Salesforce: A Reflection

I recently dedicated my career to CRM management within the Salesforce.com platform.

What I like most about this platform is that it has rekindled my love of technology and taught me complex skills in an easy-to-digest way.

A few months ago, I ran into a challenge at work that required me to use Visual Workflow, which is a drag-and-drop way to do complex, multistep process automation that would have previously needed coding (which equals expensive developers). This tool allows users to create forms, execute decision trees, loop through/create/update records, and perform some other cool functions.

After some trial-and-error, a few hours, and a few iced teas, I was able to build what I needed.

Then, as additional requirements came, I decided that Apex, Salesforce’s programming language that is similar to Java, may be our best bet. So, using the limited Apex I know, paired with articles on the message board (Success Community), I was able to translate my Visual Workflow into actual working code.

I have tried to learn to code before, but the syntax of Java and Python left me feeling overwhelmed. I think what is different here is that I am learning to code A) in context, in order to meet practical business needs and B) visually first.

I feel really supported in my journey to gain more technical skills. Trailhead has helped me tremendously in getting certified and the user-generated content in the community is really incredible.

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What to Expect from Working at a Startup

If you are considering joining a startup for your first job (or wherever you are in your career, for that matter), here’s what you can expect:

You will gain excellent time management and prioritization skills. In a startup environment, priorities can change in an instant. You may also receive requests from many people at once. These two common occurrences can help you stay nimble-minded and ready for the next challenge, constantly re-prioritizing to fit business needs.

You may be expected to take on various projects and tasks. In my first few years at a startup, I created press sheets, sent out mass emails, helped plan events in other states, and even traveled for work. My freedom to touch different aspects of the business eventually led to me learning the ins and outs of Salesforce.com and getting certified as an administrator.

You may be part of a roll-up-your-sleeves culture. I have seen C-Suite executives wash dishes and managers take out the garbage. There is no saying, “That’s not my job” in a young company. The culture at a startup is humble: it will pull any bit of “millennial” entitlement right out from underneath you!

You will get a crash course in strategy. As the business expands, leaders must have a growth strategy. Business practices that worked in a mom-and-pop shop may have to be adapted to a multinational company. Become acquainted with the people who are helping scale the business, as they can teach you a ton about finance, marketing, and operational efficiency within the context of organizational growth.

You will learn that you are the captain of your fate. In smaller companies, career paths are sometimes not defined. This can be a good thing! But you may also feel lost, because up until now you have had guidance counselors and college advisors helping you navigate your way. When you feel it is time for a change, you may choose to A) apply for a position internally B) pave a path for yourself based on your interests and company needs, if this option is available or C) choose to use your fabulous newfound skills at a different company.

An Open Letter to Companies Who Recruit Based on Prestige

To Whom It May Concern:

I really like your product and check your job openings sometimes. I like to see what kinds of positions you need to fill to make your company tick.

However, one line in your job descriptions put a bitter taste in my mouth.

In Requirements, I see that you need “A self starter” and “Attentiveness to detail.” Cool. However, a worthy candidate also needs “a degree from a top tier university.”

To be honest, Ms. Recruiter, filtering out 99.6% of candidates who did not go to Ivy League schools in the job description makes you seem shallow and reflects poorly on you and your whole company.

It says to me, “I am too lazy to screen the candidate for unmeasurable traits like culture fit, relevant experience, and ability to do the job. I will instead make a formula to weed out candidates who did not fit my definition of success when they were 18 years old.” It says to me that you do not care what I did for my university, only what I did in the months before it.

I get why you do it, though. It doesn’t take a Harvard grad to realize that people from prestigious schools are desirable. According to a study by Kellogg School of Management professor Lauren Rivera, hiring managers at law firms, consultancies, and investment banks use a candidate’s ability to get into an elite school (Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Yale) for graduate or law school as a litmus test for intelligence. Here’s the kicker, though: the study found that it did not actually matter to the decision makers how the candidate performed at that school, just that they got in.

Quite frankly, I am mostly concerned for you. You are missing out on diversity, on recruiting a workforce that is representative of your user base. You are missing out on the person who learned valuable skills managing a drugstore while going to school full time or the person who did not do so hot in high school but found his niche planning alumni events for his fraternity.

But hey, at least you’re being transparent about your biases.

Best,
Melanie

You Have to Put Down the Duckie…

In a skit on Sesame Street, every time Ernie tries to play the saxophone, it squeaks. Taking into account suspension of disbelief because he is a puppet, it does so because he is holding his rubber duck in his hand as a “security blanket.”

So, as the song goes…

I saw this graphic on Sesame Street‘s Twitter yesterday and it hit me in a weird way. I think we all have our “duckies”: things we hold on to that keep us from getting to the next level in our lives and careers.

Having supportive people around us helps us feel able to leave our comfort zones. Sometimes it just takes a simple, “Why do you feel that way?” to get us open to doing something new.

On the flip side, when it comes to making a major change, there is always an opportunity cost and potential for failure. What if Ernie had started playing his solo in the wrong key? How embarrassing!

But what I am learning is that these calculated risks make us stronger. When they go well, they inspire more smart risks. When they go badly, they help our pivoting and bouncing back skills (and make for some funny stories later on).

What “duckies” can you put down to play some figurative mean blues sax? 😉

This post was originally published on my LinkedIn page.

Lessons from My First Year Working

April marked my one year anniversary as a Sales and Marketing Coordinator at Own The Room/Blue Planet Training, a small (less than 50 employees) public speaking training company with big Fortune 500 clients. It is a startup environment located in New Jersey, and I have learned so much already! Here are some lessons I learned in my first year in a “real job”:

1. Don’t let projects get “stale.” Our teachers and professors were right to suggest that we should work on projects/studying a little every day. The real world isn’t about cramming, regurgitating, and forgetting; it is about learning, applying, and maintaining. Otherwise, inactive projects go stale, and the more time that elapses, the harder it is to pick up where you left off.

2. It’s okay to work for free/cheap. Sometimes. If you want to help someone but they cannot pay you, if you feel that an opportunity could open more doors, or if something can help you build your network or gain a mentor, it really is okay to work for free. This is how I got started freelancing. However, if you feel subservient, disrespected, or as if you are doing work that paid employees do, it is really not. Consult with the labor laws in your area and know your rights.

3. Read, read, read. Start the day by reading the news. Follow news sources on Twitter. Keep your eyes peeled for articles about potential clients and businesses in your industry. If you are in marketing and sales like I am, this is extremely important in order to keep your message relevant.

4. If have a feeling something has been forgotten, speak up. I am not saying to be a crazy micro manager, but it is good to double check things, especially in a startup environment when people are juggling a lot of tasks and ESPECIALLY if your intuition is going wild.

5. Find work-life balance. My work-life balance means to never ever check work email from my phone. It stresses me out and increases the chances of letting something fall through the cracks.

6. Treat real people like celebrities and celebrities like real people. Our CEO says this all the time. Treat everyone the same.

7. Communicate effectively always. When I first started, I was making a lot of cold calls. This made me nervous and I said “um” and “like” a lot. I knew I was in trouble one day when the COO called me into his office. He told me I needed to get rid of the weak language, one of our training program’s key principles. I was flustered and embarrassed, but he was right. How would we sell our product if our salespeople were not communicating effectively? After that, I became extremely conscious of filler words and opted for a pause instead.

8. Be patient. Be positive. I am always eager to see results, results, results. But relationships take time to build, ad campaigns take a while to get right. Time spent thinking and talking needs to be cut in half and time spent doing needs to double.

9. Meet people, help people. The book Startup of You by Ben Casnocha and Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn really rocked my world! Introduce people who you think can benefit from knowing one another. Really listen to what people say. Send relevant articles, send thoughtful LinkedIn requests, send thank you notes. I highly recommend joining a club or organization (I like my local young professionals group, New Jersey Young Professionals!) Not only is it fun to be part of something and make friends, but also the members may give you ideas on how to grow your business or career if you let them be helpful. This is especially true for small business!

10. Check everything at least three times. Then give it to three other people to check. Seriously. Be like Nike and JUST DO IT.