In our latest STEM series event, Women in Salesforce, Computer Futures hosted a panel discussion with some of Salesforce's most trailblazing women. We learned how these luminary business leaders built their successful careers within the ecosystem by taking initiative, skilling up, and breaking through the barriers in the tech industry.
Hundreds attended and learned all about:
- Diversity & female presence in Tech and in Salesforce
- Areas with the most job opportunities for women
- Salary negotiation tactics
- Mentorship for women in Salesforce
- Skilling up creatively for your ideal career path.
Computer Futures thanks all our exceptional panelists for giving their advice and sharing their experiences with us. We offer our audience some of our own insights based on 30 years in the staffing and recruitment industry to help job seekers fulfill their career potential.
You can watch the full recording of the previously live conversation here.
Job Opportunities in the Technology Industry
As Rakia Finley, points out, solutions-based, communicative people have a competitive advantage in the job market. Since Covid there has been a surge of job opportunities in the wider tech industry with the whole world embracing digital means of doing business more than ever before. With the new digital landscape comes additional projects and opportunities with innovative companies where women may face less discrimination and more appreciation for their abilities and talents.
Especially for people transitioning from other industries, women can problem-solve and add value, offering an employer or a client well-rounded experience and knowledge. With the ability to broaden their scope and without the limits of location, women have access to leadership roles that they otherwise would not have, as long as they are optimizing themselves in their job searches.
Stepping outside of yourself and representing effectively to a potential employer with a "bold voice" rather than conservatively toning down abilities is a skill that takes development. Our recruitment team often helps candidates match with jobs to which they would not otherwise have access, one reason being that they had never considered their applicability to a career in technology before. After the thought of a new career has been implanted in the mind of a tech professional, the challenge becomes finding the right next opportunity to capitalize on skills and experience.
Standing Out in the Job Market
There are more tech jobs in the market and more companies hiring as 2021 develops, but tech is a competitive industry. To stay ahead of the game, identify your target job and the skills needed to perform it, then optimize yourself as the ideal candidate for the role. Start by articulating what you bring to the table based on your experience, talents, and unique traits that add value to an organization.
To fill skills gaps in your resume, arguably the best place to start is by volunteering your time with a non-profit organization in your industry. As Cindy Reeder, points out, when you give your time, you will gain experience in areas you want and in areas you did not expect. More tools in your toolkit means a better ability to get past the ATS system and through a first interview based on your merit.
As you contribute to your ecosystem your network will grow wider, and more developed relationships will follow. Making yourself a more marketable professional is another skill that does not come naturally to everyone. Even the most talented tech professionals need help from a recruitment specialist to bridge the gap between them and their ideal job. Those who take initiative and drive their own career development end up with more satisfying, well-paying, and rewarding jobs.
The Value of Certifications vs Hands-on Experience
Another way to add value to your candidacy in a job search and in a career is to obtain industry certifications. Whether to learn a skill from scratch or round off a self-taught skill, certifications prove ability in a standardized way for potential employers and clients to see and refer to dedication to understanding wider business solutions.
Qualifying certifications matter more in some professions than in others. As Cindy says, certain jobs in the Salesforce ecosystem like engineering and senior administration call for formal training, especially because Salesforce as a community is so welcoming to members without a tech background.
For those entering the job market from other industries, proficiency in your job and tenacity in your search can take the place of a non-technical background and formal training, as Krystal Carter says. However, Krystal and Cindy agree that deeper knowledge of the inner workings of a system and how changes impact overall function is a distinguishing factor when evaluating qualifications for a position and ability to communicate at a higher level with other professionals.
Alternatively, hands-on experience demonstrates proof of applied conceptual understanding and execution of duties. Deeper knowledge of the inner workings of a system and how changes impact overall function is a distinguishing factor when evaluating qualifications for a position and ability to communicate at a higher level with other professionals. Showing value-added as an end-result to a company or project with the ability to recount the experience and discuss lessons learned at all levels can be a deal maker or breaker in a competitive job market. Often, companies would rather bet on a candidate with a proven understanding of the real-life implications of applying a skill to a business with other team members, vendors, and clients.
Cost can be another barrier to obtaining formal training in technology. Certifications and a college degree are both difficult, and employers place different levels of value on each, but one is significantly less time-consuming and expensive than another. "Skilling up" for your career can be done through volunteering, certifications, learning by doing, or networking through perceived gaps in your skill set.
Another creative way to learn the skills necessary to succeed in tech is to teach yourself in less conventional ways. Rakia told us how she used to sit in a bookstore to learn coding, and became a full stack developer before the term had even become universal. Learning from experiences, researching cutting edge practices, conquering imposter syndrome, and adding skills as they are needed can lead your career in the direction of success.
In summary, job seekers have the ability and the opportunity to optimize themselves and their search. Following the advice of our panelists, finding inspiration, and working with a quality recruitment specialist all help take your career to new heights.
Computer Futures thanks our amazing panel of accomplished, trailblazing women for participating in the panel!
Please read Part 2 for more advice, guidance, and stories of success.
Meet Our Panelists
Rakia Finley, Founding Partner of Cooper & Vine Studio Co.
Rakia Finley is the Founding Partner at Copper & Vine Studio, an American software executive, Women in Tech Initiative Leader, full-stack developer, Salesforce MVP, mother, private investor, and philanthropist. She is best known for her work with the Obama Administration on their "Girls in STEM" initiative and continues to develop innovative technology solutions and community initiatives that promote diversity in STEM for girls of color. Named FemTech's 2016 & 2017 Powerful Woman Programmer, she is one of the highest-earning African-American females in the software industry and North America's first black female owner of an Artificial Intelligence (AI) software and product development firm.
Krystal Carter, Founder & Chief Cloud Enthusiast of Danny Kay Consulting
Krystal D. Carter has spent nearly two decades leveraging the Salesforce platform to help create scalable solutions for doing business better. An accidental technologist, Krystal had no plans to pursue a career in technology, but when the unexpected opportunity came along, she embraced the challenge. Her journey has developed into a personal mission to bring others along as well. In 2016, she founded Danny Kay Consulting, a boutique firm specializing in Salesforce implementations. Many of the people to whom she exposed the platform now work with her at DKC, embracing their own unexpected careers in technology.
A native of Houston, Texas, she focuses on giving back to her community with a specific passion for exposing young girls of color to career opportunities in tech. She has served as a member of the United Against Human Trafficking board, Big Brothers Big Sisters Young Professionals board, and The Kinkaid School Alumni Association board. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, collecting passport stamps, and hosting her friends for game nights.
Cindy Reeder, Director of Salesforce Product at Expedia Group
Cindy is a seasoned technology leader. Having received her bachelor’s in Computer Science and an MBA from Millsaps College, Cindy entered the professional world in the mid-2000s as SaaS technology and Salesforce.com were becoming mainstream. She began as a hands-on admin/developer, moving into roles such as project and program management. Today, she leads and manages internal-facing product teams for one of the largest global online travel companies. Strongly committed to local community engagement and mentorship, Cindy has led the Austin, Texas Salesforce community through many iterations since 2011 and has actively mentored prominent Salesforce MVPs in her ecosystem. Cindy enjoys life as a devoted technology leader and mom to two boys, ages 8 and (almost) 4.