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From Hospital Bed to App Builder: The Story of Chris Harris

38 years ago, the start of Chris Harris’s development career began, as he dove into programming in BASIC on the Commodore VIC20 that his parents gave him for his 12th Christmas. Since then, Chris has built and implemented hundreds of applications, starting on  mainframe, then moving to midrange and finally personal computers. He also witnessed the birth of the World Wide Web, was involved in preparations for the year 2000, and since 2017, has been working with SaaS and cloud computing. 


Over the last year Chris has implemented Sales and Service Cloud, and built a human resources app called Cloud HR which is now on AppExchange. However, his road to success has been as phenomenal as the Y2K phenomenon. With sudden health issues, Chris could easily have given up hope. Instead, he threw himself into learning Salesforce, which not only served as a form of healing, but it helped take his career to another level. 


You can read all about Chris and his story here, and recently, we sat down with Chris to learn about his journey from idea to app, and the hurdles he overcame along the way. His story from hospital bed to Trailhead Ranger/certified admin/app builder is truly inspirational.


Let’s go back to 2017. Can you share a bit about your experience?


Chris Harris: I have had significant health issues since an adverse reaction to medication in 2015, which left me with widespread musculoskeletal issues, neuropathy, and an eventual diagnosis of Fibromyalgia. These conditions make life very restricting and difficult at times. In 2017, I suddenly developed episodes of chest pain whilst I exercised and when under stress. After worsening episodes and numerous hospital admissions, I was finally diagnosed with severe coronary artery disease. Three significant blockages were found and immediate surgery was required in order to save my life. For the next week I was in a coronary intensive care unit on medication that was stopping me from having a heart attack. I then had over five hours of open heart surgery and two bypasses, followed by 11 days of recovery in the hospital.


How did you recover and find Salesforce in this process?


CH: The surgery fixed the issues with the heart blockages, but unfortunately left me with ongoing issues including irregular heart rhythm and recurrent breathing problems. I found myself struggling to deal with this new reality, and the effects to my mental health left me with episodes of anxiety and depression. I realized that I needed to focus my mind on something. I chose to learn Salesforce, since I hoped to build a career in the ecosystem. I started to gather resources online including documents, blogs, webinars, and videos, but the amount of information was both overwhelming and confusing. Then I discovered Trailhead and quickly realised that this was the key to building my knowledge of administration and development. I would set aside a few hours a day to focus on learning, using trails to guide my learning and projects to test what I had learnt.


So through all of this, you have earned more than 350 Trailhead badges and became certified. Tell us more about that.


CH: I threw myself into learning. Trailhead is fun, clear, and rewarding. I set the goal of taking my admin certification by the end of the year, and becoming a Trailhead Ranger. Ranger took around six months and soon after I took and passed the administrator certification exam! Now, two years later, I have over 350 badges and as time and health allows, I continue to add more.


How did you get the idea for an AppExchange app?


CH: Along with Trailhead, I decided that the best way to learn the platform would be to design and build an application. Having designed and built human resources applications on other platforms, it made sense to do it on Salesforce. I wanted to build a simple yet comprehensive solution for smaller organizations, including crucial functionalities such as leave booking approvals, employee data management, and expenses tracking. I also hoped it would be useful to other companies, and be something to build an AppExchange partner business around.


Version 1.0 of the application, Cloud HR, was finished in July 2019, and successfully passed the security review the first time. It was listed on AppExchange in August, and now we hope to help customers streamline their human resources data management with our app.


How does it feel to have your first app on AppExchange? Did you think you’d get here?


CH: The journey from conception to design and eventually build was challenging. I had to learn an entirely new platform, with no budget for training, or customer support, all while recovering from significant health issues. There were times it felt like an impossible task, but I utilized the Salesforce community as a sounding board, and it allowed me to make many friends who helped support me on my quest. 


When the application successfully passed security review, it felt like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. I hope to build relationships with other partners and consultants who might have an interest in introducing human resources solutions to their customers. I already have many new features planned for the next version.


What advice do you have for other Trailblazers looking to achieve greatness like you?


CH: We all have mountains to climb. If you experience sudden change such as health or career challenges, don’t give up hope. Instead, dive into something new. It will not only help you heal, but it will also help you focus on the future. 


Set goals that are achievable, but challenging. This will drive learning and enthusiasm. Get involved in the community, such as attending or running community groups and conferences. I am the Norwich Community Group Leader and also part of the team running the InspireEast community event. 


Finally, what’s your favorite AppExchange app?


CH: I don’t have a single favorite app, but I would recommend looking at the apps provided by Salesforce Labs which contain additional features and examples of things you can do yourself.



Check out Chris’s app Cloud HR on AppExchange and connect with him on the Trailblazer Community



Amanda Nelson is Senior Director of Community Marketing at Salesforce AppExchange.