There’s something remarkable about Salesforce and its ecosystem of partners and end-users. Although Salesforce.com Inc. is an enterprise software company, it successfully advocates equality throughout its ecosystem and takes strides to overcome typical barriers to entry that stand between individuals and technology careers.
Salesforce have launched learning tools (namely Trailhead) to democratize access to its technology, to enable individuals to upskill, and in turn, increase the number of Salesforce certified professionals. While Salesforce’s drive and outreach makes it unique, it is a huge undertaking that will take time to change, therefore, barriers can still exist.
Salesforce are not alone in driving inclusivity in its job market. Many people would have heard of PepUp Tech, an organisation whose mission is to “give motivated, underserved students the access, skills, mentors” – in other words, supporting individuals from underserved communities get their foot on the first rung of the Salesforce ‘career ladder’.
I was fortunate to sit down with Selina Suarez, co-founder of PepUp Tech, long-serving Salesforce Admin, and equal opportunities advocate. The topics we discussed during our chat include how Salesforce lowers barriers to entry with self-learning, the gaps between learning and practical application, and a new stream of talent coming into the Salesforce ecosystem thanks to a PepUp Tech program that she is spearheading in response to the mass unemployment resultant from the COVID-crisis.
This is part 2, where we look into the new Salesforce talent stream that could fulfil the demand for Salesforce professionals that is currently outstripping supply, especially those with expertise from other industries.
Part 1 covered bridging the gaps between learning and practical application of Salesforce for new Trailblazers.
As well as an inspiring story about finding unexpected opportunity in the crisis, she provided valuable insights that I bet will help and reassure employers and hiring managers who are looking to onboard talented individuals who will enable their business to become resilient, innovative, and excel into the future.
Salesforce Lowers Barriers to Entry – Self-Learning as an Equalizer
Selina shares her story coming into the Salesforce ecosystem through the common ‘accidental Admin’ route 11 years ago. Early on in her career, she found her passion in Ed-Tech and nonprofit spheres; her first encounter with Salesforce was working for a nonprofit who supported students applying to college, but who were also the first generation in their family to apply. Her time working on improving the organization’s reporting and assessment metrics stayed with her – and eventually became the PepUp Tech mission.
“What you’ve said about technology being such a great equalizer is so true. If you are motivated and a self-starter, then you can harness that and drive your career. There’s that saying related to getting into certain industries: “it’s not what you know, but who you know”. I think in Salesforce, it’s the other way round, it’s not who you know necessarily, it’s what you know and what you can do with that.“
Selina went on to discuss a number of different ways that Salesforce are bolstering their self-learning resources to attract new Trailblazers (find the full interview in part 1).
- Trailhead is updated in real-time – everyone has equal access to the most current technology.
- Superbadges provide a variety of business use cases to apply Salesforce to.
- Individuals should find a mentor for to help with bringing context to areas/business scenarios they may not be familiar with.
- Knowing what you need to know will play a big role in bridging the gap between Trailhead and workforce placement.
PepUp Tech Accelerated – COVID Response
“I didn’t want to kick off this interview talking about the current COVID situation, but we should definitely address it because the situation is changing day to day.
I know that your new PepUp Tech program is your way of helping with the situation.
Was there something specific about the COVID crisis that prompted you to take action? Was there a ‘lightbulb moment’?
The Lightbulb Moment – “There were two sides of the fence”
“We would have never expected any of this to happen. We started out this year with our V2MOM, how we’re going to run this course and do this at Dreamforce etc.
Mid-March, everything was turned upside down. We had just made some investments in PepUp Tech and we, like every other organization, started seeing things crashing around us. We fundraise right off Salesforce events, so when all of those events were canceled, it affected our entire 2020 budget. We didn’t know if we would be able to make this thing work.
On top of that, we were getting calls from people who were losing their jobs asking about how they can take advantage of this academy, ‘I’ve always wanted to do Salesforce. I’ve never had the time, because I had this full time job or these two full time jobs, and now I actually have the time.‘
There were two sides of the fence. One, we were worried about our budget, and two, our community was saying ‘we don’t know what to do, we are losing our jobs’.
Our program runs 10 weeks (a three-hour program on a Saturday morning, accessible to all of our students who are in college and working) – 10 weeks is a long time, right? So asked ourselves, can we run an accelerated program?
We came up with a 5-week model that focuses three weeks on the admin opportunities in Salesforce, then on to certification prep to get these guys from zero to at least on path to certification in that five-week timeframe.”
The New Salesforce Talent Pipeline
“With 33 million layoffs in the United States, the population that qualify for our program significantly changed, and is the opportunity to have people coming from different industries.
We’re seeing the makeup of our class changing – people who laid off from the advertising industry, we have a nurse in one of our classes, who worked for like a smaller clinic and got laid off. She said, ‘I always wanted to work in medical technology anyway’.
She wants to take her experience of being a nurse, and then contribute back to the medical industry after learning Salesforce.
All these years, we’ve been struggling to fill these tech roles, especially these SME (subject matter expert) roles who have years of industry experience. People with years of industry experience weren’t necessarily leaving their industries to join tech, right?”
Embedding Role Models in Classes
“I’m really excited because it brings the entire class up as well. We’ll have students who have no work experience, maybe they come from an underrepresented background, they’ve never had certain types of opportunities. Now, they’re in a class, say with somebody who has 15 years of banking experience. Through osmosis, they’re connecting with types of people that they may never have met. I think that it’s a beautiful thing and excited about where this is going.”
Highlights from the PepUp Tech Journey
With many training programs springing up around the Salesforce ecosystem, I went into this conversation wanting to uncover what makes PepUp Tech different? We’ve already heard about some things that make PepUp unique – here are some of Selina’s highlights that tell more of the story:
“I want to ask you if you have any favorite memories or highlights from your time running PepUp Tech?”
“Our very first goal was this: we need to get one student successful. Our goal was one, one person gets a job and then we can replicate that model in our community.
The one student was this young man named Nicholas Grant, who’s was 19 years old now. He’s a really successful developer and he’s mentored hundreds of students. He’s incredible.
We designed what became our Academy, our 10-week Salesforce training program, around this one person and his experience, because he was a good representation of the population of students we were looking to capture.“
“There are so many highlights! We just hit 125 employed. I’m proud that they’re hiring each other. They came to us as a college student, not knowing what they were going to do with their lives; now, they’re hiring managers and calling me like, ‘I’m hiring for two roles, do you have any PepUp students?’ So there is a full circle effect that’s happening – it’s what we hoped for when we started PepUp.”
The Billboard Message
“If you could write one thing on a billboard, to broadcast a message to thousands of people, what would it be? It could be a messages for professionals inside the ecosystem. It could be a message to underserved populations or just the general public – and it doesn’t have to be Salesforce related. What would you put?”
“So Christina Jones, who works at Salesforce, sits on our board and she’s an incredible person who invests her career in helping organizations use the power of storytelling to share what they’re doing in the universe.
She encouraged me to think about what PepUp Tech is – are we just a training program or are we doing something that’s bigger than just teaching Salesforce?
They came up with the hashtag “the future is now”. If I had to blast anything on a billboard, it would be that because it’s really true – the future is not tomorrow. It’s not next week. It’s not in five years, it’s today. What are you going to do today to get to where you want to be?
Next Steps: How can you find out more about PepUp Tech?
“We’re always looking for volunteers. So anybody in the Salesforce community and beyond, who wants to take what they’re doing in their business and teach others. We’re doing 1500 students this year that would love to hear from you. You can come speak, you can guest teach, you can mentor a student, you can assist them on a coaching assignment.
Stephanie Herrera, who is one of our founders, has a number one thing to get PepUp tech global, so that people in London and Amsterdam and Paris where our other Salesforce Saturdays communities live can have access to this program as well. If you are in another country and you want to apply to our programs, they are open for you to apply.“