As the media regularly disparages her generation for being too fickle in their employment choices, too keen to hop between jobs and too impatient to work their way up the corporate ladder, Rebecca Summerhayes has been busily and quietly proving them wrong.
In her very first job, as an ‘animal attendant’ at a pet store, she had to be at work at 5am every day to feed the animals, clean out their pens and wash the puppies. She was just 14 years old and earned $6 an hour before heading off to school each day. But even as her friends slept in, she saw the positive side of working.
“It not only gave me the opportunity to spend heaps of time with animals and take dogs home each weekend, but I also got to know a lot of people working in the Westfield centre,” she says. “I got jobs at other stores, including Boost Juice, Jeanswest, Aldo Shoes and General Pants – it kept me in work all through school and university.”
After graduating from a Bachelor of Business Studies degree in 2012 and taking a small break to travel, Rebecca jumped straight back into employment with major occupational rehabilitation firm Injury Treatment (now called Acumen Health). Her first taste of corporate life taught her a lot.
“I had to mature quite quickly,” she admits. “I got to work with a lot of different people of all ages and from different backgrounds. I was able to establish a really good work ethic and the CEO trusted that.”
So much so, that she took on extra responsibilities quite quickly and grew her role – at one point Rebecca was doing the work that had previously been done by three people.
“I realised I just had to be a bit resilient, earn my stripes and make sure I was always adding value to the business.”
After two-and-a-half years of rapid progression, Rebecca’s career couldn’t grow further at Acumen Health without a clinical background.
“I started thinking about what kind of industry I’d be interested in and where I would find a lot of opportunity,” Rebecca says. “I was keen to get into sales as I enjoy speaking to people and businesses, and thrive as an individual contributor. I work well to KPIs and metrics too, as I can be a bit competitive and I want to constantly improve.”
Having already seen the positive aspects of staying with a particular business, Rebecca wanted to find a role to commit to for multiple years, so finding work that would be rewarding and remain interesting was an important consideration.
“I saw that the technology industry was never going to stop changing and evolving, and saw that I could do really meaningful work, helping businesses with their current and future challenges,” she says.
Rebecca was introduced to Salesforce, and spoke with a lot of family and friends in different industries to find out what people thought of the company and whether she was likely to find opportunities to grow her career.
“The role was to be the first Business Development Associate (BDA) locally,” Rebecca recalls of that period when she was considering her options. “There were BDA teams globally, but not here in Sydney. Knowing that I would be one of the first people on the local BDA team, I thought the chance to build my way up from there was very interesting”
What skills from previous experience did you feel you could apply at Salesforce?
I’m pretty personable and I work well in a team environment. I thought that would set me up well here and teamwork has turned out to be one of the biggest contributors to success in my current role.
Customers, internal and external, come to us expecting solutions, so we need to work together really well, to be really solution-focused and think about the end goal to find the best solutions. We need to be authentic and confident in dealing with people, and to be adaptable and flexible in dealing with change.
You’ve been with Salesforce almost three years, and there are already five Salesforce roles listed on your LinkedIn profile. How did that happen?
I’ve met some of the brightest people here, who I’ve been able to learn so much from to help me develop new skill sets, make quite good money and progress my career – so I’ve done that as quickly as I can!.
Within sales development, we have three roles – Business Development Associate (BDA), Sales Development Representative (SDR) and Business Development Representative (BDR) – with the pathway through each mapped out. My standard day in any of these roles began with a big breakfast, then a team huddle to go through the focus for the day or week. We’d build out our email templates for target industries or accounts, and I’d attend internal meetings with my account executives or other teams I was working with.
No matter what else is happening, there’s consistent enablement of some sort and lots of calls on the sales floor – the whole level is always full of energy!
Along with the advice, mentoring and collaborative nature of the team, the path from BDA to SDR to BDR helps sales reps build the skills and experience to progress from sales support through to inside sales.
Obviously you need to have a certain tenure and hit all of your metrics to progress, but if you’ve exceeded your metrics before the set amount of months, you’re able to interview early for the next job. I was lucky enough to do so in my first three roles. I also got to spend a lot of time with people I looked up to, and I knew they’d have some kind of influence on my next role. I wanted to ensure I was always making strong connections with people in different areas of the business as I never knew who I’d be working with in the future.
Those connections internally, and externally with customers – as well as experience in various roles – make me excited about what the potential is for the future. With the amount of growth in the business, any kind of opportunity could come up next.
Where do you see yourself next?
It’s still early days – I’ve only been in my current role for four months. I’m really focused on nailing this current job and make sure I’m a valued team member so I have greater opportunity and multiple options moving forward. I’d be pretty excited to one day move to one of our other offices, perhaps in Europe, and be exposed to a completely different culture, learn a different language and see what the market is like in a different region.
Has Salesforce taken you out of your comfort zone?
Absolutely! When I was a BDR I found presenting and public speaking quite a nerve-wracking experience.
Then I was approached by management to speak on a panel alongside a few of our account executives. It was a networking night for potential candidates to come into sales development, with about 60 people there. I was quite nervous, but it really helped me as I moved forward into the next role.
In November last year I also went to Cambodia and helped build a house for a young family with Volunteer Building Cambodia, along with about 12 other Salesforce employees from Sydney, New York, Dublin and Amsterdam. It was quite an eye-opening experience, realising everything that we take for granted in Australia. But being able to give back, to spend time with people in that community and to hang out with people from different cultures was amazing.
I know it’s something that everyone mentions, but it’s the culture that makes Salesforce somewhere I want to stay. We talk about being able to be our authentic selves at work – and it really shows through. Everybody is so supportive of every individual.
It’s clear that the business doesn’t want people to leave, and offers you everything you need to be successful.
We’ve recently been named the Best Place to Work in Australia for the second year running, and that is really a testament to my experience here – there’s so much that goes into making this somewhere I want to turn up and do my best work every day.
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