesting for the user to watch a video than really to listen to me kind of drone on for a couple hours. And so that's been helpful.

Dave Nava:                   Also, what I do typically at the end of my training sessions is I'll have some content that we've planned for me to cover, but then I'll also leave it open to whatever they want to ask. It's kind of a question potpourri. Because we just transitioned to Lightning, for the past several weeks it's mostly been Lightning questions. "Hey, Dave. How do I do this? How do I do that?" Like I mentioned before, I don't always know the answers, but what I tell people is, if I don't know the answer I will find out and I'll get back to you later today. Usually it's within the hour, because if I don't know something, that's a key to me that it's time to learn, and so I want to make sure that I pass that on to my agents as well.

Gillian Bruce:               I love that ... question potpourri. That's a very good visual. I'm imaging like question-marked shaped potpourri petals or something. To create that ... some Salesforce question potpourri.

Gillian Bruce:               You've got a lot going on, Dave, and I am so thankful that you've shared a little bit about your journey and what you've learned. What ... especially from being ... all of your experience in the military, project management, and now coming into the Salesforce Ecosystem and becoming an Awesome Admin ... I'd love to know, what are some of the qualities that you think makes up being an Awesome Admin?

Dave Nava:                   As you know, Salesforce is big on innovation and one of the things that I'm trying to do is to leverage some of the new innovations that have come out within the Salesforce Ecosystem, Einstein in particular, to always be able to provide new capabilities to my users to be able to improve their processes, provide them with additional information, relieve pain points. So in line with that, one of the best qualities that you can have, really for any job, is a passion for learning. You've got to continue ... You're never going to know it all. There's always something to learn, always something that you can improve upon.

Dave Nava:                   So that's why I get up at 4:00 in the morning every day, because I know how little I know about the platform and how much there is to know and I just want to continually get better and better and better. That translates into an improved experience for my users because I'm always hungry for how I can make the org better, how I can make processes quicker or faster, more efficient. And so the qualities of innovation and just being hungry for knowledge and passionate about learning I think are the most important.

Dave Nava:                   Being humble, too, is also important and so is understanding that, like I mentioned before, you're there in a customer service role to help people out. Keeping that in the forefront of your mind helps you be humble and have the right attitude, even when it's stressful and you've got tons of user requests coming in, you have to prioritize. Just realizing that you're there to help your users through this journey really ties it all together and provides perspective for me.

Gillian Bruce:               Well, yeah, and it makes you feel like you're having an impact and you're improving the experience of your users or your customers.

Gillian Bruce:               All right, well, before I let you go, Dave, I cannot let you go without doing a Lightning Round. So it's one quick question, no right or wrong answer, the first thing to come to mind. All right. You mentioned a little something about how you like to use these earlier in the podcast ... I would love to know, Dave, what is your favorite Salesforce mascot?

Dave Nava:                   That's a tough one. I would have to go with Codey, to be honest with you. I'm not a developer; I hope to be one someday. It's one of the skillsets that I hope to add to my tool bag, but I guess it's just ... He's the cutest Salesforce character, I think, by far. If you look at some of the presentations that I provide to my users, they're kind of riddled with Codey pictures, which is kind of funny.

Gillian Bruce:               Well, who can resist a cuddly bear who knows how to code? So I understand completely.

Dave Nava:                   I'm hoping he will be at the New York City World Tour coming up here in a couple weeks. I'd like to meet him.

Gillian Bruce:               Can you barely wait?

Dave Nava:                   I can barely wait.

Gillian Bruce:               All right. With that, I think it's time that I wrap up the podcast before I have more horrible puns. Dave, thank you so much for joining us, thank you so much for sharing your journey. I am inspired by what you've done and some of the tips and advice that you shared.

Dave Nava:                   Thanks so much for having me. Really my pleasure and my honor to be part of the podcast. Big fan.

Gillian Bruce:               Well, what a great way to kick off the new year with such an inspirational and motivational story and interview from Dave Nava. Now, Dave makes time to do all of the things, and I absolutely love how he explained how he makes time for that by getting up early. That's his Trailhead or Salesforce time, is early, early hours in the morning. I applaud him for getting up that early. It's a great way to get something done. It does take a little bit of training to get in that mindset, but there's ways to make this happen.

Gillian Bruce:               On top of his already full-time job until he transitions out of his military service in July, he is really taking on the opportunity to get hands-on with Salesforce by working with a nonprofit as a Salesforce Admin. I like how he points out that learning on Trailhead is fantastic, but he wants that hands-on experience to really get an idea of what it is to be an Admin. So by volunteering with a nonprofit and being able to really implement Lightning, being the person who knows about Lightning there, gave him the opportunity to be the one to roll it out, learning all about process improvements and how to do training. He had some great pointers on how to do successful training using some video content, making your slides and your content fun by using Trailhead characters, which we have plenty of, and making it engaging.

Gillian Bruce:               I also really like how he said he likes to have time for questions at the end where he really invites the questions. It's okay if he gets asked a question that he does not know the answer to, because you know what? He can figure out the answer. Don't be afraid to lean on the community. You've heard this over and over again on the podcast, but Dave also reminded us that you can ask a question at any time and any hour and you will be surprised, you will get some quick answers from some really amazing Salesforce experts. The community is just that generous.

Gillian Bruce:               Also, don't be afraid to reach out to try and get experience. Dave really went out there and said, "Hey, I want to do some Salesforce. I want to find an opportunity to use these skills and put them to work," and he found that. So if we think back to the last few episodes from Megan and Emma and Luke, these are all about taking a hold of your career and really trying to amplify your efforts in terms of getting what you want and taking it in a direction that's going to help you be satisfied and help you really become a truly Awesome Admin or Developer, if you want to go that way.

Gillian Bruce:               It was also great that Dave pointed out some of his key attributes he thinks make an Awesome Admin ... having a passion for learning, being humble, remembering it's a customer service job when it comes down to it, and maintaining that curiosity, wanting to learn more. Really common attributes that make a truly Awesome Admin.

Gillian Bruce:               I hope you enjoyed our conversation. These Vetforce stories, they continue to inspire. We've got quite a collection now. In fact, we've got a whole playlist of Vetforce stories that I've included in the show notes, so make sure you check that out. If you want to learn more about Vetforce, I've got resources for that, too. We've got a Trailhead Trail called Strengthen and Diversify your Workforce with Military Veterans. Maybe as you're doing some new year planning, planning to grow your company, or grow your Salesforce instance, looking maybe to hire some new talent, check out some Vetforce grads. They are powerhouses and incredibly smart and talented. Make sure you kind of think about that as you're planning. And if you yourself are looking to make a career transition, or maybe you're in the military or have friends who are in the military, check out the Vetforce program. It's been very successful and I've been so excited to hear about the success that so many of the participants have found in the Salesforce Ecosystem.

Gillian Bruce:               All right. With that, I want to remind you, subscribe to the Salesforce Admins Podcast to make sure you get the latest and greatest episodes delivered to your platform or device of choice the moment they are released. Share with your friends. Great way to kick off the new year is by getting dialed into the Salesforce community. As always, you can find blogs, events, webinars, and even more podcasts at admin.salesforce.com. You can find us on Twitter @SalesforceAdmns, no I. Our guest today, Dave, is on Twitter @AwesomeAdminDN. There is an I in that. DN stands for Dave Nava, so there you go. You can find myself @gilliankbruce. Thank you so much for listening to this episode. Let's have a great 2019 and I'll catch you next time in the cloud.

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