With a wraparound service of training, coaching and hands-on experience, Supermums and Slalom UK are equipping a greater number of more diverse talent with the skills they need to succeed in the world of tech. Someone who started her Salesforce training at Supermums and is now employed by Slalom is Trailblazer Denise Atkinson. She held senior leadership positions in retail marketing for 20 years before feeling she needed a change.
Here’s her story.
What did you do before Supermums and why did you decide to retrain?
I was working for a large, multinational manufacturer as a senior marketer, but high street retailing had changed dramatically and so had my job. I wasn’t enjoying it any more and decided to take some time out to retrain. I’d heard about Supermums from several different sources and was curious to find out more.
What attracted you to the Supermums Salesforce Admin course?
Three things stood out. Firstly, I liked the fact that there were people from so many different backgrounds rather than just IT, which created a lovely supportive atmosphere. Secondly, they offered hands-on experience, something I know employers look for. And thirdly, there was a mentoring element, which I thought would be really useful as I navigated this new phase.
It was definitely daunting at the beginning, but that’s where your mentor comes in. Minesh (Patel, a Slalom consultant with 18 years of experience) helped me stick with it and by the end, I absolutely loved it. I could understand how it was really about logical, problem-solving which, added to the communication and collaboration side, is absolutely my skill set.
How much time did you need to find a job and how did the job hunt go?
Unfortunately, Covid hit as soon as I’d finished the Admin certification, and finding a job became tricky. My aim was always to work with Marketing Cloud so I went straight into Supermum’s Marketing Cloud course and then landed my first Salesforce role with charity the Trussell Trust, which works to stop hunger in the UK.
About eight months later, Minesh contacted me to say that Slalom had opened up their Associate Consultant program again which they’d stopped because of Covid. I had always aspired to consultancy life, so I applied for a job on the programme through the normal recruitment channels. After a thorough interview process, Slalom offered me the position. I had an eight-week induction program and then was put on my first client. It turned out to be a retailer that I would have considered a competitor in my former life!
What is Slalom like to work for?
Slalom is amazing to work for. They’re flexible in the times you work and the projects you work on, always offer support and give you the freedom to speak your mind.
It’s also clear that diversity is more than a tickbox exercise for them. They actively want to surround themselves with people with different areas of experience. For example, I work with someone who is deaf and he has a full-time interpreter whenever he needs it. It means that, when you’re approaching problems or you’re dealing with different clients, you’ve got a breadth of experience and views to draw from. You’re not just looking at it from one perspective.
What’s it like to retrain in a different career?
I held several senior marketing positions in my previous career so I was prepared for it to be quite hard to start again. I went from operating in an industry I knew inside out, running meetings and making decisions on how we were going to spend million-pound media budgets, to an Associate Consultant in a completely new sector. But Slalom has always made me feel like I have something extra to offer, that I’m included and that my opinions are valued, to the point where I sometimes get pulled into other meetings if it’s about retail or marketing. They recognise that you’ve had a career before and that your business acumen is valuable.
What do you do now?
I’m in absolute heaven being able to get involved in Marketing Cloud roles for Slalom, especially when the client is a retailer. Retail is such a small world that I knew some of the client stakeholders from my old career!
What has your experience of mentoring been like?
Brilliant. Sometimes there are things you just can’t grasp at first – for whatever reason, the penny doesn’t drop. Having someone who works in that world to put context around the issue, to answer ‘Why would you do it?’ in the real world, makes it easier for me to understand certain things. Having Minesh as a mentor helped me fit all the different pieces together and see the bigger picture.
Now, it’s my turn to give back and mentor someone else. Slalom encourage us to volunteer, so I’m mentoring a Supermums’ trainee based in Berlin with a business IT background. It’s very rewarding. We have some great conversations and I love that I can now give out real-world examples based on my own experiences!
What are you hoping to do next?
I’ve already been promoted to Consultant, and I’d like to be promoted again this year. I’ve been on a few projects in the sales space with Sales Cloud and marketing space with Pardot and Marketing Cloud, so next I’d like to add to my skill set and learn a couple more areas such as CPQ. Happily, I know that’s something Slalom will give me the opportunity to do.
Jessica Stern, Alliance Marketing Manager at Slalom, comments: “Denise is an incredible example of what can happen when you decide to jump and try something new. We are very lucky to have her.”
Heather Black, CEO, Supermums, comments: “I love that Supermums is an impactful organisation, which has already made a difference to over 900 learners like Denise in more than 10 countries. With the partnership of companies like Slalom, we’re going to keep growing our community and building existing courses out.”