Gemma Emmett is a Trailblazer who has been Salesforcing since 2008, starting out as an Admin and working her way up to her current role as a Solution Architect at Bluewolf. She’s also a wife, mother, and determined survivor of breast cancer. She’s earned over 200 badges on Trailhead, 15 certifications, and is currently working towards her Certified Technical Architect credential. Gemma founded the community group Ladies Be Architects, which aims to build confidence in women studying to be Salesforce Architects. This article is an adaptation from Gemma’s personal blog.
I’ve always found it strange that the professional norm is to keep your personal life separate and locked away. When I first started working as a Salesforce Admin in 2008, I knew that being a successful consultant would come down to building great relationships. What I didn’t yet appreciate was the deep impact that bringing my whole self to work could have on my career.
It took an amazing client, and my own willingness to go out on a limb, to discover how much more I can achieve when I bring all aspects of who I am to a project.
I was working on a Service Cloud implementation project for an absolutely amazing client: a private medical insurer unlike any other I’ve seen in the U.K. This company offers a unique approach to staying healthy through gamification and rewards. But as a business, they struggled to unify critical customer data spread across many systems. A single view of the customer didn’t exist. For example, I noted that an agent I was observing had nine different browser windows open — and this was just for an invoice check!
I was to help this client use Salesforce to better understand their customers, build trust, and create seamless two-way conversations. And I bought right into that goal.
In today’s world, people expect a better customer experience and want to be treated with compassion, especially in healthcare. I could relate to this. When I was 29 years old, breast cancer interrupted my entire world. It couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time; I was getting married, changing jobs, and had a toddler who was teething. But cancer doesn’t care how busy your life is.
At the time, I was privately insured through a company similar to my new client. I made good use of it, gratefully accepting every treatment I was offered: chemotherapy, biological therapy, surgery, radiotherapy, and hormone therapy (in that order). There was no way I was going to leave this world behind. I had far too much to do first.
I was very lucky. I kept my breast and was cancer-free within a year. However, I wouldn’t say I came out of that experience completely unscathed. Life-changing experiences, like cancer, linger for a while afterwards. My life went from being “all-systems-go” during treatment, to “where did everybody go?!” once it was done.
Response to trauma is an incredibly personal thing. I have met many fellow cancer survivors who prefer not to share their experience, and I have a great deal of respect for this decision. Personally, I’ve always been very open about my life. It helps me to talk about my cancer experience, to raise awareness, and to help others facing similar diagnoses. It’s why I started my blog.
So when I found myself working on this implementation project and meeting with the client’s Special Care Team (the team who deals with high-value and long-term medical insurance claims, like cardiac, psychiatric, and oncology), I knew I had to share my story. I decided to use a tactic we use regularly at Bluewolf to make introductions called “Story, Point, Relevance.” It’s a way of introducing yourself in a memorable way by telling a story.
This is what I said:
“Hi, I’m Gemma, and I’m one of the Solution Architects at Bluewolf. I’m also a cancer survivor and a member of a private healthcare insurance plan. I’m really excited to work with you because I’ve been on the other side, and I want to help you realize the vision you’ve set, because I know the difference it will make to people like me.”
Their faces changed as I spoke.
They were immediately engaged, setting a positive tone for the rest of the meeting. I must admit that some of my colleagues were a little uncomfortable, but it was a personal choice that I felt comfortable with. We went on to discuss their business priorities:
Easy claim assessment
Tracking of diagnoses and treatment
Proactive patient support
Understanding of the patient’s emotional response
I was moved to hear that these were their priorities. I learned how much goes on behind the scenes when you're ill. While the people on this team weren’t doctors or nurses, they were caretakers, too. Always backstage, but still critical to helping patients can get better.
Here’s me, furiously taking notes during the discovery session.
By the end of the workshop, I was glad I’d told them about my illness. It helped me make a strong connection with the people in the room, demonstrating that I understood their needs and that my commitment to the project wouldn’t waver. That level of trust endures now as the project continues.
And in that moment, I realized that I'm not just implementing Service Cloud any more. I'm doing so much more than that. I'm part of a team that’s transforming this company's work practices so that they can focus on taking care of their patients.
Who would’ve thought that I’d get the opportunity to turn an incredibly scary personal ordeal into a force for good? My experience working with this client has made me even more passionate about designing new processes with the end user firmly in my thoughts.
No one’s a machine. We have so many valuable life experiences that make up who we are. And we should share those experiences when they’re relevant and when they can be used to make a difference — especially at work.
It’s this willingness to acknowledge the humanity in all of us and bring our whole self to work that sets Salesforce and Bluewolf apart. By changing our attitudes and embracing the true meaning of Ohana, we can all make this world a better place to live and work in. It’s something I plan to continue to do throughout my working life.
This article is part of an ongoing series highlighting the many voices and stories that make up Salesforce’s diverse community of Trailblazers.