Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Anthony Cala, Senior Salesforce Consultant at eVerge Group and a US Army Veteran.
Join us as we chat about how he tackles problem-solving and all the volunteer work he does with nonprofits that support veterans.
You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Anthony Cala.
From veteran to Salesforce consultant
Anthony is another guest on the Skills for Success video series, and we wanted to bring him on to hear more about how he gets started solving business problems with Salesforce.
As a US Army Veteran, Anthony got his first experience with Salesforce working with the Wounded Warrior Project. He got hooked on creating reports and dashboards, and very quickly transitioned into a career on the platform. Today, he works as a consultant helping all sorts of organizations solve business problems with Salesforce, and also mentors veterans and organizes events in his spare time.
Start with user interviews
Whenever Anthony is asked to come into an organization and overhaul a business process, the first thing he does is figure out what he’s starting with. He interviews everyone involved and documents how things are getting done right now. That groundwork is a crucial step on the way to using Salesforce to improve and scale that process.
Another touchstone for Anthony is creating thorough user stories and personas. When it comes to conducting user interviews, empathy is key. “Turn on your webcam,” he says, “smile!” Always remember that there are people behind any business process, and you need to understand where they’re coming from to create a business process that works for them.
Getting experience with nonprofits
A common piece of advice for new people is to gain experience working with nonprofits, but how do you find an organization that needs help? Anthony, who works with three organizations on the weekends, tells us that he started by volunteering for things he was interested in. The Salesforce came later, once he got to know people and mentioned what he does for a living.
Because of the discount Salesforce offers, nonprofits will often have a bunch of cool features and tools. So you can get experience with things like Community, Tableau CRM, and ServiceCloud that you might not have access to at a for-profit organization. “It’s a win-win for both parties involved,” Anthony says.
Be sure to listen to the full episode to learn more about all the work Anthony does with these organizations, and why it’s so important to him to be there to pick up the phone.
Mike: Problem-solving, as we define it on the Admin Skills page, is solving business problems using the Salesforce platform. So you know what? It makes sense that I would talk to Anthony Cala, who is a veteran and consultant, who is on the Skills for Success video series, which is launching this month, September, about how he tackles problem-solving.
Now, before we get into that episode, be sure you're following the Salesforce Admins podcast on iTunes or Spotify, wherever you get your podcasts. That way, you get a new episode, boom, right on your phone every Thursday, in the morning, all set to go. So with that, let's problem-solve with Anthony Cala.
So Anthony, welcome to the podcast.
Anthony Cala: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Mike: Great. Well, we're following along with the Skills for Success series, which also launched on YouTube that Gillian put out, and there's quite a lot of episodes, but you're in the problem-solving episode. So let's kick off and talk about problem-solving today. But before we do that, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started in the Salesforce ecosystem?
Anthony Cala: Wow, that's a story in itself. I started my Salesforce journey first in the military. I was in the military for over 16 years, 10 years active, six years in the Guard. And my second job out of the military, I was working at Wounded Warrior Project. And their CRM system was Salesforce. And had to learn it, loved it, was a super user, power user, making reports and dashboards. My job at the time was to create events to empower Wounded Warriors and family support members for post 9/11.
And over the year that I worked at Wounded Warrior Project, traveled 148,000 miles, created 75 events. It was my dream job, traveled a lot. After I left Wounded Warrior Project, got lucky, got an opportunity to work at a great company called Tableau Software. And before I went to Tableau Software, I took my Salesforce Admin class in 2013, and didn't pass the admin exam, but still stayed and stayed focused. And continued learning and stayed, and did Salesforce admin work at Tableau. Primary job I created all the registration platforms for Tableau Conference '14, '15, '16, '17, and '18. And enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun. But I wanted to advance my career, and became a consultant.
I've been a Salesforce consultant for almost five years now, and really enjoy it. I think for me, every client is different. I have over nine certifications, and I think they're mostly, in my opinion, just mostly declarative. I'm hoping to get Dev One. I want to get more coding. I'll be taking a CPQ with Americus, a veteran nonprofit that helps veterans and military spouses with Salesforce classes. So I learn very well with other people I could bounce ideas off of. So I'll be taking CPQ with Americus in October.
But just in my career, just really enjoy giving back to Salesforce community. When I'm not actively implementing projects, on the weekends, I have a Better Call Anthony Cala, just do it for fun where I can help veterans, military spouses, and first responders where they're either looking to get into Salesforce or looking to get into IT. They have some questions about the Salesforce Fellowship program, or they need some help bouncing ideas off their resume. So some things that I do.
And then I also volunteer with an organization called Higher Ground USA, where I'm helping them build a customer community where veterans and first responders can sign up for events that are happening in their local community through the Community Resilience Unit Ambassador program that Higher Ground's has launched.
And then also I create adaptive events in Florida. We'll be conducting two adaptive water-skiing events in October, and then also a stand-down event, Topgolf. And the idea is to help veterans and first responders that just want to go out and meet other people in the community that need some mental health support. There will be some other programs that are supporting veterans and first responders that will be there, and hopefully those can help empower them as well.
Mike: Wow, that's fantastic. And thank you for your service. We really appreciate that. And I really appreciate all that you're doing outside of just your day job to help veterans and those that served, our first responders, because we wouldn't be in the place we are without their help and their support, so that's very cool.
I have to think of, as we kind of talk about that in problem-solving, it seems almost so logical to have you on because I believe a lot of what you would do in the military is immediate and long-term problem-solving. So what is the first kind of hurdle that you find most people, most Salesforce admins face when working in problem-solving?
Anthony Cala: Wow, that's a great question. Just last weekend, I was volunteering and lady asked me some recommendations for in her career, what to do next. And one of the biggest things when I'm meeting new people coming into the ecosystem is I really think people need to get a business analyst acumen. And that also is just a basic problem-solving understanding.
And the question I get asked a lot is is where do we start? And sometimes as consultants, we don't know where we start. We start with understanding what a customer is currently using because somebody was using something differently before Salesforce. So I think that there has to be some type of empathy as well. I always try to get clients or customers to give artifacts of examples of their current process or an existing process so that we can start with something because we're trying to build something here.
And really, a lot of that really has nothing to do with Salesforce. It has to do with what they're doing outside, what's their process. And sometimes veterans and military spouses when they come out, they're like, "Well, I don't know how to ask those questions." I was like, "Well, just ask it." And they're like, "Well, what do you mean?" I said, "No, just ask the question. What is your current process? How do you take a lead for your business? Can someone go to your website and sign up and say I would like to know more about your business? Is an email accessible on a website?" And what I find is when just having that conversation with the military spouse and veteran, they're like, "Oh, I know that."
So what I try to empower them is just put yourself as a customer. It's always easiest to think as a customer when you're trying to problem-solve. I think also with just getting started is being able to articulate and be able to take notes and take those notes and transfer them into usable tasks and usable stories that you can build something with and hopefully the project that you're on, if it's in consulting or if you're at a brick-and-mortar using Salesforce, you're using agile methodologies to really release your features.
Mike: Yeah. So what I heard in part of that answer, and I think this is something I'd like for you to expand on, is putting yourself in that person's role. As a consultant and as an admin, often you sit across from people that do very different jobs from you and you're trying to iron out what the process is, where the problems, where the gaps are. I think you mentioned the word empathy quite a few times. What are some things that you do and that maybe you've learned in your experience are good ways to understand that person's point of view or gain a sense of empathy for the person that you're working through the process with?
Anthony Cala: Yeah, there's a couple things to unpack there, but I think the biggest thing is is that we are in a climate now where all of us work remote and all of us sometimes forget to turn on that webcam. And so one of the biggest things that I try to instill in people is turn on your webcams, smile, because that might be the only person you'll see for the day. But try to put yourself in their position by getting to see them and just explaining to them that everything will be okay, everything will be fine. You're here to help them. You're a new Salesforce admin, but that's okay. You're here to document their process to hopefully improve their process, to scale it, to make it better.
Mike: No, I think that's a really good point is you can forget that sometimes there's somebody else on the other side of that little logo when it's moving and they need to see them.
One thing that I think is easy to kind of jump to when you're problem-solving, and especially you've probably run into this when you're learning new features or when you've just kind of seen some new products or done a different or a similar implementation, is to hear somebody's problem and go, "Oh, I know the solution for that and I know how to fix that." And I'd like to call it solutioning on the fly because as the person's feeding you the problem, you're already solutioning it as opposed to hearing the entire problem and the entire process. What are some things that you do to kind of combat maybe that solutioning on the fly?
Anthony Cala: Wow, that's a good one, because as a consultant, we get that a lot actually.
Anthony Cala: But I think it's just timing. I think that when it comes time solution, it's when you've clearly outlined that, "Hey, this is the time that we're going to be doing some discovery in a call, and this is where we're going to take some time solution."
Solutioning is not a good time when you're on a standup, a 15-minute standup, when you're checking in with your developers and you're checking in with your admins and saying, "Hey, what are you working on today?" I think you just have to just set a dedicated time for people to have enough time to go through a few user stories. I think that it's best to write a solution first and a user story to kind of understand what the persona is. And even if we can go back a little bit, I think that any project or any feature, I think it's best to define what the personas are.
So in Salesforce, it's going to be is this for backend? Is this going to be for a service agent? Is this going to be for a sales agent. Or for the front end, it can be is a customer going to be able to file a case? Is a customer going to be able to see his cases? Is this customer going to have access to a portal where they can follow their case?
And so just in my overall experience, I think it's just easiest just to work in a user story, persona-based, "Hey, this is what the persona's for. This is the feature." And then I think it's good to have an acceptance criteria to validate that the feature was done successful.
Mike: Yeah, no, that's really good. You mentioned you do a lot of work outside of your day job consulting. I'd love to jump into that.
Anthony Cala: One of my new volunteer projects that I'm working on is with Higher Ground USA. They are an organization that was founded in Ketchum Valley, Idaho. They do a veteran and first responder and couples retreats, week-long retreats. They do events like learn how to ski, learn how to scuba, learn how to surf, and they have these events spread throughout the United States, California, Idaho, and some in the West Coast, as well East Coast.
And now they are branching out into a new program called CRUA, Community Resilience Unit Ambassador programs. And so I am one of 27 ambassadors that are spread out the United States. We have a small budget that we are able to do events for veterans and first responders. Some of the events that some of our ambassadors have done are, they've done some scuba classes, scuba diving, they've done fishing, and they've done some backpacking and hiking trips. I will be doing a Topgolf event on September 17th in Tampa, and that's going to be for first responders and veterans. So that's police, fire, and EMS.
And then also I'm partnering with a adaptive water-skiing organization called Ann's Angels. We'll be doing a adaptive water-skiing in Sarasota and Lakeland in October. And they'll be on my Linktree. You can sign up if you meet those qualifications.
But the mission is to help empower veterans that are seeking mental health support, and hopefully this will help stop veteran suicide because there are 22 veterans a day that are committing suicide. And so one of the things that I just want to do is to make sure that no one after me has to figure out what resources are out there.
So this Topgolf event was really stemmed by me. Four months ago, I was that veteran in crisis. I've been traditionally giving back to the veteran community, but I myself needed to call the Veteran Crisis Line. And I did. And through my journey of my mental health fitness, I navigated some different mental health support that I needed and I used them. And they will actually be there at the Topgolf event.
So I'm hoping that the next veteran looking for a resource that maybe they might see an event that I have, or there might be a veteran that might be at an event and they say, "Hey, talk to Anthony." That's really where the name came from. I saw Better Call Saul, one of the famous shows. So I was like, "You know what? Better call Anthony Cala." It's just a slogan. It's a marketing slogan. And it's actually worked. I think in the last five months I've helped 40 veterans and military spouses on Better Call Anthony Cala. And it's just fun to do on the weekends, to help somebody that just needs a little bit of help just to get that little push for either some interview prep or the resume.
Mike: Yeah. Of course, the difference being you're not selling burner cell phones out of a circus tent in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Anthony Cala: Yes. Yeah, no I'm not.
Mike: So you do a lot of volunteering and thank you for doing that. I think one of the things that admins definitely we always talk about is how to elevate your company and your career and your community. When you're looking to reach out or help an organization, what would be some advice you would give fellow Salesforce admins for finding a nonprofit or finding an organization to work with?
Anthony Cala: Wow, that's a great question. I met a local nonprofit called Quantum Leap Farms, and they're my farm now. They provide equine therapy to veterans and first responders. And I found them by just Googling them on Google. And as luck would have it, they were having a retreat, a four-day retreat, and I signed up for it. And I was participating in the event. They were doing AART and equine therapy and yoga. And it was just what I needed in that time. And somebody asked me what I did on my day job and I said, "Salesforce." And then they said, "Oh, we use Salesforce."
And so I think as a veteran or first responder, as you start to participate in events or programs, you'll find that most of everybody uses Salesforce. And most veteran nonprofits, the ones that I know, are mostly volunteer ran. Higher Ground's right now has 25 employees, but they have over 600 volunteers that help them in their everyday operations. So there is always a nonprofit that is looking for someone that understands Salesforce admin or just Salesforce speak.
So just by me just sharing what I did on my every day, I help Quantum Leap Farms. And so one of the things that we'll be doing over the next month is building a horse app and a goat app. And part of that is to track their health, when they're fed, when they clean out the barn. And I always wanted to do that on Salesforce. And to me, it's fun.
So when I am interviewing for new jobs, [inaudible 00:18:33] says, "What do you do on the weekend?" I say, "Well, I still do Salesforce stuff because it's a lot of fun to me." And what you'll find is when you start going and doing volunteer work with nonprofits, because Salesforce does offer them a considerable discount, they have the bells and whistles, they have what I call the cool kid toys. They have stuff like Tableau CRM. They're using stuff like Community. They're using Service Cloud. So you really get experience on clouds that you might not every day get experience on.
So it's a win-win for both parties involved because you're learning, but then they also need help themselves. So it's really cool once you just start telling people about Salesforce.
Mike: Yeah. No, that's neat and I appreciate that. Anthony, I want to thank you for hanging out with us today and talking problem-solving and volunteering and some of the work that you're doing. I think it's really cool and it's a really good complement to the video that you helped Gillian produce in the Skills for Success series.
Anthony Cala: Thank you so much for having me. Thank you so much for Salesforce putting on the Military Trailhead program because people like me use it, and we hopefully send the elevator back down and help more people. So thank you.
So it was a great discussion with Anthony, and again, I'd like to reiterate a big shout-out and thank you in appreciation for your time served in the military. I personally appreciate that. I also really appreciate all the work that you're doing for veterans with PTSD and suicide prevention, as well as canines for Veterans. Those are all very near and dear causes to what I support as well. And of course, in case you missed it or you didn't, the links to everything Anthony's doing will be in the show notes. There's a Linktree there because he's got so many amazing things that he's working on.
Now, if you enjoyed this episode, I need you to do me a favor, and I really think this is going to be pretty easy. I'd like you to share it with one person. If you know somebody, just while you're listening in iTunes, all you got to do is tap the dots and it'll give you an option to share the episode. Then you can post it on social, you can text it to a friend. And of course, if you're looking for more great resources, your one stop for everything admin is admin.salesforce.com, including a transcript of the show.
Now, be sure to join our conversation in the Admin Trailblazer Group. That's in the Trailblazer Community. Don't worry, just like everything I mentioned before, the link is in the show notes. So with that, until next week, we'll see you in the cloud.