With a passion for helping not-for-profits use technology to further their impact, Heidi Prowse is a true Trailblazer.
After working in the not-for-profit sector in fundraising and marketing roles for a number of years, Heidi had long been an advocate for social causes, but when she met her husband Andrew in 2011, this passion took on new meaning.
Andrew has cystic fibrosis, and rather than shying away Heidi made it her mission to raise much-needed awareness and funds for the condition. In 2012, Heidi and Andrew organised the first-ever Santa Speedo Shuffle in Canberra, where participants don speedos, put on santa hats and run around Lake Burley Griffin in the middle of winter – all to raise funds for cystic fibrosis. Seven years later the initiative has impressively raised over $500,000, and contributed to Heidi being named the 2017 ACT Young Australian of the Year.
Heidi now juggles many professional hats. She runs her own small business as a ‘Salesforce interpreter’, has a full-time job as an Executive Officer at Mental Illness Education ACT and is the primary carer for Andrew. She shares her Trailblazing story.
I’m incredibly passionate about the role technology can play in helping not-for-profits further their reach and create more connected communities. Six months ago, I decided to turn this passion into action and set up The Prowse Project, a consulting business that connects small not-for-profits with Salesforce technology.
Not-for-profits often don’t have the internal resource to run these kinds of projects, yet can benefit enormously from the technology. I decided I wanted to be the resource.
I now help not-for-profits with implementation, system admin support and training, using language they understand to explain the Salesforce platform, so they’re more empowered to leverage the benefits of the technology.
For now, while I’m the primary breadwinner, The Prowse Project is an after hours passion project. During the week, I’m an Executive Officer at Mental Illness Education ACT – a government-funded organisation that runs programs with schools, workplaces and community groups to help reduce the stigma of mental illness. As the organisations lead I overser our business operations and build on the organisation’s marketing, revenue generation and promotion.
My first week at Mental Illness Education ACT I recognised the need to capture and engage our stakeholders and the current system had many barriers, so we’re about to embark on a Salesforce implementation. I can’t wait!
Not long after I started with Cystic Fibrosis ACT as a Business Development Manager in 2013, the business decided to implement Salesforce. At the time I was using a spreadsheet to manage contacts, so I was very excited to have something more sophisticated. So excited in fact I put up my hand to lead the project.
In preparation, I successfully applied for a funding grant to complete Salesforce Administration Essentials for New Admins (ADM 201) and Administration Essentials for Experienced Admins (ADM 211). The two courses were so information-packed, and really set me up for success. I was armed with a very deep understanding of what the Salesforce system could achieve and this was incredibly useful during the implementation exercise.
Salesforce completely changed the way I worked. For example, I could meet with a family affected by cystic fibrosis at a hospital, they could ask me for a medical device and I could pick up my phone and deliver, record and track that service all without leaving the hospital.
I also found a new love for data analysis. The insights about the work we were doing and the impact it was having are incredible.
Then in 2017, while still working with Cystic Fibrosis ACT, I also took on a part-time role with the Australian Academy of Science to lead their Salesforce implementation, being the key liaison between six business teams and 50 users. We implemented in Lightning, which was a fantastic learning opportunity.
As the implementation was nearing completion, my husband had a double lung transplant in Sydney, so I finished off the project while working from a hospital waiting room – it’s pretty incredible the technology enabled me to do this. Although we had some go-live issues, I was able to work through these with a case model and Chatter group, all while remaining off-site.
It was in the hospital room, with Andrew while he recovered, that I discovered Trailhead, and my addiction truly began. I’m so grateful that I was able to use this time to learn and further my skills – for free. And when I realised there are badges to collect my competitive streak really kicked in!
Head along to your local Salesforce User Group - they’re a great place to learn and connect with others in the community.
Invest time in your own learning. The more time you invest, the more you’ll get out of it, and remember that frustrations are also learning experiences. Trailhead is great for learning, of course, but so too are the Salesforce in-class sessions.
Well, the past 18 months have been pretty full-on, so probably just catching my breath. Being awarded the 2017 ACT Young Australian of the Year moved me forward in life a lot faster than I expected and raised my profile in the community. I’ve also had a new role to contend with, learning all about mental health as opposed to physical health, and I’m now keen to connect mental illness with technology and communities as part of The Prowse Project.
I’m speaking at Down Under Dreaming next month too, and can't wait to see and learn from so many of the Trailblazers in our admin community – including MVP Emily Hay and Techforce Founder Vamsi Gosu.
Apart from that, being a primary carer with a small business and a full-time job will no doubt keep me out of trouble for the next little while.