EP 245: Returning to Work as a Salesforce Administrator, with Supermums Founder Heather Black
Heather Black is founder and CEO of Supermums, an organization that trains relaunchers and others to be Salesforce administrators. In 2010, Heather became an “accidental” Salesforce administrator for her non-profit, helping to establish their customer relationship management system (CRM). She loved it so much that two years later she decided to upskill as a Salesforce Consultant and help other non-profits do the same. She realized her career path could work for other mothers, so she launched Supermums in 2016 to bring more women into the sector. As a consultant, Heather has overseen over 700 Salesforce projects and now enjoys upskilling talent in Salesforce consultancy and coaching skills. In this episode, we break down the Salesforce Administrator training process with Heather and discuss the doors it can open for relaunchers.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Welcome to 3, 2, 1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we discuss return to work strategies, advice, and success stories. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO and co-founder of iRelaunch and your host. Before we get started, I want to remind our listeners who are actively relaunching to make sure to register and upload your resume to our iRelaunch Job Board. Employers looking to hire relaunchers regularly peruse our Job Board for candidates for their career reentry jobs and programs. All right, onto our conversation for today. Today we welcome Heather Black, the Founder and CEO of Supermums. In 2010, Heather became an accidental Salesforce admin for her nonprofit and loved it so much that in 2012, she decided to upscale as a Salesforce consultant, helping other nonprofits to implement a CRM, and we'll talk about what that is. She realized her career path could work for other mothers and other people. So she launched Supermums in 2016 to bring more women into the sector. Heather has overseen over 700 Salesforce projects and now enjoys upskilling talent in Salesforce consultancy and coaching skills.
In this episode, we speak with Heather about Salesforce administration and the doors it can open for relaunchers. Heather, welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch.
Heather Black: Hi, Carol, delighted to be here and so excited that we share so many common traits to help people back to work. So, really looking forward to sharing more today.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Yes, absolutely. And maybe before we even start, can you define for us what a CRM is and what is Salesforce?
Heather Black: Absolutely. So a CRM is a client relationship management system. And I got involved in Salesforce because I was running a nonprofit at the time and needed a database effectively, is another word for CRM, where I could manage all my customers, the donations, the volunteers, the clients.
And so it is effectively a database that holds all of your customer information and allows you to understand where they are in your customer journey. And Salesforce, the product, is the number one CRM product globally.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Excellent. Thank you for that background because for all of you listening, not everyone knows what a CRM is, not everyone knows what Salesforce is. So it's a great way to set the context for our conversation. So, in the introduction, I talked a little bit about your background and how you ended up founding Supermums, but I wanted to know if you can tell us about that beginning part where you had to learn how to do Salesforce yourself, and did you feel intimidated, and how did you even figure out where to start, and just understand what it was and then get so proficient in it?
Heather Black: Okay. Absolutely. So I'll let you into a little secret. I sat looking and wondering what Salesforce was for a good four years before I started using it. And I was like, I had never used a CRM before in previous businesses that I'd worked in. And then ran a small nonprofit, so we used a spreadsheet, and we kept information on a spreadsheet and thought, what is Salesforce? And somebody said, you can get it for free for nonprofit. So I downloaded it and then still looked at it a bit dazed and confused. What really helped for me was seeing how other people used it.
So I spent that time meeting people who were using it, and that was the light bulb moment. I was like, oh my God, I get it. So at Supemums now, we run discovery sessions. Because people wanna see what it can do. And we also share it as part of a five day challenge where they can really get an inside look as to, okay, this is what it is now I get it. So we provide that intel, because that was for me the light bulb moment. So when I discovered all it could do for my organization. I was a bit blown away. I was like, oh my God, this would be amazing. Why didn't I start doing it years ago? And I booked myself onto a Salesforce admin course, which Salesforce run at the time and, just really got my head around how it worked and what it could do.
And what was amazing about Salesforce as a product and how you manipulate it, is it's using clicks, not code fundamentally. You can use and customize it a lot using clicks. And if I talk about clicks, maybe in another language, if you were building yourself a website, for example, on WordPress, you can use clicks a lot to build things.
And so you don't need a technical background. I will talk about some of the skills and traits that are useful further on in our conversation today. But I was like, oh, I really get this. I really like it. I like building out the system to manage my sales line, or to manage my fundraising and to manage our service delivery.
And I could suddenly have this big brother view of our organization. Because my nonprofit went from four staff to 40 staff in a year. We'd won this massive lot of contracts, which is why I was like, oh my gosh, I need something. And we actually had 10,000 clients, it was a career coaching company go through our database.
So obviously I needed something that was gonna hold all this information. And so it provided that big brother view of all our business analytics and what it could do. So I really enjoyed learning how to build out the system to help my nonprofit perform better, to understand where it was at, to understand how the team were doing and to make sure that we're on track.
And that made me really appreciate the value that it could offer to other nonprofits and other businesses, and I wanted to then tell the world about it.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Wait, you said one thing I wanna make sure our listeners understand. You made a reference to clicks. What is, can you just tell us what that means in a little more detail?
Heather Black: Yeah. So clicks versus code is I think a lot of people feel when it comes to a technical solution you are building, that you need to understand code, which is like mathematical language and programming. And with clicks, it's I click here and I can move this here. So if you imagine a website or something, and you want to move a picture from one side to the other, you can just click it and drag it.
And so clicks is where you don't need to have technical, mathematical programming in order to build a database, nor to grow it. And I was like, oh, I never ever imagined in a million years that this could be a career that I would do. All that time is after university wondering what am I gonna do with my life?
I was like, I stumbled across this, but I also spent a bit of time learning about it and suddenly realizing, okay, actually it is something I could do. So it is something we all have to, we have to tip, dip our toe in the water to just learn about it properly to go, hmm. And obviously, I didn't think about it as a career option for myself to start with.
I can talk about that next as to why, why I certainly thought, okay, I'll do that instead of running a nonprofit.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Actually, so that's very helpful. Thank you. But I'd like to get into that about why it, how it can become a career path. And I guess I also wanna say with the Supermums title, and we're talking about women and mothers, can you talk about, are there people who are not parents and who are not women who are part of your community who take your courses?
Heather Black: Yeah, absolutely. So after I had built the database, and my organization had done exceptionally well and we’ve grown massively, there had been some political changes in the UK, which affected our funding. So I actually found myself without a profitable business anymore. And it suddenly really collapsed, because of political changes in the UK.
And I was planning to start a family. So I was like, many of you will resonate with listening to this show going, gosh, what am I gonna do next? I've lost my business effectively. I want to have a kid, so I don't wanna go and get a job or anything that isn't flexible. I'm used to having a good salary level.
So I was like, what can I do? And obviously you look at sort of things of going, I enjoy this, or I enjoy that, or, you're suddenly back to being almost back at end of school and college and going well, how do I try things? So that's why at Supermums we provide free career counseling and support upfront or career guidance around it to really just help have somebody to talk to, to go, could I do this or not?
And we do a five day challenge, 'cause you have to educate people about what it can be and what it can offer. And absolutely going back to your point, Carol, we Supermums accidentally went global because of our success and the package of support we put together for people. And we've had dads on the program, non-parents on the program, and they all feel very passionate about our Supermums’ mission and that it is about helping parents achieve more, earn more, have flexible careers, et cetera.
But equally they feel very included in the course and the cohorts that they are part of. So I feel very proud that we are able to be inclusive and supportive to everybody that does the program.
Carol Fishman Cohen: That's great. Thank you. And tell us a little bit more about what is a career path in Salesforce and when you, how much do you have to know about it? And how far do you have to get in the training before you can take the first step in that career?
Heather Black: So with Salesforce, in terms of it being a good career choice, you'd want to be doing the Salesforce administration course is your foundation course, because it gives you the basic fundamentals of what it does, how it works, and where you can go next with it.
So we encourage everybody to start with that sort of basic course. In terms of career opportunities beyond that, there are so many different career paths you could take. And the growth and the job opportunities are massive because Salesforce, as I say, it's been the number one CRM actually for over eight years now.
And it's continued to grow. It's overtaking all of its other competitors and has been for quite a few years. Which has led us to a point where there's a tap, a gap in talent. And I found this back in 2015 and I was like, heck, we're gonna struggle because I was running my consultancy and really struggling to hire.
So back then it was a pressure point. Now it's even more, it's a critical pressure point because there still isn't enough talent. And so our job and my job every day is going, Hey guys, waving white hands going. There's loads of amazing jobs here with great salaries. Please just come and learn about it because we need more people in this sector.
And it's the career opportunities raft, I've talked about clicks and code, but seriously there's roles that are not involving building a database at all. So if I talk through the life cycle of a project, or a Salesforce implementation and better word of it, why does a company need Salesforce in the first place?
It will have sales processes or customer service processes that it's trying to manage data of their customers and customer handling. So, how do I call somebody? When do I call them? What did I email them, et cetera. So some of the roles in the Salesforce career are BA roles or business analyst roles.
And as a business analyst, you would go into an organization and basically sit with them for a day, two days, three days, depending on how many teams and departments you are working with at that point, and really go through all of their business processes with them, understand how they engage with a customer each day.
Talking to them can be a little bit like a counseling session because people are like, oh, this really frustrates me, and this doesn't work. But you can solve their problem for them, 'cause you're like, okay, that's a frustration. Brilliant. Salesforce could do X, Y, Z for you. And so what you are doing is listening to all their processes, listening to all gaps and challenges, and then proposing where Salesforce could improve that process for them. And then what you come away with is a set of requirements, which then get built by another team, for example. And I'll move on to that team in a moment in terms of those job roles. So a BA, business analyst, talks to people all day and then writes down what they've talked about and gets more excited about all these fantastic solutions.
So it's a really rewarding job. That's my favorite job, to be honest. It's kinda doing all that, really understanding, because you learn so much, you learn so much about the organizations you work with and how different industries and customer groups work. It's fantastic. But again, let's say you're solving problems, which is a really nice sweet spot because you're getting them happy, you're making them happy at the end of it. And then as I say, you take that to the technical team, which is where as you might sit as a Salesforce administrator, or you might advance to a Salesforce developer where you do start learning code, and that's where you can start building the system for these people and then training them in how to use it, and engaging them in this. So that's why you're working with employees on implementing the solution, if you like, and making sure it's fit for purpose. Now, when you've got a technical team in place, you've then got a project manager that organizes a technical team, because what happens is customers get so excited that they get this wishlist of 120 things that they want when really they can only afford 70, right?
So a project manager needs to say, brilliant, but let's prioritize all these requirements. Now tell the technical team what they should be working on what day and make sure it's finished within time and budget. So other really great roles are project manager roles, where you love coordinating people.
You are that social organizer, you like having spreadsheets and managing systems and liaising between the client and the technical team. So they're the different raft of roles in there. And again, that the project manager isn't somebody that has to build it, but would highly benefit from understanding Salesforce and doing the foundation certification.
So we've had trainees go through the program who have gone into all of those types of job roles, and they haven't had to start as a Salesforce administrator. They have gone straight into a BA role or a project manager role. We've even had somebody go straight into a Salesforce developer role because they did more training and just landed in that job automatically.
So there's a raft of roles with fantastic salary potential in all of them.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Okay. This is really helpful. I would say that probably the majority of our audience is thinking about what kind of roles can I have, how do I, I'm afraid that I'm gonna, I'm not gonna understand it. How do I get familiar enough in order to actually be in one of those roles?
And I'm guessing there are a significant number of listeners who are not going to see themselves in a coding role. They're gonna see themselves in one of these, not the development role, but in the BA role or in the project management role. So can you tell us, is there any kind of personality type or people who come in with a certain skill set who tend to be more successful and more fearless in terms of learning what you need to learn to really dive in and make a career for yourself in Salesforce?
Heather Black: Yeah, it's a really great question, Carol, and definitely one we get asked a lot. So if you are being hired by a company that uses Salesforce, one of the key criterias they look for is actually your industry experience. And if you visit the Salesforce website, they operate within a whole range of industries.
So finance, health, eCommerce, nonprofits, typical sales and marketing, obviously in customer service are all big sort of areas. So they're actually looking to hire people with significant, like mature industry experience. So they want your past transferable skills and industry experience to bring in. Because when we hire, we have a recruitment arm at Supermums, and if we are hiring for consultancies, they're not really looking necessarily at all your Salesforce skills and competence. They're wanting to hire based on your industry experience. Say, we work with financial clients, we implement Salesforce for financial customers.
So we are looking for talent, mature talent, who can have proper business conversations and understand the jargon and the methods and the processes of that industry. Because I can teach you Salesforce. We can teach you, learn yourself, and Salesforce relatively easily. What is hard to teach people is all that industry jargon and experience. So your background, for the listeners, think about your background industry experience because Salesforce pretty much covers most industries let's face it. There will be an industry and product that aligns with your background. Now, the other five things that I talk about, which I say, what are the five things that you would need to have generally is your personality traits for working in the Salesforce arena, is the first is that you love solving business problems and solutions.
If you've been that person at work going, yeah, this is really bugging me, can I just talk through the process and could we try it a different way? Could we try and solve this? If you are that natural person that's trying to smooth out kinks and processes where you've worked previously, rather than just grumbling about them and not doing anything, you'll love this role because it is about solving business processes and solutions. The second is that you've got to enjoy working at computer. You've got to have that time sitting down, working on computers generally, as a trait. The third is lifelong learning. Some people do our course because they're worried about their skills getting out of date.
That's reality right now. If we are not keeping pace with new technology, we will get outdated in the job market. You can do the Salesforce admin course, but it doesn't stop there. You will need to continue learning and enjoying learning about Salesforce and its products. And you'll have a thirst for that.
And it's, I'm always amazed at our Supermums alumni that go through the course because they're getting all these Trailhead points. They love it. They spur each other on, they're getting more certifications. So there's that definite first for lifelong learning and spending some hours in the week learning new things.
The fourth is that you wanna help organizations perform. As I say, when I did Salesforce, I was like, oh my gosh, this can really help a company understand where it's at, help it to grow. And seeing a nonprofit have a bigger impact or seeing a company achieve more profit or help more customers, you've got to have that appetite to feel part of a business solution. Because you have as a Salesforce professional, you are very privileged to actually work with management teams and help shape that company to make it better. It is a very authority role in some way in that you are really entrenched in the business success and you're working with all the teams to make it work, because we talk about Salesforce very much refer to Salesforce as being the digital HQ.
Like it's where all your customer data is. It's where every team member uses a system every day. Like it's the heart of the business. So you've got to really enjoy feeling like you are part of that business. And I think the fifth one is about making people happy. As I say, we quite walk into organizations where I've implemented Salesforce and they're frustrated because things aren't working properly, they can't get the stats, the manager can't get the stats, the staff members finding, doesn't trust the data.
People are normally frustrated about something or other. So you go in and you give them this amazing solution. And they're like, Oh, my life has changed. Like literally I have people saying I can go home to work on time. Go home, see my kids on time. I can see data. I'm not worried at night about it.
It is really a job where you make people happy every day, managers through to frontline staff. And that's your job ultimately is to make them happy. So they're the five things that I think are really valuable.
Carol Fishman Cohen: It's so interesting. I'm just thinking about your first point. That makes it such a good role for relaunchers because I'm thinking, you're talking about, they want people who've had experience in a certain field. So of course, many of us had experience in a certain field before career break. With me, it was in finance. So I could see how coming back in and being a Salesforce administrator or another role, and then working with companies that are in financial services would put me in familiar territory, but in a slightly different role. But I would feel like we're speaking the same language that I get the industry, and that would definitely give me a leg up in understanding what are the particular needs of people in this industry for this CRM system, so very relevant for many relaunchers.
Can you bring us to like day one? Let's say I sign up for Supermums. You mentioned that there's this discovery class, or some session that you go through. Let's say I go through that and then I'm actually signed up for day one on whatever the first thing is that you do when you learn Salesforce at Supermums. Can you tell me what is that first day like, and what am I doing?
Heather Black: So your first week, so it's a six month program, but the first three months of it is where you are in your training element, if you like and learning, and then you go into work experience.
So we kick off the session, really introducing you to what you are going to be learning and engaging in over the six months and giving you that full flavor of the package. Because our package is particularly tailored to returners. It's not just training. It's the coaching, the mentoring, the work experience, the whole support.
And we have a team in the USA and we have a team in EMEA as well. So we have localization in terms of how we deliver. So you get to meet your trainer on the first day. You'd have a live two and a half hour training session. So we do live two and a half hour training sessions for the first, every week for the six months.
Because that keeps people accountable. They like to be online with people. They like to show up. We have incredible experienced trainers, who, as I say are local to those regions and they do a live teach. And then, what they'll do after that call is be sent a series of homework for that week. They'll then build out a system and try to learn that first competency that they've been learning about.
They will complete some study and they'll also meet their one-to-one mentor that week. And the one-to-one mentor holds their hand during the six months, meets with them every week to check that they're learning what they're doing. Okay. Check they get it, help them if they're not. And then they tick off a homework record to say, they've completed the homework successfully.
So there's that real accountability support network each week. And then they have their peer cohort group as well, where, so they get to meet, everybody in that first week. It's like the new class coming together. So they form a WhatsApp group. They all get to know everybody. They support each other because they're all on this journey together, which is what they feel is valuable about it as well, is they get that. They're not lonely and isolated by themselves. They're doing this with other people like them.
Carol Fishman Cohen: So you mentioned in passing the word Trailhead earlier. And this just to explain to our audience that Trailhead is the curriculum, right, that Salesforce brings people through? Correct me if I'm wrong, 'cause I might be off there. And then Supermums rather than me just logging onto the Salesforce Trailhead system and trying to navigate on my own, Supermums actually organizes that for me and gives me the mentor and brings me through it. Is that what's happening?
Heather Black: So this Trailhead is a platform where they have self study modules. So some people study that way by themselves, but they tend to get lost and demotivated, and it's very overwhelming in terms of where you could go. But we then structure those modules into a series of modules that they can do. In addition to that, we also deliver the official Salesforce administrative curriculum, a live training course that Salesforce delivers. And our price of that course is a lot lower than what Salesforce charges commercially. So this is live training, which is why we deliver live training every single week. And we go through a much more in depth curriculum with a dev org where they build out a system, which is what the mentor oversees.
So we reinforce that learning three times because we have the live training in that we teach a competency each week, we do that in the live training where we show and tell. We then get them to build out in their dev org, where the mentor then checks it and checks they've learned it properly. They then get to do a Trailhead to reinforce that learning.
And then they'll do it in work experience at the end of the three months where they actually apply it. So when they go for that job, they've already developed and learned that competency four times. Whereas, they're really confident in it and they've remembered it because what happens if you just do Trailhead is you've done a quick whiz at the end and a quick badge, and then you onto the next and people don't remember the stuff.
So when they come to apply for a job and they get tested on the things, they're not that confident in it. And they haven't really learned it. So ours it's very much reinforced learning and practice to make sure people are confident in this, because they've never used it before. So it's really about providing much more rounded and robust learning.
And, the feedback we get from interviews when candidates go for interviews is, their depth of knowledge and confidence in what they're doing is fantastic. Which is exactly where we wanted them to.
Carol Fishman Cohen: And can you talk to us about what percentage of the people who start the course finish it and how you or your mentors handle it when someone gets really frustrated and feels like it's too confusing for them?
Heather Black: Oh, definitely. I'll start with the second question first, because obviously people go through this emotional learning dip. They're on this, and we always talk about the learning dip, 'cause you'll start very excited and be like, yeah, I can do this. And then we always see a dip in people's confidence at week three, because they're like, oh my gosh, I'm learning all this new stuff and there's this little dip. And quite often that's when they'll reach out and they'll have a chat with their mentor. And the mentors are fantastic because they reassure them that they all felt like this too.
Everybody who's a Salesforce professional didn't know Salesforce when they started. And everybody's gonna hit that dip of going, yes, this was new for me too. This is gonna be normal. And then the mentor helps hold their hand up the other side as they go up the dip and make sure.
And that's why the one to one mentoring is so important because if you are training by yourself, there's nobody to pick you up or to say so by having a one it's basically one hour or one and a half hours mentoring session a week on that competency, they just hold that person's hand and really support them, help them. We also talk a lot about learning styles because sometimes people don't get things because the way that they're trying to teach it or learn, it is not quite their learning style. So on the Supermums' course, we teach in three, well, the whole blend of full learning styles, so it will tick somebody's boxes, which is why we say get practical.
We'll also encourage the mentors to be mindful of that person's learning style. So they're teaching and supporting them in the learning style that suits them. And so the mentor holds them up that hill, if you like, and then they get to the top and then they get their certification. The other sort of wobble, the dip, if you like, is when they first do work experience, because obviously they've done the study. But then after three months they've finished their study and they're like, oh my gosh, I'm gonna be put in a real project. And then they're like, they're all really scared. And again, that's where we hold their hands.
So if you imagine somebody just doing training and then going to get a job and there's nobody to hold their hand, like that would be really scary. So with the work experience, they are always working alongside an experienced Salesforce professional. They are not put into a work experience environment where they're like, I'm the only one that knows Salesforce and nobody's verifying what I'm doing is right or wrong. And that's what happens is people try and go and get their own work experience sometimes, if they're like a solo admin, and you really want to be in a situation where somebody's overseeing and managing the work you are doing and telling you, yes, you're doing a good job and patting them on the back.
So we hold their hands during work experience and make sure they get through that. We've only honestly had dropouts of the program where people have had significant health or life issues. That's the only time people have dropped out is because of significant health or life, or some people have said actually, I'm this isn't a career for me. I've chosen to do something else. Everybody has completed the course and been successful, out of it who has wanted to be. For some it's taken slightly longer than others, maybe 'cause of childcare or their confidence, which is why we introduce career coaching as well, one to one and group career coaching to make sure we're providing that pastoral softer support for people along the way.
So 75% outcome is a successful outcome for us. Everybody gets there who wants to get there. And over the course since 2016, when I launched the program, we've introduced, as I say, more career coaching support, one on one group coaching, to help people overcome that imposter syndrome, get ready for interviews and everything else as well.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow! Heather, we're running up against the end of our time now, and I wanted to move to the question that we ask all of our podcast guests. And that is what is your best piece of advice for our relauncher audience even if it's something that we've already talked about today.
Heather Black: Thanks Carol. Yes, to wrap up, I'd just say, explore the option. Speak to people who work in the industry, speak to our team. We are not gonna sell something to you that isn't right. It's a free career consultation about, is this a career for me? And we can obviously talk through what we can help you with, and support you with. So, take time to explore. That'd be my top tip. We have a What is a Salesforce Career page, and I can share the URL with you around that.
Carol Fishman Cohen: That would be great. That was my next question, how can people find out more about Supermums, but yes, please share the URL.
Heather Black: Fantastic. Yes, so we have a five day challenge. You can book in a 30 minute free career consultation. We set all this up to educate you and to find out more. So, take 10 minutes to explore. If you go to our website at supermums.org, and that's www.supermums.org, and on our website, we have a page called, What is the Salesforce Career? So you should hopefully find that link in the notes of the podcast where you can sign up to the five day challenge.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Heather, thank you so much for such an informative conversation, especially for our relauncher audience, and for the work that you do. This is an incredible opportunity for relaunchers and you're making it so accessible for them.
We really appreciate hearing the details and all about the work that you're doing. Thank you for joining us.
Heather Black: Oh, thank you, Carol. It's been a pleasure and it's so rewarding, isn't it? Helping people relaunch their career successfully and earn more and still work flexibly. So thank you for having me on the show.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Absolutely. And to all of you listening, thank you for listening to 3,2,1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we discuss return to work strategies, advice, and success stories. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, the CEO and co-founder of iRelaunch and your host. I want to remind our listeners once again who are actively relaunching to make sure to register and upload your resume to our iRelaunch Job Board, because that's where employers who are looking to hire relaunchers for their career reentry jobs and programs are perusing. So make sure that you're on it.
Also be sure to visit iRelaunch.Com to access our many return to work tools and resources, and to sign up for our mailing list, so you can receive our weekly Return to Work Report, featuring career reentry jobs and programs. Thank you so much for joining us.