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  • Writer's pictureGemma Blezard

Spotlight Series: Emely Patra

Our latest volunteer Certified Technical Architect is Emely Patra, a Strategic Advisor, wife and mother who works for Salesforce in the UK. She passed her review board in July 2018 and we were very happy to learn that another woman had passed! We asked her some key questions about her experiences – the ramp-up, the day of the exam and how becoming a CTA has affected her career.

Tell us how you started working with Salesforce

“Well it was never planned! Suzy from our Talent team approached me and asked if I was interested in working for “Salesforce” and my initial reaction was “of course, but I have no prior Salesforce experience”. I come from an Enterprise and Business Architecture background, specialising as an Oracle ERP consultant. “She said that wouldn’t be a problem and I should have an initial chat with the team, which I did, and hurrah! I cleared all my interviews and panels and joined this incredible organisation. The rest is history :D”

Why did you decide to pursue the CTA certification?

“I love a good challenge and always want to be top of my game. When I joined Salesforce ecosystem and saw how rare and respected the CTAs are , I wanted to join the Elite club immediately but got even more inspired when I met and worked with the CTAs around me. They were so knowledgeable and had a well rounded approach to problem solving. I just knew it adds immense value and credibility and I should absolutely go for it!”

What did you do to prepare during the ramp up?

“I did a lot – and I really mean a lot of preparation. Anyone going for the CTA should not take it lightly!

“I started with my base 5 certs: Admin, Advanced Admin, App Builder, Sales Cloud Consultant and Service Cloud Consultant. I think these give you a great footing of understanding the platform. I then tackled the Architect pyramid as we now know it.

“Other than the prep for certifications I tried out things hands on; applied my knowledge on real life projects and researched around the topics on peripherals as well.

“I did as many mocks as I could just before my exam dates, prepared all the artifacts and timed myself to prepare for D-Day. It took 2.5 years for me to get through this journey, but thats not a benchmark. People should work to their own timelines.

Take a moment to acknowledge your allies – what did they do to help you and what was the impact?

“The most important allies have been my own family for supporting through every step; enabling me to carve out time and putting up with my moody stress days as well 🙂 “I also had the whole Salesforce Ohana around me to talk to and encourage me during my preparation. I was lucky to have coaches internally within Salesforce over different periods. A big thank you to my super coach Ritesh Aswaney, who is a very well respected CTA and helps to run the program in EMEA, and also Anjali who really supported me through the initial prep. “I would also like to thank Doina, my dear friend and an inspiring woman leader for her support and contagious positive attitude! A lot of other people within Salesforce took time to do mocks, give me tips and share experiences with me; the list is really long, but to name a few: Alejandra, Ian, Kevin, Jon…. so overall it was the whole Ohana that made me successful 🙂 “The key take away is you do not need to do it alone, talk to anyone with experience and you’ll learn something new, then adapt it to suit your own style.”

You’re a mother and also delivering project work – how did you manage the pressure and your time during the ramp up?

“Great question! In short, it’s not all manageable and step one is to accept that and give up on ideas of perfection! The pressure on time is real and being a mother, wife, full time professional, friend, daughter etc are all important part of your life. I started with setting expectations with everyone around me on my short term goal of becoming a CTA and what it would mean in terms of sacrificing time which you would normally spend with them.. Once people know that its a temporary change and for something that matters to you the pressure comes off a bit, its easy to say no to the Friday girls’ night out, rainy Saturday Netflix binge day and other social events.

“In my day to day, planning helped a lot; we planned out meals for the week, prepped on school stuff over the weekend, divided pickups and drop-offs, though my husband took on a lot of my share during the pre-CTA board weeks.

“Generally, I tried to be efficient with time, utilised commute times, flights, airport times, waiting outside my son’s activities etc to keep reading and studying. It’s amazing how much we can do in the seemingly little chunks of time we get in between.

“I made sure to study 1- 2 hrs after my son’s bedtime at night (not easy after work, I agree) so that I was not doing it all on weekends. So it’s not rocket science I guess whatever works for people the important thing is to ask for help when you need it and breathe deep. It’s about progressing a little every day.”

Tell us about the day of your exam…how did it go and how did you feel?

“Ahh, THAT day! I did my board in Munich and flew over the day before so that I was not dealing with travel uncertainties on the day. I chose not to study anymore the night before as well, just relaxed and had an early night in preparation for the big day ahead!

“On the day I was nice and early for the exam, arrived about 30 mins earlier just to soak up the environment and get settled in. I was excited and almost relieved that the day was finally here, a tad bit nervous as well but I knew I had done my best and even if things did not go my way I have become a better architect in the process.

“Lisa was my exam coordinator, her calm and cheerful self immediately had a soothing effect on me. She explained the day and gave me time to check everything was the way I wanted before the timer switched on. At that point miraculously I was not nervous anymore, just focused on my business scenario with an eye on the timer, the result did not matter anymore just giving my best that moment.

“Once I was done with the scenario I felt well in control for the presentation as well as Q&A with the judges and that flew by. I came out of the panel room feeling immediate relief that it was done, finally over! It was not the easiest 5 hrs of my life and I was absolutely exhausted. At that point I had no clue as to how I had performed though, all I knew was there were no moments where I struggled or felt out of control, but was that good enough or not only time could tell! I was going to be positive (well most of the time) while I waited for the results to come out :)”

What advice would you give to aspiring CTAs?

“My advice to anyone going for CTA is take your time , its journey and its that journey that adds the knowledge and value so take it seriously.

“There are no shortcuts so learn, practice, improvise and do it again.

“Get your support system in place, you will need it!

“Join study groups and communities like LadiesBeArchitects. Even if you know the topic talking to a new person about it brings a different perspective to the table.

“Be determined and never give up!”

What changes have you noticed in your job since you became a CTA?

“Haha – I do my job even better ! CTA gives you the depth and breadth of architectural thinking and hence a more holistic approach to problem-solving. Besides that, the CTA halo and building immediate credibility with people around me are definite perks!

How has doing this affected you as a person and a Salesforce practitioner?

“It has definitely made me a better and well rounded Salesforce practitioner. For the preparation you look at every domain of a solution design like Security, Integration, mobile which we do not necessarily do all the time.

“As a person just achieving this feat is a massive confidence booster. The grind of preparation has also taught me the art of time management, stress and pressure management, prioritisation and benefits of having a positive attitude.”

Any other tips and advice for the community?

“CTA is an incredible journey and though daunting at first look completely achievable with the right attitude and preparation. Once you have decided the time is right set a goal and go for it.

“Communities like Ladies Be Architects are doing such an incredible job at providing the much need support system to aspiring CTAs that I would encourage everyone to make the most of the resources, sessions, network on there and help each other move forward.”

Anything you want to call out specifically as a woman?

“I think there are some specific stereotypes associated with each gender whether its men or woman but my biggest strength is I never let myself be boxed into them. The important thing is to know what you want and move towards the goal. There are no jobs which are better done by a woman or a man, so logically there should be no reason for the gender imbalance in the tech industry but sadly it is. I would call on more women to defy the perception of “technology is a man’s thing” and take on the challenge, it feels awesome!!”

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