Susannah Kate St-Germain is a 9x certified Salesforce Architect. She started her career with Salesforce as an accidental admin….she actually went to college (and graduate school) for music! After dabbling with Salesforce administration for years at multiple nonprofits, Susannah took the plunge and pursued a full-time career in tech after getting inspired at her local Women in Tech user group.
I attended my first Salesforce Women in Tech event in October 2016. At the time I had been working at a nonprofit as an administrator, and while I had heard about the power of the Salesforce community, I was nervous about getting out there and trying to make connections.
This first event was a real step for me. I remember sitting in the parking lot trying to psych myself to talk to *gasp* strangers! A few minutes before the scheduled start time I finally went inside. The event was a Trailhead badge earning get-together (before the days of #SalesforceSaturday) and I fell in love with earning badges. And while I didn’t make any new connections at the event, I was inspired by the User Group Leaders and even won a tee-shirt! When I think back, this was absolutely a turning point for how I thought about myself as a Woman in Tech.
After the event I began to connect with more of the Salesforce community through Twitter and dug in even deeper on Trailhead. I also had the amazing opportunity to be a student in one of the first sessions of RADWomen Code (a 10-week community-led course that teaches women how to code in Apex). Talk about pivotal moments! RADWomen absolutely changed the trajectory of my career. After participating in RAD, my confidence in my technical abilities completely changed.
Still, I felt pretty disconnected from the community. Yes, I followed people on twitter and forced myself to go to the WIT events at Dreamforce and through my local user group, but beyond introducing myself, I wasn’t making any real connections. And it only made me feel worse that everyone else seemed to be talking about how inclusive and welcoming the Salesforce community was to them. What was I doing wrong?
I felt this way for almost two years. Sort of lurking on the periphery of the Salesforce Ohana. But I kept putting myself out there, despite how uncomfortable it made me. And at the beginning of 2018, things really began to change. First, I went through a divorce which really tough personally. Second, I used some of my new free time to engage even deeper in the WIT community.
In January I volunteered to help with a Girl Develop It course about Salesforce. I also had the amazing opportunity to become a RAD coach. Giving back in this way, teaching other women about Salesforce, was incredible. Around the same time I found out about two virtual Salesforce User Groups, Women Who Dev (WWDUG) and Ladies Be Architects. I joined my first WWDUG virtual meeting, and I instantly knew. I had found my tribe! Both of these groups are full of amazing, brilliant women who are incredibly ambitious and shattering stereotypes one after the other.
After connecting with these women online, and meeting many of them in person at TrailheaDX ’18, I realized something. One of the reasons I felt so awkward in the past when introducing myself to new people is that #1, sometimes it IS just awkward, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. And #2, some of us (like me) are a bit socially awkward. And that’s ok!In the end, it took quite awhile to find my tribe. So don’t worry if you don’t connect right away with someone at your first event, or if you introduce yourself to someone and you feel awkward. There are so many different ways to get involved. Some might be a better fit for you than others. But keep reaching out, learning, and contributing.
Even if you aren’t comfortable networking and schmoozing you should still attend WITness success. It’s a unique event that’s more focused on professional development and community than other events in the Salesforce ecosystem. And I can’t think of a better place to find or connect with a tribe that supports and inspires you!