- After working in the hospitality industry for over a decade, Marquita Sidibe wanted to change careers to spend more time with her family, but lacked the digital skills for the job she craved.
- According to Salesforce research, only 28% of global workers are actively involved in learning the digital skills needed for the future of work. Through its online learning platform Trailhead, its Trailblazer Community, and workforce development programs including Pathfinder, Salesforce offers the tools and services to help narrow the digital skills gap.
- Sidibe used Trailhead, the Trailblazer Community, and Salesforce Pathfinder to build a tech career. Her story will be featured on the Salesforce+ original series, Trailblazer, premiering 3/10.
Marquita Sidibe is a superfan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As in dress up like Gamora from “Guardians of the Galaxy” or quote Captain America (“I can do this all day”) at a moment’s notice level superfan. In 2014, Sidibe and her husband had advanced tickets to watch a sold out opening night premiere of “Guardians of the Galaxy.” She was beyond pumped. But at the last minute, a co-worker bailed on their bartending shift at the golf club where she worked and Sidibe had to cover. It wasn’t the first time. But it would be the last.
Having spent more than a decade sacrificing her holidays, weekends, nights, personal life, children’s events — all for work — Sidibe craved more control of her life. She started with a hard look at her career. Picture the Great Resignation but eight years earlier.
“I called my husband on my break and said, I want to do something else. I just don’t want to do this anymore,” said Sidibe, who had been serving and bartending for 11 years. “My husband said, ‘You’ve been saying it for some time now. Do it.’ That night, I drafted up a resignation letter.”
This is Marquita Sidibe’s career origin story, which is featured in the Salesforce+ original series “Trailblazer” that chronicles the lives of five Black leaders building successful careers, communities, and companies with Salesforce. Sidibe is currently a senior systems support analyst for Liberty Mutual Insurance, but her path to the Fortune 100 insurance company was far from linear.
Thanks to emerging technologies, business demand for digital skills — everything from data entry to app development to user experience design— has increased by up to 50% in the United States and Europe (McKinsey).
To change careers, Sidibe knew she needed to boost her digital skills. She’s not alone.
According to Salesforce’s 2022 Global Digital Skill Index — which surveyed over 23,000 workers from 19 countries — 73% of global workers don’t feel equipped with the digital skills businesses currently need, and 76% don’t feel equipped for the future of work. Despite that, only 28% are actively involved in digital skills learning and training programs.
Sidibe was determined not to be a part of that 28%. So like any good superhero origin story, she took matters into her own hands.
The path to Pathfinder
Growing up in the Bashford Manor neighborhood in Louisville, KY, Sidibe never thought a career in tech was in the cards. At age 17, she became a single mom. In 2002, she met her future husband when they worked together at a gas station. He eventually joined the military and that’s when she fell into the hospitality industry.
“My career journey started because I wanted to get out of the house and do something for my family,” recalled Sidibe. “But then I realized I wanted to do something for myself. My husband has all these degrees and certifications. I thought I’d like to have some stuff on the wall with my name on it, too!”
After quitting her job, Sidibe googled how to start a tech career and enrolled in a software development program at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis. Her foray into tech was like learning a foreign language.
“English is my primary language and I equate it to taking an advanced level Italian course,” described Sidibe. “I was completely unfamiliar with the terminology and immediately this panic set in — what have I done? It was very tempting to run back to my safety net of things I’ve known and done.”
She resisted the comfort of familiarity and stayed the course, earning a software development certification. That led her to a Women in Tech Salesforce Community Group, which introduced her to Trailhead, Salesforce’s free online learning platform, and the Trailblazer Community, a global network of millions of people who help each other learn new skills and succeed with Salesforce.
From there, one of Sidibe’s former professors told her about a new workforce development program called Salesforce Pathfinder.
“Pathfinder is where it got real,” confessed Sidibe, who was accepted into the first Pathfinder cohort. “Each week you were learning something new, complex, and technical. It was taking the education from Trailhead and the Salesforce platform to the next level.”
Each week you were learning something new, complex, and technical. It was taking the education from Trailhead and the Salesforce platform to the next level.”Marquita Sidibe, Salesforce Trailblazer, Liberty Mutual Insurance
Co-founded by Salesforce and Deloitte in 2018, Salesforce Pathfinder aims to train students, veterans, and career changers with the skills and support to succeed in the digital age and Salesforce ecosystem, which by 2026 will create 9.3 million new global jobs like software developers, data analysts, administrators, and more. The program connects participants to a wide network of mentors and fellow Trailblazers, as well as a hiring hub for Salesforce ecosystem jobs.
“There are millions of talented people around the world whose potential remains untapped because they don’t have access to opportunities,” said Leah McGowen-Hare, Salesforce SVP of the Trailblazer Community. “Salesforce is committed to building a more inclusive workforce by giving anyone access to learning, community, and career opportunities – because representation matters.”
“The beauty about Pathfinder is that it’s completely free,” said Sidibe. “The only thing I paid for the entire time was parking!” Sidibe said.
Pathfinder equipped Sidibe with the skills and confidence to land the tech job she’d craved. But as she found throughout her life, nothing was handed to her.
“I really should compile all my rejection letters,” joked Sidibe. “When you’re looking for employment as a junior level admin — all the baseline qualifications ask for 3-5 years of experience, but if you had that, then you’re no longer junior. The other part is — you have the education but don’t have the hands-on work experience.”
Salesforce is committed to building a more inclusive workforce by giving anyone access to learning, community, and career opportunities – because representation matters.”leah mcgowen-hare, svp trailblazer community, salesforce
Trailblazers — they get the job done
The rejection letters were taking their toll. Sidibe was just passed over after a second round of interviews for another role. Three interviews in one month — no job. She started to question her decision again. And as a mother of three, she didn’t have time to squander.
“Should I regroup? Rebrand? Do I need more education? Go back to school? I can’t afford that. Pathfinder was free,” recalled Sidibe. “I was really down. The five people I was closest to in the program all got jobs within the first 2-3 months. My self-doubt crept in — what’s going on with me? Am I not good enough? I didn’t feel like networking anymore.”
Her fellow members of the Trailblazer Community sensed her frustration. They reached out with well-wishes, sent emails, even Twitter memes — to encourage her to keep going.
Despite being mentally and physically taxed, she met with the Women in Tech group once more. Forcing herself to network, to get in the zone. And at one of the lowest points throughout her entire career transition — she received a lifeline. A panelist at the meeting said her company was hiring and encouraged Trailblazers to apply. She did. This time, she wouldn’t be denied.
“To think I was so close to caving on that meeting. I’m so glad I went,” recalled Sidibe. “I literally found employment through the Trailblazer Community. It’s the sole reason why I have my job.”
Four years after leaving the hospitality industry, a year after Pathfinder, Sidibe landed the job she wanted as a Salesforce analyst at Liberty Mutual Insurance in 2019.
“After seeing Marquita’s success, we took an active interest in learning more about the Pathfinder program, and were excited to explore building a program at Liberty Mutual,” said Brent Coe, Director of Engineering and Pathfinder Program Lead at Liberty Mutual Insurance. “We’re always looking for a broad array of skills in our new hires and our hiring practices are inclusive of employees from all backgrounds — from four-year degrees in computer science to those from code schools, bootcamps, and apprenticeship programs. Through our partnership with Pathfinder, we’ve seen all of our interns find full-time employment in the tech industry, 80% of which continue on with us in Liberty Mutual’s own technology organization.”
After seeing Marquita’s success, we took an active interest in learning more about the Pathfinder program… Through our partnership with Pathfinder, we’ve seen all of our interns find full-time employment in the tech industry…”brent coe, dir. of engineering & pathfinder program lead, liberty mutual insurance
For the die hard comic book fan, Sidibe’s career odyssey was not unlike a superhero’s journey — from a revelation, to exploration, and finally — transformation.
“As a kid, my escape was always comic books and I’d read all this cool stuff that was just riddled in STEM [science, technology, engineering, mathematics],” smiled Sidibe. “Maybe there’s a correlation of how I ended up in this industry.”