Bridge Above The Water: The Hard Worker vs The Valuable Worker

I remember a monotonous and time consuming project I was working on involving a series of data manipulations and entries. My coworker Rich, our systems analyst, implored me to let him develop a way to automate the process. I told him that by the time he was done I wouldn’t need it anymore. I joked with him by saying ‘you build a bridge, and I’ll drain the river dry – either way we both get to the other side’. He chuckled and returned to work. A few moments later he turned his chair and asked, ‘What if it rains again?’

His response was brilliant. It most likely would rain again, since, well…that’s how nature works. A bridge would not be effected by the rain because a bridge was a solution and not a state – like an empty or flowing river. Regardless of how much water was in the river the bridge would always be an option. If someone was not strong enough, or did not have the time or resources to drain the river, they could use the bridge. The bridge would provide value to the entire community. When you take a step back, the bridge was definitely the better of the two solutions. It’s smarter. Sure enough, a few weeks later I was wishing I had built a bridge!

At the time I was being the ‘Hard Worker’, while my coworker was being the ‘Valuable Worker’. I would not stop until my work was done, which made me a hard worker. However, I could’ve spent my time on something more valuable.

I decided to compile  ‘Hard Worker’ habits and traits compared to a ‘Valuable Worker’ traits. Please let me know what other distinctions you can think of in the comment section!

A Hard Worker? A Valuable Worker?
spends most of their time working spends most of their time learning
knows a lot documents a lot
sticks to the process Improve the process
knows how to do their job understands why they do their job
is skeptical of change welcomes change
is aware of the deadline is aware of the mission
checks the to-do list from top to bottom prioritizes tasks
holds on to responsibility delegates responsibility
is concerned with their role only knows how other roles work together
is in competition with others collaborates with others

Excel Etiquette: 4 Essential Manners When Sending an Excel File.

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Everyone was taught the same fundamental manners. Say please and thank you, make eye contact, don’t talk with your mouth full, put the toilet seat down, don’t scream at squirrels, etc. Unfortunately, when it comes to office manners – some of us were born in a barn yesterday! No offense to anyone actually born in a barn…or yesterday.

Remember these excel etiquette practices, and you’ll be highly esteemed and well-liked!

  1. Freeze the Top Row

If your Excel file is large and requires a lot of scrolling, you don’t want your coworkers or clients getting all mixed up about what column they are looking at! Freeze the Top row by navigating to View -> Freeze Panes ->  Freeze Top Row. Now the top row is visible no matter where your co-workers scroll off to.

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  1. Add Filters and Sort

Although Excel is totally cool and awesome, some people don’t want to spend more time than necessary finding what they need. Add a filter and sort the data in a way that is meaningful to your audience. Go to Data Tab -> Filter.

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  1. Express yourcell! Format your cells.

Add some distinction to your data by adding and outline and inline border. Highlight your selection and right click -> Format Cells.. -> Border -> Outline and Inside

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  1. Name Your Sheets

Here’s a super simple one! If you’ve got more than one sheet in your workbook, add some names. Double click on your sheet’s tab and begin typing.

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Country and Abbreviation Table

I always end up needing one of these! Hope it comes in handy for someone

Country Abbreviation
Afghanistan AF
Aland Islands AX
Algeria DZ
Andorra AD
Anguilla AI
Antarctica AQ
Antigua and Barbuda AG
Argentina AR
Armenia AM
Aruba AW
Australia AU
Austria AT
Bahamas BS
Bahrain BH
Bangladesh BD
Barbados BB
Belarus BY
Belgium BE
Belize BZ
Bermuda BM
Bhutan BT
Bolivia, Plurinational State of BO
Bosnia and Herzegovina BA
Botswana BW
Brazil BR
British Indian Ocean Territory IO
Brunei Darussalam BN
Bulgaria BG
Burkina Faso BF
Burundi BI
Cambodia KH
Cameroon CM
Canada CA
Cape Verde CV
Cayman Islands KY
Central African Republic CF
Chile CL
China CN
Colombia CO
Congo, the Democratic Republic of the CD
Costa Rica CR
Cote d’Ivoire CI
Croatia HR
Cuba CU
Curaçao CW
Cyprus CY
Czech Republic CZ
Denmark DK
Dominica DM
Dominican Republic DO
Ecuador EC
Egypt EG
El Salvador SV
Estonia EE
Ethiopia ET
Falkland Islands (Malvinas) FK
Faroe Islands FO
Fiji FJ
Finland FI
France FR
French Polynesia PF
Georgia GE
Germany DE
Ghana GH
Gibraltar GI
Greece GR
Greenland GL
Grenada GD
Guadeloupe GP
Guatemala GT
Guinea GN
Guyana GY
Haiti HT
Honduras HN
Hungary HU
Iceland IS
India IN
Indonesia ID
Iran, Islamic Republic of IR
Iraq IQ
Ireland IE
Israel IL
Italy IT
Jamaica JM
Japan JP
Jersey JE
Jordan JO
Kazakhstan KZ
Kenya KE
Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of KP
Korea, Republic of KR
Kuwait KW
Kyrgyzstan KG
Lao People’s Democratic Republic LA
Latvia LV
Lebanon LB
Lesotho LS
Liberia LR
Libya LY
Liechtenstein LI
Lithuania LT
Luxembourg LU
Macao MO
Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of MK
Madagascar MG
Malaysia MY
Mali ML
Malta MT
MARTINIQUE MQ
Mauritania MR
Mauritius MU
Mayotte YT
Mexico MX
Moldova, Republic of MD
Monaco MC
Mongolia MN
Montenegro ME
Morocco MA
Mozambique MZ
Myanmar MM
Namibia NA
Nepal NP
Netherlands NL
New Caledonia NC
New Zealand NZ
Nicaragua NI
Niger NE
Nigeria NG
Norway NO
Oman OM
Pakistan PK
Palestine PS
Panama PA
Paraguay PY
Peru PE
Philippines PH
Pitcairn PN
Poland PL
Portugal PT
Qatar QA
Romania RO
Russian Federation RU
Rwanda RW
Saint Barthélemy BL
Saint Lucia LC
Saint Martin (French part) MF
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines VC
Samoa WS
San Marino SM
Saudi Arabia SA
Senegal SN
Serbia RS
Seychelles SC
Singapore SG
Slovak Republic SK
Slovakia SK
Slovenia SI
South Africa ZA
South Sudan SS
Spain ES
Sri Lanka LK
Sweden SE
Switzerland CH
Syrian Arab Republic SY
Taiwan TW
Tanzania, United Republic of TZ
Thailand TH
Trinidad and Tobago TT
Tunisia TN
Turkey TR
Turkmenistan TM
Uganda UG
Ukraine UA
United Arab Emirates AE
United Kingdom GB
United States US
Uruguay UY
Uzbekistan UZ
Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of VE
Viet Nam VN
Virgin Islands, British VG
Wallis and Futuna WF
Zambia ZM
Zimbabwe ZW

 

3 Easy and Potentially Life Saving Excel Tricks/Tips

Excel. Almost everyone uses it! However, for how much time you spend on excel there are always some features or tips to be discovered that can make your life a whole lot easier. Here are 3 tips and tricks that could potentially save you lots of time!

1.      Cloning a Sheet

Copy and paste is cool and all, but if you’re dealing with a relatively large or complicated file it can be time consuming, take tons of scrolling, or potentially cause a crash! Here is how to easily clone a sheet.

·        Hold Control and click on the label of your sheet you want to copy and drag the cursor over to either side of your sheet. If done correctly, you should see a down arrow icon. Then, release your mouse and the sheet will be copied!

2.      Space Columns at Once

Excel gets cramped real quick! Give yourself enough room!

To space all columns at once select the diagonal arrow between the first row number and first column header. This will select everything in the entire sheet. Next, double click the | space between the first and Second Column (A and B). Watch your data space beautifully!

3.      Wrangle Duplicate Values

Tracking down nasty dupes? There is a feature for that!

Highlight the column you suspect duplicates to be hiding (you may want to sort on that column first) and select ‘Conditional Formatting’ under the Styles menu. Navigate to Highlight Cell Rules -> Duplicate Values and watch duplicates appear before your eyes! You can also sort by the duplicate values.

I hope you found something in here that will help you in your excel adventures! Now get out there and stare at your computer!

“Pick Up the Phone” and Two More Ways to Improve Communication

The way we communicate to others is important. Miscommunication can cause confusion, damage a relationship or delay a time-sensitive project. I’m by no means an expert in communication but I try to be mindful about the way I communicate, the way others communicate, and the way people respond.

Here are a few things I practice to improve my communication between others.

Give Credit Before Criticism

I’ve learned that the instinct of most people, including myself, is to be defensive in the face of criticism. Being defensive is a biological response. Just as a mother would defend a child against physical harm, the mind will defend the ego from mental harm.

Before I give criticism, I usually thank someone for their time and let them know what I liked about whatever they have provided. This is by no means a practice I came up with. A study published in the American Behavior Scientist found that the highest performing teams received almost six pieces of ‘praise’ before criticism. We often hear to give ‘praise’ before criticism. To me, ‘praise’ sounds superficial or even forced. Instead, I’d rather give and receive ‘credit’, something that is earned and respected.

Pick up the phone

Have you ever found yourself in a never ending loop of an email thread that leaves all parties involved confused? Unless a problem is easy to communicate and resolve, it probably deserves a phone call. There is so much more that can be communicated and understood by talking with someone. Somethings are hard to communicate over an email, especially in IT where someone may not entirely understand the problem they are having or the solution they are looking for.

As a society we are anxious about using our phones for the original purpose they were designed! Maybe people don’t want to be caught off guard and they would rather have the time to collect their thoughts before engaging. This use to be my thought! Sometimes I don’t know the answer, but I always understand the problem better after a phone call.

Follow Up

It’s a fundamental I learned from years of customer service and I use it whenever I remember. If I’ve helped someone recently with a problem or answered a question, I remind myself to reach out to them again. It is usually as simple as ‘Just wanted to make sure that you were not having and issue with this anymore’ or ‘let me know if my request makes sense, I am more than happy to clarify anything you need.’ Following up can improve any communication relationship. It lets people know that they’re concerns, issues, and time is important to you.

 

 Sources:

Losada, Marcial and Emily Heaphy.The Role of Positivity and Connectivity in the Performance of Business Teams: A Nonlinear Dynamics Model”. American Behavioral Scientist Vol, Issue 6, pp. 740 – 765. First Published February 1, 2004 https://doi.org/10.1177/0002764203260208

The Perfect Detour – From English Major to Personal Trainer to IT Professional

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A few months before my last day of college I no longer wanted to do what I went to school for – to teach English at a university. Meanwhile my best friend and colleague was off to his graduate program the following semester, still burning with the same passion he started with. The morning after my college graduation ceremony, I remember waking up with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. The following years were a struggle, both financially and emotionally. I did not know what I wanted to do, or what I was necessarily good at. I submitted resumes for various jobs that involved writing – technical writing, marketing, PR – until eventually taking what I could get. During the following years, I worked several jobs in different jobs and industries.

Until recently, I believed that all of the time spent working outside of my current career in IT was a waste. I was embarrassed over my resume – a hodgepodge of unrelated experiences, certifications, and education. Looking back, I can see that these past experiences, education and employment were leading and shaping me for my future career in software development. A career I get to wake up excited for. A career I am fulfilled by and a career that marries what I enjoy with what I’m good at. I stand now, proud of my resume, despite its eclectic nature. Here are the experiences I will likely never remove from my resume along with some of the skills I’ve learned, borrowed, and abandoned.

English Major

I’m often met with shock when I tell people I Majored in English. ‘Don’t you already speak English?” some would quip. At first, my education would seem like a complete 180 from my current role. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

What I learned

·        How to write clearly

Until recently, I took my writing education for granted. After all, everyone knows how to write! Now I realize how rare the skilled writer is – especially in the corporate world. A skilled writer is able to quickly, clearly and concisely communicate ideas.

In software development writing is a big part of what I do. From user training documentation, to functional specifications and requirement documentation and even daily email communication, writing is one of the most indispensable skills I possess. When technical documentation is being written, or a communication is being sent out to multiple users, I have to make sure that it is able to be processed and understood. The communication has to be free of syntax or grammatical errors.

·        How to quickly generate ideas

Nothing puts the mind to work like having to come up with a ten-page essay the following day! I once had a final where I was required to write five essays in two hours based on prompts I had never seen until then. As an English major, coming up with what to write about is just as challenging and as important as grammar, syntax, and style. We constantly employ brainstorming techniques like round robin, reverse thinking, stream of consciousness and any other creative means to get us to where we need to be.

In software development, coming up with ideas to solve problems or build solutions is an essential part of our work. You can have all the technical skills in the world, but if you don’t know how to think on your toes you will most likely never get the chance to employ those skills.

·        How to take criticism

In my Freshman year, it was a terrible feeling to get an essay back covered in red slashes or to sit patiently in a circle while each of my classmates told me what they didn’t like about my short story. In later years, I learned to appreciate such criticism and even look forward to it. I knew it was making me a better writer. Unfortunately, I’ve learned that a lot of people in the corporate world do not take criticism well. Most people think their idea is the best idea. The problem is they have not been able to detach their self-worth from their ideas and may view the criticism as a judgement of themselves. English majors learn to distinguish between the two and take advantage of good criticism.

In software development it is necessary to willfully accept the criticism of others. A technical lead may have some ideas to make your code allocate memory more effectively. A business user might have a different opinion on the layout of a page. The important thing in software development is to come up with the best solution, even if it is not yours.

What I borrowed

·        The writing styles of my peers and favorite writers.

Some of my communication requires short, concise, sentences. Yet, others may call for elaborate and descriptive sentences. As an English major, I learned different ways to write the same thing.

In software development, and in the corporate world in general – it is important to not only write clearly, but be able to write for any audience. There is a different style of writing in user training than design documentation or functional specifications. Some messages may need to elicit other feelings that cannot be seen in the words themselves – like urgency, confidence, or even reluctance. Not everyone responds best to the same writing style so it is important to be able to call upon many.

What I abandoned

·        Trying to be like others

There is a fine line between being influenced and copying. It was at times tempting to try to write exactly like others, or about what others write about since so much of an English major’s time is spent reading and writing about the works of others. Doing this masks true potential and covers up an original style that is harder to build but much more effective when it is used. I’ve noticed in the corporate world, many people take their own abilities for granted and would just rather continue doing things the way they have always been done or how others would do it.

To be successful in software development bringing out an original idea requires original thinking. Finding an effective way to do something is much more important than continuing the old way. It is important to actively think about the process being done, and how it can be improved.

Mortgage Loan Officer

What I learned

·        How to sell

Before working as a loan officer, I had generally looked at sales in a stereotypical light. I imagined a skinny man in a colorful suit, generously applied cologne, and slicked back hair who only cared about one thing: money. I learned that selling is more than that, and its applications are much wider than most would imagine. An employer is sold by a candidate and hires them for the job. A husband sells himself to his wife when reciting his vows, assuring her that he will be there to love her until death. Zig Ziglar, one of the most listened to sales gurus said ‘Selling is not something you do to someone, it’s something you do for someone’. If you believe what you are selling will help someone, there is no reason to feel ashamed.

A developer can create the best solution with all the bells and whistles – but if he or she is not able to sell the benefits of the tool to the end user, or the customer – the tool will never roll out. Many of us unfortunately know the feeling of working on a project for months and months, only to not receive sign-off or buy-in from the business.

What I borrowed

·        The optimism attitude

 “Either you run the day or the day runs you.” – Jim Rohn

There is a mentality held by almost every successful salesperson. It is one of relenting optimism. In sales, you have to live call by call, imagining an easy sale every time. The failures of the day before should not influence how today will go. The best salespeople go to work excited, and excite others. They exude energy and positivity and motivate others. They operate on synergy and know how to use momentum.

In software development it may be hard to see the light at the end of a tunnel during the middle of a seemingly endless and evolving project. Yet everyday has to be given the same energy and creativity of the last – an optimistic person can make a big difference for team moral

What I abandoned

·        The get rich quick mindset

It’s common for sales jobs to highlight their most successful employees’ accomplishments, and my job was no different. At any moment in the break room you could hear the conversations. “Did you hear John makes twenty thousand a month? Can you even imagine?”. There is nothing wrong with trying to motivate employees but unrealistic expectations do more harm than good. Several employees in my hiring group quit a few weeks after they finished training when they realized that the ‘Easy Money’ was not as easy as they were led to believe. The truth was that the employee making twenty thousand a month had been working in the industry for a very long time, attended sales seminars on the weekends and worked ten to twelve hours a day. There may very well be an easy, quick money sales job out there – Let us know when you find it.

Personal Trainer

 What I learned

·        How to track and measure success

A personal trainer is responsible for keeping others accountable. They need to be able to set realistic goals for their clients, goals that are big enough to make an impact and happen quick enough to be motivating. The goals require creativity, and are usually never the same between clients. One client may have a goal of reaching ten pull ups in one minute, another may want to lose inches while another only wants to lose weight. Setting an unrealistic goal that is not accomplished can cause a client to lose interest. I communicated regularly to my clients about their goals and expectations, showing them where they could improve and where they are doing well, treating each client like a project you have to manage.

Executives speak the language of metrics. They want to know the facts and they want to know if the investment in your project was a good idea. Having clearly defined goals and metrics ready at any moment only helps the possibility of a successful project.

What I borrowed

·        The advice of my clients

The best part about working with people is listening to people. Everyone has a story. Everyone has a slightly different motivation. I learned that the best way to get clients to listen to you is to listen to them. Many of my clients enjoyed our time together because they were able to talk to me about their day, their challenges and even share some aspects of their personal lives. I was able to learn a lot from their personal experiences and life lessons. While they gained from my knowledge of exercise and diet, I gained from their knowledge of business, parenthood, or marriage.

What I abandoned

·        Blaming others

As I mentioned previously, people have different motivations. Exercise is not an integral part of their lives like so many personal trainers. While some may disagree, I’ve noticed that most ‘Gym Rats’ have not yet started a family or work in professions that afford them the free time to exercise. Instead of blaming a client for not hitting a goal, or cancelling on a session, I thought “How can I motivate this person”? Is there an expectation I am not meeting?”.

In my current position, while there is plenty of opportunities to cast blame around I’ve tried to instead focus on what I can control and ways I can improve my communication to better manage expectations.

In a Stanford commencement speech, Steve Jobs said “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future”. As I remain anxious about what the future holds, I trust that as long as I attempt to actively learn from my experiences, they can be made to strengthen my future positions – whatever they may be. I hope that this article gives others who may be anxious about their future career some hope and perspective.

How to Study for The Salesforce Platform Developer I Exam

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If you’re like me, the first thing you do when you decide to go for something is to peruse the internet for advice from people that have done it and that is exactly the first thing I did when it came to both my Salesforce Administrator and Salesforce Developer certification. When I was up late after work studying for the Platform Developer I exam, I would catch myself half thinking/half praying ‘God, if I pass this test I promise to help others!’ Part of the reason I’m writing this now is because although I found it difficult to find some of the answers I was looking for, I did find many valuable articles from people who had ‘blazed the trail’ before me. This is my attempt to give back.

I wouldn’t consider myself very technically experienced. I have my Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and up until 2014, I’d never opened up an excel file. I do, however, possess a mindset that wants to solve problems and enjoys thinking through them – if you can keep that mindset, you’re on the way to passing the Developer Exam.

 

1.      Use the Salesforce Study Guide to plan

This is important. My first mistake was quickly veering off track from the study guide and down the rabbit hole of development documentation and YouTube videos of Dreamforce speakers. At one point I was attempting to actually read the entire Apex Development Workbook (now deprecated), making stacks of flash cards about Rest API, asynchronous callouts, and memory allocation limits. If you don’t know what most of that is, don’t worry you won’t need to for this exam. Use the Salesforce Study Guide, and what’s on the Salesforce Study Guide as the foundation of your studying. Download the guide here.

     Begin by reading the study guide over and over until you know what is in and out of the scope of the exam. Next, write down each section of the exam in order from least familiar to most familiar. Draw a line dividing the top half of the list from the bottom and apply an 80/20 rule – plan to spend 80% of your time studying in the top half (the less familiar) and 20% of your time on the remainder.

2.      Take the Developer Beginner Trail from Trailhead

Besides experience, Trailhead is the best resource out there for learning Salesforce. If you are unfamiliar with Trailhead, it’s a series of guided learning paths for business users to developers where you can earn badges, track progress and plan your learning curriculum. If you have not yet signed up, do yourself a favor and do it now! https://trailhead.salesforce.com/en/trails. You will need a developer org if you want to follow along with most of the training. You can get one here.

3.      Track by Comprehension, Not by Time

Remember, quality over quantity! I would avoid planning in time chunks. Just because more time is spent studying, does not mean more is learned. Focus on what specific thing you want to know when you’re finished with a study session. For example, looking at section five of the Study Guide you might take ‘Describe how to use basic SOSL, SOQL, and DML statements when working with objects in Apex’ under the Logic and Process Automation and decide to learn the how to write three types of SOQL statements in one session and the limitations of SOSL statements in another. The best part about doing this is that you will hopefully leave every session feeling accomplished

4.      Utilize Different Methods of Learning

Spend time in Salesforce Documentation reading, Trailhead and YouTube learning, and a development org doing! I know I have learned something when I can explain it and when I can think of ways to use it. Take what you want to learn – Read about it, watch someone do it, and finally do it yourself.

5.      Know Why and When

Most of the exam consists of scenario based questions. You’ll never pass the exam if you only know terms and their definitions. After reading and learning about a functionality, I ask myself why I would need it and when I would use it. Why should one use process builder over a workflow? Come up for a scenario or use case for both!

6.      Utilize Salesforce Training

If your company has premier support, you have access to a hub of instructor led training videos! Navigate to ‘Help & Training’ in your org and look for the training section. Don’t sweat it if you do not have premier support, there is still plenty of other information out there.

7.      Salesforce Ben

Salesforceben.com is an awesome resource that I have used for both of my certification. There is a great article about the Platform Developer I certification here: http://www.salesforceben.com/platform-developer-certification-guide-tips/. They give an awesome breakdown of the exam.

8.      Answer and Ask Questions in the Support Forums

Even if you’re not an expert in Salesforce Development yet, try to help others with their problems. It is a great way to receive use cases and scenarios that can provide you with experience and hands on learning! You probably won’t receive the vote for the ‘Best Answer’ all the time, but it begins the process of actively thinking about how to implement development solutions .

9.      Don’t Burn Yourself Out

No need to pull an all-nighter! Give yourself plenty of time, you can only take in so much at a once. If you have accomplished your ‘learning goal’ for the session, take the rest of the day off! Go outside and enjoy some nature.

 

I hope this article has provided some good advice you can utilize to prepare for the Platform Developer I and other Salesforce exams. Good luck, you’ll do great!