At one point, Giordana Rock looked destined to settle down to a communications job in a Californian hippie town. But thanks to some sage advice from her grandma, a can-do attitude and a desire to challenge herself, Giordana is now Salesforce’s Lead Enterprise Solution Engineer.
I grew up in Monterey, California – a town that’s been made famous by the book and TV series Big Little Lies. Then I studied communications at Humboldt State University in Arcata, which is this very hippie, environmentally-conscious redwood town in northern California.
Arcata is such a beautiful place – it’s where people live for the rest of their lives – but I felt there was something more out there for me. So when my grandma insisted I go and experience the world, I applied to an international study abroad program and was placed at the Queensland University of Technology in 2009.
In Brisbane, I joined the ultimate frisbee team as a way to meet people and started dating the team captain, Reece. Spoiler alert: we ended up getting married.
Photo credit: Scott George
After the study exchange, I went back to California, finished university and got a job as an intern sales assistant with the local newspaper.
One day the IT guy said to me, “We're rolling out Google Apps, do you know anything about it?” I was like, “Yeah, I took my course notes on Google Drive, it's easy”. So I helped the newspaper migrate to Google Drive.
This was in the middle of the global financial crisis and I had to work five other jobs that year. So when Reece came to visit and we hit it off, I figured I wasn’t sure where my career was going, so I bought a one-way ticket to Australia. I just had that yearning to really challenge myself and expand my horizons.
Arriving in Australia, I had no friends and no job leads, so I applied for everything – I just wanted experience. Then one morning I got a call from a temp agency, asking if I’d do a one-day receptionist job at a tech company. Despite the fact I was one of four receptionists and not really needed, I was so excited to be in the corporate world in Australia.
It just so happened that the company was rolling out Google Apps and one of the consultants doing the training noticed I was teaching the receptionists how to use Google Drive. He recommended to the IT manager that the company hire me to oversee change management for the project – and they did! I was the first woman they'd hired into the IT department in the company's 25-year history.
I did that job for six months and was then approached by Proactive Accountants Network. They were about to roll out Salesforce and needed a system admin. So I met the Innovation Manager for breakfast Friday morning, signed the contract that afternoon and on Monday morning flew to Sydney for Salesforce training – it was crazy.
At the time, my understanding of Salesforce was very basic – I’d used it at the newspaper in a very simple way. I remember sitting in the training and not understanding what an ‘object’ was. Now objects are a rudimentary part of my vernacular.
I came back from the training and in two weeks built a whole new system, designing it from the ground up. It was incredible to be able to imagine this new world and see it come to fruition very quickly – without knowing any code. Up until then, I never thought a career in technology was possible, because I didn’t have any development skills – my eyes were opened.
From that role, I went on to work as a consultant at a Salesforce Partner, during which time I got to go to Dreamforce (by winning a karaoke competition, of all things). Then in late 2016, Salesforce approached me about a Solution Engineer role – it was actually the consultant who recommended I be hired off the reception desk at the tech company.
There is no typical day, which is great! There’s the usual account planning meetings and calls with customers, but my favourite part of the job is leading workshops with customers. This gives me the chance to challenge and re-imagine what our customers are doing with their businesses.
You need to truly understand the customer’s ecosystem in order to advise how Salesforce can help and solution the specific components within the platform. So it’s important we spend time in our customer’s shoes and customer’s customers’ shoes.
For example, one of my colleagues is selling to a garbage company, so he's doing a garbage truck run tomorrow morning. I often interview employees or apply for loans to see what the customer experience is like. It's really quite inquisitive work.
Even though I'm typically the only woman in a room presenting to 20 men, I feel I have a lot of allies here at Salesforce. Our leaders, who are predominantly male at the moment, have really started to step up, calling out inequality and pushing for change.
One challenge I do find as a female is just the ability to get a seat at the table. I think it’s important women get out of their comfort zone and ask for airtime.
I encourage any woman entering the technology world to ask the right questions of organisations to ensure equality – particularly gender equality – is a focus and that real action is being taken.
Put yourself out there and find opportunities. Nobody's going to just give you the next step in your career; you have to make it happen for yourself. Otherwise, you may wake up in 10 years' time still doing the same thing, and you haven't been challenged and perhaps feel slighted.
One of the employee benefits of working at Salesforce is an incredible corporate wellness program. I play ultimate frisbee year-round (for both the women's team in New South Wales and the mixed team), and this wellness reimbursement allowance helps pay for that.
I find the Salesforce culture itself super supportive. When you're having a hard day you can just turn to your colleagues and go grab a coffee, unwind and get their opinion. I also feel our managers are very protective of our time and wellbeing – they’re very conscious of preventing burn out, and happy to push back on your behalf.
I would love to have the ability to disappear and reappear anywhere in the world. Imagine being able to go to Europe for the weekend and have dinner in Paris, or be able to go rock climbing in Yellowstone National Park for the day. It would also be great to see my family whenever I want – that would be a special superhero power.
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