koa

Koa Club Spotlight - Catherine Nichols

 
 

May 28, 2021

Theresa Ludvigson
& T.J. Vilardi

 

“Catherine Nichols is a Champion of Accessibility”

Meet Salesforce Koa Club member, Catherine Nichols. Catherine has been at the company going on 15 years! You won’t want to miss the story of her incredible Salesforce journey.
 

Getting Started at Salesforce

Catherine came to Salesforce in 2006 after working at both Ernst & Young and Intuit in their Business Continuity departments. Salesforce, at the time, did not have any business continuity or crisis management program in place. Catherine, who joined Jim Cavalieri’s team when she was hired, saw the opportunity to come to a relatively young company at the time and build an entirely new program from the ground up. Her and Jim both knew that there was a ton of work to be done. “Yes, we had a lot of work to do, but the company was so young that we were still really spread thin. I would go to New York one week to hand out bagels and access badges to employees, then I would fly back to San Francisco and go create the business continuity and crisis management program,” said Catherine.

In Catherine’s early years at Salesforce, she also oversaw the buildout of the CAREforce program.

CAREforce is a comprehensive employee safety engagement program. “The program was built to encourage all employees to take steps to protect their personal safety as well as the health and safety of those around them, in the workplace, at home, and while traveling,” she told us. And if that wasn’t enough of an accomplishment for her, Catherine then went on to oversee our Global Operations (GO) Center. The GO Center is staffed twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week and forms the first line of recognition and response to all incidents that directly impact or potentially impact the employees, business, brand or Salesforce as a whole.

Her Inflection Point

Now, let’s fast forward to around 3 years ago. Catherine experienced significant loss in her life when her father, William Callahan, whom was a paraplegic, passed away. Catherine told us, “After his passing, I knew I wanted to find a way to honor him by getting closer to the community of people with disabilities. I wanted to see where I could make a difference in the community. My dad lived in Colorado and wrote an article for the Daily Camera called ‘Curb Cuts’ about and bringing awareness to accessibility issues.” At Salesforce, Catherine saw an opportunity to honor her father by starting the local chapter of the company’s equality group, Abilityforce. From there, Catherine applied and was elected to be the Vice President (VP) of Abilityforce at the global level. 
Catherine Nichols with her father, William “Cal” Callahan who sitting in his electric wheelchair.
After being accepted into the role, Catherine wanted to take her passion for accessibility to even greater heights. “Abilityforce made a pitch to executives to create an official Office of Accessibility, and under Amy Weaver’s leadership, the team successfully launched the Office of Accessibility in 2019. This office was brand new and they were hiring and I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to combine my program development skills with my passion for accessibility and inclusion of people with disabilities. So I applied and started working as the Senior Director of Accessibility programs in December of 2019,” Catherine told us.
2019 Abilityforce Leadership Team in the Salesforce Office. Team members are wearing Abilityforce logo and Accessibility = Inclusion blue tshirts.

Advice for Other Salesforce Employees

Even though Catherine was onboarded to Salesforce over 14 years ago, we wanted to see if she had any advice for all of the new hires that will be joining the company this year. She told us, “The advice I always give people is that, at Salesforce, there is everything you could ever imagine offered to you as an employee. Find out what you are passion about, what interests you the most, and then dive right into those areas.” What about for those employees that have been here a bit longer and may be near their 5 year anniversary milestone, did Catherine have advice for them? You bet! She told us, “You know, I am sure you are getting contacted by recruiters at other companies and you may be getting that itch to leave and try something new, believe me, I get the same exact itch sometimes. However, for me, it takes me taking a step back and realizing all that Salesforce has to offer. Lean into our Equality Groups, raise your hand to try something new on your team, and don’t be afraid to take risks.”

Wellbeing and Giving Back

Like most Salesforce employees (or at least it seems), Catherine bought a Peloton for her home gym (garage) to keep up with her wellbeing during this new virtual world. “Yes, I bought a Peloton but I am also part of the Salesforce Peloton channel on Slack. Wellbeing for me has to do a lot with community and connection. That Slack channel has so many employees that are riding every day and pushing each other,” said Catherine. And if you want, you can follow her on the bike by searching @ChattyCatty.

In regards to giving back, this is something Catherine takes very seriously as well. She told us, “When I first started at Salesforce almost 15 years ago, I used to take one day a week to go out and volunteer at a San Francisco public school. I was able to do one on one reading with the students that were in communal living arrangements. I also volunteered a lot in the kindergarten classroom. The flexibility to volunteer as often as I do, is a lot of what has kept me at Salesforce through the years.”

Catherine Nichols working with children in a kindergarten classroom.

Koa Club

When asked what excites her for another year in Koa Club, Catherine told us, “this year is my 15 year anniversary and it’s a big one. It is my next milestone at the company and I am so excited to have made it this far at a company I love. My new team has also never met in person, being that they were all hired during the pandemic, so I can't wait to all get together in person.”

Here are the ways to learn more about Accessibility:

  • Learn on Trailhead: Take a trail on Trailhead to learn why it’s important to make technology accessible to everyone and the best practices for authoring accessible content.
  • Join the conversation on Twitter: Find us, @SalesforceA11y, to get the latest on product accessibility news, community happenings, and other inclusion-related topics.
  • Contact Us: OfficeofAccessibility@Salesforce.com

Want to learn more about Catherine’s career journey? Check out her career on Linkedin

 

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