Salesforce Technical Architect, MedPro Group
With over 10 years of experience on the Salesforce platform, Sarah Khalid leads developmental and architectural projects as the Salesforce Technical Architect role for MedPro Group while supporting other developers as a community leader.
Sarah admits… She is not much of a morning person.
She does her best to organize her day the night before, to avoid a run-around in the morning. Her pre-Covid routine was hectic as she prepared breakfast and packed lunches for her two kids before dropping them off and diving into work. Now things are a bit calmer.
Sarah’s normal commute is short, with her office close to home. She will normally arrive within 15-30 minutes after leaving and often listens to music on her drive. However, her commute is even shorter given she’s working from home these days due to Covid.
Although the impact of Covid has Sarah working remotely, the switch to her home office was a seamless transition. Salesforce operates from the cloud with no fixed location for employees so Sarah’s home setup was already in place pre-Covid!
MedPro Group’s office is set in Princeton, New Jersey. The surrounding area outside provides a scenic environment, perfect for mid–day walks if her schedule allows for a break. The IT department sits in a separate building from the rest of the non-IT folks and inside are old–fashioned cubicles. Sarah lucked out with a nice view through her window seat and decorating her desk are Salesforce mascots, certifications and pictures of her family.
Sarah grabbed a cup of coffee, checked her work email and replied to messages requiring her attention.
The context of her inbox varies based on current project details and statuses. The MedPro headquarters is based out of Indiana and communication starts early there! Sarah routinely utilizes the mornings to connect with other members of the agile team to evaluate the progress of their current sprint.*
*Technical elaboration: Agile is a project-management methodology utilizing developmental cycles known as “sprints” to continually improve a product or service. An agile team is the group assigned to one project at a time, working through “stories,” or assignments, until project completion.
Sarah’s project is deep into development, so that means a good chunk of her morning on this day was spent in meetings with the team and external parties. Email chains will note progress of active sprints detailing any adjustment requirements or potential fires that may impact the team from finishing the story. This is also the time to delegate developmental tasks, communicate challenges or seek support to remain aligned with the project timeline. Sarah does her best to plan out her day’s agenda in advance, but the moving parts in her role require flexibility and quick pivots to meet the demands of the work.
Sarah joined her team’s stand up and code–review call regarding their current project, a project we can’t divulge the intricate details about. This meeting focuses on specifics for each team member to work on while the work from earlier in the morning was more big-picture discussions.
Since we can’t discuss the project she’s working on this day, let’s use an older project as an example. Back in 2018, Sarah’s first project at MedGroup was working to overhaul MedPro’s insurance systems by implementing Salesforce as the main CRM. Without that foundation set and maintained, it leaves room for disorganization, errors and inefficiencies, which is a tall order. The use case for this project and Sarah’s main concern was primarily focused on the internal employees’ functions with the systems. In other words, how can the data being collected from customers’ inputs be packaged so that internal employees can have this data all in one place to easily access? Sarah and her team worked on improving the back-end of the site to work more seamlessly with their Salesforce instance.
An example of a story within this overhaul project was streamlining records and data while designing the ability for an internal employee to click on a customer’s name from the platform and find A-Z information about that individual.
Generally, during development sprints for each project, there is a retrospective phase where the team looks back to see what could be improved upon from the recently completed tasks that will better suit the final product. The improvements are then implemented, which falls into another category of sprints. The lifecycle of development moves across different environments and varies depending on if a company is in production or headed that way.
Another aspect of development Sarah considers is how the changes will impact the end user. If major adjustments or complete overhauls are occurring, training is necessary for employees to then learn the new system. In cases where drastic system changes will evoke an increase in work productivity, the training afterward will be worthwhile. But in others, minimal impact for the user is sought after. Sarah takes part in training teams once the systems are in place and finds this process efficient when companies, in general, normalize embracing change as part of the culture, which MedGroup luckily does.
After the call and with space before other meetings, Sarah opened her task list and got started on her personal workload, along with reaching out to support the developers.
To manage her time, Sarah keeps a prioritized list of tasks and projects. During her stand–up calls with the team, timelines of sprints and stories are discussed to set a framework for task deadlines. Any time spent away from meetings and collaboration is put forth towards this list. The nature of the tasks toggle between development and architecture. This work usually involves fine details, like developing functionalities in Salesforce to pull multiple insurance quotes and policies or streamlining records from various systems to be viewed as one.
Salesforce, in general, was, and continues to be, a pioneer in advancing the adoption of cloud softwares. Think of Salesforce as an organizations’ clean and organized walk-in closet to store and access data, which helps sell or support customers better. Each company creates their own “instance,” or piece of the Salesforce pie, in the cloud that best matches their business: Sales, Service, Marketing, or Community, among other offerings.
The platform was designed for users and admins to create and customize their instance themselves based on their unique business needs without needing much IT involvement.
However, people like Sarah come in with their Salesforce knowledge to improve functionality.
A large portion of Sarah’s role in leadership is nurturing the project developers and supporting their work. With new exposure as a community leader, she leverages different leadership tactics to adhere to the learning styles of developers that she works with. She offers a second pair of eyes when things stray from the plan, which happens often, to ensure those with less experience feel secure in their decision making and navigate the unforeseen situations with appropriate direction. As Sarah mentioned before… quick pivots and remaining flexible is key in all phases!
Sarah caught a training session on Trailhead Live and jumped into her learning journey on Trailhead’s course platform.
Sarah finds herself constantly fueling her own continued education. She frequents the Salesforce learning platform, Trailhead, which guides users through trailmixes to advance their skills and work through certifications. MedPro encourages Sarah to explore her interests to further her professional development, having funded certifications while fostering a culture of independent learning.
Sarah is also in the process of learning MuleSoft, a back end tool for development recently acquired by Salesforce. She is fluent in C++, Java and Apex, as well.
For Sarah, a successful day at work is a combination of crossing off major pending tasks from her list of deliverables and solving particularly challenging technical problems. However, nothing compares to helping someone else further their personal Salesforce journey.
In a perfect world, Sarah heads out of the office by 5:30 PM to pick up her kids from school (pre-Covid.) If there is any uncompleted task needing immediate attention, she will finish at home after spending time with her family or attending any after-school activities. In her down time, Sarah could be working on her Salesforce and Mulesoft blog. She started it to document the knowledge and experience she’s gaining in hopes it’ll benefit others in their Salesforce journeys. Since Sarah shared there is “very little information for this combination available,” she thought it was a productive and cathartic use of her time. She’s always wanted to write, so what better way to kill two birds with one stone.
She’s in bed by 11:30 PM to start it all over again the next day.
Sarah graduated from Bahria University based in Pakistan with a Masters degree in Computer Science. After school, she began her career in IT as a general developer for EnterpriseDB, a computer software company. Shortly after joining the team, EnterpriseDB initiated an in-house implementation of Salesforce as the company’s CRM and main front facing portal for their customers. Salesforce was emerging technology at this time and Sarah’s interest and exposure to the platform served as a leg up in the field boosting her marketability as a developer.
Operating from the cloud, Salesforce brings flexibility of the employee working environment. With young children and an interest in partial remote work, this feature of Salesforce stood out to Sarah and she went forward to expand her reach into the ecosystem. She took on roles as a Salesforce consultant with company’s like Satyam BPO Limited, Infovision Technologies Inc. and iData Solution Inc. to continue to harvest her skills.
As Sarah furthered her experience, she took on numerous complex Salesforce implementations with influential clients including American Express, Citigroup, AstraZeneca, Nationwide Insurance and Laureate Education spanning the education, pharmaceutical, insurance, financial and real estate sectors. She also supports nonprofits and volunteers her skills to help others streamline productivity through Salesforce. She is currently co-leading the Princeton, Women in Tech Salesforce User Group; aiming to help women succeed in technology and empowering confidence and knowledge about technology.
When Sarah came in contact with MedPro, they were in the process of revamping their in-house systems. MedPro had recently acquired various new companies and turned to Salesforce for a multitude of products. Sarah accepted a role with MedPro as the first Salesforce Technical Architect to guide and drive the Salesforce implementation and stand as a voice for growth.
To top it off… Sarah is a volunteer mentor with Supermums where she trains moms to become certified Salesforce admins and progress into successful careers in the ecosystem.
For someone interested in Salesforce but just starting out, where should they begin?
For the Salesforce novice, Sarah advises that the most rewarding plunge into the platform comes from the desire to further one’s own personal and professional development. If you’re *only* doing it to adhere to a company-mandated requirement or because it’s a hot skill, it’ll be harder to stay motivated.
After an individual’s motive is sorted out, Sarah then advises starting with practical learning from the abundance of free materials and resources such as the Trailhead platform where learning Salesforce and gaining certifications are offered through trailmixes, or courses in the Trailhead world. Outside of this, groups such as the Salesforce Trailblazer Community offer knowledge, resources and further support for folks who are interested in getting involved.
Education aside, Sarah advocates the pivotal factors to gaining a true understanding of the world of Salesforce is action and exposure. Initiating self-projects or finding ways to incorporate the platform with nonprofits and/or organizations in the community are great ways to break into the ecosystem while gaining experience. When Sarah first started, she found an opportunity to apply her skills after attending school events for her kids and recognizing an overuse of paper documents with a lack of data storage for students. Sarah stepped up to the plate with a solution for improving the school’s productivity with Salesforce and as a result, gained profound knowledge of the system.
Find out how Salesforce can solve problems in the community; you’ll gain experience and be doing some good!
What would you tell women who are interested in getting into development or an IT–related field?
For all of her career, Sarah recognized the disparity of women in IT. She advises women interested in the field to get involved by gaining exposure and utilizing the learning platforms available.
An aspect of Salesforce that initially attracted Sarah to join is its location independence for employees. Salesforce operates wholly from the cloud, allowing its users to work from any environment with a WiFi signal. For a mother with younger children and a busy schedule outside of work, this was gold! Sarah encourages other women in similar situations, or with general interests in Salesforce to utilize the community and ecosystem of resources. She also suggests figuring out which avenue to travel down—admin, development, business administration, architecture etc.—and then jumping in!
Salesforce encourages women to get on the platform. We are one of the few companies that implemented the Equal Pay Initiative and that alone says a lot about the culture.