Last January I found myself subscribing to a new kind of New Year resolution, one whose scope and difficulty level was slightly above my usual “eat-more-vegetables” or “drink-less-coffee” endeavors. After a couple of years working as a Salesforce Specialist in the end-user space, helping various London startups streamline their business processes, I decided it was time for a new adventure – one where the learning curve was much steeper and the challenges far more rewarding: I decided to move to Berlin and join a company that would enable me to explore a whole new side of the Salesforce ecosystem – consultancy.
As with most New Year’s resolutions, it was, at least in the beginning, easier said than done. Where do you start when you want to change your job, apartment, city, country and most facets of everyday life you’ve meticulously perfected over a number of years? In my case, it all started in a rather unorthodox manner, namely with an Excel document containing a ranked list of different cities that were appealing in terms of quality of life, people, culture, language, jobs – and there was one clear winner which stood out early on: Berlin.
Part of the reason Berlin was such an attractive option was the fact that EMPAUA was based here, a Salesforce consultancy I’d always heard great things about and whose extensive exposure to a variety of industries, companies and projects motivated me to step up my game. The thought of transitioning from working with familiar end-user departmental stakeholders to a dynamic environment, packed with a variety of different implementations sounded both challenging and exciting, and a great opportunity to test some of the theoretical knowledge I’d acquired over the years as a Salesforce Admin.
“The thought of transitioning from working with familiar end-user departmental stakeholders to a dynamic environment, packed with a variety of different implementations sounded both challenging and exciting”
The first few weeks in a new country and a new role were a wonderful whirlwind of new faces, new practices and experiences, which reminded me in parts of my first months moving to London as a Master’s student – but unlike my move to London where I had to figure everything out for myself, the move to Berlin went a lot smoother due to the support I received from the EMPAUA network, whose patient assistance somehow made me feel like I had been well-versed in the ways of the German bureaucratic system for years.
Anmeldung and Tax-ID out of the way, I could then immerse myself in all the new information coming my way – not only from a technical point of view, but also in terms of project management, customer-facing skills, holacratic practices, cultural (and language) differences, or various team activities.
The technical learning curve
My first two years working for end-user companies were incredibly useful in establishing a solid foundation of Salesforce knowledge and practices. Working in small, agile teams for two very different London-based startups enabled me to get first-hand experience into all the important basics: security, data access, automation, even an initial exposure to Apex and Visualforce. Working alongside stakeholders I knew and trusted allowed me to gain an understanding of the end-user and how to devise solutions that truly help the people they are built for. I also found that choosing startups over larger, more established companies gave me the room to experiment with different technical solutions and run my own projects very early on in my Salesforce career. There were few limits to my knowledge and growth potential and I was the one deciding what these limits would be. This type of freedom and responsibility made me truly appreciate the platform and its capabilities and I became very curious to learn more.
The move to consultancy which followed was an eye-opening experience in terms of utilising the platform to its full potential. In my first several months as a consultant, I have already had incredible learning opportunities, working alongside a team of professionals from different backgrounds and skill-sets, across a wide range of projects. From implementing Sales Cloud for a financial-services startup to designing a flexible, yet complex automated pricing model for an established retail business, to then scoping out a solution that enables operational excellence in the supply chain of a young energy company – the last six months have been an exciting adventure into the true versatility of Salesforce solutions.
“In my first several months as a consultant, I have already had incredible learning opportunities”
When in Berlin, do as the Germans do
Mark Twain humorously admitted he “never knew before what eternity was made for. It is to give some of us a chance to learn German.” Having briefly studied the language in school, but never quite having mastered it, I can’t help but sometimes sympathise with Twain. The move to my new role also implied a move to Germany, a country whose different articles, pronouns and compound-words never cease to surprise me (unfortunately). Berlin, however, could not have been more accommodating as a city to experience German culture, and this is as true of the shopkeepers or bank-tellers I’ve interacted with, as it is of the project stakeholders I’ve talked to since the beginning of my new role: the language barrier has been minimal and most people I have worked with seem to prioritise directness and transparency in communication (which seemed strange at first, but has grown on me quickly).
The move from the end-user space to consulting has also implied an increase in the time I’ve spent in customer-facing roles – something that seemed very intimidating at first, but which I greatly enjoy now. One of the benefits of working as a Consultant at EMPAUA is the amount of responsibility you’re entrusted with very early on – this is not a company where you’ll only create custom fields and passively attend meetings for the first several months of onboarding. Regardless of your team and next project size, you can make a significant impact in your role, whether you focus on business analysis, development or project management. As you will often hear everyone mention, the company culture is oriented towards long-term scalable growth and depending on your abilities, aspirations and goals, you will find an environment that embraces individual career growth.
The social landscape
Probably one of the most striking differences in my change of roles can be highlighted at the social level. The perks of working alongside other Salesforce professionals are not just beneficial from a technical standpoint – on the contrary, I’ve often found Salesforce to be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of hobbies and things I have in common with my new colleagues. Whether it’s volleyball or video games, beers and beats or Markthalle 9 treats, there’s always an activity you can share or enthuse about with others.
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Moreover, the company encourages social interaction and relationship building through concrete programs and activities such as the Erasmus program, which enables you to work from a different EMPAUA office for a while, or the carefully planned company events like the yearly company Summit, where everyone gets together for a long weekend of fun activities like surfing, archery, or building a boat, just to name a few.
Six months in review
Transitioning from London to Berlin and from an end-user environment to a consultancy was definitely a challenging move that no amount of Excel-based pre-planning could have thoroughly prepared me for. Although intimidating at first, moving to a new country and a new role has so far proven to be one of the most exciting, positive changes I’ve gone through and I would highly recommend it to anyone keen to improve their technical skill-set, challenge their Salesforce knowledge or learn a new language and culture.
Looking back on my first months in Berlin, it feels like only yesterday I was taking part in the new-starter onboarding sessions and familiarising myself with my first projects. Although I have acquired a lot of new information in this time, both technical and cultural, I feel like that was just the tip of the iceberg, or the ‘levelling up’ in video-game speak. Now that I have completed my preliminary quests and challenges, the real fun can begin.