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, 15x 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, which can be found here.
I recently had a conversation with an important man in my life about how he thought I should balance my work obligations and family time. It was a simple chat, but it really got me thinking. As a working parent, juggling a career and family responsibilities can be stressful, but somehow, we manage it.
But when you’re part of Salesforce’s Ohana — a growing community extending beyond employees to professionals, partners, and customers — work also brings with it “extra-curricular” activities that I do because I want to, not because I have to. I perceived this man’s comment to imply that getting involved in this community just didn’t fit into my life as a mother.
Feeling a little bruised, I inspected myself after this conversation to take stock of who I really am: an engaged Salesforce professional, an active co-parent to my young daughter, and a busy Solution Architect at Bluewolf with an important certification ahead of me. I asked myself a couple of fundamental questions: Is it just my inner critic who’s saying that I’m an awful mother for going to an evening career event, even though childcare is covered? Or am I really getting my priorities wrong after all?
To provide more context, it’s important to know that I've been divorced from my daughter's father for two years and that we have an arrangement that enables us to share her care 50-50. Conveniently, he lives about two miles away from me, so I have her for a week, then he has her for a week, and she goes to school in the village where I live. I won’t lie, I’ve felt judged for this arrangement before, which means I watch my daughter closely for signs of disharmony. But all the evidence suggests that Mollie is thriving: her teacher reports that she’s happy, she looks forward to seeing both parents, and she is doing well in school.
I know that some people may feel that when I have Mollie, I should focus my time 100% on her. I should always be at home and present for her when she’s staying with me and avoid going to evening events during those times.
This may seem reasonable, but sometimes it’s not that easy. For instance, I cannot influence event dates. Some of the events I attend regularly — London Women in Tech, London’s Calling, Salesforce World Tour, the London Admin User Group, and the London Developer User Group — are regularly held on weeks when Mollie stays with me.
Initially, I made a habit of using my family as an excuse to not attend or get further involved in these communities, only to find myself wistfully reading the tweets later about how great the event was and how much people learned, and wishing I had gone.
My perspective on this completely changed last year after attending a fantastic event at the Salesforce Tower in London to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Salesforce Supermums, a program run by Heather Black to enable mothers to work more flexibly while caring for their children. The event speakers that evening — MVPs Ines Garcia and Louise Lockie — got me questioning why I’d been holding myself back all this time. I was reminded of the insight I took away from Tony Robbins’ inspiring keynote at Dreamforce 2016: it all starts with you. Be resourceful and you can make it work.
I realized that I could find a better way to get more involved in the professional communities that matter to me and still be the type of “mum” I wanted to be. So I resolved to step up my game up. I continued to blog as I tackled the architect certification journey and decided to start the Ladies Be Architects group in the Trailblazer Community to bring like-minded women together. Our monthly study groups give us the opportunity to support, mentor, encourage, and celebrate each other's successes in our common goal of earning the Certified Technical Architect credential. I also started tweeting more after spending a few days with my fellow Bluewolf pack member and MVP, Melinda Smith. And now, I’ve made even more amazing friends, both virtually and in person.
In the last year, my whole life has been enriched by that one piece of advice: that it all starts with me.
Everything came full circle one night when I told Mollie I’d be presenting at the London Developer User Group meeting and she asked me to send her a photo. When I sent it, she told me she was proud.
This filled me with joy from top to bottom. I want to raise my daughter to understand that having a passion in life is important, that there’s a point to going to school and learning different topics so that she’s qualified to choose the best career path for her. I explained to her that there’s great satisfaction and achievement from a job that supports your family and is something you care about.
As for Mollie, she loves the stickers, toys, and clothing I bring home for her from the events I attend. She’s already the proud six-year-old owner of a unicorn Astro sticker and badge. She even has her very own little Trailblazer hoodie (though she would prefer it in pink!).
I firmly believe that it’s easier to achieve your goals if you realize that often the only thing holding you back is yourself. For me, I’ve had to actively shed what I perceived as others’ expectations of me. Now I know that participating doesn’t mean I’m less maternal or that I don’t value family time. When we are together, we talk, laugh, hug, listen to music, and explore technology together. I’m her mum, but that’s not all I am. I am also an independent person with a great career, and part of a wonderful community of Trailblazers. All I had to do was be resourceful to make it work, and so can you.
This article is part of an ongoing series highlighting the many voices and stories that make up Salesforce’s diverse community of Trailblazers. To read more from Gemma, check out her post on the power of bringing your whole self to work here.