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Salesforce’s new Trailblazer Community is designed to help people “learn, earn and connect” on one platform. A Salesforce admin, who was once unemployed, shares his story of how it did just that for him.

Ahead of its annual developer and admin event, TrailheaDX (TDX21), Salesforce announced new community features for Trailhead, the company’s free online training platform.

The new Trailblazer Community features are designed to help people “build new skills, learn from peers and experts, and connect to job opportunities in the Salesforce ecosystem,” the company said in a press release. They include:

  • Personalized homepage called Today Page where individuals can access the Trailblazer Community feed, their current learning modules and Trailhead recommendations
  • A new Learning Panel that provides suggested learning modules based on the persona’s community conversations and questions they ask during community interactions
  • A new integration with the Trailhead GO mobile app that allows users to perform community functions like ask questions and send direct messages

TDX21 started this Wednesday, June 23, and prior to the show, I spoke with Senior vice president for Trailhead Marketing & Community, Kris Lande about the new Trailblazer Community. We were also joined by Tony Nguyen, a Trailblazer who shared his story of going from being unemployed during the Covid-19 pandemic to getting a job as a Salesforce Admin. The following is a transcript of the interview, edited for readability.

Helping people “learn, earn and connect” on one platform

Bill Detwiler: All right, so let’s get right to it. Kris, I’ll go to you first, which is, what is Salesforce announcing with the new Trailblazer Community?

Kris Lande, SVP, Marketing & Community at Salesforce

Kris Lande, SVP, Marketing & Community at Salesforce

Image: Salesforce

Kris Lande: Yeah, so we have a big announcement and I want to give you a little bit of the background of how we got here. Last year when the world basically changed overnight and we all had to learn how to use new technology, we had to learn how to learn, how to connect, how to do this with technology. And this was something that was really important to us where really for our community, they really had to learn how to be together without actually being together like they’re used to. We have this amazing vibrant Trailblazer Community all across the world, 1,300 community groups who meet monthly and quarterly to share Salesforce skills and to learn together and they had to do that virtually over the past year and a half. And when we’re looking at what our community is doing, we just saw how vital it is to be able to connect the learning experience to the community experience.

And so what we’re launching, we’re going to be launching it this next week right before TrailheaDX, our Trailblazer Community conference. We are launching the re-imagined Trailblazer Community. We are bringing together the learning experience in Trailhead and the Trailblazer Community experience so you can learn, earn, and connect all on one modern unified platform and we think this is just going to be a game changer for our Trailblazers.

SEE: The CIO’s guide to low-code platforms (TechRepublic Premium) 

Bill Detwiler: Kris, I think that’s a really important point because I have been an adjunct professor for a really long time and so I’m used to an education model where you have someone with knowledge and experience who is imparting that knowledge, but there’s also a community aspect and the collaborative aspect to the learning experience between people who have either been through that learning experience, who are going through it together as a cohort. Talk to me a little bit about why you thought it was important to blend those two together, both community with what you’re releasing now and the new sort of features and the traditional Trailhead platform which is about imparting that knowledge?

Kris Lande: Yeah. And I think something that we all know is that learning is better when we’re together, when we’re learning alongside our peers. We see that over half of learners say that they are turning to peers first for knowledge and that’s a little bit harder now, I’m at home right now I can’t turn around and talk to my colleague like I could in the office. And so we really wanted to find new ways to help our community learn better together and really use technology to do that and to really facilitate learning alongside each other, being able to easily ask questions, plug in the right knowledge from Trailhead to really help our Trailblazers maximize their learning, maximize their potential with Salesforce.

Going from unemployed to a tech career

Bill Detwiler: And Tony I think this is an excellent segue over to you because you have a personal experience here. So tell me a little bit about your job before the pandemic. What were you doing?

Tony Nguyen, Salesforce Administrator at CalabrioTony Nguyen, Salesforce Administrator at Calabrio

Tony Nguyen, Salesforce Administrator at Calabrio

Image: Salesforce

Tony Nguyen: Yeah, so prior to being a Salesforce admin I was a regional manager for a local chain here in Minneapolis, Minnesota. And then during that time, with COVID and everything I lost my job last year and then transitioned into tech during that time.

Bill Detwiler: And I guess, what inspired you to learn Trailforce skills? What was it? Because there are other opportunities out there, but what was it after going from that career sort of got you introduced to Salesforce?

Tony Nguyen: Yeah. So I was talking to a girl named Kristina and during our conversation I was debating between continuing the restaurant industry, the hospitality industry or just switching to something completely new and tech is one of those things where it seems like it’s never going to go away, if not, it’s just improving over time. And I was like, “It’d be awesome to enter the tech industry.” And talking to her she was like, “Oh, you should look into Salesforce. You seem like a great fit.” And then at that time I had no idea what Salesforce was.

I didn’t even know Salesforce was a company, right. It’s insane. It’s a huge company, I had no idea. And then I started digging into it and then I was like, “Well, Salesforce is huge. And they’re planning to create millions of jobs over a period of time.” And I was like, “This seems to be interesting.” And I was trying to find a way to learn how to become a Salesforce admin. After some research I found Trailhead, and then from Trailhead I ran into PepUp Tech which is like a cohort of alumni, it’s the program where they teach minorities how to utilize Salesforce.

I got accepted at class in August, so from April to August I was just kind of sitting there, didn’t really know what to do so I was like, either I can learn by myself before the class or just sit here and not really doing anything. Right. So I found Trailhead, hop on Trailhead and spent eight hours a day for the next two months before the class started and just went at it.

Bill Detwiler: Well, tell me a little bit about before you got into Salesforce, did you have any technical knowledge whatsoever? Had you done anything? And I don’t mean, everybody these days can use a smartphone, usually use a computer, that’s not it. But had you done any training around either programming classes, either coding, did you have any exposure to anything like that? Or IT or was this a brand new and complete kind of new set of skills you were learning?

Tony Nguyen: I mean, besides playing video games on the computer, no technical background whatsoever.

Trailblazer Community Today Page screenshotTrailblazer Community Today Page screenshot

Trailblazer Community Today Page

Image: Salesforce

Bill Detwiler: That’s really cool. And I’d love to hear a little more about that community support because that’s what we’re really talking about, and what Kris was talking about earlier, which is that there is a shared learning experience in that and it sounds like from what you’re describing, you had that. So tell me a little bit more about how the other Trailblazers, as Salesforce call them, how they helped you throughout that process, how did they connect with you? Did they provide advice? Did they recommend certain trails that you take? How did they support you as you work to sort of transform your career?

Tony Nguyen: Yeah, so to be honest, I fell in love with Salesforce because of Trailhead and the community. The reason why I’m still doing the job and the reason why I’m so passionate about the job is because of those two things. During my process of learning, there’s definitely a lot of times where I’ve failed, certification, for example, I failed the first time. Worse than that, but what clicked the most was one of my tweet was about me failing the first attempt and that was my most liked tweet up to date. Right. Everybody in the community was like, “Oh, it’s okay to fail the first time. You can do it, keep going.” So I noticed every time I fail something, there’s always someone there to support me. And if I don’t know something there’s always someone out there in the community that can answer my question.

So being a new admin, it’s really hard to know everything and it’s impossible to know everything right? But with the community being there behind you, it’s a good support structure where you say, “Oh, hey, if I don’t know something I can definitely find the answer to that.” And having that peace of mind just makes the job a lot easier and for you to continue doing what you’re doing.

Bill Detwiler: I’ll let you know a little secret, I didn’t pass my first Microsoft certification 20 years ago either, so you’re in good company there.

SEE: Low-code platforms: An insider’s guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic Premium)

Community is playing a huge role in people learning new skills and getting new jobs

Bill Detwiler:  So Kris, I’ll throw it back to you because I’d like to expand on that role of community like you were talking about and what Tony was just talking about there. What role did community really play in helping, or what role does it play in sort of helping people learn new skills and connect to new jobs over the last year? As Tony describes it and as you were talking about, we’ve all been isolated, we’ve all been doing things through video chat this past year. So, what role did “community” play in that?

Kris Lande: Yeah, I think the Trailblazer Community and Trailhead, it’s been a vital tool for anybody who’s looking to skill up in the Salesforce ecosystem. We have over 4.2 million jobs being created by 2024 and with Trailhead and the community, we’re really helping people skill up for those jobs and be connected to people to help them mentor them, help coach them to get those jobs. When you’re looking around the community, especially during the last year and the community just has lifted each other up. There’s this woman in the UK, Gemma, when she saw people around her were losing their jobs she quickly spun up a webinar series called Learn Salesforce with Gemma to help other people learn Salesforce skills because she wanted to share these skills, she wanted to make sure that people weren’t left behind.

Trailblazer Community Desktop and GO screensTrailblazer Community Desktop and GO screens

Trailblazer Community Desktop and GO screens

Image: Salesforce

Or you have Amy, she’s an amazing Salesforce admin. When all of the Salesforce events were suddenly canceled due to the pandemic, she created this open source event list where everyone could add their virtual events to this list. And she just broke down these barriers, anybody could attend any meetings, so if you’re in San Francisco you could join the Boston user group. And she just opened it up for everyone and really broke down those barriers.

And you saw stories like this everywhere, the community really helping each other, especially for those who were looking for new opportunities during this time. So I think the community has just been absolutely vital, and just hearing Tony’s story is amazing. Hearing how he went from unemployed during the pandemic to learning these Salesforce skills, getting connected to people to connect him to his amazing new job. And that’s really the beauty of Salesforce and the Trailblazer Community is Salesforce is an easy platform to learn, you don’t have to have tech background.

And when you have an easy tool like Trailhead that helps you learn and you have the community to help you lift you up and mentor you along the way, you are just unstoppable and you can go from zero to being an amazing Salesforce admin just like Tony.

Building a mindset around continuous learning

Bill Detwiler: And Tony, I got to ask, how long have you been in the new gig and how do you like it so far?

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Tony Nguyen: I’ve been in the new gig since, so last November, so roughly eight months now. How do I like it so far? I don’t think words can explain how grateful I am for the new position and just finding Salesforce as a career. To be honest, it changed my life right. Before I was working six, seven days a week, sometimes a month straight nonstop and with Salesforce, it give me the opportunity to actually spend time with my family, my friends.

Bill Detwiler: So I take it that obviously by talking to me about it, you’re sold on it. And if there were other people who are watching this who are kind of in your same shoes or they find themselves in your same shoes in the future, what would be your advice to them?

Tony Nguyen: I think, just go at it, just give it a try. Worst thing that can happen is nothing, nothing worse can happen, right? If it works out, it works out, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t, but fear is always going to be there, right. Everything you do, there’s always a fear aspect. But I always see the other side is always brighter.

Bill Detwiler: Definitely don’t let your fear control your fate. So Kris, I’ll kind of end with you because I think what Tony describes, I’ve heard over and over for people when it comes to talking about Trailhead and Salesforce. And one of the things that helps with that is that the resources at Trailhead and that Salesforce provides are free. So they’re out there, you can go use them, the community is willing to jump in and so other than your time, which is a significant investment but other than that there really isn’t a lot to lose if you’re thinking about building a career in tech.

Kris Lande: Agree. All it takes is that, we talk about the Trailblazer mindset, it is the learner mindset. It’s that continual growth that’s wanting to learn. You just need that mindset and Tony obviously has that amazing learner mindset, a true Trailblazer. You can get started for free, it is super easy to get started and of course we have the amazing community to help you along the way. You heard Tony, when failed his first certification test the whole community rallied around him. I remember that tweet, Tony, and I just remember everyone rallying behind you and really just cheering for you and that is exactly what the community is, just really lifting each other up. And we are very excited about bringing together learning and community in one platform because we think this is just going to be a game changer and a multiplier for our Trailblazers to learn, earn, and connect all in one platform so we can have more Tony’s in the world, more Trailblazers.


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