John Coppedge understandably thought his career had taken a step backward when the IT department he managed for an Ohio marketing company was outsourced in 2010 -- and his job along with it. However, learning about Salesforce technology, a requirement of that job, would help open up possibilities for a different and more satisfying career.
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"I was the accidental administrator," Coppedge recalled with a laugh, as he spoke about his IT management role. "I had become the company's de facto Salesforce administrator, and I had no idea what it was."
However, as Coppedge learned the ins and outs of Salesforce's Lightning Enterprise Edition, he said he saw "all the stuff I loved about technology, and saw none of the stuff I didn't like."
While still working for the marketing company, Coppedge earned the first of his seven Salesforce certifications for Salesforce Administrator. Salesforce had just started its certification program, and Coppedge was one of the first 500 people to receive the credential, which demonstrates knowledge of Salesforce configuration and the management of its capabilities.
From independent consultant to training manager
A love for Salesforce technology was soon in full bloom. Coppedge worked as an independent consultant after the layoff, evaluating how his client companies' back-end systems integrated with the Salesforce platform.
That led to an opportunity that Coppedge said he believes was the foundational pivot toward his career as a Salesforce expert and advocate: A consulting job architecting and implementing Salesforce programs at universities around the world. The work included the creation of a website through Salesforce that enables college officials to respond to admission applications and questions.
By the end of the consulting contract -- a three-month commitment that extended to three years -- Coppedge got "to see how Salesforce really works," he said. That led to more consulting and, in 2013, a job at Apttus, a software company that automates sales and revenue generation processes. After starting as a sales engineer, for the past two years, Coppedge has served as a training manager at Apttus University, the company's training facility in Cleveland.
Over the years, Coppedge earned six Salesforce certifications in four other categories, including the App Builder credential, which demonstrates expertise in designing, building and implementing custom applications for the Force.com platform.
Coppedge already had experience developing apps, but he said he appreciated how the Salesforce course -- while neither too easy, nor too difficult -- found a way to touch on the sweet points of the practice. The exam emphasizes the need to understand how a complete application suite is built. It's all about the relationship between saved data and how objects work, he said.
App building the Salesforce way informed Coppedge's own training of Apttus employees, partners and others at Apttus University. Coppedge and his colleagues teach within the Apttus suite, which sits inside the Salesforce platform. Building applications is part of the curriculum.
"Salesforce is a huge partner of ours, so we spend a lot of time teaching on Salesforce," he said. "Say you take a CPQ [configure price quote] class. We'll help you create products and pricing inside of Apttus, but because you're creating inside Salesforce, you're also learning Salesforce tools."
The benefits of Salesforce certifications
Despite a professed lack of negotiating skills, Coppedge said his specialized work involving Salesforce has increased his pay by more than 50% from what he earned as an IT administrator. While he can't pinpoint any one of his seven Salesforce certifications that might have led to a direct salary hike, knowledge of the Salesforce universe and his ability to teach others certainly contributed.
Job placement data and a survey of more than 3,400 employees in 2016 by Salesforce recruiting firm Mason Frank International show that Salesforce training jobs pay from $105,924 to $129,451.
"The more you learn, the more qualified and the more confident you become in the role, and the more you'll show results and the more you'll get noticed," Coppedge said. Salesforce certification "gives you a clear marker to the marketplace."
Coppedge said he's grateful his Salesforce conversion led to his roles at Apttus. He was among the first 200 people hired, and now, the company has more than 1,000 employees, and is focused on further growth.
"I have a chance to wear a lot of hats," he said.
His commitment to Salesforce extends beyond work. He is a co-leader of the Cleveland Salesforce User Group.
"I have no regrets," he said about being laid off in 2010. "If I had the choice, I would do it all over again, but do it sooner. It took me losing a job to find a new career path. It's not often I'm so thankful I lost a job."
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