Can Education Cloud Make You a Better Architect?
While writing this article I couldn’t help but to draw comparisons to those high school assignments at the start of every new year of school: an essay entitled “How I Spent My Summer Vacation”. That ultimately reminded me of The Ataris song of the same name, so now I’m listening to music from my own high school days while writing a similar type of essay: How I spent the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week I tweeted an ERD of the Salesforce Education Cloud architecture, and Brian Cline asked me a question. Brian is famous in my household for being one of only five people who have ever commented on my fledgling blog in its 6 year history (thank you Brian).
Joking aside, I respect Brian a lot. His own blog frequently comes up on Google when I am searching for Salesforce related stuff. Unfortunately, Twitter isn’t a great medium for the answer to his question.
I’m not entirely sure I’ve fully broken out of the Sales/Service/Experience Cloud bubble but I think there are two things that have been helpful in getting exposure to other clouds.
The first thing I would suggest is to work for a Partner (or with a Partner). A partner can put you on multiple projects that are vastly different. I’ve been fortunate to work with different partners, most notably Robots and Pencils. This has given me hands-on experience with LWR Experience Sites (a highly-performant digital experience), Financial Services Cloud, OmniStudio, and NPSP, in addition to the main clouds. These are products I never would have been able to touch in any meaningful way if a partner hadn’t given me the opportunity to work on these projects. Additionally, a Partner can get you into the Partner Community and Partner Learning Camp, both of which contain a wealth of knowledge.
That’s the easy part. The second thing I did was commit to a self-learning journey. This is much harder because it involves some sacrifice.
I feel a bit guilty saying this because I know many people had a very difficult time over the last two years, but the pandemic increased my quality of life. It eliminated 3 hours on public transit every day, and allowed me to reinvest that time into both watching my newborn son grow up, and into my career/hobby as a Salesforce professional.
So for the last 20 months, I’ve spent about 2-3 hours every day living in Salesforce above and beyond the hours I am actually working. This has allowed me to build expertise in Marketing Cloud, NPSP, Field Service, Vlocity, architectural design, and most recently, in Education Cloud. I built-out an implementation for an imaginary university over the holidays, and while I haven’t had the opportunity to work on a real Education Cloud implementation yet, that chance might arise later this year and I’ll be ready for that if it comes to fruition.
I did most of this out of curiosity and a desire to find new challenges, but there was a surprising aspect to all of this.
I could not predict how exploring some of the more niche clouds has allowed me to grow as a developer and an architect. My first several Salesforce implementations were fairly straightforward. When you start adding some of the niche clouds, you need to worry about System of Record for things like journey data, coupons, promotions, and so on – not just Accounts and Contacts. And remember that Salesforce is only a piece of the overall landscape. There are other enterprise systems to consider in these discussions.
It sounds funny to say that Education Cloud and Marketing Cloud have helped me to look at architecture more holistically, but it’s true, and I owe my B2C Solution Architect certification to these niche products because there is no way I would have ever passed this exam had I not undertaken this journey.
I would urge all Salesforce professionals to spend some time doing the same thing. I’ve really shifted the way I think about design, problems, and risks. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an admin, developer, architect, or consultant, I’ve found you can really up your game by getting into the weeds of some of these products.
If you’re interested in exploring some niche clouds, you can get demo orgs for many of these products. Here are some I have bookmarked:
If you have any that aren’t listed here, please link them in the comments and become my 6th ever commenter!