This post was originally published by the Salesforce Foundation. This is the first in a series of blogs about taking advantage of the growing nonprofit Salesforce community to help build your personal Salesforce career and increase your organizational success.
The Power of “Us”
At 11 years old, I learned that for only $1 per day I could help a young girl in a struggling family get clothes and shoes, three meals a day, and a backpack for school. $1 per day was more than my allowance, but I discovered that if I recruited my friends and a few adults, together, we could change someone’s life. It was my first lesson in the “power of us.”
Believe it or not, that early lesson in connectedness and empowerment became the spark for my future educational and career choices. I completed a degree and certification in nonprofit management and helped start three nonprofits over the past 17 years. While technology is clearly vital to changing the world and doing more good, if someone had told me a few years ago that I would end up working full-time in technology, I would have laughed. Making the leap to full-time technology consulting work wasn’t really something I ever thought about, until I started helping nonprofits with Now IT Matters. And I haven’t looked back.
Admin Exam Take 1: Doing it alone
One of my first professional goals at Now IT Matters was to catch my techy-side up to the nonprofit-side of my expertise. Step one was to gain my Salesforce Admin Certification (the Salesforce.com Foundation offers discounts on the training classes and certification exam for nonprofits. Be sure to take advantage of them.)
The first day of Dreamforce 2013 found me waiting at 8am to be admitted to the proctored Salesforce Admin Certification exam. I nervously shifted from one foot to another.
The other testers looked infinitely more techy and prepared than I felt.
Why was I here? What was I doing working in technology anyway? Why hadn’t I prepared more? When I walked out of the testing center, my face undoubtedly said it all: FAIL.
Time to regroup. Time for a new strategy.
About a year before I took my first admin exam, it had been one of those days and few close friends and I were bemoaning the juggling act of work-life balance. I remember saying, “I just wish I knew how to do this! I wish there was someone else to ask, who had been there and done that. I wish I didn’t have to figure it out on my own.”
In that moment, the spirit of Girlforce was born. What if there was a place where we could not only be mentored, but mentor others? Where women working in the nonprofit sector could come together and share their tech experience, and help each other learn, grow, succeed, and achieve? What if relationships were considered just as important as the metrics of success? And what if that place also allowed us to join forces to impact our community and the world?
Girlforce was established in September 2013 as a group in the Power of Us Hub – the online community for Salesforce.com Foundation customers. The Power of Us Hub gave us a wonderful gift – the space and support we needed to address some of the issues faced by women working in nonprofit technology. It gave us an opportunity to relate to one another, to learn from one another, and to help each other connect and grow.
Admin Exam Take 2: Girlforce Study Group
While I failed on my own to pass the Admin exam, I turned to the blossoming support in GirlForce and together we started our first Admin Certification Study Group this past January. We met for seven weeks of study and meetings, laughter and quizzing, learning and questions. Thirteen days after the Study Group concluded, I tentatively stepped into a testing center to retake my exam.
That morning, instead of feeling unprepared and sheepish, I was mentally chanting my mantra, courtesy of Ashima Saigal: “I am prepared! I am going to pass this exam! I’m going to rock this!” Once sitting in front of the computer, I took a moment to breathe deep and center myself. As I sat there staring at the “Start Exam Now” button, I knew I was not alone. I knew almost a dozen other Girlforce women were going to do the exact same thing as me. We were in this together! I finished the test and pressed “Submit.”
“Congratulations! You passed!”
Whoop! My vocal enthusiasm got dirty looks from other test takers. I didn’t care much and I couldn’t wait to share my success with the other women in the Girlforce Study Group. After all, our study group was the key to success for passing my Admin exam!
Starting your own Salesforce study or learning group
If you’re interested in starting your own Salesforce study or learning group, I would suggest the following steps:
- Find your tribe. The tribe I found was full of motivated nonprofit women who wanted to advance their Salesforce knowledge. Of course, being part of a tribe requires being vulnerable and open, and reaching out to others even if you aren’t sure they want to join forces with you. The Girlforce study group was comprised of women with a variety of skills and we were all able to learn from each other.
- Keep it small(ish). Learning groups work best when they are small and everyone is accountable. Group cohesiveness is primarily found in consistency, so we encouraged study group members to attend every meeting. When forming the group, we set regular meeting times, we checked-in with members who didn’t come to meetings, and we made sure everyone was taking part. We assigned study topics from the Salesforce study guide to each participant so that every person had something to teach AND something to learn.
- Use technology! We used a webinar service and Google Drive to store participant information, recorded sessions, handouts, and presentations. We made a collaborative plan before we kicked off the group and we connected between meetings online in the Power of Us Hub. There, we could meet up and ask questions between meetings. Since we were all over the US, our meetings couldn’t have taken place without technology!
- Have fun. Maybe it’s because I’m a kid a heart, but fun cements things for me. Fun makes me remember. We had fun by quizzing each other at the end of each study session and engaging with one another in the Power of Us Hub. Fun is important to learning.
To those techy nonprofit ladies out there – we would love to have you join us for Girlforce (just login to the HUB and then click this link after you log in) and the exciting things happening there! We’ll also be at Dreamforce to connect, learn, and grow! We hope to see you there.
Joni Martin is a nonprofit advocate committed to building the capacity of nonprofits through technology. Joni has a Bachelor degree in Human Service Leadership and Management with a certificate in Nonprofit Management and Community Organization. She is the Dallas Chapter Leader for NTEN and serves on the board of the Nourish Collective. She has her dream job serving as a Salesforce consultant for nonprofits at Now IT Matters – changing the world from her back porch on nice weather days.