I often get the asked the question: "How did you get started with Salesforce?", and I always shrug and say it's a loooong story... which it is. It's also a story filled with failure and triumph, a story of perseverance and uncertainty, and I think it's time to share it... and hope that it helps others see how anything is possible when you have hope, love and lots of guts.
For those of you that know me, I am a known these days as a technical architect, on my #JourneyToCTA, with a passion for solving complex salesforce solutions. It wasn't always the case...
At 18 I finished high school in South Africa in 1995, and decided to travel for 2 years before deciding on what to do with my life. I spent a lot of time in the UK and Europe, working in bars, as a security guard at the Barbican in London, picking fruit on farms and caring for old people in rural England. I spent equal amounts of time finding the best pubs with the cheapest beer, traveling through France watching the Springboks play rugby, hitchhiking through Scotland with a Kiwi friend, an fishing off the Bournemouth coast in the winter. I was living life to the fullest with no idea what's next.
At then end of my 2 year visa, I didn't want to return home, and I was looking for a new plan.
I always wanted to be a doctor, especially a trauma doctor, but I knew my parents didn't have the money to pay for 12 years of university, so I got a full scholarship to study the next best thing, Nursing, at South Bank University in London. I chose to specialize in Mental Health nursing, focusing on alcohol and drug rehab.
As young people do, I made some less-than-wise choices and never finished my degree, but instead I got married and worked in a bar. Great prospects, right?
Newly wed and with no plan, I decided to return to South Africa and see what was there for me. I couldn't complete my nursing degree in South Africa and decided to do some temp work while I figure stuff out. As fate would have it, I got hired by a wonderful man and my first mentor ever, as his Business Development assistant at a global CRO firm. I had to pretend I knew excel (and computers for that matter), but he was a fantastic teacher and quickly I learnt a lot about business and computers and... salesforce. Our US-based head office rolled-out salesforce as a sales tool and the first time I saw salesforce was in the beginning of 2005.
Remember, back then salesforce was ugly! It was even before Salesforce classic as we know it now, and it was green with a weird font... u--g--l--yy!! (no offense Salesforce!)
I was chosen as a local champion in the EMEA region and was sent for salesforce training in Raleigh North Carolina, and I was in love. I fell in love...with salesforce.
Fast forward a few months and one of my bosses were complaining loudly about the Leads page and the reports and the reps cant find their data and and and.... so I fiddled with salesforce, clicked edit and save and edit and save and figured out stuff worked, and I did my first configuration. I was the proverbial #AccidentalAdmin. Back in those days we also had very little info on the web, so I just did what I thought would work. (We also didn't have hashtags :) )
A friend and I decided we wanted to know more about salesforce and we booked and paid for the Admin course in London, and we did the L1 or L2 exam afterwards - cant really recall the exact details. I got my first "certification" in 2005!
Next thing I knew I was speaking to the head of sales for EMEA at salesforce and he planted the seed that would change everything: he asked me I would be interested in being a salesforce consulting partner... the first one in South Africa, and I think the first one in Africa!
At that point I was a single mom with a little boy of about 4 with my steady job and no ambitions of changing anything... I recently spit from my then-husband and I finally have a plan for my future.
But true to my nature and after a lot of prayer and with the support of my parents, I quit my job and started my own consulting firm. I had no idea what I was doing but I loved working on Salesforce and I was determined to figure it all out.
Over the next 8 years I was so fortunate - we won great projects, like the Service Cloud implementation for South African Tourism for the FIFA2010 Soccer World cup!
My biggest problem was that I could never find any skilled salesforce practitioners - they didn't exist at the time in South Africa. So I decided to find like-minded adventure seekers and I trained them on everything I knew. At one point we were almost 20 staff, all with salesforce certifications and learning every day.
I had very little skills on how to manage a business, let alone a consultancy firm, and we made a lot of mistakes, but we also made a lot of magic. We kept going for more than 8 years and decided to close our doors in late 2013 - the big firms like Deloitte and Accenture were taking over the market and we couldn't keep up. My staff were being poached for big money, and the projects dried up. We didn't have the know-how on how to compete. So, without a bang, we decided that if we couldn't beat them, we would join them and we all joined Deloitte in their new Salesforce practice in Johannesburg.
This new chapter at Deloitte opened my eyes to so much more than just what we thought we knew - I learnt about business and strategy and networking and how to take my skills to the next level. It also afforded me the luxury of choosing to go into a technical role. Since the beginning I had to wear a lot of hats, most of the time all at once, so I was usually the business analyst, functional lead, architect, project manager, developer and tester! Now I could reinvent myself as a technical lead and start to focus on really learning the ins and out of salesforce architecture.
I have been with Deloitte now for almost 5 years, and can say I am nearing the top of my salesforce journey. My final goal is to reach the CTA summit. And then? Who knows? Hopefully salesforce will release more clouds, more certs, more goals.
Looking back I wouldn't change a thing. Salesforce gave me the opportunity to build something out of nothing, to give employment to so many people for many years, to change their lives, to change my own life, to travel the world, to see places and meet people that I otherwise never would have had the opportunity to meet. Salesforce gave me a career, a plan, a path... this is the true power of salesforce.