My name is Kestryl Lowrey, and I’m an accidental techie on the journey to becoming a technical architect. I currently spend my days as a Solutions Architect at Cloud for Good, and my nights performing on the stages of New York City. I hold 11 Salesforce certifications (12 if you count the now-retired DEV-401), and I’m on a mission to attain Certified Technical Architect. I deeply believe in the power of technology to drive social change, and the power of community to lift each other up. As a transgender person, I’m passionately committed to supporting LGBTQ people, women, and other minorities as we build our technical careers and claim our places at the table.
Accidental Techie to Technical Architect
Accidental techies thrive in the Salesforce ecosystem. The power of the platform– plus the #Ohana community of trailblazers, plus Trailhead– adds up to an incredible environment to learn, develop, and grow.
My story isn’t that different from many of the admins, developers, and architects on Salesforce. I didn’t study computer science or programming in college— coming from a technology-focused family, my big rebellion was to go into arts and social sciences (hello, Theater / Anthropology & Sociology double major with a minor in Gender Studies!). Even though I didn’t specifically learn technical skills as an undergrad, I definitely credit my liberal arts background for the critical thinking and analytic reasoning that I leverage every day as I work with clients and design and develop solutions.
After college, I started my career working in a nonprofit providing arts education for NYC public school students. I was responsible for managing a program with over 300 participating schools and 100 teaching artists. I was also the only person in the office that knew how to fix the printer. We were a small organization without an IT department, and soon, I was being called on to tackle more office technology tasks: troubleshoot the network when it went down, or provision user accounts, or figure out how to pull data out of our SQL server. With each new request, I realized that I was enjoying the technology work that wasn’t a part of my job description more than I liked the program management tasks that were. It was time for a new direction.
I found a new job as an IT Manager at another nonprofit, working on immigration rights for LGBTQ people. I am still grateful to the hiring manager that took a chance on me, with no official IT experience, to become their IT department of one. The job description had mentioned Salesforce, a tool I’d never used before— but a few hours exploration on the Success communities (back when they were the Success communities) gave me confidence that I could pick it up quickly run with it. A few weeks later, I was the prototypical ‘accidental admin,’ responsible for a Salesforce instance and learning as I went.
This was before Trailhead existed, and I relied on the incredible community of Salesforce admins and developers as I learned how to write formulas, build reports, and create workflow rules. Before long, I was exploring the very early version of Visual Workflow, installing apps, and writing my first trigger. After two years of implementing just about every use case I could come up with for my small nonprofit, I realized that I wanted to do more on the platform, and I wanted to help more nonprofits leverage Salesforce to achieve their mission.
Joining the team at Cloud for Good as a Cloud Consultant was my next step. I got to work with a wide variety of organizations implementing Salesforce for the first time or optimizing their existing instance. If I had thought I was learning quickly in my role as an admin at one organization, my pace of growth was about to turn up to 11. Working on 25-50 different projects/clients each year, I rapidly branched out on the platform, learning tools, apps, integrations, and strategies that I hadn’t encountered before. With each new thing I learned, I was hungry to dive deeper and develop my expertise. I grew into a Senior Cloud Consultant, then a Solutions Architect. Certifications were a motivation along the way (what can I say, I like a bit of external validation of my knowledge), but the deeper drive for me comes from a quest to really understand the hows and whys of a tool or solution so that I could make the best recommendations and drive scalable strategies for my clients. It’s hard to make the world a better place if you’re hitting governor limits and CPU timeout errors.
What to expect from this blog?
I intend to post a variety of content, including technical explorations, strategy/best practice guides, certification study guides, and personal commentary about my journey to CTA as an ‘accidental techie’. It is my hope that this blog will be a resource for others on a journey toward Technical Architect, regardless of their background or formal training on technical topics— but I particularly hope that it is another support for LGBTQ people, women, and minorities who are under represented in technical fields. For now, posts will focus on what I’m learning and discovering on the Salesforce platform, but I may include others (AWS, for instance) as I broaden my skillset.