Julie is a mum of one and has worked in the non-profit services sector for over 15 years. Julie started as a volunteer at Citizens Advice after university and progressed into management as she could see ways to improve service quality and skill sharing.
In a previous role, she identified the need for a better database and a slicker way of working and stumbled upon Salesforce, and a year later Supermums. Julie now works as an Advice and Information Service Manager for a charity Scotland. Due to COVID-19, she has convinced Senior Managers of the importance and benefits of Salesforce and her knowledge from studying on our Admin and Coaching Skills courses, have enabled her to become a Superuser and to assist with this implementation while continuing to to learn more certs in her own time.
Supermums course taken:
Salesforce Administrator – Cohort September 2019
What does the business do?
Support Single parents in Scotland. My service offers advice to the single parent directly via our Helpline and webchat and web-based advice content. We speak to many single parents who have just separated from their partner and are looking for advice on how to suddenly juggle mortgages or rent, bills, childcare, and working hours alone, disputes about children.
What is your job title?
Advice and information service manager
Do you work flexibility?
Yes. Work is flexible as long as you do all the hours.
I can work anytime between 8am and 6am each day. I split my time equally between our Glasgow and Edinburgh office and work Fridays at home.
I work full time 35 hours over 4.5 days. I only work in the middle part of the day on Fridays. This means I get a couple of hours me-time on Friday that I spend with my running club, Mums On the Run, after school drop off. I also pick up our daughter from school at 3 so she gets to hangs out with her school pals at least once a week in the park and I get time to chat with the other mums and dads.
How did you get into Salesforce / find out about the Supermums courses?
Soon after I had started my current role, I went on a mission to find an alternative database for my service. There was no in-house IT for tech development and my team were logging client contact records using a 15-year-old MS Access Database that was never going to be updated. We had two versions on two servers that were merged at the end of each day, with inevitably data crashes. I immediately recognised Salesforce was not only a database but also a vehicle for change, but I also realised the risk of being left behind as an organisation if we did not rapidly develop digitally and start using cloud-based tools. At the time, I never thought of Salesforce as a career option.
It was a year later that I discovered Supermums. There was a greater emphasis that Scotland needed to invest in digital development in the charity sector. Remembering Salesforce, I googled ‘learn how to use salesforce’ and up popped Supermums. The second wow moment for me. I completely identified with the Supermums target group and found its founder’s personal and professional story. The mission to support other parents. The encouragement so genuinely inspiring and made career change feel attainable. I sought out the Salesforce Non-Profit Community group leader and we went for a coffee and that sealed it.
What were you doing before transitioning to a Salesforce career / starting a Supermums course?
I have always worked full time in non-profit services that provide advice to the public and my strong sense of social justice was a great driver for me. After uni, I started as a volunteer at Citizens Advice. I quickly moved into roles as a specialist rights adviser and loved grappling with case law to support clients. I moved into management as I had a lot of ideas about improving service quality and skill sharing.
How was the process of making that career change?
I do feel my career to date lends itself well to a Salesforce role. Once you manage a service, you become very much aware of the processes and my journey was always going to lead to Salesforce one day. But also, everything I have done in the past, communication skills with clients, negotiating their cases to win appeals, technical skills around complex benefit calculations and prepare cases using case law and regulations. My roles to develop service quality and support staff and the pain points and problem-solving along the way and everyday coping with change and dealing with day to day operations of dealing with a helpline. Know how time-consuming it is to have multiple spreadsheets and screens and having the business sense to be able to create solutions to overcome these. I like to see the wider picture of why things are being done and what that looks like on a very practical user journey level.
There have been challenges. When I left London, the charity sector was gradually embracing lots of ideas from the tech private sector and I was excited about the prospect of working using Agile project management approaches and Content Design. I wanted to part of the digital shift. My new role was not at that stage and I was suddenly back to filing cabinets and paper systems back like 10 years ago. At the time, there were no digital officers or a digital strategy. Not an uncommon situation for small to medium-sized charities in Scotland. I knew there was a long way to go for my workplace to consider Salesforce when I found it.
Due to the success of the service under Covid-19 and remote working, I have been able to convince senior managers to invest in the service cloud to manage our multi-channel advice service. We will start the implementation over the next month. I will get to be a superuser and keep learning certs in my own time.
Can you share a little about your experience of the course?
The unique thing is that the course is not just a teach-to-pass the test course. It’s a combination of in-depth training, trailhead path, stretching homework that gave lots of opportunities to problems solve and build a salesforce org for a fictional company, coaching, a world-wide community, support for employment and a live implementation project working with consultancies.
The course was hard work but was flexible, fitting around school holidays for breather and time to consolidate and reflect. It can feel like a whirlwind and my mentor always told me to step back, don’t go on autopilot and think, ‘what have I just done’, ‘what does it mean?’
I particularly liked that the course was not just about the techy fundamentals to be an awesome sysadmin. We were quickly introduced to business analysis skills, agile and new tools like Lucid chart, Gliphy and Zoom. This left the strongest impression on me as I could see how implementations should be optimally managed.
What was it like having a mentor on the Admin course?
I was glad to have a mentor. I did’t know anyone using Salesforce that I could talk with regularly so it was essential for me. I filled myself up on success stories, Salesforce admin podcasts but having someone I could say what about this and what about on a one to one basis was great.
She expected me to work hard and I liked that, and she explained things very well, was flexible around my work commitments too. Best of all she believed in me, she told me to practise exam questions after each week on the subject we learned and recommended I book the Platform App Builder cert a week after the Admin cert and I did. When I passed the certs, the first thing she was ‘what is the next one?’
The relationship gave me more confidence to go spot someone of interest in the trailblazer community or Supermum alumni and have a chat.
Please share a little about the work experience element of the Admin course. What did you do? What was good about it? Was it useful?
I worked on three projects with a consultancy, two of which I volunteered for. The best part was working with the consultants and getting on with the work using a comprehensive workbook. I got lots of opportunities to create varying data fields, record types, process builder, validation rules and products as well as install the NPSP on a free developer org. I volunteered for two of the projects to live customers. I delivered 6 hours training to a group new of salesforce system admins and created a training manual.
The projects are a great way to consolidate your learning, make you feel useful by getting stuck in and show you the areas you need to improve on. The training delivery helped me understand validation rules much more deeply, prepare for the exam and show my weaknesses.
What do you think is great about the Supermums programme and why do you think people should do it?
You won’t ever feel alone. The best thing is the community spirit around the world and in supermums past and present. All going or been on the same journey at the same time. It’s quite a whirlwind and we are all so proud of how far we have come and supported each other in the ups and downs an celebrate the successes.
What certification do you have and what are you working towards next?
- Salesforce Certified Administrator
- Salesforce Certified Platform App Builder
- Service cloud
- Advanced Admin
- Platform 1
What are your top tips for studying for Salesforce certifications?
For those who work in charities who have never worked in Sales or marketing, try to get to grips with the concepts about the Sales processes such as the stage names in the sales cycle, that marketing is to attract customers, sales to obtain and service to retain. I found this to be a barrier until I started preparing for the exam as I never quite got it until I put time aside for it.
See the bigger picture. It’s easy to follow on autopilot going through exam questions. Try to understand the concepts that the questions are about. Don’t spend time on super badges, they are not a revision tool, they are more of a skills challenge and are great after the exam or if you have time. I did 3 of them for the fun of it to get in the zone, when study went on hold for a few months.
Consolidate learning from the program with a good quality practice test like Focus on Force as they explain the answers and you can follow along in your own Salesforce instance. It was easy to follow as all the knowledge was gained already from the supermums course and trailheads.
Do the salesforce web assessor practice test to get used to the language in the test, that is quite different from the language on trailhead and helps you understand your weak areas.
To get a break form reading, Trailhead Live has great trainers focussing on key aspects of the admin cert exam. I liked Mari Greenburg’s style especially.
I also got quite addicted to Salesforce Hulk on youtube and die my daily walk or run listening to the salesforce admin podcasts to keep positive.
When you crack it, shout your success from the rooftops. You have earned it!
What has been the biggest challenge in your Salesforce career so far?
My onsite exam was difficult to book and then cancelled twice due COVID 19. My planned annual leave to study was cancelled as I needed to devote all my time supporting my team to work from home as demand to services skyrocketed and adjust to our daughter’s new needed at home. It was too relentless and was exhausting for three months so I made the right decision.
The Salesforce certs went on hold for a 3-months and I knew I would come back to them. When I did, I was able to do them online. The gap made it harder but I loved the revision and that sense of knowing i can do this and still love it.
What is your favourite thing about Salesforce?
The values, the community and the product. ‘It does not exist if it is not in Salesforce’. I have even said this once at work to convince people about it. It’s a good way to engage people.
Who are the best people to follow on Twitter?
Ian gotts and Tony V Martin salesforce business analysis insight.
Salesforce geek- David Gilner
Are there any groups/networks you would recommend joining (online or in real life!)
Join women in tech communities and your industry local community group. I have been to meetings and it helps make it feel real and everyone is supportive have a lot of knowledge to offer.
Go to events Salesforce will be and get networking. I met some really friendly mothership Salesforce.org people at an annual Scottish non-profit event and I have kept up the connection on LinkedIn.
You sit at your desk for the course and for work. I recommended you find a release like physical activity to join. Vicki always reminded us to have a stretch for our break. Join your local mums running club if you have one. I run slow but don’t mind, it’s a great way to recharge and there is always time for a chat over coffee afterwards. If I get a Salesforce role, I may have to insist Friday mornings are not possible!
Is there anything else you would really like to tell people who are considering a career in Salesforce?
Take the supermums course. Try some trailheads and get all your sign-ups to accounts sorted and get used to the learning style and salesforce language because it may feel like learning a whole new language. A Supermum alumni I connected with before the course recommended this and am glad I did. You don’t want to play catch up when you are trying to progress each week.
If I can do it whilst working full time, never used it before or know someone using, you can do it too. You really can. I don’t have a tech background and you can still learn Salesforce. Salesforce is more about supporting people that the tech in many ways and that is what matters most.
Good luck. I always love to chat and am happy to if anyone wants to connect.
Anything else about your experience that you think it is important/useful to share:
Supermums coaching allowed me to say I was investing in myself. I think when you work in a non-profit, your work for your principles, your clients and your team, thinking about your own career goal beyond your sector can be the last thing you prioritise. We had regular coaching sessions in the supermums course that that transformed my thinking. I went from the to-do list to success journal, from imposter syndrome to self- belief. The sessions reinforced that I wanted to be surrounded by a tribe of impression positive people esp. women in tech who were doing great things in the Salesforce ecosystem.
I remember a session from the Supermum coaches Heather and Zoe in particular. They introduced us to the wheel of life tool to help you assess your goals. I recognised that I had achieved so much change recently in health, family, finances, fitness, environment and was enjoying our new life in Scotland and that the only thing left to go for it was a change in career. That session stays with me. Supermums also ran a powerful women summit that helped me feel okay about not feeling entirely fulfilled or stretched at work. There are so many tips on resilience, the benefits of mentorship, identifying values. Things I always felt I wanted but not an option at work. The push and support to create an action plan for your own success will be a major part of you of your experience in the course if you let yourself.