Penny Townsend 2022-08-04T14:38:54+00:00

Salesforce Global Partner Case Study: Penny Townsend

Salesforce Global PartnerPenny Townsend (She/Her) is currently a partner at IBM, a Salesforce Global Partner, and a fifteen-year Salesforce ecosystem veteran. A law graduate with exceptional intellect, a plethora of postgraduate qualifications and twelve Salesforce certifications. A recognised and respected leader in the field, known for smashing any target she is given.

Penny has worked at virtually every level of the Salesforce system, from working on contract to programme manager, managing director, COO to partner.

During this time, Penny, in her own words, has dealt with every kind of contractual and employment law scenario imaginable.

In this case study, Penny shares her experience working with Lee, Theresa and the Resource on Demand Salesforce Recruiting team as both a candidate and client.

Penny, Can You Share What Your Journey Has Been Over The Last 15 Years In The Ecosystem?

Sharon: Hi, Penny. Thank you for joining us today. I understand from our brief interaction that you have a very long history of working in the Salesforce ecosystem.

I anticipate that listeners of this particular video will be interested in learning from your journey through the Salesforce ecosystem.

Today, we’re talking about recruiting and career development and your experience working with Lee, Theresa, and the team at Resource On Demand. Before we get into that part of the conversation, though, can you share some of your journey with us?

Penny: Yes. Sure, Sharon, really nice to meet you. I think, like many people, I fell into the Salesforce world by accident. I started doing Salesforce work about 15 years ago. At that time, there were two main routes that people followed to get into Salesforce.

People like me were involved in sales leadership and then got into Salesforce because we used and implemented Salesforce, being the subject matter experts.

Then there were the hard technical guys.

Many of them were coming to Salesforce from other technologies, from Siebel at the time, and places like Oracle. They saw similarities in the technology but really exciting new opportunities. It was an interesting time because it was new. Every person in the space, the technology, and the ways of working were all new to us.

I think that was nowhere truer than for recruiters as well. Lee, Theresa, and ROD were the first Salesforce recruiters in the UK.

Sharon: Yes, they were very forward-thinking to have the confidence and the conviction to nail their hat to this as a recruiting niche because it was so new at that time.

Penny: Yes. It’s challenging for them, very different at that time compared to today because there were all new roles. They focused on people’s transferable skills and gave a lot of support to recruiting managers and candidates about what type of role to go for and how to move into those roles.

I think that was critical for setting out career pathways for people. They were super important in some of my early jobs, but also in helping me identify roles which I could then fill.

In Your Early Career What Was Your Experience of Working With Recruitment Companies?

Sharon: If we go back then to the early stages of your career, what was generally your experience of working with recruitment companies? Have you worked with them before working with Resource On Demand?

Penny: Yes. Before working with ROD, I had recruited a lot of other people in the past, and those tended to either be salespeople or administrators. My previous history had been to use local recruitment firms. That personal service that you get from Lee and Theresa, and knowing their customers, understanding their client base was always very important to me.

I had always worked with recruiters who had a good list of candidates that they placed maybe multiple times, where they knew other local businesses people, and they knew me well enough to know who a good fit would be.

I guess that’s because when I was very young, I tempted a lot through agencies, so I had a good understanding of how to get the best out of them.

My work with ROD was the first time I’d ever used a subject matter expert group of recruiters rather than local; That was quite a big change.

Sharon: Was that a deliberate choice? How did you guys meet Lee and Theresa?

Penny: Yes, so that was deliberate for me. That was because Salesforce was so new that they wouldn’t have even known what I was talking about if I’d gone to another recruiter. If I’d said Salesforce, they would have literally thought I meant a team of salespeople.

It wouldn’t have worked. I got introduced to Lee and Theresa by a contractor working in Salesforce, who had got a job through them himself. At that time, the Salesforce world in the UK was very, very small. We were introducing one another to these key people. I think back then; you’d go to a Salesforce event, their equivalent of the world tour today where 12,000 people might go to that now. Back then, it would be 30 people.

Sharon: Everybody was on first-name terms.

Penny: Yes.

Sharon: It sounds like there was a definitive decision that you were not going to get the support as a line manager, recruiting the kind of people you want other than through someone who knows this ecosystem.

Other than the fact that there probably weren’t many agencies specialising in Salesforce at the time, what made you continue to go back and keep working with ROD? What was your experience working with Lee and Theresa in the early days?

 What Was Your Experience of Working With Lee and Theresa in The Early Days?

Penny: I think there are a couple of answers to that. Probably, it’s their expertise at matching people. I could describe what I was looking for, maybe what stage somebody was in that career. In those early days, a key thing I was looking for was people being committed to Salesforce as a career and understanding it. There was a danger that you’d see candidates who were maybe “bandwagon jumpers”, who thought, “Oh, that’s a great place,” but didn’t understand what they were going to be getting themselves into.

Those might be great on paper candidates; people may be technically very strong, but without the interpersonal skills you need to do a Salesforce project well.

I could rely on ROD to not send me those candidates.

They would appreciate what I was looking for, and they would be able to weed those out for me. They understood how I worked, how I built my team, the combination of skills that I was looking for, which meant both for hiring and for when I was looking for my next role, they were able to find a great fit.

In the early days, there were a few recruiters around. Then as more started to pop up, some were only interested in very expensive senior postings. Then others came up who were much more about high turnover. They would send you 50 candidates, and most of those would be people that were not ready yet.

Lee and Theresa were much more thoughtful about what candidates they would work with and what kind of jobs they would be putting them forward for.

Sharon: Some of these projects can be 12 to 18-month in length, so I appreciate the need for that blend of technical expertise and strong interpersonal skills to lead projects. It’s great talking to someone who has worked with Salesforce for so long and worked with Lee, Theresa, and the team.

Sharon: The ecosystem is very different today from when you first joined.

Penny: Yes. It’s radically different now. Right now, it’s a candidates market as well. Every company in the space is desperately trying to hire, and there are many new entrants into the Salesforce space, but fewer as you go up with experience. It’s been a great space for people to become entrepreneurs in the Salesforce world.

Many people have set up as independent consultants or built ISV (Independent Software Vendor) companies, which is fantastic, but that has impacted people’s ability to grow their careers. There is a skills shortage.

I think other recruiters are attempting to push people up. You see this all the time that candidates that maybe only have 18 months experience as a Salesforce admin going for senior highly paid roles that they’re not ready for.

Lee, Theresa, and the ROD team are leading the charge on a very different way of recruiting. They invest much more time and effort in fitting candidates to roles that might be more junior, might not be as well paid, but will help give them the strength and depth so that rather than just job hop because they keep failing, their people will be successful, grow their skills and be able to have a really solid career.

They can advise candidates about that in a way that I think very few recruitment companies in our space actually can.

What Advice Can You Give on Not Going Into Roles Too Soon?

Sharon: Yes. As a hiring manager, you probably had the experience of when you’ve got someone who’s not quite ready for the role.

Suppose someone was listening to this who is very ambitious and a bit impatient for progress. What could you share with them about the impact of going into roles when it is too soon for them, and when their career long-term should take the guidance and advice of people like Lee and Theresa.

Penny: Salesforce is still a relatively small ecosystem, and it is very competitive. Candidate’s risk damaging their reputations if they go into the wrong job. It’s very easy to be super ambitious in how you push yourself forward.

If you don’t know the subject matter, this will create problems, which will hit you when you try to move on to your next role.

I think getting some diversity in your career is key, and I’m a great example of that. Having worked at GSI, boutique firms, ISVs, end-users, I think that range of experience is important to you to command the subject matter.

Rushing to go up levels all the time can be very counterproductive and can end up stifling your career. I think that Lee and Theresa, both for candidates and hiring managers, are true business partners. They will help you find the candidate who is on a career path and got a trajectory that they can grow into within your organisation.

Also, the candidates help give them a solid career rather than jump from job to job because things aren’t quite working out. That’s very valuable and is why I will often recommend to both candidates and line managers that I know that they talk to Resource on Demand whenever they’ve got a job or something difficult to fill because Lee and Theresa do understand the space very well, and they know people that fit well.

Sharon: Yes. You’ve mentioned a few times, Penny, about perhaps their ability to match and how they will take more time to match. Could I ask to speak a bit more about what that involves from your perspective?

The Importance of Matching People To Roles

Penny: I think that’s an area that’s got more complicated over time as well. When I started in Salesforce, there was Salescloud and a couple of hundred apps on the app exchange. Now, there are a myriad of clouds and 8,000 apps or something like that.

It’s hugely, hugely different now. That is a challenge because nobody can be skilled in everything, and we all have to experiment with what’s coming next.

When it comes to matching, Lee and Theresa are really good at understanding people. One of the challenges in our Salesforce space is that there’s a lot of emphasis on certifications.

You take the exam, you get the certification, and certs are a useful proxy for things like people’s commitment to the ecosystem, for their base knowledge, for the effort they’ve put in, for some core understanding. And yet you couldn’t just go and pass a couple of certs and then run a project.

There is a huge gulf between those two things.

Some recruiters out there just look at a job, will maybe look up what clouds are mentioned in that set of requirements, and then match those with who’s got the certs and send those through.

That is a poor thing to do in a couple of ways because, firstly, just because somebody’s got the certification doesn’t mean they can do the job.

Also, many people who have worked on the most challenging project in that space won’t have had the time or the inclination to get the certification. Actually, for most hiring managers, seeing somebody with five real years of experience, maybe hands-on with something like CPQ that hasn’t got around to getting the cert, you’re going to take the CV with the experience over the certified person every day.

What you need is your partner in Salesforce recruitment to help you navigate your way through that. You don’t want to take the uncertified person who isn’t really committed to a career in Salesforce, but you don’t just want someone that’s been able to rack up a bunch of certs but hasn’t quite got the hands-on experience.

Sharon: Yes. I can think of conversations that I’ve had with Lee and Theresa about the scale of these projects and the time investment that a hundred per cent of a consultant’s time can be on the role. If they’re doing 12, 13, 14 hours a day, it’s understandable that it becomes more challenging to put time in to get the certs.

I know Salesforce certifications involve much more than reading a book and taking an online test.

When The Match To The Role and The Candidate Works

As a line manager, what impact does it have on you, on the results you can deliver when the candidate to role match works versus when the match is not right.

Penny: Yes. I think that’s very circumstantial, actually, Sharon, so the impact is different, whether it’s an end-user or an ISV or a consultancy, because they’re other things there.

For an end-user, I’d say that’s where it’s most critical because that’s where the people around that hire don’t know Salesforce and are depending on that person to be the touchstone on Salesforce.

Suppose that person is misplaced in that role because either they don’t know the product or don’t understand the sector they’re in.

In that case, that can lead to things like poor adoption or to the Salesforce implementation not quite working for that organisation. For them as an individual, that could hurt their career because it might be then that the end-user there thinks maybe, “Oh, well, the implementation maybe wasn’t great then”, but perhaps the consultancy that implemented it did a brilliant job, and it’s just your new admin isn’t quite running it properly.

That can be almost the toughest one because it’s harder to identify what’s gone wrong, but having worked with that, if you have the wrong person in an end-user role, it really ripples out in terms of problems.

An ISV tends to be smaller businesses; customer service is key here. If things go wrong, that can lead to churn. Your customer needs just one bad interaction, and they’re going to be Googling who your competitors are, so you need that person to be protecting your reputation.

That’s absolutely vital, and what I’ve found is that the time from hire to productivity is the biggest gap that you can get there with that hiring.

If you want to have somebody confident enough to get going quickly but isn’t running before they can walk, take tickets, and get things wrong. Those are some of the impacts and then culturally because the culture in an ISV is absolutely core to their success, and I think that’s true across the board.

Sharon: Yes, and I guess in the market as it is right now, which is very candidate short, I appreciate that companies want to fill vacancies as quickly as they can. Yet it almost increases the importance of getting that match right, because an agency could very quickly pop over a whole bunch of CVs, but if they’re not the right ones and the match is not there, then you are into some of the issues that you’ve just shared with us.

Whereas sometimes, it might be that the CVs take an extra day or so to come through, but you know if you’re prepared to hold it for a shorter or longer amount of time, that long term it’s going to be far more valuable to you. The importance of the match seems probably even more important now, would you agree?

Penny: Yes, definitely and being able to have a recruitment partner that is a true business partner for you, because if you’re in a smaller end-user organisation, a charity, for example, they are struggling to fill their Salesforce vacancies right now because they’re competing against big consultancies that can pay a lot more money for those same candidates.

Having a business partner like ROD can give them the confidence to widen the net of who they’d consider because Resource on Demand will find candidates whose primary area of knowledge is within their industry and who knows some Salesforce yet are on a journey to learn more.

That might be a much, much better candidate for them than somebody that’s 20 years old, been in work for six months, but has five certs. They might see 20 CVs of that kind of person from agency A and one person who’s older and more experienced in the sector but doesn’t know Salesforce so well from ROD.

And it’s very tempting when you don’t feel like you know the subject matter well enough to think, “Oh, I’ve got safety in the certs, and there are so many candidates here, this must be the person I want”.

But really, that’s where they need to trust who Resource On Demand is sending them because it’s probably a much, much better fit.

Tell Us More About Your Experience As a Salesforce Candidate

Sharon: Maybe if we just turn the table in terms of your experience as a candidate, because as you described and shared earlier, your career has taken in working in all the different areas of Salesforce, partners, and users. When you’ve been the candidate, looking for that next step, how has your relationship evolved from a personal perspective in your career?

Penny: It’s changed a lot because I didn’t even see myself having a Salesforce career in my first couple of Salesforce jobs. It was still a shock to me, and it’s changed a lot as time’s gone on.

Over the years, I’ve appreciated the advice from Lee and Theresa about where a good fit for me was. Yes, they’ve been great at talking to me about what might work because they know me well.

They’ve been able to talk to companies that I might go to about me and help identify whether it would fit before I even met with anybody.

They’ve been great at understanding what motivates me, what I’m good at, what I’m not so good at, and knowing how that fits with different people and different teams, and that’s helping me with what I might want to do next.

Why Working With A Salesforce Recruitment Partner Who Understands You Is Key?

Sharon: I was thinking of that in terms of your experience as you have been getting to a point where you’re ready for the next step. What has been your experience of conversations where maybe through chatting with Lee and Theresa, they suggested you widen your thinking about what to consider.

Penny: Yes, they’ve done that several times. Where I hadn’t considered a particular company or type of role, and they’ve been able to say, I think what you are describing is a program manager. I think what you’re describing is this or that, but probably the best example was when they matched me up for the job at Pracedo. I’m sure Matt won’t mind me saying this, that it was almost like a matchmaker type situation, and it was just a perfect fit. It was amazing.

Matt wasn’t openly looking for the role. He hadn’t advertised for it. He hadn’t gone out to market, but Lee and Theresa knew that I was looking for another job. They just felt like the COO role there would be a good fit for me and that I would be a good fit for Pracedo, and literally within five minutes of Matt and me meeting each other like that, that was just totally the right thing to do.

Yes, I was exactly what he needed at the time, and that was exactly the right job for me at the time, and that was 100% out of Lee and Theresa’s minds. That entire fit. That was not a job I’d articulated that I wanted, and there was no job advertised, and they just figured out that that would be great, and they were absolutely right about that.

How The Resource on Demand Team Understand Building Salesforce Careers

Sharon: Let’s just talk a second then about Lee and Theresa. What do you think it is about them and their approach that allows them to get that level of understanding that contributes to making the quality of matches that you’ve been describing today?

Penny: I think partly it’s longevity. They really do understand the market very well, and they’ve seen it go through many different phases. Partly, I think it’s because of the quality of their recruitment.

Some other firms in the space have grown incredibly quickly and have hundreds of recruitment consultants; then, you end up with a very cut-throat situation where they’re all competing with each other. They’re all only in that job for five minutes before they’re off to the next place.

Whereas Lee and Theresa run their business in a much more personal, steady way, you will speak to the same person multiple times when you are a hiring manager or a candidate.

It is a team there, and that makes a difference because their values translate throughout their whole team and how they do business, which helps them even though their company’s grown. They’re not so hands-on as maybe they were 12 years ago, which means that they still really do understand the market very well.

Sharon: Yes, and so I guess in summary, if there was someone who perhaps was looking for some real career advice, there is so much opportunity in the Salesforce market right now, but if somebody has had some ups and downs in their career, what would you say that would lead them to pick up the phone and have a conversation with Lee and Theresa?

Perhaps from a line manage perspective. If they find it challenging getting the quality of Salesforce expertise they’re looking for, what might you say to that individual who’s doing the kind of role you are?

Penny: I think the candidates, especially if things haven’t been working, but you don’t know why then a conversation with Lee or Theresa and the ROD team is a really good way to figure out what’s going on.

Because they have the experience that you can describe the circumstances and their instincts will be really solid about what happened there. There’s a good chance that whoever is the head of the practice or the head of the department is somebody they know. They’ll be able to know a bit about how that person operates and maybe how things went wrong. They’ll be able to give you some really good pointers as to what to work on to prevent that in the future.

For hiring managers, the biggest challenge is probably being inundated with CVs where it’s very difficult to spot the difference between them. If what you’re looking for is more about soft skills and culture fit, you can talk with Lee and Theresa about that. I’ve been really tough sometimes and said, “I don’t want to see 10 CVs a week. If you send me them, I’m not even going to open those emails.”

Because there’ll be others, you just get spammed into oblivion with CVs, and I don’t even want to see it. Whereas Lee and Theresa, when I’ve been recruiting, one of the biggest compliments I could pay to them is that every single conversation I had with one of their candidates was worthwhile.

Even if they were not the right fit, I could understand why they were forwarded to me. Even if that wasn’t going to progress, I could see okay; they thought that this person ticks this box and they’d fit in this way.

Generally, I would have happily interviewed every person they sent me at any point in my career because I trust the validation that they’ve done on the candidates before they send them my way. I definitely couldn’t say that about every agency.

I can always see the logic of what they were thinking with each candidate that they were forwarding. I think if you’re a hiring manager getting frustrated with seeing all of these CVs and not making sense of them, I think working with Lee and Theresa on that would really, really help you.

Sharon: I guess that is the ultimate compliment. Your time is so valuable, as everybody is, and the candidates they speak to, but you feel that every conversation adds value. You get the logic behind why you were asked to talk to that person, then that’s fabulous feedback. Thank you for sharing that. Is there anything perhaps that you would like to add that I haven’t asked you or hasn’t come out in conversation just as we come to a close?

Penny: I think a big untapped market in our space is for cross-training people. People may have done consultancy work in a completely different environment and perhaps not even in technology. Somebody consulted about good business processes could have an amazing career in Salesforce.

I think there is an onus on all of us to help create the opportunity for people to transition because relying just on people coming out of university or college to backfill our shortage isn’t going to get there.

We need people with business and consultancy expertise. I think it’s on folks like Lee and Theresa to find those people and all of us as hiring managers to be open to giving those people a shot. I think yes, that would be one thing. I’d love to see more of that happen in the community.

Sharon: That’s great. Well, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it. Again, I think some real gems of advice and insights for both candidates and other line managers like yourself. Thank you very much, Penny.

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