Charly Prinsloo is a 16x-certified Salesforce Architect who lives in Dripping Springs, Texas with her husband, Eksteen, two kids, and two 4-legged dog-kids. In her spare time, Charly loves being with her family, supporting her kids at their lacrosse games, volleyball games, and Girl Scout campouts. As a family, they love fishing, camping, and spending tons of time outdoors. Here, she shares with us a little about her own Salesforce journey as well as why it's made such a huge impact on her – and her family's – life.
"Can a man change the stars?"
"Yes William. If he believes enough, a man can do anything!"
- A Knight's Tale
I'm often asked how I got started with Salesforce. My response: I always shrug and say it's a loooong story (with a bit of a sigh, for added effect). But it really is. It's a story filled with failure and triumph just as much as it's a story of perseverance and uncertainty. And it's about time I share it. My hope is that it helps others see how anything is really possible when you have hope, love, and guts. Not to mention, you have to believe in yourself.
In 1995, I finished high school in South Africa and decided to travel for two years to figure out what to do with my life. I spent a lot of time in the U.K. and Europe. I worked in pubs. I moonlighted as a security guard at the Barbican in London. I picked fruit on farms and cared for the elderly in rural England. I was living life to the fullest – and living life day by day. I had no idea as to what was coming next.
At the end of my two-year working visa, I didn't want to return home. So, I got a full scholarship to study nursing at South Bank University in London. However, as young people do, I made some less-than-wise choices: I got married and never finished my degree.
So, there you have it – a newlywed with no degree and no plan. That's when I decided it was time to return to South Africa to see what was there for me. I did some temp work to keep me occupied while I sorted my life out. Then, as fate would have it, I got hired by my first mentor to be a Business Development Assistant at a global CRO firm. This also meant that I had to pretend to "know" Excel – and how to use a computer for that matter. Fortunately, I'm a quicker learner, and my (patient) mentor was a great teacher.
In early 2005, our U.S.-based headquarters rolled out Salesforce for our Sales team. And was the product ugly back then! (To put it into context, this was even before Salesforce "classic" was a thing.) It was green with a weird font. Just really ugly. (Please, no offense Salesforce – we've made a lot of progress since then!).
At that time, I was chosen as a local champion for our team in the EMEA region and was sent for Salesforce training in Raleigh, North Carolina. That's the moment I fell in love with Salesforce.
Old (and ugly) error message in Salesforce in October 2009
A few months after the roll-out, I heard one of my bosses complaining (loudly) about the Leads page. And the reports. And that the reps couldn’t find their data. And the list kept going on. So, I fiddled with the product, clicked "setup" (why on Earth did I have admin rights?), then went on an edit-and-save spree. Voilà. My first custom configuration was complete. Back in those days, there was very little information available on customizing Salesforce. I just did what I thought would work – and hoped for the best. (Fortunately, it worked!)
I was instantly smitten and wanted to learn more about Salesforce. So later that year, a friend and I scraped together some money and registered for the Salesforce Admin course in London. We took the L2 exam afterward. I passed and got my first official Salesforce certification. (cue: happy dance)
I was fortunate enough to get to know a lot of people within the Salesforce EMEA Sales team when I got my first certification. It wasn't long before I met the head of the team. He planted a seed in my head that would soon change everything: he asked me if I would be interested in being a Salesforce consulting partner – that is, the first one ever to be based in South Africa!
Let's cut back for a second to my personal life. At that time, I was a single mom with a four-year-old son, a steady job, and no real desire to change anything in my life. I had split up with my then-husband and finally had a plan for my future. Things were going really well, and I couldn’t just quit my job and start a consultancy firm. Or could I?
I didn’t have an MBA – like many "entrepreneurs" did at the time – or any experience running a business. However, I always loved a challenge and firmly believed that everything happens for a reason. So, after saying a lot of prayers and getting my parents’ undivided support, I quit my job in 2006 and started my own consulting firm.
The next eight years were part of an incredible journey. My small consulting firm grew, winning amazing projects like the South African Tourism Service Cloud implementation for the FIFA 2010 World Cup. But with growth comes challenge. The biggest challenge was not being able to find any skilled Salesforce practitioners – they just didn't exist in South Africa at the time. Instead, I had to look for like-minded adventure-seekers and then train them on everything I knew. At one point, we were a staff of 20 in my small firm, all with Salesforce certifications but with a desire to learn something new every day. Today, I am so proud that most of them are working in senior positions around the world as Salesforce Admins, Developers, Architects, Consultants, and Executives. We've all come a long way!
Still, we made a lot of mistakes in the beginning. But we made a lot of magic, too. By late 2013, the members of my team were regularly being recruited for big, high-paying positions. And then the projects started drying up. We didn't have the know-how to compete with the fast-growing Salesforce market. So, after eight wonderful years in operation, we decided to close our doors. If we couldn't beat them, we would join them – and so we joined Deloitte's new Salesforce practice in Johannesburg. But the journey doesn't stop there.
Joining Deloitte opened my eyes to so much more than I could have ever expected. I learned about business, strategy, and networking. I had opportunities to take my skills to the next level. It also was afforded the luxury of being able to move into a technical role.
Attending the 2013 Salesforce World Tour event in Johannesburg (I’m second from the left).
At my old firm, I wore many hats: Business Analyst, Functional Lead, Architect, Project Manager, Developer, and Tester. I now had a chance to reinvent myself as a Technical Lead and focus squarely on the ins and outs of Salesforce's architecture. It was at this point in 2013 that I started to think about becoming a CTA (Certified Technical Architect) – something that I’m still working on to this day.
In late 2017, I wanted to meet other like-minded, wanna-be-CTAs. The thought had crossed my mind to start a group for women like me: women who understand the joys of juggle full-time jobs, families, and womanhood while simultaneously working hard to climb the CTA mountain. To my surprise and delight, Gemma (@gemziebeth) had just started the LadiesBeArchitects user group. I found my home. Today, I am a co-lead for the group. Our primary goal is to help each other to become better architects. We study together. We chat for hours about the obstacles we face. We inspire one another with our journeys. It’s really so wonderful to not be alone on the #JourneyToCTA and to have a group of ladies (and men, too!) who support me every day, with every step I take on this journey.
Gemma and my LadiesBeArchitects avatars.
I am also incredibly blessed that Deloitte supports and encourages my #JourneyToCTA as well. The company gives me endless opportunities to get hands-on experience in architect domains on a daily basis. Just recently, for example, I got to attend my first Dreamforce with Deloitte. My boss even would text me questions from the CTA exam guide to help me study. I mean, how great is that?
My first Dreamforce, #DF2016
Looking back on my entire life journey, I can honestly say that I wouldn't change a thing. Salesforce gave me the incredible opportunity to build a career out of nothing, to employ so many amazing and talented people for eight years, to change people's lives, to change my own life, to travel the world, and to meet so many new people. These are all experiences that would have otherwise never had if it had not been for Salesforce stumbling into my life. Salesforce gave me a career, a plan, and a path. That's the true power of Salesforce. I am and will be forever grateful.