During the Q&A session on the last day of Dreamforce, I really wanted to ask you a question but I was too shy. I wanted to ask, “Did you know that you were going to change my life?”
A few hours after Dreamforce ended I was still thinking about this question and more so the question of where would I be if Salesforce wasn’t invented? I was having a late night breakfast with some new Dreamforce friends at Denny’s and looked up and asked everyone sitting at the table with me, “What do you think you would be doing if Salesforce didn’t exist?”
My new friends went around the table, each telling their story. Everyone had some great ideas of cool stuff they might be doing in or out of the technology world. They turned to me waiting for me to speak and my answer was, “Probably a hair dresser, makeup artist and/or a secretary.” It was one of the first times I said it out loud. I never said it before because I was afraid or embarrassed of what people would think of me. I was concerned that they might think I wasn’t good enough to be the Lead BA at a large financial services company because I used to play with hair and makeup for a living. In the past, I would start telling my story at the part where I ended up on a Salesforce project in 2004, but not the part about how I ended up on the project in the first place. One of my new friends looked at me and encouraged me to share further.
My story really starts back in 2001. I was working at a top salon in my area blowing out hair 10-12 hours a day. I was known for my blow outs. I would have people booking me weekly to get their thick, curly, unruly hair blown out smooth for a special event or just for the weekend. I was also working part time as a makeup artist on the side, which was my real passion, but the blow outs paid the bills. I would take any chance I could get to put makeup on someone. I loved that feeling when I would put makeup on a woman who didn’t feel good about herself who suddenly realized that she was beautiful. It wasn’t the makeup, it was that she saw herself, really saw herself. That was and still is my favorite part of makeup. I always tell women “I didn’t make you beautiful, I just made you look in the mirror.”
It was a hot day in June when I was blowing out one of my regular clients on a Friday afternoon when I felt pain like no other in my right shoulder. I finished my blow out and let the salon manager know that I needed to cancel the rest of my appointments and head to the doctor. I knew something was really wrong. I was right. I had severe inflammation and a slight tear in my right rotator cuff. My doctor told me the repetitive motion of the blow drying had caused the injury and that I should probably look for a new career. I was devastated. I went back and spoke to my salon manager the next day who offered to give me an office job temporarily until I could find new work.
I ended up being really good at “office work” so my salon manager came to me and said that she couldn’t afford to keep a full time office manager but her husband was looking for a full-time secretary. She handed me an application and told me I should apply. I saw the name of the company on the application and remember thinking, “Corporate America brace yourselves, here I come.”
My corporate life started in August of 2001. I started out answering phones, taking messages, keeping calendars, setting up meetings and arranging large dinners and travel. All pretty standard secretarial stuff. My manager started giving me more things to do, including database entry and putting together metrics for inventory, cost of goods sold, and customer service. I loved the metrics piece. It was almost like I was telling our company’s weekly story in an excel spreadsheet. I prided myself on those reports. It was my favorite thing to do every week.
By 2003 I was handling a lot of the sales and operations metrics for the company. The metrics came in various formats in which I had to scrub the data. The process would take me 3 days to put together the weekly reports for Friday’s review. So every review, we were viewing data from the week before.
It was sometime in mid-2004 that I said to my manager, “Wouldn’t it be great if all of this stuff was in one system where we could just run reports?” My boss turned to me and said they were implementing something called ‘Salesforce.’ “You should be on that project,” he said. It wasn’t until I first logged into Salesforce.com in the Fall of 2004 that I realized the power of the platform. No one in my company showed much interest in it, but I immediately loved it! By clicking a few checkboxes I could add fields to reports, and alleviate helpdesk tickets that could take 3 weeks for a response! Within 3 days time I taught myself how to update report criteria and how to run my own reports.
I would spend hours each night reading about Salesforce. I immersed myself in the guide that we were given from our Salesforce implementation. In 2005, I convinced some disinterested people in IT to grant me Administrative access to our org. With that new authority, I created my first formula field that allowed us to drill further down into our contacts for information that we needed. That is the moment that opened my eyes to the power of what someone with little technology skills could do with Salesforce.
I knew this is what I wanted to do: I wanted to play with Salesforce all day and all night. But how could I do that? How could I make Salesforce my career? I searched Monster that night for Salesforce.com and there it was, my dream job. A start up company was looking for a Sales and Field operations manager to do reporting and manage their Salesforce org. Bingo! I applied, and I got the job!
By early 2006 I was doing all sorts of crazy formulas, validation rules, workflow rules, data mining and building business processes in Salesforce. Even more importantly improving business processes by using Salesforce. I learned everything about each piece of our business: marketing, sales, client support, finance and how to make each team more efficient with Salesforce always at the center of the equation.
It was a cold rainy November day in 2007 when my big break came. A recruiter from a huge financial services company called me. A mutual friend had shared examples of some cool stuff I was doing in Salesforce. The recruiter wanted me to apply and interview for a job they had open. I did so, and I got the job! I was astonished! Me, a hairdresser/makeup artist/secretary was going to Wall Street to work on a large team to do Salesforce Administration.
Just over 6 years have passed since that phone call. I’m currently the lead BA on all Salesforce projects at a top Financial Services company in New York City. In addition, I run day to day operations, make sure issues are handled appropriately, and support our end users’ needs.
At the conclusion of fully recounting this whole story at Denny’s, everyone encouraged me to share it, with the emphasis to give encouragement to those out there who want more themselves, and are wondering if they can make Salesforce a career. I hesitated to commit to writing my story down, as I wasn’t sure if I should.
I made up my mind to give an account of my Salesforce experience while attending the NYC Salesforce1 tour. I found myself telling it again at the developer meetup. A Salesforce.com employee overheard me and told me that there was someone who was working in an office manager role, that wanted to make Salesforce his career. This person struggled with understanding how to accomplish that dream. The Salesforce.com employee asked if I’d mentor this aspiring office manager, since I came from a similar place in life. Of course I agreed. I now realize that I need to tell my story. It’s not about ‘getting it off my chest’ or to impress anyone, but to help others.
If someone loves Salesforce, and is passionate in a similar way that I’ve been, if they want to make it a career but are not sure if they can, I’m here to say: If I can do it, they can do it!
You may have started reading this thinking that it is one of your numerous contributions to the non-profit world that changed my life. But no, it is not. It’s the fact that you started Salesforce.com. Salesforce changed my life. I could give you a giant list of things I’ve built on the platform, but what I really built on Salesforce.com was my career.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
All the best in 2014, see you at my birthday party, I mean Dreamforce.