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Trailblazer Lakesha Halloway standing back-to-back with character Brandy-the-fox
Take full ownership of your career and gain the skills and experience needed to turn aspirations into reality.
Trailblazer Story

How I Owned My Salesforce Journey To a Dream Marketing Job

All the magic happened for Lakesha Holloway when she committed to her Salesforce journey, and to being part of the Trailblazer Community. Discover how you too can pursue your dream marketing job in the Salesforce ecosystem.

After 20 years in marketing, I thought I’d nearly done it all — SEO, social media website design, event planning, and more. Then “Salesforce discovered me,” as I like to say. I saw a Salesforce presentation while working at a nonprofit, and I was immediately intrigued by the possibilities.

I knew skilling up on the platform could help put me on the path to leadership with a holistic digital marketing skill set, so I started to actively pursue related career opportunities.

Diving into all things Salesforce

I then went to work for a healthcare company that used the Salesforce Platform. It was just before the launch of Lightning. I was very excited to dive in, but I quickly found it was hard to make the right connections within the organization, and it was challenging to get the necessary training.

I felt alone — but I did my best. Dividing my attention between CRM, social, web, and paid media meant I never got an opportunity to dedicate my full attention to the platform.

I finally had the chance to feed my CRM passion.

When I landed my next position at a media company, I was given the opportunity to do a Marketing Cloud implementation. I finally had the chance to feed my CRM passion. But my attention was still divided, because I was managing multiple websites and the organization’s email program, too. Shortly after that implementation, my leader asked me to focus in a different direction: websites and the product management side of my job.

But I pushed back.

Dictating my own career

I wanted to focus on Salesforce and wasn’t going to let someone else dictate my career. It was then I realized that I was the only person in charge of paving my path.

Participation in Trailblazer Mentorship paired me with a mentor who helped fine-tune my career goals. We discussed my 20-year career and how I could design the next phase. My mentor shared a wealth of experience, and I discovered other paths I could take, like Data Architect. This program allowed me to continue to build my career development plan and a backup plan.

Ultimately, I decided to find an organization and role where my sole focus was Salesforce. I joined Atrium Health when they had just completed an implementation of Health Cloud and Marketing Cloud. I was thrilled to dedicate myself entirely to the platform. It was like someone gave me a playground and full autonomy to build the program.

My leader had complete trust in me, and I paid it back by dedicating my time to becoming the expert. I’m now 3x-certified as a Marketing Cloud Administrator, Marketing Cloud Email Specialist, and Certified Administrator. I used my deep understanding of consumer journeys, consumer preferences, and preference management — which I learned through my hands-on experience with Salesforce — to thrive in this new role.

A #MomentMarketer is born

I like to say all the magic happened when I committed to my Salesforce journey, and to being part of the Trailblazer Community — learning, connecting, and giving back with fellow marketers — was a major catalyst.

We can’t do this alone — we need a community to continue to grow, share ideas, and make connections and life-long friendships.

At the beginning of my Salesforce journey, I had been pretty lost until a colleague told me about a local Salesforce Admin Group. After attending for a few months, I knew I needed to start a marketing group. We can’t do this alone — we need a community to continue to grow, share ideas, and make connections and lifelong friendships.

So I started the Salesforce Marketer Group in Charlotte, North Carolina. We meet quarterly to share product expertise and ideas, best practices, connections, and mentorship. The shared learning and connections make us all better marketers and people. The Trailblazer Community has helped me grow into the #MomentMarketer I am today. I started sharing my knowledge through speaking engagements, earning certifications, and connecting with amazing Trailblazers along the way.

Stepping up as a leader

In less than 2 years, I was promoted to digital director! My leadership determined that I was the best person for the position because of my well-rounded digital marketing experience.

Black women need to see other black women climbing and breaking glass ceilings, and know that they can be next.

And I recently realized my dream of inspiring fellow marketers during the Connections ’21 Keynote.

I do this for other women, especially women of color, who will come after me. When I got promoted, I received a message from a colleague that said, “I’m not only happy for you, I’m happy for us!” Black women need to see other black women climbing and breaking glass ceilings, and know that they can be next. Representation truly matters, and it’s so important that women of color see other women of color rising in the workplace.

[My son] is watching my every step… and I’m proud to be an example that he doesn’t have to let life happen to him. He knows he can take charge of his career one day, too.

Best of all, my son, who is now 6 years old, is watching my every step. He knows Atrium Health and Salesforce and truly lights up when he sees both because he knows mommy is happy and thriving in her career. I’m proud to be an example that he doesn’t have to let life happen to him. He knows he can take charge of his career one day, too.

Seven ways to supercharge your marketing career

My journey is about taking full ownership of my career and gaining the necessary skills and experience to turn my aspirations into reality. I made it happen, and so can you!

Here’s my best advice for fellow Trailblazers who want to build successful marketing careers:

  1. Own your path.
    If you want to take on marketing leadership roles or supercharge your career, own your path. Even if leadership or those around you try to redirect you, know and own what you want. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I had listened to someone else and allowed them to direct my career.
  2. Get clear about your career journey.
    Before I got the senior CRM and personalization strategist position, I wrote a job description of everything I wanted in my next role. When I got the job, I was amazed at how similar my description and the actual job description were. Make sure you’re clear about what you want and use it to evaluate new opportunities.
  3. Skill up by earning Trailhead badges.
    In my previous role, I needed to understand how our implementation partner set up flows, reports, and automation. I immersed myself in Trailhead, earning badges and working on projects to build my understanding.
  4. Pursue Salesforce Certifications.
    Certifications validate your skill set and expertise. Having the credentials to verify my knowledge was very helpful in my pursuit of new opportunities, and the same is true for many.
  5. Set learning goals and schedule time.
    When I was really diving into Trailhead and earning certifications, I created a calendar of what I wanted to study each week and scheduled times to make it happen.
  6. Find your community.
    The lessons I’ve learned and the ideas that have come from connecting with peers have been pivotal in helping me get new roles. So, look for Community Groups in your area and join the Trailblazer Community online to find your people. The Marketing Trailblazers group and #MomentMarketer on social are both fun, easy ways to start!
  7. Appreciate, appreciate, appreciate. Someone who’s currently on my team encouraged me to apply for the digital director role. She said, “I always knew there was a possibility that you could be my boss.” I consistently let her know that I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her help. Supporters are all around us — let them know you value and appreciate them.

#FutureCMO

I recently received a text from a business partner — it had my picture on it and said #FutureCMO. Before that, I hadn’t thought about the possibility of being a chief marketing officer. But when I saw it, something leaped in me and I thought, wow, they see that before I do.

I know there are more leadership opportunities on the horizon. Those around me see it, and it’s something I’ve realized I want — so I own that as a future ambition! But right now, I’m focusing 100% of my professional life and energy on my new role, using my Salesforce knowledge and everything I’ve acquired throughout my career to take our digital experience and platforms to the next level.

Check out my favorite resources!

Follow Lakesha on the Trailblazer Community at trailblazer.me/id/lakeshaholloway.

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