Thu, 17 March 2022
Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Jeff Berger, VP, Director of Salesforce Operations at Academy Bank.
Join us as we talk about what’s happened since his last time on the pod and what he’s learned about how to be proactive as a tech leader in your organization.
You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Jeff Berger.
From solo Admin to Director of Salesforce Operations
The last time we talked to Jeff, he was a Salesforce Admin who needed to quickly implement an app to help with the Payment Protections Program (PPP loans). For those of you keeping track at home, that was August 2020. “It was really a watershed moment for Salesforce at Academy Bank,” he says, “it shifted the mindset of leadership and they started to see Salesforce more as a platform on which you could develop custom applications like this.”
The biggest implication of all this is that Jeff has gone from a solo Admin to the head of a Salesforce Department. They’ve moved from sitting in IT to being a part of the Commercial Lending Group and Jeff has a fancy new Director title. “Things have really changed a lot since I was sitting in my house over a weekend frantically building custom objects,” he says.
Show, don’t tell
With a new title comes new responsibilities and for Jeff, that also means taking responsibility for everyone’s ability to get the most out of the platform. “If you’re going to have a Salesforce license at Academy Bank, I have to make sure you can do 100% of your job on the platform,” he says, “and conversely, if I can’t get you to do 100% of your job on the platform, I’m interested in learning how to make it so you do 0% of your job on the platform.” This all-or-nothing approach minimizes the need for associates to do any context switching when they have to jump from app to app.
One thing that has really helped is getting leadership to buy in but getting to that point means finding a way to show, not tell. “You can have a lot of conversations about what a tool like Salesforce could do for an organization,” Jeff says, “but until leadership actually sees it in action I don’t think you really understand.” Delivering a fully-featured custom dashboard on a 3-day-old deployment really opened a lot of eyes.
How to be a tech leader in your organization
“When you’re a younger Admin, you can let the business define the technology,” Jeff says, “but in 2022 technology can be a driver of the business and not the other way around.” At a bank, for example, executives are reading things about the financial industry and digital transformation, but they don’t necessarily know what’s out there or what the tech they already have can actually do.
As a product owner of the platform, it’s really important to have a vision for the future. You need to demonstrate to the organization what you could do with the tool that you already own and it’s your job to push the business a little bit. “There’s this really constructive friction between the technology and business,” Jeff says: the business thinks they know how they want to do things but that’s usually informed by how they’ve always done it. It’s your job to learn new ways to improve on business processes and push your organization to be better.
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Full show transcript
Mike Gerholdt: Welcome to the Salesforce Admins Podcast, where we talk about product, community, and career to help you become an awesome admin. This week we're talking with Jeff Berger, VP Director of Salesforce Operations at Academy Bank. Now, if you recall, it wasn't but a couple years ago that we connected with Jeff when he was a Salesforce admin at Academy Bank about how he built an app in just a few hours and deployed it over a weekend. Now it's two years later, and I thought, "Hey, let's catch up with Jeff and see what he's been up to." And, wow, let's get a little insight into that new title, Director of Salesforce Operations. I like that.
Jeff Berger: Thank you. It's so great to be back, Mike.
Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. And I say back because the last time we spoke was April 23rd, 2020.
Jeff Berger: A lifetime ago.
Mike Gerholdt: Two lifetimes ago.
Jeff Berger: Yeah, yeah.
Mike Gerholdt: But I'll put a link in the show notes. The reason we spoke, you had this, you gave this great presentation at a user group, and you talked about how you created an app in just a few hours over the weekend because if we rewind the clock, there was a lot of things changing in the world in March and April of 2020. One of them was, I believe it was called the Paycheck Protection.
Jeff Berger: Yeah. Paycheck Protection Program. That's right.
Mike Gerholdt: Program. That's the third P.
Jeff Berger: Yes. Yes.
Mike Gerholdt: I always want to say "Act," and I'm like, "No, it wasn't. It wasn't at Act."
Jeff Berger: I've said PPP enough in the last two years that it's definitely drilled into my brain. But yeah, you're right. I work in Academy Bank, and as a bank, there was a lot of pressure on us to help get funds out into the world for the folks who were stuck at home and the businesses who were suffering because of the early days of the pandemic. And I really appreciated you reaching out and pulling me out of the podcast to share my story. I had a chance to talk a little bit about leveraging Salesforce as a platform for this brand new program that had never existed before, and I got to share that on the user group, like you mentioned, with my co-leader Dale Ziegler, shout out to Dale.
Mike Gerholdt: Oh. Hey, Dale.
Jeff Berger: Yeah. I love it. And things have really progressed since then. So it's great to be back on the pod to share what I've been up to.
Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. So that's exactly why I wanted to have you back. I feel like we do a really good job of finding these great stories and then, "Cool," we blast them out into the universe and we just, "Hey, onto the next one." I was like, "Yeah, but there's all kinds of cool stuff that happened." And so I wanted to find out from you ... So that happened, and then we've gone through two years of a pandemic, but the world didn't stop. So what have you been up to?
Jeff Berger: Wow. What haven't I been up to? I think this whole paycheck protection program journey and building this app on the platform, it was really a watershed moment for Salesforce at Academy Bank. Before that, I think the platform was really viewed as one application in the tech stack. It was something alongside all the other apps, and it did one very specific thing for us, in our case, commercial lending. And I think when I was able to jump in with Salesforce and stand something up as quickly as I did and start bringing in applications right away, I think it really shifted the mindset of the leadership at Academy Bank, and I think they started to see Salesforce more as a platform on which you could develop custom applications like this. And it's really, really opened up the hearts and minds of leadership, and I think put more pressure in a positive way on myself and my new department, Mike. I think that's one of the most exciting things to share.
Mike Gerholdt: Well, I mean, last we spoke, you were the department.
Jeff Berger: That's right. I was the department. I was over in IT on an island. Didn't really fit in with the rest of the product support managers. And now I'm over in the commercial lending group. So that's a big change, and I was able to hire a couple of associates. So I'm not a team of one. I'm a team of three now, which is really outstanding, and kudos to Academy for investing in the platform. And I've got a fancy new director title. So things have really changed a lot since I was sitting in my house over a weekend, frantically building custom objects.
Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. So I envision right now, if I was listening to this podcast, which I would, if I was mowing. We live in the Midwest, and I think it's going to snow until July.
Jeff Berger: Oh, gosh. Yeah. I'm more likely to be plowing than mowing right now.
Mike Gerholdt: Don't say that. But if I was an admin, I would say, "Okay, wait a minute. So back in 2020, Jeff built this app. He was in the same position I was." Every time I talk to you, I'm like, "I remember when my career was at that point."
Jeff Berger: Totally.
Mike Gerholdt: So what happened after the podcast? I mean, what tactically were some of the conversations that you feel you had that were instrumental in getting leadership to think of, just one, Salesforce as a platform that you can build on? Because to be honest with you, we put that messaging everywhere, but it's like when you buy those non-stick pans at the mall, in those demo stores. You're like, "Yeah, whatever. They're not non-stick." And then the guy puts melted caramel sugar-
Jeff Berger: Yes. Show, not tell, right?
Mike Gerholdt: And it slides right off. You're like, "Oh, I absolutely need one of those now."
Jeff Berger: Yes. I totally agree. I always say one of the things people at work have heard me say this a million times, Salesforce is a really expensive application, but it's a really cheap platform. And my job, I feel like I really have a fiduciary responsibility to manage the platform effectively, and that means figuring out ... If you're going to have a Salesforce license at Academy Bank, I have to figure out how to make sure that you can do 100% of your job on the platform. And conversely, if I can't get you to do 100% percent of your job on the platform, I'm interested in learning how to make it so that you do zero percent of your job on the platform, right? Because what we don't want is to create an environment where our associates are contact switching and jumping around from app to app.
Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. Oh, nice metaphor there. Take it to the bank.
Jeff Berger: Thank you. Yes. I try to get it in.
Mike Gerholdt: Oh, I see what you did. But I love what you said because I think it's analogous to how tech and maybe the whole Silicon Valley movement is, is you've done a thing. Now what's next?
Jeff Berger: Sure.
Mike Gerholdt: You wake up and you hustle the next day, the next day, the next day. I mean, it's not you just put this thing out, sat back, "Cool. I built this app. Look at how awesome I am."
Jeff Berger: Right. Right.
Mike Gerholdt: What can we do next? What can we conquer next? And I think that ferocity of just going after things and not sitting still.
Jeff Berger: Sure.
Mike Gerholdt: It's analogous to how people can really go about their career. There was a time in place in the US where you graduated from college and employers knocked at your door. Now they don't. They don't.
Jeff Berger: No they sure don't.
Mike Gerholdt: You've got to go to them, right? You've got to hustle, or you go back home and live in your parents' basement.
Jeff Berger: Yep.
Mike Gerholdt: It's the same with you. I think because a lot of the questions that I would envision having as an admin, "Oh, I built this thing. Now what do I do next?"
Jeff Berger: Yeah.
Mike Gerholdt: What are you doing next? Right? What is your vision? And it sounded like your vision was, "I've got to do this thing. I've got to find these pain points."
Jeff Berger: Right. Vision is such an important word, Mike. I would say when I think back to an earlier part of my career, I was probably more satisfied with doing what I was asked, I guess, and I'll explain what I mean. When you're a younger admin, a more junior admin, you take projects as they come, and the business really defines the technology. And one of the things that I think I've learned as I've grown and matured is in 2022, technology can really be a driver of the business and not the other way around. And what I mean by that is, again, executives are leaders.
Mike Gerholdt: Well, there's a lot of metaphors to impact there. That's-
Jeff Berger: Yeah, yeah. I'm Mr. Metaphor.
Mike Gerholdt: I think one thing that I'd be curious to know how you addressed and what came out of it and maybe what you'll change or not, do different, is we talked shortly after it felt like the world went into lockdown, and you and I had a great discussion of just how we even unpack groceries because that was a thing.
Jeff Berger: It was.
Mike Gerholdt: Forever, different generations will be marked by things they did. My grandparents saved all the butter dishes. I never went to school with Tupperware. I always had a butter dish with my sandwich in it.
Jeff Berger: Your Country Crock, yeah.
Mike Gerholdt: Yeah, yeah. Everybody ate stuff out of Country Crock. And I feel like, I'll call it my generation, is going to be marked by, "Oh, you're the generation that wipes down its groceries."
Jeff Berger: Oh, yeah. I was putting them in sinks full of soapy water.
Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. I know. We all were.
Jeff Berger: It's wild.
Mike Gerholdt: We all were.
Jeff Berger: Crazy.
Mike Gerholdt: But along with wiping down groceries, we also went into, I'll call it virtual office mode. So everything was a hangout or a GoToMeeting or Zoom or whatever. As you went through those two years, obviously, you were successful because you got promoted, but you had to do user training, user acceptance, user feedback. That was all virtual. When we started to record this pod, you were in the office.
Jeff Berger: Yeah. yeah.
Mike Gerholdt: A lot of people are going back in the offices. Truth be told, we know that some people never really left.
Jeff Berger: Right.
Mike Gerholdt: And some people couldn't. The people that had to work in the grocery stores and stuff, they didn't really have an option to work from home.
Jeff Berger: That's right. That's right.
Mike Gerholdt: What did you find will you keep as habits or as things that you picked up during the pandemic that actually were effective, and what are you excited to you go back to?
Jeff Berger: That's such a great question. I think one of the things that I'm going to retain is the empathy of engaging with somebody in a new environment, like we all were. Right? I think when you think about doing end user training, for example, or collecting user feedback, in the before times, I think there was a lot of assumptions being made or, I don't know, you took for granted the fact that folks were a cube away or an office away, and if somebody needed help, they would just get up and walk and ask you, right? But the reality is they weren't. They weren't doing that, even though you thought they would.
Mike Gerholdt: I think that's amazing because the ability to bring staff on that are from other parts of the United States, or world, depending on where you want to go, just adds such variety to brainstorming and creative problem solving that helps enhance the experience for everyone, right? It makes it more fun to come to work.
Jeff Berger: Sure.
Mike Gerholdt: It makes for better solutions. I do agree. Boy, there for a while, I think we were a little bit spoiled with ... I'll say spoiled with online user groups because I could just pop two, three user groups off a day and-
Jeff Berger: Oh yeah.
Mike Gerholdt: And user groups that I could hit maybe a Sydney in the evening. I could hit a New York in the afternoon, and it was perfect. And physically, I could never make those.
Jeff Berger: Sure, sure.
Mike Gerholdt: It was so interesting to join and have people on. I believe I was on the Springfield, Missouri user group, and I was on there because I still have connections from when Zac Otero was down there.
Jeff Berger: Oh, sure. Yeah.
Mike Gerholdt: And we were speaking and talking, and they had people on from different parts of India. They had a couple people on, I forget, from different countries. And it was so interesting because you know that maybe that never would've happened.
Jeff Berger: Yeah.
Mike Gerholdt: Right? Like, "Hey, let's get on a plane and fly 23 and a half hours from India to go to the Springfield, Missouri user group."
Jeff Berger: Absolutely.
Mike Gerholdt: [crosstalk]
Jeff Berger: I think it's helped to, I know in your role, you're always on the hunt for new stories to tell, and I think for better or for worse, I think for better, it's really opened our eyes to some folks that were ... They were doing great work, but we didn't know about it.
Mike Gerholdt: Right.
Jeff Berger: I'll shout out Terry Miller, recent MVP. He was doing some awesome stuff, but I don't think the admin community, writ large, would've known about it if we didn't all get forced online and had to scour for materials. And then there was Terry with all sorts of great learning sessions and content. So I think it's really neat. It's been certainly a silver lining to the move online. And I think the same is true in our day-to-day jobs as well, right?
Mike Gerholdt: So speaking of "ago," we did a Dreamforce, and we'll do another one this year. They keep popping up. But one thing that we rolled out that I thought was really cool, and we're working to expand on this. So more to come. But I would love to get your take on we added Salesforce admin skills in our Dreamforce keynote, and I'll put a link in the show notes so you can see those skills. But this was a lot of research done by the team gathering feedback. We sat in on focus groups. We did a lot of stuff with various analysts to hone down, "What are those skills that admins need?" And we did that because, to be honest with you, some of the other tech personas are to the point that they're stereotypes. I mean, that in a positive way. The way that I always put is ... I'll change up my story. You can go to the grocery store and the cashier, pending you get a cashier, because I love self checkout. But-
Jeff Berger: Oh yeah, I'm a self checkout guy.
Mike Gerholdt: Depending on your cashier, "Oh, hit. Did you find everything okay?" "Yep." Blah blah. "So what do you do?" So in other industries you could say, "A bus driver. I'm a tow truck operator, a welder, a construction manager, or plumber," and they know what you do.
Jeff Berger: Sure.
Mike Gerholdt: They have an idea of what you do. In the tech world, there's a lot of different roles, a lot of different identities, but you could say, "Oh, I'm a software developer or just developer," and they, "Oh, okay. Probably writes code." Right? They would mostly, depending on the generation, either have like some crazy Sandra Bullock internet movie in their head or a computer hacker, right? But for the most part, it's like write code. But if you say Salesforce admin, they just look at you.
Jeff Berger: Oh, yeah.
Mike Gerholdt: Right? And so we put this out so that we have a common language of skills. All that to say, if you're still listening, I would be curious to know over the last two years you went from Jeff Berger, "I create apps over the weekend," to director. What of these skills did you lean on harder, and what skills are you looking to grow?
Jeff Berger: That is an incredible question. Salesforce admin has always been a tricky name, right? It's a tricky role to nail down. It means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. And the answer to what skills I leaned on, I think it's important to call out. They may not be the skills that you need to lean on out there, listening right now, because as a Salesforce admin and somebody, like myself, who's bounced around from company to company and seen different orgs at different levels of maturation, I think you learn really quickly that every Salesforce story is different. Every org's journey is different. Every company's journey with the platform is different. And so I just want to put that caveat out there that one size does not fit all, and depending on how long ago your implementation was, how well your implementation went, how bought-in your executive leadership are, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, your results may vary.
Mike Gerholdt: Well, that was a loaded question anyway, but I appreciate your answer. And I think you really nailed it by saying everybody's journey is different and the skills that I leaned on might not be the skills you need to lean on. Right?
Jeff Berger: Yeah.
Mike Gerholdt: So-
Jeff Berger: Absolutely.
Mike Gerholdt: That was great. Jeff, I appreciate you taking time out of your day to fill us back in on what's been going on the last few years. Hopefully, we don't go two years before we check back in.
Jeff Berger: Oh yeah.
Mike Gerholdt: At this rate, you'll be-
Jeff Berger: I'd love to be back.
Mike Gerholdt: ... president and CEO or something.
Jeff Berger: I'm coming for Brett's job.
Mike Gerholdt: So if that happens, let me know. It'd be fun to interview you.
Jeff Berger: Yeah, thanks. Appreciate it. This was a real blast. Thanks again for having me. And I just want to thank you and everything that the admin team does to support all the admins out there. And I think the steps you're taking with things like putting these skills out here, they're going to go a long way towards the admin community staking their claim again within the Salesforce ecosystem. So thanks for that.
Mike Gerholdt: I appreciate it. Thanks, Jeff.
Direct download: How_Salesforce_Admins_Can_Be_Business_Leaders_with_Jeff_Berger.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am PDT