In today’s hyper-competitive job market, the importance of attracting and retaining talent is greater than it has ever been before. Not only is there a growing digital skills gap which makes talent harder to come by, but employee churn is estimated to cost US business $1tn a year!
Modern research suggests that investing into your worker’s learning and development is an effective way of attracting and retaining top talent [HBR] [Forbes]. In fact, a 2021 Gallup report suggests that 65% of workers believe employer-provided up-skilling is very important when evaluating a potential new job and almost 1 in every 2 workers would consider switching jobs if it offered new skills training opportunities!
So what does Salesforce do to help curate talent? What are we doing to attract and retain talent for today and in the future? To find out, we interviewed three of our early-in-career solution engineers to find out their thoughts on what learning at Salesforce looks like for them.
I have always had an affinity for tech. My first internship was a sales and marketing role in a SaaS startup, which was where I discovered the world of Solution Engineering. When looking for an internship the following year, I actively searched for this role at Salesforce. I had heard of Salesforce back in school and really liked the look of the company and what they do; I knew it was where I wanted to work. I was accepted into the Sales and Solution Engineering internship for the Summer of 2020, and (despite it being virtual - thank you COVID-19) I fell even more in love with Solution Engineering and with Salesforce. So for me, it was a no brainer to apply for the SE Graduate Program (now called the Early in Solutions program)! I finished out my final year of business studies at Trinity College Dublin and began working at Salesforce in September 2021. Now 7 months into the role, I am running the calls which I once shadowed!
I’ve never been a ‘techie’. My goal throughout university was to to enter management consultancy, and every day I focused my studies on the business strategy and financing... I never once considered technology as a career until one fateful overtime shift in a DIY store, when I happened to design a kitchen for a lady who worked at Microsoft! In a 15 minute conversation (after the kitchen had been designed, of course) she sold me the dream on working in technology. Fast forward past an internship with Microsoft and an incredible graduate onboarding at Salesforce and here I am!
I knew I had a knack for technology from an early age - in primary & secondary school when a computer wouldn’t turn on or the teacher had trouble hooking up the projector they’d call on me! But I knew I never wanted to spend my days behind a computer screen coding; I loved interacting and chatting with people too much! I studied business information systems at university, which I found to be a perfect mix of programming and business. In my second year at uni, I worked with Apple in technical support and learned that in those short phone calls communication and following up on what you promise to a customer is the best way of building trust and delivering a good experience. I stumbled upon Salesforce in a flurry of googling graduate programmes I could apply to, but as soon as I visited the Dublin office for my assessment centre I knew Salesforce was where I wanted to begin my career. Three years later, and I still haven’t looked back!
For me, learning at Salesforce is ongoing. There is so much information out there and so many resources available that learning will never stop. For that reason, I decided to focus my learning by completing a SWOT analysis on my current skills, in order to identify my most valuable areas for learning. From honing my professional skills to training on a new product or industry, there is always room for growth. Personally, I am a visual and kinesthetic learner, so I liked watching videos and getting hands-on experience with products to enable myself as best I could. Getting badges on Trailhead (our free learning platform - check it out here!) or passing Salesforce Certifications is always a great feeling! And with so much available to learn, I know my personal development will only advance from here.
This world today moves so incredibly quickly that it’s impossible NOT to realise that you’re always learning something! I like to think that I follow the 70:20:10 model (70% on the job, 20% learning from others and 10% formal certifications), however I feel that the most valuable thing I’ve learned so far is the importance of practicing a growth mindset. There’s always room to learn more, and we are never going to know everything! Adopting a growth mindset has helped me to develop a passion for learning, take on new challenges, and embrace failure as an opportunity for development. I’d encourage all readers of this article to read this Harvard article on growth mindset, written by the creator of this approach, Carol Dweck. I see a lot of growth mindsets in this company!
You’ve probably realised by now that learning at Salesforce never stops..! With three releases a year and multiple new solutions it’s impossible to know everything, and I think the most important thing is to know that and be okay with it! When deciding on what to tackle next in terms of learning I tend to ask myself - “What gaps are there in my team or the business as a whole, that I could fill?” alongside “What interests me?”. By doing this I know that what I’m learning is both valuable and enjoyable!
The biggest challenge I have faced to date was my peer certification, which is a presentation-style exam that you must pass to start working with customers. The peer cert is a 90 minute multi-cloud demonstration to your colleagues, where they ask questions throughout. You are scored on a number of areas, but the area I was most concerned about was answering those questions... So firstly, I planned. I blocked out my time to prepare for potential questions that might come up so I was as prepared to answer them as I could be. However, I knew I would not have an answer to all their queries so I had to be ready to improvise! For that, I practiced using the 3 Ds method: Diffuse, Discover, Deliver. Even when I had no idea how to answer their objection I diffused the situation, then asked a question back to discover more, and then I delivered an answer - even if that answer was “I don’t know. Let me find out and get back to you”. Despite some pretty tricky questions (some of which came from Dan!), I passed my peer cert and am confident it’s only helped me get better at addressing customer queries and objections.
June 2021. After two years of staring at 2D faces and being told I was on mute with increasing levels of sass, I suddenly found myself clutching a microphone at the front of a huge conference room in a fancy midlands hotel. I was one month into my new role working with one of our globally strategic accounts, and I was tasked with presenting Salesforce platform architecture to an audience of 60+ business and IT professionals from one of our largest customers!
It was terrifying to be stood back up presenting in person, especially when I was presenting a topic that I’d only learned myself a few months earlier! I spent countless hours practicing the presentation with some of our architects to refine my messaging and give me the confidence that I knew what I was talking about. Thankfully, the presentation went superbly and I even managed to get some great feedback from the customer’s IT team!
My biggest challenge when I first began at Salesforce was the ability to give constructive feedback especially when it was uncomfortable and having those ‘courageous conversations’ as we call them within Salesforce. I used to squirm at the thought of getting on a call with someone to deliver constructive feedback as it wasn’t something that came naturally to me. The most valuable course I have taken in my career to date was an internal course ‘Fearless Feedback’ which focused in on the SBI (Situation, Behaviour & Impact) framework of delivering feedback. The method is simple and direct: You capture and clarify the Situation, describe the specific Behaviours observed, and explain the Impact that the person’s behaviour had on you. I use this framework every time I deliver feedback without fail now to get rid of any uncomfortable feelings and ensure that my feedback is delivered fairly!
Alongside refining my SE skills on the increasing number of customer engagements, I am also using Trailhead to enable myself on our Financial Services industry offering and Salesforce’s newest product - Net Zero Cloud. I have no experience with financial services so being able to learn more about, not just the industry, but the solution Salesforce offers is something I am really interested in. I am also passionate about sustainability so am really keen to learn more about Net Zero Cloud so I can empower colleagues and customers to take action against climate change and do better for the planet!
In order to deepen my status as a trusted advisor to my customers, my focus is on further developing my industry knowledge about the automotive sector. At Salesforce we are very fortunate to have some incredible industry specialists and an enablement pathway to learning from them, so I will be committing myself to achieving ‘Industry Practitioner’ by this Summer!
I’m taking a Cambridge short course in Digital Innovation & Transformation at the end of next month. The programme includes a framework to develop digital strategy, how leaders need to be equipped to build a digital culture and the tools required for designing digital services and platform ecosystems. I’m hoping to be able to take my learnings from this course to provide thought leadership to our customers who are for the majority, senior leaders within their business!
Hopefully this has given you an insight into how Salesforce grows and retains talent with a culture of learning. If you’re interested in learning more please head to Trailhead, our free online learning platform.
And what better time to write this than Learning at Work week driven by the Campaign for Learning! Check out their mission on their website and their resources on how to become a better learner by clicking here.
“We are likely to be healthier, happier, longer living and wealthier if we are active learners“ [Learning at work]