For those of you that don’t know much about Salesforce, let alone the Success Graduate Programme, here’s some context for you. The Success Graduate Programme is Salesforce’s year long programme for those looking to embark on a career in pre-sales (Solution Engineering) and customer success.
Before arriving at Salesforce, I was not entirely aware that I was about join the world’s #1 CRM provider, one of the world’s most innovative companies (Forbes) and one of the best places to work in the world (Fortune). Salesforce has everything to offer and I’d like to tell you a bit more about my experiences for the benefit of future applicants and for those that want to understand a little bit more about what Salesforce is really about.
The main aim for me writing this blog post is to ensure that you come away with a better understanding of what the 2018/19 Success Graduate Solution Engineers (SEs) have been up to since September, and how the day-to-day has evolved as we've grown into our positions.
As I take you on this journey, each hour of the day represents a month of the year (from September till June) in order to give a sense of how varied our particular graduate role is and how far we've come in our short time here at Salesforce.
The first month of a new role in a new company, and for most, their first jobs, was full of introductions to all walks of Salesforce life intertwined with the start of our SE learning journey. As a cohort of 29, we were split down the middle, 50/50, from both business and technical backgrounds and we came from all over Europe. I mean all over Europe... a combined 16 nationalities, 17 languages spoken and a whopping 56 degrees between us all.
You can probably only imagine what it was like trying to remember everyones names on day one, let alone find friends to live with and sign a year's lease before the end of the month. It was a huge success incase you were wondering and we all ended up with a roof over our heads.
Yes, we went to bootcamp. And yes, a blog has already been written about the incredible experiences we had in San Francisco. However, while embracing the company culture was certainly one of the most valuable takeaways from the week for a lot of the grads, there was also a huge learning opportunity from a role and technical standpoint for us all.
The week saw us in sessions such as: Presenting with Purpose, Our Culture of Storytelling, The Art of White-boarding and Objection Handing. Each of these providing great insights and practical learning experiences of some of the core competencies of the SE role, all while learning how to start building a basic demo for our final team presentation at the end of the week.
Dublin Success Graduates (+ SaaSy, Cody & Astro) at Salesforce in San Francisco - October 2018
As the dust settled from bootcamp and our first practice demos were out of the way, it became clear that everyone was keen to knuckle down and get stuck into Salesforce's online learning platform - Trailhead.
While we were given the tools to discover more about the case study and present a solution at bootcamp, we lacked the technical knowledge to add that extra flare - and so we studied. The race was on, and Trailhead became a very familiar website for the following weeks as we strove to reach the pinnacle (as we knew it) - 100 badges and the high flying status of “Honorary Trailhead Ranger” (and a free Trailblazer hoodie, of course).
With the theoretical knowledge ramping, it was time to start putting what we’d learnt to the test. Salesforce certifications are the accredited qualifications every SE needs before going customer facing, so the studies continued. As each member of the programme progressed through the required exams, the opportunities to get practical began to emerge too.
There really is no better way to learn a role than to shadow the pros. And so we did. Customer discovery calls, demo build sessions (or lessons) and customer facing demo presentations became a part of daily life as we saw the small business team in Dublin wow each and every customer they crossed. We really were learning from the best.
Peer Certs in the SE world are practical exams that test everything you’ve learned since you started, from customer discovery through to demo building and the final presentation to your management team. They’re designed to put you in a “real-life” situation to ensure that you’re ready for that first customer call. Only when you’ve completed the relevant peer certification can you jump on your first deal - no pressure.
With at least the first of three peer certifications out of the way, we were given the go-ahead to have our first real impact on the business. It might seem like we only started yesterday, but I have to say, the peer certs really did prep us well for that first meeting. Not least because the peer certification is designed to gear you up for one of the toughest meetings you’ll ever have - considering our managers combined know a whole lot more about Salesforce than any customer we would encounter.
Despite the wealth of knowledge we had accrued in the last few months and the learning experiences we’d encountered, nothing quite prepares you for the first few weeks in a sales team. The fast paced environment and the responsibility on our shoulders changed over night. We found ourselves leading regular customer calls, advising teams of account managers and working alongside Regional Vice Presidents. Something I did not expect to be doing so early in my career, but what an incredible privilege to be afforded the opportunity and given that level of trust from a company like Salesforce.
Our one opportunity over the course of the year to get real hands-on experience of another side of the business. The Success Specialist role sits within the Customer Success Group (CSG) and predominantly deals with the delivery of customer consultations and presentations that ensure our customers are successful in their use of Salesforce. It is really thanks to them that we have such successful and happy customers. The six weeks flew by and it could not have been a more rewarding experience, especially when the customer feedback was so positive and grateful.
Back to the SE world, and with a little more experience this time! Sales forecast meetings in place - check, daily SE scrum meetings - check, sales manager alignment meetings - check.
Having spent a few months in the role now, it becomes clear that things are picking up and the graduates are making a significant impact on the business. Whether its running sales enablement sessions, sharing their knowledge and experiences with other SE’s or driving the business forwards through customer facing activities in the form of discovery calls and product demos.
To put some context to the claim - within only four months of going live, the success graduates have contributed to over a million USD in closed business, beating their target date by three months.
Although, I know there have been some incredible success stories from those who have been fortunate enough to present in front of crowds up to 1,000 people, I can only speak from my own experiences from the London World Tour. I spent the day speaking to customers, acting as their trusted advisor, while also presenting Sales Cloud demos on loop for any customers that were looking for inspiration and insight that I could give them. The experience really solidified how well I had been enabled over the course of the year as I was able to answer any and all questions the customers had for me.
Myself — Sales Cloud demo booth at London World Tour / Piotr Mazur — Opening keynote at Warsaw Basecamp
With the summer kicking off and our year coming to a close, it’s time to start focusing on the next chapter of our Salesforce journeys.
For many on the SE Success Graduate programme, this means relocating to the local hubs from whence we came. While it will be incredibly sad to leave our much loved Dublin #Ohana, there lie exciting opportunities ahead for all in this incredibly fast growing company - and who knows where we’ll all be in a year's time?
One thing I can say for certain on behalf of my fellow cohort is that it has been an amazing experience and we’ve all come such a long way in both a professional capacity as colleagues, and as lifelong friends. The year has provided an invaluable network to us all that will soon spread across Europe and will no doubt grow into an alumni of incredibly successful young professionals. Thank you all for the amazing year and I wish the incoming cohort all the best in their endeavours.