Selling power has a long tradition of fostering professional learning communities around its software products. In doing so, he resisted the widespread emphasis in talent management circles on employee retention. Salesforce, on the other hand, has built a “Salesforce Ecosystemof talent, involving all of its current and potential employees as well as those of its customers.
This approach to community building sets Salesforce apart from other large IT companies. For example, IBM promotes a “learning cultureamong its own employees, but outsources much of its customer training to approved partners. Oracle Offerings learning communities, but only as part of the talent management options it offers one client at a time. Microsoft promotes a “culture of growth mindset” among its own employees while offering separate training courses to outsiders. Amazon has a “user experience and design” program available for its own employees while offering a range of separate training programs to outsiders. Among talent management software vendors, retaining a client’s employees is usually touted as a primary goal.
In contrast, Salesforce has extended the scope of its community building model. His Starting point The suite of training courses and individual “Trailblazer.me” profiles it manages now spans the four main Salesforce businesses. These involve Salesforce customer relationship management softwaree (his traditional profession), the application network system of MuleSoft (purchased in 2018) on analytics platform of Picture (bought in 2019) and the business communication software Soft (bought in 2021). As a result, the foundational community building model developed by Salesforce will be available to each of these companies. Additionally, Trialhead members will have access to training on all four affected systems. Salesforce reports that these four companies are growing rapidly and predicts that together they will generate 9.3 million new jobs by 2026.
I was invited to speak with Tony Nguyen, employed by a software developer Calabria as a Salesforce admin, to learn how the community building approach has worked for him.
Michael B Arthur: Hi Tony, nice to meet you. How did your career start?
Tony Nguyen: I got a degree in economics and finance, then I got into the restaurant business. We intended to turn a Vietnamese sandwich shop into a restaurant chain like Chipotle. However, like many other small businesses, we have been really hit hard by Covid.
Arthur: So you were looking for something else. How did you log in to Salesforce?
Nguyen: I wanted to break into the tech industry, but didn’t really know where to start. I had imagined that it might cost me $3-4,000 for initial training. However, I didn’t have a job or a place to live, so I tried to find a free way to learn. I have a friend who works for a tech company as a recruiter, who could talk about what kind of roles might suit me. She recommended I look into Salesforce, and I did. I ended up joining the Salesforce ecosystem in the summer of 2020.
There is a free program built on top of Trailhead by a non-profit organization called PepUp technology. It helps minorities and diverse candidate groups break into the tech industry. However, their program didn’t start until the end of August, which left me with over two months to study Trailhead and find where I could improve on my own. I spent eight hours a day on Trailhead like it was a full-time job because I had nothing else to do. Then, when I entered the training program, everything clicked into place much faster for me because I was ahead of the class. So I was able to help the other students in the class.
After the PepUp Tech program, it took me two months to land my first Salesforce admin position, and I’m still with the same company. I was able to break into a new industry, improve my skills and land my first job within six months. Right now, I have five Salesforce certifications – Admin, Advanced Admin, Platform App Builder, Sales Cloud Consultant, and Service Cloud Consultant – and I’m looking to get two Slack certificates right now. Since Slack was acquired by Salesforce and their systems integrated together, I can be more mobile in my learning efforts.
Arthur: So there’s more for you?
Nguyen: Before the Mulesoft, Tableau, and Slack takeovers, there were only Salesforce certifications. But Salesforce recently announced that training for all four platforms will take place at the same location. So whatever certifications you earn will show up on the Trailhead website. It’s like a live resume. Slack certification was already on my to-do list this year. But when I saw the formation was on Trailhead, I thought it was super cool. It makes so much sense that the certificates of all four companies are now displayed in Trailblazer.me. It’s also great for recruiters because now you only need to go to one place to search for a candidate, instead of trying to find them on every other platform or system.
Arthur: What hat are you wearing when you make this comment? Yours or that of a recruiter?
Nguyen: I come from both sides because we were lucky enough to hire someone recently, a teacher. We knew Trailhead was our first stop because everything is on display there from a technical standpoint. Once she was okay with that, all we had to do was interview her to see if she would be a good fit with our culture. So from a hiring perspective, showing all available training is really nice to see. Also, if someone looked at my profile, they would see all the training I have received, as well as the training I was currently taking. It is magic.
Nguyen: Yes, each of the four platforms involves different things. There’s MuleStop for integration, Tableau for analytics, Slack for communication, and then Salesforce bringing it all together. It’s like a one-stop shop. It is important to have an ecosystem where these four elements can be displayed, rather than four separate systems. So, for example, if someone considered me a potential candidate, they would know exactly what I am capable of and what systems I know. This contrasts with trying to guess, or going to different resources, or looking at my resume to try to figure out what I’m capable of.
Arthur: Is it also about whether you are a good learner?
Nguyen: Absolutely, they can see what I learned. Plus, it’s really exciting that learning is free. Learning is expensive, especially in America, where tuition seems to be getting more expensive every day. So when people hear the word free, most of the time they think it’s not really something that exists. But since joining the Salesforce ecosystem, it has shown me otherwise. My career opportunities keep growing and growing every day.
Arthur: Can you tell more about your community building experiences as a customer rather than a Salesforce employee?
Nguyen: When I talk to a Salesforce professional, I don’t really feel like there’s a divide or any kind of distinction between us. I feel like we’re all a professional group. I host Salesforce Saturday every month in Minnesota. I also attend different Salesforce Saturdays, with different user groups. Then there are two big Salesforce conferences every year that I also attend.
Arthur: Are your own Salesforce Saturday events attended by a mixed audience of Salesforce employees, customers, and independent learners?
Nguyen: Yes, anyone can go, it’s just a completely open registration system. It’s open to anyone to share their excitement about working with any set of products they’re involved with. Plus, there are sessions where we cover things like career coaching or resume building. The subject does not need to be related to Salesforce. This is a good thing, because some of our members are working on a different platform. They’re not part of the Salesforce ecosystem, but they still love coming to our events just because they’re so inclusive.
Arthur: Okay, so Salesforce events attract people who don’t work on the platform, because people can just come and talk about technology. Then they identify with the conversation and can be drawn into the Salesforce ecosystem.
Nguyen: Exactly. Another channel is the non-profit program PepUp Tech. I am one of the teachers in this program now. My team teaches a class of about 30-40 people every three months. We are part of a global effort where many PepUp Tech students progress to a position in the Salesforce ecosystem. Additionally, there are other channels to attract new people to Trailhead, a “Pathfinder Training Program,” a “Salesforce Military“Veterans program and a”Talent Alliance» program with employers. All of these serve to attract and support new learners into the ecosystem and help them find employment.
Arthur: In summary, anyone can join Trailhead, attend regional or virtual meetings that interest them, find support and guidance on what to learn, build community attachments, collect and view their certifications, and discover what which you describe as the “magic” of seeing your career opportunities multiply day by day. Is it correct?
Nguyen: Yes exactly.
Arthur: Thank you for your time.