Jessica Macpherson, Heidi Prowse, Mia Pacey, Mark Tossell and Rebecca Aichholzer all know what it’s like to don the “giant disco ball” that is the Salesforce Golden Hoodie. Here they share memories of that experience and their journey since.

 

Their personal and professional journeys couldn’t be more unique. But each one of these Golden Hoodie recipients has something in common: it had an extraordinary impact on their next move. Now we hear about how that impact has carried on through their lives as they continue to do well and do good — and occasionally get Goldie out and relive the sparkle of that day.

Mark Tossell: Golden Hoodie recipient 2017

“I’m not often stuck for words, but receiving the Golden Hoodie left me speechless,” remembers Mark Tossell of his big moment on stage at Sydney World Tour 2017. 

It was a trip to Dreamforce which brought home to Mark what “all that bling” really meant. “Everyone turned and gasped when I put it on, people wanted to shake my hand and touch me and connect. It was strange but also a great privilege to know I was part of a group of such cool people.”
 

Mark Tossell with fellow Golden Hoodie recipient Rebecca Aichholzer at Dreamforce.

 

From accidental admin to lifelong learner

“I fell into the Salesforce ecosystem in June 2016. I had no IT background, no idea what CRM was and no understanding of the financial planning sector, which is where I’d found myself,” says Mark. “It was terrifying! But within a few weeks I discovered the Trailblazer Community. I thought it was also really cool.”

As a lifelong learner, Mark took to Trailhead straight away to learn about Financial Services Cloud followed by Pardot and Tableau. “One of the advantages of not having much experience is that you don’t know how it can’t be done!” 

Mark started his business, Visioneer360 in 2018 and maintains a mindset and a practice of continual learning in his team. 

 

Getting out of your comfort zone

Receiving the Golden Hoodie was part of Mark’s journey to get outside his comfort zone — which is his top tip for Trailblazers.  

“In a way the Golden Hoodie means more to me now than ever. I understand and appreciate the reason behind giving it and it’s connected me with an amazing group of people,” says Mark. “It also gives me a bit of a platform because people think if you have a Golden Hoodie then you must have something worth saying!”

Rebecca Aichholzer: Golden Hoodie recipient 2018

“I received my Golden Hoodie at Sydney World Tour in 2018 when the world was so different and we could all get together to celebrate,” remembers Rebecca. 

“It was an amazing day. I had no idea it was coming. It was overwhelming, astonishing and brilliant to be recognised that way. It didn’t leave my back for the rest of the day — it’s like wearing a giant disco ball!”

Taking Trailhead further

Rebecca was National Commercial Manager at QIC and had implemented Salesforce as a solo admin in 2014. In 2019 she was promoted to the newly created Head of Business Systems Success role, and appointed product owner of the Salesforce platform. “We are rolling out the Salesforce platform to about 300 people across Australia. The build finishes in August and will go live in October this year. It’s a huge project that has changed the course of my career.”

Formerly leader of Brisbane’s Women in Tech group and now co-leader of the wider Brisbane User Group, Rebecca helps run Trailhead Tuesdays to support Trailhead users, and those new to the Salesforce platform, across the country. 

 

Phenomenal women

“I felt like such an imposter when I started — I thought there was no way I could lead an informal Women in Technology group internal at QIC. But over the years I’ve embraced it and championed it,” says Rebecca, who also started an internal Women in Tech group at QIC to support women in the organisation and help make a concerted effort to expand the number of women working in tech roles.

“There’s a long way to go,” she says. “But I feel like the future's looking brighter for women in tech.”

Heidi Prowse: Golden Hoodie recipient 2019

Receiving the Golden Hoodie took Heidi Prowse completely by surprise. “I was definitely in a lot of shock,” she remembers. “And I was very humbled. It’s pretty cool to have the work you’re doing recognised in that way.”

Heidi, now CEO at Mental Illness Education ACT, originally used Salesforce in her work with Cystic Fibrosis ACT. “When I started I had an excel spreadsheet. By the end of my time there I had a system built on Salesforce that automated notifications to people to help them access services and that could provide an analysis of the community we support to drive funding more effectively.” Heidi’s work was not only pivotal in the successful implementation of Salesforce at Cystic Fibrosis ACT, she also, remarkably, drove a go-live for another nonprofit remotely while supporting her husband Andrew Prowse in hospital.

Still disrupting

“While money and expertise can often be a barrier to implementing good technology in the not for profit sector, I don’t want those barriers to stop us from being able to change people’s lives, because that’s why we exist. I think that’s part of what being a ‘disruptor’ is about — not settling for something just because it’s always been done a certain way and showing that you don’t have to spend a huge amount of money to be an organisation that operates well and generates communities around what you do.”

 

Responding to growth

MIEACT has done 3.5 times more delivery in the past 12 months than in the previous financial year. As the organisation continues to grow rapidly, ensuring every interaction with the customer remains genuine and authentic has become especially important. Quality control has never been more critical.

And what does Heidi’s Golden Hoodie mean to her today? “It makes me feel like I’m not alone in any challenge. And that’s inspiring and invigorating.”

Jessica Macpherson OAM: Golden Hoodie recipient 2020

How did Jessica feel upon hearing the announcement that she would be the Golden Hoodie recipient? “Absolutely gobsmacked! I was totally surprised.” Due to COVID-19, she couldn’t receive it in person but a visit from Pip Marlow saw the two CEOs bonding over shared experiences of their New Zealand hometowns.

Blazing new trails

Until recently, Jessica was the CEO of St Kilda Mums but has now started Blaze Your Trail, a new social enterprise which offers strategic advice and services around fundraising and the use of technology and supports job seekers trying to get experience.

“We give job seekers real world experience by volunteering for charities that would never be able to afford to pay for our skills. So for me, it’s an absolute job to come to work each day knowing that I’m doing good twice over — helping disadvantaged job seekers and helping cash-strapped charities.”

And her Golden Hoodie remains a cherished possession and symbol of her achievements. “My golden hoodie says, you’ve been generous to our community, you’ve gone above and beyond, you’ve helped lots of people. And I’m so proud of that.” 

 

Advice for charities from someone who’s been there

For anyone running a charity out there, Jessica has some advice: “If you are working for a charity that doesn’t have CRM — and 60% of Australian charities don’t — then you should absolutely check out Salesforce.org and read about the Power of Us Grant.”

Mia Pacey: Golden Hoodie recipient 2021

It didn’t occur to Mia for a moment that a Golden Hoodie might be coming her way as she sat on stage at Salesforce Live: Australia & New Zealand with Leandro Perez, Salesforce’s VP of Asia Pacific Marketing. She was focusing so hard on overcoming the nerves associated with being on a full recording set and delivering her story that when Leadro suddenly went off script, she was thrown. “I was like, oh my goodness, he’s saying something I’m not prepared for, what am I going to do next? And then the Golden Hoodie was presented to me.”
 

Mia Pacey receiving her Golden Hoodie from Megan Petersen and Leandro Perez.

 

Into the whirlwind

“The whole journey has been a real whirlwind,” she says. “Like jumping out of a plane and never hitting the ground. It’s just such an exhilarating experience.”

“I did a Salesforce bootcamp on the Gold Coast which was five days on intensive training at the end of which I had my admin certificate. I was pretty happy with that and knew it was definitely something I wanted to do long term — I just loved what it was capable of.”

Mia became the full time solo Salesforce certified admin for multiple systems at Surf Life Saving NSW, and, in 2020, stepped up to be leader of the Women in Tech group and started a YouTube channel. “It was just one step after another in a pathway of how I could give back.” 

On her YouTube channel, Mia walks viewers through various processes, especially in the CPQ space. “I’ve always been a visual learner and figured that if I couldn’t find the answer to what I was looking for, then there must be other people out there looking also - I may as well just make it myself!”

 

Overcoming imposter syndrome

More than anything else, being awarded the Golden Hoodie has helped Mia overcome doubts about her own abilities. “I really thought I wasn’t ready for anything - no real job, no real experience, I had massive imposter syndrome. Being acknowledged by the Salesforce and Trailblazer Community was a big boost to my confidence that I was doing the right thing and that my work was being well received.”

Inspired by their stories? Visit Trailhead to see where Salesforce can take you.