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Gianluca Calcagni: my journey to becoming a Salesforce Certified Technical Architect

Expertise
The journey to becoming a Salesforce Certified Technical Architect can be extremely challenging and empowering at the same time. We sat down with Gianluca Calcagni, to hear all about his own journey.
If you are currently in the process of studying to become a CTA, still hesitant to embark on the adventure, or just a curious spirit and want to read Gianluca’s journey, check out his interview.

Can you briefly present yourself?

I am Gianluca Calcagni and I’ve been working at Waeg for 3 years. I started in 2018 as a Senior Technical Architect and now I am a Certified Technical Architect at Waeg since last month. I was originally working at the Amsterdam office but now I moved back to Italy, my homeland. 

Can you tell us more about your path at Waeg?

I come from a technical background. I’ve been a developer for 10 years now but I always wanted to become a Certified Technical Architect. I am very grateful to Waeg for giving me this great opportunity to develop myself and increase my skills in order to become a CTA.

What made you decide to start the journey to become a CTA?

That’s a funny story because I actually started for the wrong reasons. I had this picture in my mind when I was a developer that CTA was a kind of “developer on steroids” or a guru in the technical world. So it made me approach this certification as any other certifications: I wanted to get it to prove I was a good developer. It was a big challenge for me. And I was totally wrong because a CTA isn’t only about being technical.

How long did it take you to get certified?

The idea of starting the journey took root in 2014 but it only became serious at the end of 2015. At that moment, I was a Salesforce developer and it was the first time I actually worked with a Certified Technical Architect on a project. That really changed my point of view on this certification and on the stakes of the role itself. It was a completely different role from what I had ambitioned initially, but that just gave me even more motivation to embark on this journey.

In 2015, I moved from the UK to the Netherlands, and from that moment and for the next few years, I focused strongly on working as a CTA rather than studying as a CTA. I was focused on getting first-hand experience and I’m really glad that I did that as it helped me a lot during the journey.

How did Waeg support you throughout this journey?

During my first interview, I immediately told Waeg I wanted to be certified as a Technical Architect. At that time, I was the only one who had the ambition to be a CTA at Waeg so it took me a while to find study buddies who were like-minded and who wanted to engage in this challenge with me. Having this tight knit  internal community of Waegers really helped me undertake this adventure and succeed. When we created the first study group, we were 4 and we asked Waeg to support us. Waeg decided to fully finance the certification, and that was something I didn’t ask personally. I was very happy to receive this kind of support from Waeg, it exceeded my personal expectations.

What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

The main challenge I faced was to “let go” of my technical background. As a developer, I come from a technical background so I was strongly technically focused. But that’s not the right attitude to have when becoming a CTA. The technical part is complex but it is not the main focus. The functional requirements and the enterprise mindset should take priority over anything. So my biggest challenge was actually moving away from thinking like a developer and embracing thinking holistically as an architect. Engaging on this journey was really interesting and helped me to acquire new knowledge and develop professional skills.

What are you most proud of? 

I am very proud that I was able to form a close-knit group, which committed to a very serious study time. My study buddies and I were meeting every morning and we were studying together for 1 hour before work. We created a small internal community, helping and empowering each other. Then after that, we were 100% engaged in delivering our projects to the Waeg standards. That was tough and very demanding but in spite of that, we pulled together, succeeded and we were able to produce enormous knowledge internally in our group.

What would you have done differently?

I think I would approach my timeline differently because it took me a few years to reach my goal. I decided to go slow because I wanted to soak in the basics very strongly. But in a sense, I lost time and when you lose time with this kind of certification you basically keep overworking and keep over studying. So I would have approached my timeline in a stricter and more focused way.

What advice would you give to people who wish to take the plunge too and become a CTA?

My one piece of advice to give is that you need to get extremely committed. People that were the most successful with this kind of certification were the ones that were focused only on that. You need to study hard, join communities, get all the material, contact people, do presentations, and be willing to adapt to the constructive feedback you may receive. When you start, you do receive a lot of constructive feedback which can be demoralizing because you are really working hard but maybe you won’t meet the expectations from the start. But that’s totally normal. It is something that you can achieve with time and dedication. It’s not a lonely journey. 

How did you balance your professional and your personal life?

That’s not always easy ;) I’ve been lucky because at Waeg my previous project manager was willing to help me - one thing he did was to give me projects where I was able to balance with study time. And that was really significant. It helped me to be able to dedicate time to my project and still have time to study and not feel overwhelmed. Despite that, my personal life paid the biggest toll. I would have never been able to succeed without the support of all my family members, that accepted to support such tribute with me. 

Now that you are certified, do you want to be a mentor as well?

Yes, absolutely! In fact, I never stopped. Internally I’ve been mentoring my study buddies and vice-versa they were mentoring me in the areas where I was lacking knowledge. And I will definitely keep doing that because it is something that I really enjoy. The more technical architects we have, the better. It is actually very beneficial. You need to get as much feedback as possible. So that you get out of your comfort zone.

We are having a study group internally and there are many more people since Waeg joined forces with IBM. We have people from all over the world and there are more certified architects that are willing to be mentors which is great.

What’s next?

I don’t know yet. Now I'm Certified so I need to find my next challenge. I need to make up my mind ;)

If you have any questions feel free to contact Gianluca via Linkedin or email, he will be happy to share his tips with you.

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