From Pizzas to Salesforce Perfection: An Apprenticeship Journey

A Self-inflicted Backstory

Walking 3.5 miles to and from work in 107-degree heat is no fun, yet that was the situation in which I found myself in August 2017. At one point, walking home, I was often angry but not at anyone but myself.

Before this point, I had made a series of brainless and foolish decisions, which led me to start over at square zero. I was back at my parents’ place. I had no job, and my car got repossessed. After about two weeks of searching, I was eventually able to land a full-time job at a make-your-own pizza restaurant doing prep work, such as making dough, shredding cheese, *insert prep duty here*, etc.

Keep in mind that I had no car at this point, and I was walking 3.5 miles each way to and from work five days a week. However, that didn’t stop me, as I showed up on time to work every day. Even the days I woke up 30 minutes late, I’d run 3.5 miles all the way to work. Fortunately, it was always warm and humid in the back of the pizza kitchen, so looking somewhat sweaty wasn’t entirely out of place there. Things were okay for a while.

Let’s circle back to the first paragraph above. One day after a long workday, both my feet and back hurt more than usual, and as fate would have it, it was 107 degrees that day. I knew it would feel terrible walking home, but recognized it wasn’t going to get cooler anytime soon. On that walk home, I became inherently angry and knew I had no one but myself to blame for my situation. I messed up, and that was on me. And in real sith fashion, I channeled that anger—just in a more positive manner.

I ended up going back to school online at a for-profit university I attended previously. Looking back now, maybe it wasn’t the best decision, but it was certainly better than doing nothing. In addition to going back to school, I was able to save $2,000 and buy a 1997 Acura, a car which I still drive at the time of this writing.

A New Player Has Entered the Game

Fast forward to April 2018, I graduated with my degree and began looking for software development jobs. I quickly realized I knew nothing these “entry-level” (could spend forever talking about this) job postings were asking for. After some advice from my uncle, he pointed me to a company in downtown Fresno that gave coding courses, and it could be a foot in the door. That company was, of course, Bitwise Industries—and their tech training school, Geekwise Academy.

I had never heard of Bitwise or Geekwise before, but after a quick google search, I thought screw it and registered for a class. That was quite possibly the best decision of my life, as I had no idea the path on which it would send me. The courses at Geekwise were some of the best classes I have ever been involved in. I realize there may be a bit of bias in my last sentence because I work for Bitwise now, but they indeed were. The instructors were supportive, comfortable to talk to, knew their stuff, and my classmates were also there for the same reason—to learn.

I then learned Bitwise had ‘cohort’ programs (paid internships) and knew instantly I wanted to be in one. Finally, after taking most of the web development courses they offered, ranging from basic HTML to Javascript, my hard work had paid off. I received an email from Greg, the Executive Director of Development at the time, and he invited me in for a cohort interview.

To say I was nervous for this interview would be a massive understatement. I knew this was an opportunity of a lifetime for me. Obviously, I did something right because later that week, I received an email from Greg at 10:30PM welcoming me to the cohort specializing in Salesforce implementation. I was both thrilled and scared at the same time because I knew absolutely nothing about Salesforce. Would I like it as much as web development? Is there a career to be had in Salesforce? Turns out the answer to both of those questions was, without a doubt, YES.

Embarking on the Trailhead

What was it like learning a brand new platform to which you’ve never been exposed? The answer to that could be summed up in one word: challenging. I found myself continually asking How could anyone remember all of these tools and how to use them properly? But given enough time, repetition, and Trailhead modules—I grasped the basics.

One of the best things about the cohort experience—specifically, Salesforce—is any skills you’ve picked up along your career journey can still help immensely. I found my communication skills from previous retail/sales jobs and critical thinking skills from those web development courses highly effective. And as a result, my cohort and I built some really cool apps for various Bitwise departments. Some of the apps we made helped manage class registrations/attendance, oversee coworking space memberships, manage the leasing department’s sales process, and so much more!

*insert scribbly fast-forward noise here*

In early March 2020, I was still in the cohort and COVID-19 had become widespread across the United States. As a result, many people in our community had lost their jobs and their only means of income. Salesforce to the rescue. Within weeks, our team built, not one, but TWO applications to help our community and the country. I won’t go too much into the details about Take Care and OnwardCA, but they’re linked here for more info! Without diving into the weeds on those projects, let’s just say that the backends to these applications were built on Salesforce and still are today. On the very last day of March, our whole Salesforce cohort team received job offers to join Bitwise full time.

Closed. Gone Trailblazing.

Shortly after being hired full time, I went on to serve as project manager for OnwardCA for a six-month stint. The TL;DR version of that story is—as scared as I was to be thrust into that brand new position, I still learned a metric ton from that experience which ultimately made me grow professionally. I also knew Bitwise wouldn’t have made me a project manager if they didn’t believe I could do it. And though I excelled, all roads lead back to the Trailhead. During my time as a project manager, I kept learning about Salesforce in the evenings and passed my Platform Developer I certification, and not too long after that, I was needed back on the Salesforce client crew.

Where I Am Today

Today, I’m a 9x Certified Salesforce Application Architect working for a company I love—and I don’t see myself changing companies for the world. Each project that comes through the door brings a new challenge to solve, which is why I love consulting work. I also love teaching, so every Tuesday and Thursday I instruct a class of formerly incarcerated individuals to learn how to be Salesforce admins.

It’s sometimes insane to think about how my pizza days were only about two years ago; I used to walk to work in the scorching, summer heat to make pizza dough. Now I find myself in discovery meetings, writing scopes of work, designing Salesforce builds, and writing Flows (my favorite). I’m sure there are many other things I’m forgetting about in my journey, but this seems good enough to me.

Apprenticeships Are Happening Now

Curious about our Apprenticeship program and think you might be a good fit? Schedule a chat with us via this link. Read more about our story here or prepare for your own Salesforce Administrator certification. 


This post was written by Jake Aguilar, Salesforce Certified Application Architect for Shift3 Technologies. When he’s not working, teaching class, co-leading the Fresno admin user group, speaking at Salesforce events, or writing blogs (we get it, you’re an overachiever), you can find him learning how to play piano/guitar, brewing beer with a friend (yes, they track their brews in Salesforce lol), and playing video games.

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