When Camela Prouzos first applied for a job at Salesforce, she never thought she would get it.
“I guess it was a confidence thing. But after having a long chat with a recruiter about what I wanted to achieve professionally, he suggested Salesforce as it’s a great organisation to help build foundational skills and grow,” explains Camela, “So, I went for it.”
And she got it, joining the Salesforce university recruiting graduate program as a Business Development Associate.
In the two years that followed, Camela quickly climbed from entry-level sales to Core Account Executive. With her quick rise, you’d be forgiven for thinking Camela always envisioned a career in sales – but that isn’t her narrative.
“I’ve got family members who are just finishing school, and they ask, ‘How did you know what you wanted to do?’. And I say, ‘I didn’t. I just gave it a shot, and you soon figure out what you like and what you don’t’,” says Camela.
With her fierce work ethic and love of organised plans (right down to how many pages of a book she needs to read per night), Camela gives the impression she’s not the kind to waste time on something that isn’t fulfilling, which may have something to do with her years doing kung-fu.
“Kung-fu teaches you a lot about mindset and focus. I wanted to learn the discipline and try to master it, but also as a woman growing up, I wanted to learn how to defend myself both mentally and physically.”
In a world where women only make up 34% of managers globally, Camela isn’t afraid to voice the challenges that come with being a young female professional.
“I think there’s a fundamental issue around confidence and applying for roles. I speak high-level here, but women are generally more hesitant to go for roles if they don’t think they have enough experience on paper.”
From working in retail at Apple to HR to marketing, Camela’s ‘non-traditional’ sales background has never held her back: “In the end, you can’t be scared to go for something”.
Being a fearless female is in Camela’s DNA, and we sat down to find out how that’s helped her develop into the talented sales professional she is today.
Did you have a plan after uni?
I studied a Bachelor of HR and Marketing, and my plan was to apply for a raft of different jobs and hope someone would be willing to give me a chance. That’s the challenging part for any graduate or uni student – finding a workplace that will take you on in the early stages of your career. It’s why I think grad programs, like the ones Salesforce offer, are fantastic – they help you learn and grow quickly. But I’m also a firm believer in gaining experience in small organisations early on because you can take on a lot more responsibility.
Is that why your first post-uni job was with a small HR consultancy company?
It’s part of the reason. It was just me and the owner of the business, so I ended up gaining a lot of experience – from learning how to be a consultant to how to run a small business.
What great exposure! How has that experience helped you succeed in sales?
All of my previous roles have given me skills that are useful in sales. While I was at uni I worked part-time in a retail job at Apple, which taught me the customer skills needed to succeed in sales. When you’re dealing with people from all walks of life, you quickly learn how to defuse a situation and set the right expectations early to deliver a positive outcome for a customer.
Then when I moved into marketing after being in HR, I managed everything from events, region-wide marketing collateral and design work. It was a lot of responsibility for someone quite young and new in their career, but it meant I reported directly to the C-suite. Knowing how to communicate with senior management and key decision makers is a valuable skill in the sales world.
Why is it important to know how to communicate to senior stakeholders?
You want to be able to cut through all the noise of their day. The C-suite has so much going on so you need to be different, and understand how to say things in a clear and concise manner. If you can’t do that, your messaging and pitch will be lost and your opportunity to close a deal gone with it.
It sounds like you had a fairly established career. What attracted you to apply for a grad role at Salesforce?
Because I didn’t have any sales experience I thought I would need to come in at a grad level. While it could seem like a step back, in hindsight it really isn’t. What’s a year or so in the grand scheme of your entire career?
Plus, I really wanted to move into the tech industry. It’s forward-thinking, fast-paced and constantly evolving – everything I’m about – and Salesforce had the X-factor: a solid purpose. A company willing to invest in employee volunteer days, back important social causes, and allow employees the opportunity to work in and give back to their communities is incredible.
Tech is seen as a male-dominated industry, have you faced any challenges because of your gender?
Within Salesforce? Not at all. Salesforce is very progressive in the way it handles diversity and bridging the gap. But for the industry in general, I do think there’s more to be done, even really simple things such as amending job descriptions to be gender neutral. There’s a mind shift that needs to happen – I think we’re slowly getting there and the industry is finding ways to support women in tech.
What advice do you have for women wanting to get into sales and the tech industry?
Band together! We have a Women’s Network internally at Salesforce, which is great in terms of supporting each other, but we also need to band together outside of the office. We want the industry to be a welcoming environment and for women to feel empowered to give it a shot.
Finding a mentor should also be priority – and this goes for both men and women. I think it’s important to share how you’re feeling and your aspirations, and to have someone there to help navigate you through the process.
How did you progress so quickly at Salesforce?
It’s been a mixture of hard work and dedication. I’m a big believer in having those big life goals and having measurable steps along the way. So I work out what metrics I need to hit on a yearly level, break that down to monthly and weekly metrics, and work out how many calls or meetings I have to set per day to help me achieve this.
No matter what comes up, you’ll always find me on the last day of the month setting my professional and personal goals.
I also wouldn’t be where I am without speaking to people and networking within the business. There is so much value in collaborating and learning from others, and I’ve been lucky to have had different mentors for different reasons – who’ve all helped me achieve my goals.
The great thing about Salesforce is everyone is so friendly, intelligent and different, you can always find something valuable and inspiring from whoever you speak to.
How has Salesforce transformed your life personally and professionally?
Previously I used to present myself as ‘Camela Prouzos the employee’, and not share the person behind the professional persona. Salesforce has taught me it’s okay to share the person behind it all and talk about how I’m feeling at work. Some days are great, some days are a bit tougher than others, but we’re all in this together and the more we can share, the better off we all are.
Can you share the greatest career advice you have learnt so far?
To always back yourself. As a young professional, it’s so easy to doubt yourself due to lack of experience, especially in the early stages of your career. And while you may not have 20 years’ experience, it’s good to remember you come with a different lens and mindset – and that’s just as important to a business as experience.
Want to blaze your own trail in a career at Salesforce? Find out how here.