How Two Graduates Kicked off Their Careers With the Futureforce Solution Engineering Program
Associate Solution Engineers Hayley Morris and Nathan French were two of the first graduates from the Futureforce Solution Engineering program to join our Sydney office. A year on, they look back on what it has done for them and their careers.
How did you get involved with the Futureforce Solution Engineering program?
Nathan: I was working as a mining engineer in Chile, implementing a data capture system in a graduate program I started after finishing my Bachelor of Engineering at the University of Wollongong.
I was enjoying the implementation project, showing people in mining how to make their jobs easier just by using technology. It was so different from what I was normally doing as a mining engineer. I knew then and there I wanted to work in technology solutions.
I was speaking about this on the phone with my mum, who is a teacher, and she was saying, ‘We do a bit of work with this company called Salesforce’ – she talked a lot about the philanthropic side of the company.
So, I had a look at the Salesforce website. This role was there. I was super lucky. I applied for it, spoke to Stephanie Barnett – the Senior Manager, Futureforce Solution Engineering APAC – had an interview and now here I am!
Hayley: I studied a Bachelor of Economics at UNSW, majoring in financial economics and minoring in French studies. They always seemed to be opposing interests inside me. I’m creative, but I also love the analytical side of financial economics and how I can use the other half of my brain. A lot of the jobs I saw, it felt like I had to choose one of my interests or the other.
That’s where my mum also became involved. She works in the tech industry too and some of her colleagues had moved to Salesforce. They kept talking to her about how wonderful the culture was, how amazing the people were, how cool and innovative everything they were doing was.
I started Googling and, like Nathan said, I was also really enticed by Salesforce’s philanthropic side. It seemed to be more than just another software company.
I chatted with Steph at a careers day at UNSW. She painted this picture of my dream role where I could be analytical – you’re hearing the problems of customers and matching it back to a solution. But it was also creative, because there are so many different solutions or combinations of solutions, so it’s about taking a creative approach to solving the problem.
This role finally brought together those two halves of me, so I applied. Now just over a year and into it (we graduated in February) I definitely feel like it’s everything that Steph said and more.
What was the Futureforce Solution Engineering program experience like?
Nathan: It was amazing. It was very hands-on. We were taught it’s okay to fail, and learnt how to try again and build ourselves to be better at what we’re doing.
The first few months we learnt all about the business. The next few months were very technical while we learnt about the product. The final six months focused on how we brought that into practice with customers – how we interact with customers and help them get the most out of those interactions.
Hayley: It was a case of exploring the solutions that Salesforce offers. If you find an area that you’re passionate about, you can build up skills and expertise in that area. We helped innovate and make different processes better. We helped create fantastic assets that other Solution Engineers could use.
As graduates we were encouraged to bring something to the table. To innovate. To make Salesforce better. Our ideas count.
What did the program teach you about yourself, your career and Salesforce?
Hayley: It reinforced the understanding and belief I had in my analytical and creative sides. I could then really explore the platform level of Salesforce and everything around integration, security and clients, which I didn’t expect to be excited by. But I was.
In the Futureforce Solution Engineering program you have really good career conversations. Such an exciting career is laid out before you because they’re constantly talking about all the different ways you can grow within the company.
Nathan: Coming in here you’re surrounded by literally the smartest people you’ll ever meet, and we’re all constantly pushing each other up. We’re working as a team to all come together.
I’ve really learnt to push myself to the next level and that I can be better than I thought. I always thought I’d just progress naturally, but you have to challenge yourself.
What was the highlight for you?
Nathan: At the end of the program, we went to San Francisco for two weeks for boot camp and Steph organised a meeting with our co-CEO Keith Block. It’s a great example of what is possible at Salesforce and the culture of togetherness we have.
He was such a great guy. He was like ‘what have you all been up to? ‘What did you think of Futureforce?’ We just sat down and chatted. It was meant to be for 30 minutes but lasted an hour. We were chatting about all different subjects like American history and politics, and what hit home for me was when he said that we’re essentially a business that solves problems and what businesses need is people who solve problems.
Hayley: That was definitely a highlight for me too. We all sat in a room together and he asked us ‘how did you hear about Salesforce?’. He was interested in our personal lives and we learnt even more about Salesforce from him.
What advice would you give to people considering applying for Futureforce and the Solution Engineering program?
Hayley: This is what nearly held me back: don’t count yourself out of a role, depending on what you studied. Every time I tell people I studied economics, they say, “You’re in software? How did you get there?”.
One of the main things I’ve brought to this role is the ‘softer’ skills. I love talking to people, presenting and solving problems – that’s such an intricate, important part of the role. Don’t count yourself out because you don’t have an IT degree, or you haven’t worked in the software space before. Know that you will still bring a lot to the table, if you have those other softer skills as well. Have confidence in the skills you do have and go for it.
Nathan: At university, everyone I studied with wanted to work for a company that matched their values. Salesforce is that company for me and can be for you. Dream big and believe in yourself because this is a journey worth taking. I know Hayley and I have learnt so much over the past year about ourselves, Salesforce and what we want out of life, and continue to do so every day.
How do you get the best out of the program?
Hayley: You can’t hold back. You have 12 months where you can get hands-on with some of the best products in the world and understand how you can transform businesses. You have access to so many people within Salesforce to learn from. Be proactive. Be as curious as you can. Shadow people. Network. And you’ll be in a good place at the end of it.
Nathan: Like Hayley said, be curious. Be comfortable in asking the ‘dumb’ questions. Run your own race, don’t compare yourself with the people around you. Find the path you want to go down.
Hayley Morris and Nathan French are Associate Solution Engineers at Salesforce.