When Shibu Abraham started out on his Salesforce career more than 15 years ago in Malaysia, a Golden Hoodie was the last thing on his mind. But after a career marked by a dedication to passing on his knowledge and a passion for lifelong learning, he was honoured at Dreamforce 2022 with his very own Golden Hoodie.
“I’ve never spoken at an event like Dreamforce,” says Abraham, “and initially I thought I was speaking at a smaller breakout session. But then my session got moved to the main keynote stage, and I started to get really nervous!
“I was rehearsing all the time – just to make sure I didn’t embarrass myself on stage. When I was watching the main keynote session, I was sitting there thinking ‘that’s where I have to stand tomorrow!’”
Abraham had no idea that he was receiving the coveted Golden Hoodie award.
“After I’d given my presentation, they asked me to stay on stage for a second – I wondered whether I’d forgotten something,” he said. “But I turned around, and there was Guilda Hilaire holding the hoodie.”
What is the Golden Hoodie?
The first Golden Hoodie was awarded in 2016. The Salesforce community already loved the iconic black Trailblazer hoodie, so a gold coloured version was created to celebrate special stories.
You can’t buy a Golden Hoodie – they are only awarded to Trailblazers who have shown dedication in teaching others, used Salesforce to make a difference, or overcome the odds in their Salesforce career.
“Usually the Golden Hoodie is given to someone with a really inspiring background – never in my dreams did I think that I’d be in that league,” says Abraham.
A dedication to learning and sharing knowledge
Abraham was first introduced to Salesforce in 2007 by his manager, Prasan Vyas.
“He’d attended Dreamforce, and he already loved the Salesforce platform and the ecosystem,” Abraham says. “When I joined his team, he told me ‘Salesforce is the next big thing.’”
Abraham remembers it wasn’t long before a big client asked for help on a Salesforce implementation.
“After that, customer demand started to increase,” he says. “We were a pretty young business then, and were trying to grow as a practice. As soon as our customers started asking for Salesforce, that was a turning point – there was no going back.”
As part of his long career in the Salesforce ecosystem, Abraham has dedicated his spare time to sharing his knowledge with his network. It’s for this reason that he’s now wearing the Golden Hoodie.
The power of the Salesforce Community
Through his involvement with local user groups, the wider Marketing Cloud community, and his popular blog and YouTube channel, Abraham has spread the word about the power of Salesforce, and helped many people on their own journey.
“The Salesforce community is one of the best out there,” he says, “and it’s driven by its members. We’re a bunch of passionate people.
“Find out if you have a local user group you can join – almost every city has one. When you’re starting out, it’s good to have someone you can ask for advice, who can offer a helping hand.
“There’s also the Trailblazer Mentorship program. There are experienced people who have been through the exact same journey that you’re going through, and they can’t wait to pay their knowledge forward.”
Knowing which questions to answer
So how does he choose what knowledge he needs to share?
Again, Abraham goes back to his beloved Salesforce community. “People will send me questions on my social profiles, or in the comments on my YouTube channel,” he says.
“So I start to see patterns in what people are asking about. Then I can build content to answer those questions.”
Encouraging women into the Salesforce ecosystem
Abraham says it’s important to him that women are encouraged to pursue tech roles – something he puts into practice in his day job.
“Most of the leads in my team are women,” Abraham says, “especially on the architecture and technical side of things. One of them, Meera Nair, is also a Salesforce MVP.
“Their stories are very inspiring. Some of them are coming back to work after extended career breaks, and the beauty of a cloud-based system is that they can work from home on a flexible basis. At UST, we take every opportunity to encourage women to grow their careers with us.
“Salesforce itself is committed to equality, and it makes us very proud that we can align with that value too.”
Advice for your Salesforce career
“I would always tell my team that they should make sure that they are developing their careers,” Abraham says, “and they would often say to me ‘we don’t have time for that.’
“So I decided that I had to take my own advice, and show them that with a little balancing of your time, it’s possible to work on your career progression while keeping up with your full time job.”
Abraham says there are two things you need to focus on:
“Never stop learning – there is always something that is changing. Salesforce regularly releases new features, and you need to make sure you’re on top of them. I always say that if you don’t keep yourself updated, you’re outdated.
“So I tell my team to use T-shaped learning. You can build your specialist knowledge – that’s the vertical of the ‘T’. But you also need to have knowledge of what’s going on around you, so that you can talk to people. That’s the horizontal bar in the ‘T’. You need both to succeed.”
According to Abraham, personal branding is very important in today’s climate.
“I don’t think people market themselves enough,” he says.
“Marketing yourself can start in your own team – by establishing your abilities, you will gain a reputation for expertise in that area. That brand recognition will go a long way in your career roadmap, and help you get promotions, new roles, and so on.”
The Dreamforce experience
Even though he’s been passionate about Salesforce for over a decade, 2022 was the first time Abraham had a chance to visit Dreamforce.
“In one word, Dreamforce was overwhelming,” he says.
“I actually went into the venue on the day before the big event, and it was nice and quiet,” he remembers. “But on the day of Dreamforce, it was something else. It was so busy! People from the Salesforce community lined the streets, inside the buildings – everywhere.”
Of course, Abraham’s experience of the event was a little different from most Trailblazers.
“Straight after I received the Golden Hoodie, I didn’t know what to say. People were coming from left and right congratulating me, and I was still trying to take in what had happened. It took a few days for it to really sink in,” he says.
Not everyone knows what a Golden Hoodie represents, though.
“After I got off stage, I called my wife and told her that I had received a Golden Hoodie,” Abraham says. “But of course she doesn’t really know what that means. The next morning, when I was able to explain its significance, she was very proud.
“There was another funny moment, straight after I got the hoodie. My friend Scott took me to a restaurant round the corner. When we got there, a man said, ‘nice hoodie, where can I buy one?’ and I had to explain that he couldn’t!”
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