Personal brand, learning to code and the Salesforce Ohana with David Liu

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This month’s guest, Salesforce MVP, Google Technical Architect and creator of SFDC99, David Liu, joins Ben live from Down Under Dreaming Brisbane, to share his own Salesforce journey.

When you think of Salesforce development, for a lot of people, his name springs to mind.  David famously taught himself to code, and now is at the point to have the CTA held firmly in his sights. He’s an inspiration to many. We discuss his views on Salesforce development, the Admin/Dev hybrid role, what he looks for when he’s interviewing talent, and his top pieces of advice for those considering a move into the Salesforce industry.Ben: We’re sat in Brisbane today, so we’re at Down Under Dreaming and we’re really, really excited to have a chat with you, so thank you very much.

David Liu: Thank you Ben, it’s an honour for me to be here too.

Ben: So how are you finding Brisbane?

David Liu: I love it so far. I wish I could stay here longer. If I didn’t have two kids at home, it would probably be a different story.

Ben: Yes?

David Liu: But beautiful weather, the people are super nice. The beaches tomorrow.

Ben: You know, you’re the only person I know that has ever come to Brisbane to buy a snowboard.

David Liu: I’m a simple guy. If there is a sale on a snowboard, that makes me so happy.

Ben: Yes, for sure, you’ve got to pick up bargains, right?

David Liu: Yes.

Ben: So I’ve got a few things I want to run through today, but for you, what makes the Salesforce ecosystem so special?

David Liu: The thing that always surprises me about the Salesforce ecosystem, is how much people genuinely help each other. I don’t think you’ll find that anywhere else. And these are people who make a tonne of money, like Steven Herod. This guy, he’s like a gazillionaire, but he spends all this time like making podcasts for the Community, helping people, I’m sure he answers emails all the time. It’s just such a giving Community.

Ben: Sure. So we’re lucky to be here. Yes, sure and have you found, did you know much about the Salesforce ecosystem here in Australia, before you got here?

David Liu: No, I mean I really didn’t know what to expect either, I didn’t know if there’d be you know, 50 people at this event, or a few hundred, and it’s quite big, especially for a city that everyone says is like a small town.

Ben: Sure.

David Liu: It’s impressive.

Ben: Yes, and the sun’s come out for you as well, so I think that’s been positive.

David Liu: It’s not always like this?

Ben: Yes, well apparently here it is, but we don’t always get the sun in Sydney. But yes, look, obviously you’ve got an amazing personal brand, and I think that’s something that, you know, everyone knows, anyone we speak to, knows who you are. Has that been something that you’ve invested a lot of time in and focused on to build, or has that kind of just happened because of your love of the market and Salesforce?

David Liu: It’s not something I did on purpose, I think. And thank you for mentioning that by the way. Actually, so my major in college was Marketing.

Ben: Okay.

David Liu: And then I learned to code and all this stuff, and I still think at this point, like marketing is like, at it’s core, what I find super, super interesting.

Ben: Sure.

David Liu: Just like taking marketing classes, reading marketing blogs, and all that stuff, so I guess that comes out in the whole branding thing, like kind of subconsciously, but one thing I think that’s part of my brand, I don’t know if this is in reality, but one thing I like about my brand, is that I think it’s really simple, it’s not very corporate, I feel like it’s pretty genuine, and I feel like it has good intentions behind it.

Ben: Sure.

David Liu: And so I think that’s why when I don’t invest time, specifically trying to make a good brand, I feel like that honestly helps my brand.

Ben: Sure, yes, it’s all just organic, you are who you are and you’ve got a following from it.

David Liu: Yes, absolutely.

Ben: So, I just sat through one of your sessions here at Down Under Dreaming around Admins becoming Developers, and I know obviously you’ve got online courses and you’re a big advocate for the Admin / Developer role. Do you genuinely think anyone can learn to be a Developer?

David: Oh, a percent a million percent. A million percent. I could teach my parents to be Developers if they wanted to. And I’ve just seen so many people, from all sorts of backgrounds, all ages, all genders, you know, everything, like rich, poor, I’ve seen so many people succeed. The real question I wonder is, whether anyone can be a CTA – a Certified Technical Architect. That one, I don’t know. But development, oh totally.

Ben: Yes, and do you think everyone can be a good Developer? And should everyone be a good Developer I guess?

David Liu: I don’t think everyone has to be a good Developer. Like a hybrid Admin/ Developer job, I always thought, personally, is like the sweet spot. When I hire people at Google I love seeing that hybrid Admin/Dev. I don’t care if they’re like super good at Dev, but the fact that they went for it, they’re like, “you know what, I hit this limit, but I overcame the limit by learning to code.”

Ben: Sure.

David Liu: That tells me so much about a person.

Ben: Yes. So, when you hire for the team and you say that, an Admin/Developer kind of hybrid, is that the kind of role that you have in the team anyway, or do they then just become Developers?

David Liu: Well, almost all of our roles are Developer related, we no longer have pure Admin roles.

Ben: Okay.

David Liu: Which has kind of surprised me, like since Lightning came out, because I thought Admins, you know, are more powerful with process builder, flow, dynamic layouts, all these things, but yes, I think companies including ours, are getting more ambitious with what they do with Salesforce, so it doesn’t make sense to hire someone that has all these inherent limits. Now if you’re hiring for a Business Analyst, that’s a different story, but a pure Admin, those don’t really exist anymore for us.

Ben: Okay, that’s interesting. So, looking at, you interview, you hire for teams, huge teams, as well, I’ve learnt this week, what soft skills, like when you see a Developer, they come and interview, what else are you looking for apart from the technical skills?

David Liu: Hmmm, that’s a good one. I think curiosity and a willingness to learn new things. Like, we just hired someone recently, this person didn’t have Lightning experience or developing in Lightning web components or even flow experience on the Admin side, and usually, that would be like – deal breaker – because we do everything using these technologies nowadays, but this person really showed a willingness to learn, and, they recognised their limits, and they almost fought with me, like David, “I know I don’t have this, but I can do it”. They were really gung-ho and passionate, and I was like “okay, cool” and we ended up hiring them.

Ben: Okay, so are you, because in Australia we’re not seeing too many web component projects or pieces of work at the moment, we’re still see Lightning components. Is everything going web components already in the U.S?

David Liu: I wouldn’t say everywhere in the U.S, and even within, you know, Google, I’d say the vast majority are not, just ours, because we spend a lot of time making sure, at least in the team I’m on, that we use latest technologies. So we have Einstein Analytics, we have AI, we have Lightning web components, and we tell our stakeholders, “look, it doesn’t matter how much work you give us, we’re always going to reserve a specific amount of time, about 20%, just to try out new technologies, and that’s something at Google, it’s pretty normal, you know, I don’t know if every company’s like that but I’m lucky.

Ben: Sure, and that keeps you engaged, and keeps you learning, right?

David Liu: Yes, and you know, we have some really good Developers on our team, we have some really good people, and I feel like that helps retain them too. Sure, so you came from an Admin into Developer, now a Technical Architect background, and there are so many people, more so looking to make the step up from Developer to Technical Architect.

Ben: How did you know you were ready and how did you get ready?

David Liu: That’s a tough one. I think one thing I realised, as a Developer, there’s only so much one Developer can do.

Ben: Sure.

David Liu: Now if you work at a small company, or you only have like a of couple people on the team, one Developer is like the most powerful person, but when you work on a big org, like Google for example, and you’re one Developer, even if you’re twice as efficient as the next best person there’s only so much you can do, you’re kind of limited. So the Technical Architect path, is that growth outside, because now you influence the entire project, even though you don’t write any code anymore, you are so important to a project, and that was really important to me. Also, I tried going into management and I was a horrible people manager so I was like, “I have no other option”.

Ben: So you don’t code anymore?

David Liu: No I don’t, I review a tonne of code, I approve and I comment on a lot of code. But no, no more writing code.

Ben: So do you just code in your own time to keep your hand in?

David Liu: Yes.

Ben: And do you think that’s important?

David Liu: Oh yes, totally because as an Architect, you have to be able to influence Developers and Admins and if you don’t it, at their level, then they’re not going to listen to you, especially if you’re working with divas.

Ben: So what’s next for you, I guess, you’re now a Technical Architect, what’s coming in the future?

David Liu: I want to get my CTA – Certified Technical Architect, that’s the most important thing in my life, and raising kids.

Ben: I was going to say, I hope your family aren’t watching this.

David Liu: Many years ago, I wrote down the main goals in my life, my three goals. I told myself, no matter how things go, if they go great or go bad, if I hit these three goals I’m going to be satisfied with my life.

Ben: Sure.

David Liu: And one of them, of course, is raising, you know, good kids and having a good family. Another one is passing the CTA. So I’ve got to do that.

Ben: Yes, and the third, are we going to hear that?

David Liu: Third is to buy a house and fortunately, we did.

Ben: Okay, ticked, that one’s ticked. Cool, so the Salesforce roles, we’ve discussed a few of them, how do you see them evolving and changing?

David Liu: I wish I knew this one. I think, so I really think it’s harder for Admins to get jobs nowadays, but how I see like Admin, Developer, Architect?

Ben: Yes, like the Developer role, is that going to change?

David Liu: It’s changing all the time with components coming in and you know, the people needing to adapt and learn new technologies and languages.

Ben: Is that just going to continue or is web components, is that staying for the foreseeable?

David Liu: Oh yes, web components are here to stay. I think there’s going to be a lot of emphasis on front-end coding for Developers, less on the backend side just because I think the Admin technologies for backend, like flow and schedule flow and process builder, those are getting better and better and maybe even integrations too, we’ll see. If I was a full-time coding right now, I would invest all my time just on LWC and JavaScript.

Ben: Okay, yes that makes sense, and I mean you’re an inspiration to so many people in the market and you know, it’s amazing what you do and the brand that you’ve built. Who inspires you?

David Liu: So many people. Steven Herod is one of them, he’s here in Brisbane. Dan Appleman of course, recently Steph Herrera, she gives back so much to the Community and she also has a super career, and it’s nice to see someone who not only has a great career, but will also make the time to give back.

Ben: Yes, for sure. Okay, and then finally for anyone that’s one watching this now and they’re just about to get into Salesforce, or they want to, what’s your one piece of advice?

David Liu: They want to get into Salesforce right now? Hurry up! It’s hard to find Admin jobs too. Hurry up – maybe learn some development to make it easier to find a job, but yes, honestly, if I had to start right now, if I knew nothing, and I had to join the Salesforce industry right now, it would be, it’s a little harder now, I would be racing, I would be like, pick it up, you know, get certified, and people ask me if I’m crazy when I say this but I’m saying get five to seven certifications, even if you have no experience. I know it sounds wrong, and it’s kind of like gaming the system, but like, I mean you’ve got to do what you got to do, to get those jobs, so yes, totally hurry up and get certified.

Ben: Okay, cool and a lot of people know where to find you online but for anyone that doesn’t, where do you hang out and where can they see your stuff?

David Liu: Thank you, I’ve got a website SFDC99.com – check that out, and my contact information’s there, my Twitter and LinkedIn. I’m actually not that active on social media,

Ben: Not on LinkedIn because there’s too many recruiters hitting you up.

David Liu: But I reply to every email, so yes. I don’t think I’ll get a tonne, like always say that, and I’m like, maybe I’ll get a tonne of emails, and I still don’t, so I’m not afraid to say it.

Ben: Well, let us know how many you do get. Well honestly, it’s been such a pleasure to have you on the show, I really, really appreciate it and I hope you enjoy the rest of your time in Brisbane.

David Liu: Thank you sir.

Ben: Thank you!

 

As a result of his own experiences, David founded a very successful and renowned blog and resources hub, SFDC99, which has visitors daily from all over the globe, benefitting from his easy to follow tutorials.

Make sure you’re following David on LinkedIn and feel free to reach out to him with any questions regarding the topics covered in the podcast episode.

Talent Hub is a hive of activity at the moment and so visit our Salesforce jobs page for up to date opportunities. If you’d like to become involved in Talent Hub TV as a guest, we’d love to hear from you.

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