From Inspired to Vulnerable to Leader: Gaining Confidence at WITness Success and Discovering What’s Next

Author: Lissa Smith @lissasmith80

Two years ago, when I got home to Indianapolis from the first WITness Success event in Chicago, to say I was blown-away is an understatement. From the engaging, vulnerable, and honest panel discussions, to the introspective and informative workshops, to the inspiring keynotes: I left feeling energized, motivated, my confidence level had increased, and I was excited to get back to work and take my career to the next level.

At that time, I had been a Salesforce Admin for a decade and absolutely LOVED my job as a Solution Architect on an Admin team. But as much as I loved strategizing, designing, and building on the platform, I loved talking about being a Salesforce Admin — and sharing tricks, tips, best practices, and evangelizing the Salesforce Admin role –just as much. I had an ongoing internal debate: do I want to continue forward as an Admin? Or do I want to shift that focus on leading and helping other Admins grow and succeed?

During an evening social event the second night of the conference, I worked up the nerve to network with several other attendees. In the past, I felt intimidated and shy at events like that, especially when there seemed to be such a strong group of close-knit Salesforce celebrities all in one room together. But the energy at WITness Success is different, everyone went out of their way to be approachable and inclusive, and this time, I felt safe. I challenged myself to step out of my comfort zone, be vulnerable, and learn more about these amazing, unique, and inspirational women and allies.

I also made sure to ask everyone I talked to, specifically those in leadership roles, how they felt about moving from a Salesforce Admin role into a leadership role. The themes of all the responses were similar (“go for it!”), and when I asked Lizz Hellinga, who co-led an engaging resume-building workshop I attended earlier in the day, I absolutely loved her answer: “as a leader, you will get to birth baby Salesforce Admins!” — a quote that to this day makes me smile and that I’ll never forget.

I got home with a pile of notes, mountains of excitement, and a determination to be a leader and help other Salesforce Admins. In my next 1:1 with my manager, I’m not sure I stopped talking about everything I had learned — mostly about myself — at the conference. Thanks to this new-found confidence, I enrolled in a leadership exploration course my company offered and continued to pursue this new career path.

When I asked my manager whether I could go to the conference again in 2018, this time halfway across the country in Denver, his response was — direct quote: “Yes, especially seeing how inspired you were coming out of it last year.”

The Denver WITness Success conference last year was just as transformative. I attended more workshops and sessions that helped me dig deeper into my goals and, like the prior year, I stepped out of my comfort zone to network with other attendees – many familiar faces from the year before. And similar to when I got home from the Chicago event, I couldn’t wait to tell anyone who would listen everything I had learned.

A few months after the second conference, I applied to be the Director of the Salesforce Admin team (a brand-new position) at my company. I reached out to Lizz Hellinga, who had taught the resume-building workshop I attended at WITness Success years before – and she graciously gave me feedback on my resume along with a TON of encouragement. And – spoiler alert – I got the job! I now lead a growing team of 12 rock star #AwesomeAdmins! My job is to coach, mentor, and advocate for the Salesforce Admin role (dream job!!)! I’m not sure I would have had the confidence to move in this direction had it not been for the skills I learned, the incredible Trailblazers I’ve met, and the mindset/confidence I gained by attending WITness Success.

Every year I have told myself that even if my company doesn’t pay for it, there is absolutely NO WAY I will miss this conference. I am so grateful to have a manager who sees the importance of professional development events like WITness Success, encourages my enthusiasm, and supports my career goals.

And the best part: I am excited to have FIVE (!!!) teammates road-tripping to this year’s conference in Nashville along with me! I can’t wait to see how ALL of us evolve after this year’s event!

Me and Natalie Kinsey, my Indy WIT co-leader, at Denver WITness Success.