E.A to Salesforce Solution Architect in a start up with Priscila Renwick

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Ben: Priscilla thank you so much for coming in, obviously we’ve met before, we’ve met in in San Fran and also in London. I think you’ve got a very interesting, unique background, so I’m keen to run through, who you are and how you’ve ended up where you are today in the Salesforce ecosystem. So let’s go back to the beginning – what did you do before Salesforce, what was your career like back then?

Priscila: I was a lawyer in Brazil, my whole family has a Law background, so they’re all Lawyers themselves, or Judges, High Court Judges, and it all sounds very fancy, but it means all I knew my whole life was Law, so I just naturally went down that route, and to be honest, I just hated it, with a passion.

Ben: Yeah?

Priscila: I didn’t feel rewarded by it, I got no satisfaction from it. Maybe because I went into commercial law, so I used to represent some large companies. It just wasn’t for me, it was a lot of hard work and I got very little satisfaction from it.

Ben: Sure. So obviously you will have studied a long time to become a Lawyer, and then for someone not to enjoy that, you must have been looking for some other things, so how did your path then fall into the Salesforce world?

Priscila: Well yes, that was an accident. I was saying earlier, that I’m the personification of an Accidental Admin. My husband is British, so I moved to London and I couldn’t practice Law there with the Brazilian qualification anyway. So I would have had to retrain for, I think, another two years, and I just didn’t want to do that for something that I didn’t enjoy anyway. So I started looking for all sorts of roles. I had no idea what I wanted to do at all, and I came across the guys from Wandera, they were a startup, at a really, really early stage. I think that they’d just got their Series A, and they were like “listen, we need someone to be a front for us at the moment. We’re starting to book important meetings, and we can’t reach out to those Senior Directors ourselves, we need someone to email them on our behalf. But in the background is where it’s going to be happening, so we’ll let you explore every side of the business, you can see what you really like to do and once you find that, we will support you and your growth. Because we are going to grow now, and we’re going to grow really quickly”. And I was like “okay, that sounds good”, because seeing that I didn’t know what I wanted to do, that was a really good way to go and explore.

Ben: Sure.

Priscila: They had just happened to have bought Salesforce, I think about a month before I joined, but again, at that point we didn’t have any customers, it was all very, very basic. We didn’t use any Partners for implementation or anything, it was just almost as it came.

Ben: So the licenses were sat there but they hadn’t really done much?

Priscila: I think they had 10 licenses, but two people had log-ins, it was really, really early stages. So yes, it just kind of fell on my lap, pretty much straight away, and they were like “okay, why don’t you try and help us with this?” They wanted some work done with the leads, they said “we need these industries”. So I was like, “how do you create a field on Google?” and just took it from there.

Ben: Sure, so then you’ve stayed you stayed with the business for quite some time and and your role had progressed kind of every year, or every couple of years, so what roles have you played over the last few years in that business?

Priscila: A lot. At first it was a matter of everyone wears all the hats, so if we had an event, literally the whole company had to attend the event because we needed to look like we were bigger than we were.

Ben: Yes

Priscila: So I did everything from a little bit of marketing campaigns and a little bit of sales operations, like “we’ve got some orders, someone should process them”. It was a bit like “oh, we’ve got a customer now”, and “who do we pass it to?” We didn’t have a customer support, and we were kind of figuring it out as we went, and we started growing so quickly. But then we found our feet really quite quickly, and then really early on, I realized that Salesforce was the thing that I wanted to do, that I was most interested in, and I thought I could add a lot of value to the business by doing that. And the way I figured that out was, that I made a big mistake and I realised how costly that could be, and I was like “ah, so this is very important” and the same way that it can cause damage, you can also add a lot of value. So I need to learn how to do it properly, you know, so I don’t make a mistake again, and hopefully help the company grow. The job titles, I feel like, they always take a little bit of time to catch up to what I was actually doing but that’s how it went.

Ben: So you initially were hired as Executive Assistant, and then Salesforce B.A.?

Priscila: That took a while, to get to that BA level. And yes I was Executive Assistant,  but again, doing that took about maybe 15 percent of my time. The two Founders are brothers and they were really independent, they just really needed someone to be that front for them when they had to book meetings. When it wouldn’t have looked good if they’d reached out themselves, so I did that for a bit. And then I went into Sales Operations. I used to work really closely with our VP of Finance/Sales Operations, and it was all about how we’re really focused on, you know, that whole implementing, that whole sales cycle, and what works best, and should we offer free trials and so on. So I was really aligned to him for about two and a half years, and that to me, was insanely valuable, because I could see how he saw the business, and that’s how I learnt so much about how to grow a sales business. Because I used to sit next to him, and I remember really quite early on, he was on holiday, and I had to prepare the board pack, and we had our investors flying from Israel and from the US. And it was a heavy pack, and I was like “okay, these are all of the metrics that matter, these are all the things we’re observing” , and it was all in Excel, and I was like “I’m pretty sure I can do most of this in Salesforce”, you know. And that’s how I think I started to gain a really good understanding about the business. And from there, it was easier to leverage Salesforce to help get to where they wanted to go, because I could see their vision, and I started to understand the system better. And then once I got to that, then that’s how I got to the B.A role.

Ben: So how have you, because obviously like a lot of people, if they work for a company for a long period of time, their role doesn’t necessarily change over a long period. So you know, if someone goes into a company as a Salesforce Admin, they can become a Senior Salesforce Admin, or, you know, they might become, over a longer period if the team grows, they might become a Platform Manager, but you’ve kind of reinvented yourself quite regularly. So, how have you kept stretching yourself and gone from, an EA to a B.A, and then finally a Solution Architect? Was that something you took on yourself, or was that something they kind of pushed you into?

Priscila: Half and half. So that’s the thing with working for a start-up that grows so quickly, and Wandera grew really, really quickly, is that that’s stretching in itself. It’s like working for a different company every quarter, every six months, with the volume of you know, accounts or leads or internal users and all of those things present a challenge. So I was always having to learn more, and learn how to scale better and everything, due to that. And then part of it was trying to steer that progression in a direction of where I wanted to go, and again, that took some time to figure out, you know, because when I was an Admin, I didn’t even know that an Architect was a role, and now I feel like it’s really well marketed, you know, at Dreamforce now they have an Architecture track. That was the first time that happened. When I was an Admin, there was no visibility that that was a route that I could go. I didn’t have that vision right away, so it took me a while to figure out, but once I did, then I tried to steer things a bit to where I wanted to go.

Ben: Sure, but in an end customer and you’re the only Salesforce professional and there’s noone to benchmark yourself against, so how did you go to your manager and say right “now my role, I’m no longer a B.A, like I’m performing the role of a Solution Architect”, because I guess they wouldn’t know that, because they don’t know the Salesforce ecosystem. So how do you have the confidence to do that, and have the information I guess to position it like that?

Priscila: That was by far the hardest one. That jump was the hardest because it was a matter of me understanding, and having that confidence that I was doing that. And again, as you said, when you don’t have anyone to benchmark yourself against, how do you know? And because I don’t have a technical background, that was another level in my head, you know, it should be able to call myself an Architect and though so hard that was a hurdle I had to go through myself. But my approach was, I realised that that’s what I wanted to do through, you know, the Ladies Be Architects and the different Meet-ups and everything, so then I tried to understand, “what does it mean to be an Architect, and what kind of things does an Architect do on a daily basis?” I also did the certifications. I don’t think the certifications by themselves kind of prove you’re an Architect, but at least it gives you an idea of these are the things you should know, and put into practice on a daily basis. And I was doing that already. Because again, I was responsible for this org, and it was a really developed org. We had loads of integrations, we had a lot of customers, who had a lot of big Partners. You know, we had Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Communities, Einstein, there was a lot of it going on. And everything worked really well, so I knew I was doing something right. I just didn’t know that that was the role of an Architect.

Ben: Sure.

Priscila: But after doing the certifications, then I realised “okay, I do do most of these things anyway”. Some of them we didn’t need to do in-house due to the volume, you know, we didn’t have millions of accounts, we didn’t have to worry about some of the performance issues and that could cause, but those are other things they were in practice already. And then it was talking to other people that were Architects, to understand what they did, and how they found their role, and what were their challenges, to the point that I realized “okay now I am doing the role of an Architect but I’m called a B.A”. And I appreciate that that’s quite a unique position, because I was fortunate enough that I joined a business early on, and I had a really good relationship with senior management who really trusted me, and really let me run with the org, and my ideas as long as I could prove that there was a business value behind it. And I was just always trying to push myself to keep adding value, and not settle, and always try to find, you know, like go to the events, watch Dreamforce, even if you can’t attend. Like what’s new? What’s coming? What can I use, or even the releases, you know, there are new features all the time. Are we adopting them? Are we making the most of what we can do? And trying to keep learning, and not just learn, but actually put it into practice. And then I got to a point where I was like “no I’m very clearly doing that role, and I need to ask for it”. And it was just gathering the evidence of things that are very architecture related that I did, and not everything I did was, because again, I’m running the whole orf so there was be. Loads was B.A, but a lot was pure architecture. It was just showing that I was doing that, to be able to ask for that promotion

Ben: Sure okay cool, and what we see in Australia and New Zealand, through our recent market survey, we’ve seen that a lot of people are hesitant to work for a start-up, but would you recommend people work for startups?

Priscila: I think it depends on your personality. You will be thrown in the deep-end, and you will be thrown out of your comfort zone, whether you like it or not, because the company will certainly steer in a direction that you weren’t necessarily expecting. And sometimes it’s due to the management, and sometimes it’s just due to the market. The market hasn’t evolved away you expected. You know, so things will change, and clients have to change all the time, and you’re going to have to adjust to that as well. It could be that you were expecting a certain growth rate and then suddenly that triples, and your amount of work will also triple. And you’ve just got to be able to handle that as best as you can. But at the back of that, you’re going to learn so, so quickly, because you don’t have a choice. You will have to be able to keep up, you’re going to have to push yourself, and stretch yourself. But I think it would have taken me a lot, lot longer at any other place to get to where I got to, if I didn’t have to go through those challenges.

Ben: That’s an interesting point, hopefully a lot of people will take that on because I think there’s some amazing startups using Salesforce in the ecosystem here, and you know, really you can go in and learn a lot, and really grow, so that’s good to know.

Priscila: As well, if you if you’re in the early stages of a startup and they have got Salesforce, you can then you can be the person to tell them, you know, like, “this is what we can do with Salesforce, and this is the value that we can add to the business by doing this in Salesforce”. And you will see the impact that your work has on the business, and I find that it’s incredibly rewarding looking back on where we were two years ago, three years ago four years ago, and you see how much of it is in Salesforce. And I don’t think, if you’re in a Consultancy, it’s amazing, you go in, do your work for a customer and they’re happy, and that’s it. You don’t see that then in use what you built, and grow based on that. Especially if you do something in your work for the end-user, you do something and two years later it’s not working quite as well. The next time you’re doing something, you’re going to think three times harder, because you don’t want to have to go back and redo something again, you know, that thing that you’re building is going to have to last. And to be able to do that, you’ve got to understand where the business is going, and what the challenges are going to be, and you just become better, and especially if you want to go in an architecture route. I don’t know how else you’re going to learn how to think that way unless you go through and realize why it doesn’t work down the line, and you’ve got a learning curve. So if you want accelerate that process, then I think a startup is probably the best way you can get there.

Ben: So the London market, you’ve been in the market there for a while, obviously not necessarily looking for work that whole period of time, but you’re heavily involved in the scene in London. You were telling me a story off record about recruitment contact and things like that, so for our audience that might not necessarily be in London, what can you tell us about the market there?

Priscila: Yes, there is a lot going on, and you have a lot of different recruitment agencies. You have a lot of, I think even end-user customers with their own recruitment teams. So if you’re a Salesforce professional and you’re qualified, then you do get a lot of people reaching out to you. I find that LinkedIn is their main point of sourcing. Also, you know, I think if you go to the Meet-ups, you always find some recruiters there. Soemtimes they are sponsoring the event, those are the good ones. Because they won’t hassle you at all, but yes, it can get quite intense. It’s hard and so every Saturday morning, I go through my LinkedIn messages and I reply to everyone.

Ben: You do reply?

Priscila: Yes I do, I’ve almost got like a template response.

Ben: Yes, copy, paste. So have you seen that the market is particularly heavy for contractors or permanent resources in the UK?

Priscila: I’ve just moved roles. I’m actually between roles at the moment, I gave myself a month off to go travelling and relax a bit. And when I started looking, I found that there is everything. I interviewed for an ISV, I interviewed for a contracting role with an end customer, and I interviewed for a full-time role with a Consultancy. And those are the ones that interested me, but when I looked at what the options were..there was a lot.

Ben: You could have been interviewing all day, every day?

Priscila: Yes!

Ben: Okay, that’s that’s good to know. It’s good to know that globally there’s such demand because, you know, we have the same challenges, or opportunity I guess, in Australia. And one thing I didn’t ask that I should have earlier, regarding creating opportunity for yourself. So we met at Dreamforce last year. How when working for an end customer, how do you ask to go to Dreamforce, and how do you show that there is business value in someone attending Dreamforce?

Priscila: Yes, I kind of negotiated that as part of my promotion to an Architect. I said that, and I was working at that level and to be honest I didn’t know the opportunities that were there for me to keep growing that level of knowledge there, and we had a really honest conversation of “this is how we can change your role to make you work more closely aligned with the development team or with the operations team, and get more exposure to that tech side of the business”. But also, because again, I didn’t have anyone there that new Salesforce more than I did, then how do I learn those Salesforce related best practices? So I really wanted to do their System Architect Boot Camp, and I knew that they were doing one at Dreamforce, and I sort of negotiated that as part of my promotion. But that had to come from me, and I had to outline “these are the things that I’m going to be learning there. And these are the projects that are upcoming, that I think I could apply that knowledge so there is value for the business of me having that knowledge.”

Ben: Sure, yes, that makes sense because so many people want to go to Dreamforce, and sometimes you get lucky with the company really wanting to invest in their people and, not lucky, I mean that should be expected, but not everyone sees the value of going to a conference in San Francisco right? So yes, it’s good to have that advice.

Priscila: I was also lucky that Wandera does have an office in San Francisco that I had never been to, so I kind of worked from the office for a few days and did a couple of workshops with the people there, so I tried to add as much business value as possible. I would suggest, try and figure out, what is value for the company? Work out the things you are going to learn there, what’s in that for the company? Why should they send you. I think it’s on you a little bit to be able to go and answer those questions.

Ben: So aside from Dreamforce, what are some of the other community events or initiatives that you’re passionate about?

Priscila: I just love the Salesforce Community so much, I don’t know about here because I don’t know that many people here, but in London there’s just such a lovely bunch of people. They have a lot of User groups, I think they’re called nowadays, we used to call them Meetups but they’re the official User groups now. I think we have 12, maybe in London? There is loads. I try to go to the Admin one, to the Developer one, and sometimes to the Einstein/Data one as well. I love it. And people ask, “why do you still go the Admin one?”, and I’m like, “but I was there once, I took a lot of value from the talks at the time” and now I more go to talk to the people, and keep in touch.

Ben: And give back, right?

Priscila: Yes, exactly and on the topic of giving back, that’s one of the things that Salesforce, like our instructor we’re saying usually, you need to give back to the Community. Because there was only 24 of us, and they were saying “if each one of you go and, you know, teach 10 people what you learned here, and then those people teach 10 people, then we will have a better ecosytem, so go and spread the knowledge”. So one is my goals for this year is to do a bit more public speaking and participate more in the Community events. I’m really excited, I just got my first talk accepted for Czech Dreamin in Prague. In May, at the end of May, hopefully fingers crossed, Corona allowing, that it will go ahead. But yes, I’m going to be talking about Integrations there. To be honest, it’s a topic that, you know, it’s not the thing that I’m most comfortable with, but that’s why I wanted to do it, because it will force me to learn more, and research more, to be able to prepare that.

Ben: Yes, back when you were working as an Executive Assistant if you’d have told yourself you were going to be talking on Integration in Prague, you’d never have believed it, right?

Priscila: I’d have run a mile!

Ben: It’s good to test yourself and put yourself out there, right? So what about mentors? So you didn’t have a mentor internally from a Salesforce perspective, but have you ever had a mentor in the ecosystem?

Priscila: Yes, I had an unofficial mentor, every time I got stuck on something, it was a project that was too large for just myself to handle, or if it was something that was too technical, too code heavy, we would hire a Technical Architect to help me, and he was one of the Founders of the London User Group, he’s an MVP for, you know, he’s in the Hall of Fame, I think he’s been an the MVP for five years, and he really pushed me. He was the one that said “oh you should go to the Meet-ups back in the day”, and I was like “oh I didn’t even know there was a thing” and that’s how I started to get more involved with the Community. And I was like “oh I think I’m doing a B.A role, what do you think?” and he was like “definitely”. He was the person that I would go to, because would come in, and we would work together for a few weeks or a couple of months, and he would see what I was doing, what I had done with the org, and maybe a year and a half later he would come in again for a different project, and be like “oh, that’s really cool, these things you’ve done”. He’s the one that I’d looked after for sort of validation or encouragement, and it’s been really helpful to have someone to talk to, and bounce ideas, career-wise off of.

Ben: Yes, so you’ve done a lot in the period of time you’ve been in the ecosystem, but what does the future look like for you, what are you excited about?

Priscila: Yes, so I’m going to start at the end of this month, my first Consultancy role. I’m joining a Consultancy as a Solution Architect, but the thing that made me choose them, is that they’ve got a CTA, and they’ve got a couple of other Architects that are really quite advanced in their journey to CTA as well. One of my goals for this year is to finish my System Architect certifications, I’m going to do the Integration and Identity one. I’m feeling quite good about the Integration, I’m going do that soon. But hopefully being a Consultancy, I’ll get the exposure to different enterprise architecture systems. My goal is to try and soak up as much knowledge from the other guys on the team as I can. And just get exposure to different challenges, different industries and so on.

Ben: Yes, so I’m going to ask a question I’d not given your heads up on, but if someone is starting out and joining now, what’s the one piece of advice you’d give?

Priscila: Get involved with the Community early on, because you don’t know what you don’t know, right? And go and watch different presentations and maybe you’re going to learn that we’ve got three releases every year, and what are they, and and you’re going to learn about things that you might not have realized were important, so are you backing up your data? And, you know, things that I remember when I first started going, as I was doing an Admin role, there are loads of things that I realized that “oh, we do this really well”, or “oh, we don’t do this at all” and it’s going to kind of open your horizon, and just being able to meet people, and you know, being able to talk to them, and see how their journey has gone, and someone that you can reach out to if you’re unsure about something, you know?

Ben: Perfect, well thank you so much for coming on the show, I’ve really enjoyed the chat and look forward to seeing how the career continues to develop.

Priscila: Thanks Ben, thanks for having me, it’s been a pleasure.

Make sure you’re following Priscila on LinkedIn and feel free to reach out to her with any questions regarding the topics covered in the podcast episode.

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