A Zoom-Side Chat with Salesforce Expert Sharif Shaalan

Salesforce.com (NASDAQ:CRM) is one of the 30 most popular stocks among hedge funds. It also made our list of the top 10 cloud computing stocks to buy. Salesforce was able to nearly double its topline over the last 3 years. This kind of growth is extremely rare for a mature company. So, we are trying to understand how CRM continues to grow at such a high rate. We were given the opportunity to sit down (virtually through Zoom) with Sharif Shaalan, a highly regarded Salesforce expert, to chat about his astonishing career, Agile Cloud Consulting, the first-ever comics centered around Salesforce, and more.

Q: “How did you start your career? And how did you get to where you are today?

Sharif Shaalan: “I started working at my family’s restaurant, which was a food truck. Working on the truck gave me a strong entrepreneurial foundation. I graduated from Rutgers University in 2001 with a Business Management degree and worked at various sales jobs for the next seven years, always becoming a top seller. In 2008 I was introduced to Salesforce, and my career shifted to Technology. In the 12 years since I worked my way through practically all Salesforce positions and ended up as the CEO of my own consulting firm, Agile Cloud Consulting.”

Q: “Was there a specific reason you decided to have a career in the Salesforce industry? Or did you just happen to fall in love with it long the way?”

Sharif Shaalan: “I’m what you call an “Accidental Admin.” I was working at a company called Comodo and was one of the top sellers. I had just been promoted to Sales Training when the Salesforce Admin at the time decided to quit on the same day. The CEO pulled me into the office and told me that I was now the Salesforce Admin as well as the Sales Trainer. The rest was history.”

Q: “Now, I’ve heard you had and still have a remarkable mentor who has provided you with some phenomenal advice to help you navigate your career. We would love to hear all about it.”

Sharif Shaalan: “That same CEO that pulled me into the office and made me the Salesforce Admin is Melih Abdulhayoğlu. At the time, I was shifting from a career in Sales and had much to learn about business process setup and automation. Melih introduced me to these concepts and guided me as I implemented them for the organization. Melih also became one of my first clients when I decided to go out on my own and start a company. He has a brilliant business mind, and I am happy to still be able to connect with him when I can.”

Q: “That is amazing. Do you find time to mentor people yourself as a way to give back?”

Sharif Shaalan: “Yes, I mentor a lot of people and have some great success stories about my mentees. After getting into Salesforce and experiencing the great community of selfless individuals in the ecosystem, I would tell anyone that would listen about the platform. At first, it was tough to get people involved and took a lot more time since I had to walk them through many aspects of getting into Salesforce. Now, with the advent of things like Trailhead and the book I wrote for beginners, I can just point them in the right direction and check in on their progress.”

Q: “Were you apprehensive about starting your own agency? Or were you ready to jump at the chance to start your legacy?”

Sharif Shaalan: “I was ready. I always had an entrepreneurial spirit and knew I would end up doing it. I just needed to develop the right tools to get it done. Once I had the expertise and the relationships, it was an easy shift for me.”

Q: “We know you started the first-ever comics centered around Salesforce with a close friend of yours. What inspired you to create these comics?”

Sharif Shaalan: “Al-Tariq Graves and I had been friends since the food truck days, and he is one of the most talented artists I know. I always had it in the back of my mind to do something creative like the comic strip that would be funny and also teach people about Salesforce and business use cases. I reached out to Al-Tariq in 2019 and found out that he didn’t enjoy his job at the time. I asked him to come on board to do the comic, and it has been a fun two years so far with almost 100 comics released!”

Q: “How do you come up with themes for each comic?”

Sharif Shaalan: “Since I wore almost every hat in the ecosystem, I have a lot of experience at every level. This experience gives me unlimited themes as a starting point. I usually come up with a high-level theme. I then call Al-Tariq, and we brainstorm the idea and come up with a rough sketch that I send to him using stick figures and bad handwriting. Al-Tariq then takes it and does his magic with the art as well as enhancing the script with extra jokes and references to pop culture.”

Q: “What advice would you give someone who is looking to start working in the Salesforce industry?”

Sharif Shaalan: “You need to learn both the technical and business aspects. Learning the “how” has become much easier these days with tools like Trailhead, but you have to also learn the “why.” Having a handle on the how and why you do things will put you on very solid ground in this ecosystem.”

Q: “What is one of the most memorable projects you have ever worked on? If you can pick one.”

Sharif Shaalan: “I have many memorable projects, but one that stands out was for an NGO in New Hampshire in 2011. It was one of my first large consulting projects. We were on a tight timeline and delivered a successful project. I learned a lot about business processes and documentation during that time. Perhaps the most memorable part was the main office space we used when onsite with them was a repurposed barn, it was a fun project.”

Q: “Do you have a dream project? If so, what would it be? And why?”

Sharif Shaalan: “I don’t necessarily have a dream project, but I do have a dream project team. Over my 12 years in the ecosystem, I met some of the sharpest Salesforce minds. Luckily I already have many of them on my team; I would just need to make a few phone calls to gather the rest.”