How two trailblazing women are creating a dynamic space for Black Trailblazers to tell their stories and inspire a global audience.
There’s power in storytelling. Whether it’s being done to set the record straight or shed light on the unknown, its impact spans far and wide. This is why, in an ecosystem that’s overwhelmingly occupied by Trailblazers, Salesforce has prioritized sharing their stories.
This Women’s History Month, we’re telling the stories of two of Salesforce’s most dynamic storytellers, Leah McGowen-Hare, SVP Trailblazer Community, and Vatora Godwin, Social & Video Associate Manager.
Through trials and triumphs
It’s through the sharing of the trials and triumphs of our Trailblazers that we hope to transform careers, companies, and communities around the world. We believe storytelling is a unique and powerful vehicle that can amplify the voice of its subject, influence the hearts of those who bear witness, and inspire the minds of the next generation of Trailblazers.
In the new Salesforce+ series, Trailblazer, viewers are introduced to five Black leaders and their inspiring stories of transformation and giving back. Series co-creators Leah and Vatora recognize that in passing the mic to these Black leaders, they’re spearheading a positive force within the Trailblazer Community.
Especially with regard to the essential reminder that representation matters.
Leah and Vatora share some of the most impactful parts of their journeys and how those moments got them from there to here. In turn, they’re creating a powerful space for Black Trailblazers to tell their stories and inspire a global audience.
Mentorship and representation
Vatora has supported various parts of Salesforce’s business since joining in 2014. Over the years, she’s let her passion guide her, which has proven to be incredibly rewarding. She’s held positions in sales and events, but now, she’s leveraging her passion for film and turning it into a role designed specifically for her.
It wasn’t until Vatora saw another Black woman Trailblazer that she allowed herself to dream of what she’d later turn into a reality. Vatora recalls, “I never saw myself, a Black woman, on a stage at a tech company in front of thousands of people until I saw Leah [McGowen-Hare] in this fly dress strutting in, looking like she was going to a ball.”
Since then, Leah has served as an example and close mentor for Vatora, encouraging her to be vocal about her aspirations and becoming her advocate and sponsor as she pursued her passion for filmmaking.
“I knew how powerful it was for me to see that representation on stage, and I knew it was equally important for other Black professionals to see themselves as well.”VATORA GODWIN, SOCIAL & VIDEO ASSOCIATE MANAGER
Vatora’s career is a testament to the power of representation and mentorship. “Leah was intelligent, enthusiastic, and completely owning her power. That’s when I thought, as a Black woman in tech, maybe I should have bigger visions of what I see for myself.”
The power of allyship
Leah has paved the way as a technologist with a passion for teaching, giving back, and making learning accessible to all. With more than 20 years experience, Leah has worked as a developer, technical trainer, and consultant, among other roles. She’s a champion for equality and volunteers with Black Girls Code, Girls Who Code, Salesforce Military, Hidden Genius Project, and other organizations.
As a Black woman in tech, she’s been changing the narrative of what it means to follow your dreams since before joining Salesforce. But as a “first,” she didn’t have someone like herself to learn from.
I’d never seen a Black woman talking about technology on these stages, so for me, allyship is what propelled me to these new heights that I hadn’t been able to see for myself.”Leah McGowen-Hare, SVP Trailblazer Community
Salesforce’s President & Chief Marketing Officer, Sarah Franklin, recognized Leah’s talent and encouraged her to step onto the big stage. Leah recalls, “Sarah put me on my first main stage, and she also pushed for this Trailblazer series.”
She continues, “Sometimes it takes people outside of your own circle to see you without all the limitations that you see for yourself. For me, that was my story. I didn’t have the blueprint. Somebody else saw me and said, ‘All right. I want you to try something new.’”
Salesforce’s Trailblazer series—and why it matters
Sarah also supported Leah and Vatora’s vision for a docu-series to amplify the inspiring work of our Black Trailblazers and to show more professionals of color the vast career opportunities available within the Salesforce ecosystem.
“Film is a powerful medium. It makes it possible to see what you can be. That’s how that story manifested into this docu-series.”VATORA GODWIN, SOCIAL & VIDEO ASSOCIATE MANAGER
“We knew exactly which Trailblazers we wanted to feature for this season. They were already doing the work,” says Vatora. “They were in the community, leveraging the tools to advance their careers and pulling others up with them.”
The world is changing. According to the digital skills index, only 31% of Gen Z survey respondents believe they have the advanced digital workplace skills needed by businesses today. The Trailblazer series aims to help future generations see their potential—that it’s possible for anyone to skill up, get certified, land a high-paying career in tech, and build generational wealth.
The series also provided these Trailblazers the opportunity to go deep on topics that matter most. In the Trailblazer series, we meet:
- Tiffany Spencer, an advocate for inclusion in tech.
- Brian Owens, a firm believer in lifting as we climb.
- Marciana Davis, a coder who understands the value of lifelong learning.
- Marquita Sibide, an expert at reinvention.
- Aaron McGriff, a champion of building generational wealth.
For jobseekers, this series will encourage you to begin your journey toward a successful career in tech. For those already in tech, this series will encourage you to reach for new heights you may not have dreamed of yet. “We need to put more of these stories out into the world, so people can see themselves in technology,” says Leah.
We need to see Black technologists talking about their careers and their journeys. It’s important for us to amplify that visualization because it makes a world of a difference in how you see yourself. That is what this series is about.”Leah McGowen-Hare, SVP Trailblazer Community
Watching how these leaders took action will undoubtedly inspire us all to take action in our own careers and communities. Because changing the world is everyone’s business. Trailblazers drive that change, and we all have the ability to blaze trails.
As we take inspiration from these leaders and create our own unique paths, it will serve us all to consider: What will my Trailblazer story be?