Episode 12: Goolshun Belut Salesforce Career Conversation with ROD. Listen to Goolshun talk about his career journey, from working at Carphone Warehouse to now running his own Saleforce consulting company, including the toughest Salesforce project of his career.
[Below is a transcript for your benefit. Please excuse any typos.]
Lee: Welcome, Goolshun Belut. Did I say that right, mate?
Goolshun Belut: Yes, that is correct.
Lee: Good you asked him before the recording. Welcome to the podcast, mate. Very nice to have you. Theresa is also here with us.
Goolshun: Thanks both for having me. Pleasure speaking to you after such a long time.
Lee: I know. It has been a while. I don’t know how long, but I think it’s got to be a good few years and probably one of the last world tours, but been a long time. You’ve done a lot since we last spoke, and we will get to that, obviously. I don’t know whether you’ve listened to any of these before, but we’d like to go back to the beginning of your Salesforce career if you like, and then.
Goolshun: Back to the origins, right?
Theresa: Yes, absolutely.
Lee: If you can remember that far back, mate. Then we’ll go back to where we are today, and what the future looks like, and all that sort of stuff and the journey you’ve been on through this. Without further ado, I’ll let Theresa ask the first couple of questions, and then we’ll just jump in.
Theresa: Oh, okay, fantastic. I suppose the biggest question or the most important question, I should probably say, is how did you get into Salesforce in the first place?
Goolshun: That’s a million-dollar question, that one. I never planned to go into Salesforce at all. It’s just while I was finishing my degree at university, and we had one module around CRM. I think it was saying we had to interview Carphone Warehouse about their own CRM system, but I’ve never imagined that I’ll be working on CRM for my whole career. I think during the last year of my degree, I had a temp job at a company called Truphone. I think they were implementing the Salesforce CRM at that time. I had a basic job at Truphone. My job was literally putting SIM cards into a phone and testing them, and then shipping them. That was quite a mundane task; I was frustrated, and I told people how frustrated I was; I had more talent. One of the directors called me into the office. I thought I was going to lose a job today at that time.
Goolshun: Yes, because I was already here looking for a job, and I had a temp job, and I was venting at the office. They called me in the office, and they said, “Okay, what do you not like about this job?” I said, “I could do more stuff.” He asked me to bring my CV to his office the next day, and he said, “There’s something called Salesforce. It’s a CRM system. We would like you to try it out and see if you can work with it. If you can work with it, then you have a job.” I had two weeks of heavy Googling. Back in the days, there was no Trailhead; there was no heavy training. It was the initial days of even the certifications, so yes, and more Googling.
Lee: Sorry, mate. Sorry to interrupt you. Where are we?
Goolshun: That was 2010 probably. Just 2010 or 2009. Just approximately about that time.
Theresa: Sorry, carry on.
Lee: I’m just curious how long ago that was. Another question. What were you studying? What was the degree in?
Goolshun: Funny enough, my degree was a bit odd. I was studying multimedia computing, but the whole idea of my degree was to do with filmmaking, multimedia side, and creative side with a couple of modules about IT. I did study computer sciences during my A-levels, which helped a lot, certainly because we did some programming before. Anything that I’ve learned at university was – probably I wouldn’t disrespect my degree – but a lot of things we’ve learned during my A-Levels itself, especially again, I was brought up in Mauritius, this is where I did my A-Levels. It was a tougher A-level at that time. We had to learn very old-school programming languages like Pascal, Fortran, COBOL back in the days. Funny enough, when people ask me, how do I know these languages? I said, “Yes, I did some work on them when I was in college.” They ask my age; I’m not that old. It’s just we were using very old-school systems when I was growing up in Mauritius.
Theresa: Good foundation, though.
Goolshun: Indeed. It does help a lot. I think you understand the foundational aspect of programming, so it does help.
Theresa: Okay. Going back to this first job then, you’ve been told, “Yes, I can give you something.” Your boss said, “I’ve got a job for you.” Talk us through what happened after that.
Goolshun: Again, it’s good that Google existed, or else probably I wouldn’t be able to pick up Salesforce. Looking at help files, find ways to learn the system. They managed to put me as an admin on the system, even though I didn’t know how to even use the system. The directors themselves didn’t know, so they didn’t hire anyone to do the work externally. It was all done internal, so a lot of people didn’t have the right skills, including myself. I had to learn it fast. Salesforce is such a system that — it’s a very interesting story because the first version of Salesforce or the initial version of Salesforce was based on an Amazon type of interface.
You’ve probably heard about the whole story about Marc Benioff; he wanted to create a CRM system, which is as easy to use as you would shop on Amazon. He created the whole system. It’s true because it’s free, easy to set up, easy to use. The back-end system at that time was not that useful versus the front end or the UI where people use the system. I had a baptism by fire, really, because I managed to delete the whole database in the second week of using the system. Then, I thought I would lose my job again, but then I’ve managed to see a recycling bin in the system. I managed to undo what I’ve done. It was a scary time, having to play around with a system that you never heard of, with not much help around. That’s how it started in Salesforce and how I fell in love with the system.
I did some CRM systems before, which is open-source CRM like Vtiger 5 before, and anything to do with custom CRM because I used to do a lot of web design stuff. This one was so perfect. Funny enough, I think it was my third month. One of the developers in the company was working for the billing department and asked me, “Can you create a filled-in Salesforce?” I said, “Yes, I can.” They said, “Okay, how much time is it going to take? Is it going to take about three weeks?” I said, “No, it’s going to take me five minutes.” He was so confused. He says, “You’re joking, right?” I said, “No, it’s going to take five minutes.” Because they’re so used to the back-end heavy hardcore systems, they never heard about Salesforce properly. I was a Salesforce guru. People loved me for that, but he wasn’t really behind it. It was just Salesforce is such an easy system.
Theresa: I was going to say he didn’t even realize that included the logging on time.
Theresa: It really is that quick.
Goolshun: It was.
Lee: It does seem crazy that that was the norm back then, wasn’t it? The simplest little change could literally take weeks.
Goolshun: Yes. It’s amazing how cloud computing changed the whole landscape of business. Before, we used to have coders to program in mainframes and even to create small files. In a small enough organization, it takes some time, and then the testing and all of that. In Salesforce, you create it. You don’t like it; you delete it.
Theresa: Yes, I love that.
Goolshun: It is not as straightforward as that is now, especially if you work in a big organization, but the system allows you to scale very fast and make changes very quickly.
Theresa: Fantastic. I guess the question would be, when did you know that Salesforce was for you or that you wanted a career in Salesforce?
Goolshun: Interesting question. When I was researching on Google about what Salesforce is about, I watched a lot of helpful videos. Then I started to discover Marc Benioff, what he was saying, the whole history behind Salesforce. I thought, even though I’m a technical person, I do consider myself to be a lazy person as well because I do remember when one of the journalists ask Bill Gates, “What type of person you would like to hire?” He says, “I would like to hire the lazy ones because the lazy ones will really work harder to make things simple because they don’t like to work that hard.”
Lee: I like that.
Theresa: [chuckles] Why is that?
Goolshun: I had the same mindset. I like to keep things simple. The system allowed me to play around quite a lot with it, and it was all cloud. You could do it on your phone, on a laptop, no software required. It was so easy to just create a process, for example. I think I liked that idea because I became the Salesforce internal guru without much knowledge about Salesforce myself; I thought, “That’s quite a powerful system.” Because people don’t know about it, I’m the only one who knows about it. I just dug deeper and trained myself online, and after a couple of months, I’ve managed to get myself on a Salesforce training. That’s about six, seven months.
Theresa: It’s important to remember that Trailheads didn’t exist back then either, so most of the learning– I self-taught as well. Most of what I learned has come from YouTube and places like that.
Goolshun: Exactly, that’s the best repository of learning. To be honest, even though Salesforce does great training, all these trailheads, it’s all brilliant stuff. It‘s gotten me further; it‘s getting people more interested in the platform. At the end of the day, what you want to know is that you want to be solving a problem. The system gives you so much ability, so much potential, so many different scenarios of how you can solve that problem. At the end of the day, you have to think about whether, when you solve the problem, is it scalable? Is it future proof, even though there are multiple ways to do that? Do you choose the easiest way or choose the hardest way to build the solution?
The only way you really understand that is to play around a lot with the system and go deep into the help files and the videos from before. I still find the original help stuff from Salesforce very, very useful. It gives you a very solid foundation.
Lee: It sounds like it was nowhere near where it is right now, where you could probably find role models and mentors everywhere. Did you manage to have someone you could speak to or have as a mentor back in those days?
Goolshun: Unfortunately not. I had to fail a lot; that‘s probably why I‘m very confident in my solutions because I‘ve failed so much before. I know what not to do. Then, what was helpful was when I started to discover meet-ups where Salesforce had this skeleton time of the user groups, and they were meeting up in central London. I would join a couple of those. Quite helpful, you manage to learn a lot of stuff that you wouldn’t necessarily know just by reading around. I think the community itself was my mentor because you could ask around.
Lee: Did you remember your first Salesforce event? I know what you said about meet-ups, but back in the day when it was Cloudforce?
Goolshun: It was Cloudforce, yes.
Lee: Do you remember your first one of those?
Goolshun: Yes. Oh, that was amazing. Never been to such a big event and back in the days when Marc Benioff himself would be there.
Theresa: He actually turned up, didn’t he? With those crazy shoes?
Goolshun: Yes. I had a couple of Cloudforce events; it blew my mind how big Salesforce was and how big they were becoming in the UK. Every year I was at Cloudforce, Marc Benioff would be there as well. Great keynote speakers; it was amazing. I was amazed; there were so many people in IT all learning Salesforce, and they were so helpful. Any question you would ask, they were very helpful. It was a new system. They would connect with you by email and tell you all about it. The Salesforce community before the new community existed, people would answer each other’s questions. If I had a problem, I would shoot a message on Chatter at that time, and people would answer the questions. That’s how I learned.
My mentors are actually, at the moment, my own team because the more you move up in your career, your Salesforce skills start to dilute a little bit because you do hardcore transformation projects. I still have my team, who I can learn from. Salesforce is moving too fast, and it’s getting quite hard to cope with that type of learning.
Theresa: You can’t be a master of it all anymore, can you? It’s more of a specialism within Salesforce. It’s definitely changed in the time that we’ve been working within Salesforce. I can’t imagine what it’s like for you guys trying to keep a handle on the technology.
Goolshun: As you probably know yourself, before it used to be called Salesforce. Now we have Sales Cloud, the Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud, all these clouds out there. You are right; you have to specialize. I’m not a specialist in any of those clouds myself because I started with the sales service established with the basics. I have a good understanding of marketing intonation because it’s all about psychology, and I love this aspect of it because I did web design before. That’s the part where I really want to excel. I read a lot. It’s not only about Salesforce; it’s how human behaviours work, how the industry works, and then find ways to implement those kinds of solutions on Salesforce whether it’s part of the marketing cloud.
I think what I’ve learnt so far is; the platform is there, you can do anything with it, but you need to understand what type of solutions would solve your client‘s problems. Then you find technical ways to achieve it.
Lee: Going back to your career path, we were at Truphone there, weren’t we? How did you get that first move, then? With many people we speak to on this podcast and so many people we knew back in those days, you just fell into it. When you made that choice to go, “Right, I’m now going to get a job that is fully Salesforce.” How did that come about? I believe it was Groupon, wasn’t it?
Goolshun: Yes, Groupon was actually the fastest growing start-up just after Salesforce at that time, and it was quite an exciting brand to work with. Truphone had a lot of changes. There were management changes internally, so I wasn’t sure about my career. By that time, I knew Salesforce would be my career because I did a lot of sales preparation work at Truphone, and then became the sales admin. Then I thought, “Okay, I think the next step is to really solve business problems.” I had a contact in Groupon, and I think he thought, “Okay, let’s go for an interview.”
I managed to get the job, did some really amazing work for Groupon, the fastest growing startup. I did a lot of statistic experiment with data cleansing on a large scale. I think it was about 14 million records we had to clean up within a couple of weeks. It pushed my limit slightly. Things I didn’t know about Salesforce, I had to pick up at Groupon just by experimenting. At that time, Groupon was the largest company I had worked for, and you get to experiment with how business works, different departments, different stakeholders, how you manage expectation. Don’t over–promise because people will just ask you anything, and the minute you say, “Yes,” you’ve already set yourself up for failure.
The whole stakeholder management I learned at Groupon. After a couple of months at Groupon, I thought, even though it was a great company to work for, it was not meant for me because it was still a start-up. They were still learning a lot themselves. I wanted to work for a company that was a bit more established where I can have more time to learn stuff rather than to learn by failures again.
Lee: Was that when you made the move to Accenture. I’m just trying to remember the pathway there.
Goolshun: Yes, I made a move to ActivTrades, which is a Forex trading firm. It was quite nice to work in a more established environment. They had a matured CRM system. Did some amazing work down there as well because they were experimenting with different kind of marketing activities. Connecting their websites to Salesforce, and back in the day, there was probably no community cloud, it never existed before. We just had a portal. We were experimenting with how to make changes within your CRM, and it reflects directly to your website. We experimented a lot with that. This was the time where we had a more extended team. I had a couple of people working with me.
I started to manage my developers, and we were also sharing resources from developers from other departments. I started to get hands-on experience on proper Salesforce coding. I’m not the best programmer in the world, but as a consultant, you need to understand where the limits of Salesforce is when you step into customization or coding. We did a lot of experimentation down there, and we managed to make a lot of progress on the marketing side of that organization. Again, I hope I’m still the ambitious person I am. Before when I was at ActivTrades, I did close to a year and a half; I thought, “I think I need to join the big guys.” I made a jump to Accenture to join proper consulting.
Lee: Did it feel like that was something you had to do in your career then? Because I know a lot of people there that wouldn’t know the difference, I suppose, between working for an end-user versus working for a consultancy or a product company. It probably was a good move on paper, but how did you feel working for such a big machine? I was saying that when you joined Accenture, it probably wasn’t so huge in terms of the Salesforce practice, was it?
Goolshun: Yes, it was small at that time, but we were small in a massive organization, and for someone who’s only worked for smaller organizations before, it was a big change. The mindset is different in Accenture. The way you work is very autonomous. No manager will be there for you all the time because they expect you to become a mature person. I joined it as an experienced hire. I was just thrown into the deep end, and I had to survive. Accenture’s Salesforce practice at that time was still growing and had a lot of teething problems. Everyone was dispersed around the world or the country.
There was not enough support, or rather, I didn’t know where to find the support because it was such a large organization. They’re very supportive if you need them and ask for advice. It’s just you’re thrown in there. In the second week, I had to fly to France for some training, and then literally in the third week, I had my first project; quite a large retail organization. I was on my own again with a team in the Philippines.
Goolshun: It was, yes, again, baptism of fire there. Sorry, go on.
Theresa: If there are people out there on that career progression, with the hindsight of wisdom, the things that you now know, how do you think people could integrate themselves into that situation a bit easier, because that does sound like you’ve just been thrown into the deep end, in a sink or swim sort of mentality? What advice would you give people?
Goolshun: Yes, surely don’t do what I did.
Theresa: [laughs] Fair enough.
Goolshun: I’ve had many changes in my career even before I did Salesforce, and I like to experiment with different things. For me, I just like problem-solving. That’s what I like. If I had to advise someone, what you need to understand is don’t join a consultancy directly. It’s not a good choice if you haven’t experimented with problem-solving for end users. That’s my own opinion. If you work for a smaller entity, build up experience, build up your knowledge, get in touch with the platform. Understand the various nuances of the platform and understand how to work with different end users because this is a way of actually solving the problem directly in the company. Even though you might not have the consulting experience yet but if you don’t understand that, it doesn’t matter what they teach you in the consulting school, it won’t really matter.
This is the ground where you can actually see and experiment and see the value of what you’re doing working directly in the company. Then slowly start doing process stuff. I’ve chosen a more solution–architect path. You need to understand how a process works. It’s good to experiment with different departments when working with a smaller enterprise, understanding how you optimize processes, and getting in touch with people with different departments, whether marketing, sales, service, or billing. In a big enterprise or big organization, you will not get that kind of experience.
Once you have that solid, definitely get certified. It gives you more credibility. Get one or two years of it, then move to consulting because once you get in there, they expect that you’re a consultant and you can solve the problem already. If you don’t have enough experience, it’s going to be quite hard. Then consulting is not only about Salesforce, once you join the consulting gigs. It’s just about problem-solving. You can solve the problem on the platform, but it’s a problem you have to solve. You have to get creative about how to solve the problem. You need to get creative, how to ask the question to get the right requirements. Sometimes other clients will talk about their issues, but is that really the issue? How can you go deep down to find the root cause of that issue? Because else you’re just solving symptoms. This is where your experience before consulting would actually help a lot.
Theresa: Fantastic. Thank you. That’s some great advice there.
Lee: In all the projects you’ve worked on then, we’ve only got to Accenture in your career thus far, but does a particular Salesforce project strike you as the most challenging one that you’ve worked on? If so, what was it? Well, you can name names, obviously, but you don’t have to, and can you describe it for us.
Goolshun: Yes. We have many tough projects, but I think the toughest one was just my last year of Accenture. It was a very large Marketing Cloud implementation, and that was when Salesforce just acquired Marketing Cloud. It was quite a target at that time. I think even Marketing Cloud, at that time, never implemented that type of project. It was quite a large education/media firm. As in consulting, especially with companies like Accenture, you are expected to have some problem-solving skills. You need to be able to pick up skills very, very fast. Today it could be Salesforce, tomorrow it could be anything else, but you need to be able to step up the game quickly.
Because of my marketing automation background and my speciality, I was given the task to help implement Marketing Cloud, which I had never used before. The project was already in flight. We had close to seven months to deliver that project, both national and in different countries, with many stakeholders in different time zones. That was really tough, especially because we were still getting used to the platform, and the platform itself had a lot of issues. We were learning on the go. We underestimated the project. It would be one or two guys on that one who didn’t even know Marketing Cloud at that point. We had to repurpose many consultants and get other people from different centres of Accenture to chip in.
Funny enough, all these people, when they left the project, all became Marketing Cloud specialists. They all left the organization too. A lot of them work with Salesforce now.
This is how we started to train ourselves. It was a lot of failures, and it was long hours. On certain days, it was close to 20 hours of work.
Theresa: Wow, okay.
Goolshun: That was a tough project. It’s just the time it took to understand and manage stakeholders across various time zones and get them aligned. Once you get them aligned, you wait two days, and they’re already misaligned again. Everyone has their own ways of doing things. It was hard to get a hold of the right people many times, but we managed to deliver the product successfully. Accenture – this is what they’re really good at. It doesn’t matter what, they will make it happen. The people have a tough mantle; we’re trained that way. It’s like you’re trying to be the Navy SEAL type of resources. You have to get it done. You have to get in there, get it done, and then get out.
It was the toughest project. Just a lot of people energy got so drained out at the end of the project; we had to take time off. I decided to take a sabbatical for a couple of months, then from a couple of months became seven months, seven and eight months. It was that type of project, but the thing is, everyone within Accenture says you need to have a project like this that defines who you are, that defines what you want to do because a lot of people might not like it. They will carry on and do different things, but the fact is that they’ve got a badge of honour; it doesn’t matter that it’s a failed project or a successful project. They’ve got that belt, that black belt that they can say, “I’ve done that.” Then anything else becomes so easy.
Theresa: It’s almost like acknowledging that you’ve arrived, as the specialist, isn’t it?
Theresa: The challenges often present the biggest opportunities. That opportunity to learn, to grow as an individual, and to demonstrate what you have, the potential that you have. It’s interesting. Thank you for sharing.
Lee: It sounds like it is also one of your proudest ones, would you say, in terms of the fact you mentioned that successfully?
Goolshun: Well, it was successful to the point where someone called me at 2:00 AM saying something was broken, and we had to fix it the next day. It was delivered on time, on budget. With its issues, yes, but as you know, big transformation projects always have some nuances, but in the bigger scheme of things, it was successful. As you mentioned, yes, it was one of the toughest projects I’d ever been on. I’m proud that I’ve been through that. You need to have these war wounds to call yourself a specialist. Like doctors, they spend 10 years studying to become a specialist or a doctor, but if you haven’t done any surgery in your life, any tough surgery, you can’t really call yourself a specialist. For me, that was my defining moment. I knew from that point, anything else would have been easy.
Lee: Bulletproof from that point on. Love it. Just go on, Theresa, so you’re in the last one.
Theresa: No, I was just going to say I’m very conscious of the time for you. I suppose maybe tell us a little bit more about what you’re doing at the moment.
Lee: What is the jump from Accenture to where you are? Forgive us for not remembering. What happened to get to where you are at the moment? You’ve got quite an entrepreneurial spirit, haven’t you? You’ve always had companies and ideas on the go, haven’t you? Tell us about the leap from Accenture, I suppose, to Smplicity.
Goolshun: You’re right. Funny enough, the word entrepreneur – I never understood its meaning, and actually, I never knew the word. It’s a French word that says entreprendre. When I got to London a long time ago, I always got my hands on different things, trying to solve things. Then one person said, “You’re an entrepreneur?” I said I didn’t know what that means. For me, I just like to solve problems. I think I’ve always had a lot of different ideas, even during my time at Truphone. At the end of university, I had my first small company where we did web design. We were experimenting with the conversion rate optimization at that time, which was a very new concept. We were too small to make a proper business, and nobody would listen to a couple of young kids out of uni. That failed big time.
Then I changed to selling t-shirts online, producing designs. I liked the whole idea of web and online systems and online e-commerce platforms. We were playing around with various problems to solve in the marketplace. Then, as you probably know, I went to jobs in salesforce.com, which was supposed to be Salesforce’s specialized job site. Then I think all these things are what defines us. A lot of people can choose to be an entrepreneur, but I didn’t choose to be one. For me, it just happened. When I took a sabbatical at Accenture, I decided to leave. I was tired at that time.
I had a couple of charity projects I was working with at Accenture before. I said, “Do you know what? I’m going to give all my time to charities.” For close to seven, eight months, I spent all my money just traveling around and helping charities, especially if I was giving my time for free. At a certain point, I looked at my bank account, there was probably around £500 left, which only allowed me to get back to the UK on a very cheap flight, and then I had to do something.
Those charities said to me, “Well, Goolshun, I think maybe you’ve been giving us all this free time; maybe if you set something up like an entity, then we can pay you.” I said, “Well, it’s a charity. I don’t like to get asked for money.” Then they said, “Yes, you have to get paid. How are you going to pay your rent?” That was the point where I said, “Okay, let’s do you something.” We set up an entity called Smplicity, because I’m a minimalist. I like simple stuff.
Theresa: That’s amazing; we do as well, don’t we?
Goolshun: I’ve created Smplicity at that time without understanding what it would become. I just created an entity to help the charities, and they would pay me very heavily discounted services for myself. The idea was not to make money out of them. It was just to help them because I thought during my Accenture time, we only get three days per year to do charity work, and I wanted to do more because three days per year is not enough. I started doing that, and then people came back to me said, “You’re doing some freelancing here?” I said, “Yes. I’m doing some Salesforce.” Then I got some more projects. Then here we are. For five years, I haven’t had a proper holiday.
Theresa: Welcome to the world of running a business.
Goolshun: Yes, indeed.
Lee: Do you still focus on that nonprofit .org world? Tell us about where you are now with the company.
Goolshun: We still do charity projects, but we do that pro bono. We don‘t charge for it at all. We used to have a couple of clients with bigger projects, charity projects at Salesforce, but slightly larger so that it requires a team. We don’t take a lot of those. We believe that especially with charities – I’ve worked with them so many years – what they require is small chunks of assistance, or continuously rather than one big thing they can’t really absorb and manage. I’ve seen that fail projects many times and then just troubling the system.
Actually, what we tend to do is, if you’re a charity, you reach out to us. We’ll try to understand what is it that you’re struggling with. Forget the system. What is it you’re struggling with? Do you need more donors? Can you manage donations, or is it marketing activities you’re struggling with? Then we build a road map for you, but whenever we have free time, we say, “Okay, let’s just trigger one portion of our road map, and then we solve it, and then move to the next.” Doing that also helps them absorb and use and adapt the system rather than having three months of project work, and then you’re on your own again. We do that pro bono. We don’t charge for it. We’ve been helping a lot of charities recently.
Lee: That’s amazing. I’m going to ask the question. How do you make your money then? Because, obviously, you have employees now, and I think you have — forgive me if I get this wrong – but an offshore team in Mauritius now, is that right?
Goolshun: Yes. We are split between UK and Mauritius. I was born in Mauritius, so I thought — because we also do charities in Mauritius, and I wanted to give back to where I’m from. We’ve set up a team in Mauritius, hired people, trained them up as if I’ve trained people at Accenture. Funny enough, our office is next to Accenture’s office in Mauritius as well. We do take a lot of commercial projects. This is where I excel because I’ve been doing that for such a long time, and I can easily see how we can help businesses. We specialize in the whole ‘leads to cash’ process. How do you qualify your leads faster? How do you process your opportunities faster? How do you measure your pipeline better and get insights and grant forecasting? How you bill upsell or cross-sell even faster.
We’ve started to develop our own accelerators through many years of doing the same thing. This is what we help clients with. We do take a handful of clients. We are a small team. You know, the Accenture or the other SI’s are a particular size. We do select our clients. Some of them are large on the SME side. This the large enough, generating over 100 million and above. Then what we do with them, we work with them for many years. Recently, we’ve been grateful to have a client where a bigger SI let them down, and we had to take over. This is where it doesn’t matter how big or small you are. It’s not about a name. It’s about the personal attention you give to that client because they have a different culture. They have different ways of working internally.
You need to be able to leverage that. You can’t just be placing consultants on there and expect them to work. It will fail on both sides, actually. This is what we do, where we have the personalized road map. We help as much on the business side as on the technical side. That balance made it quite successful. Even Salesforce brags about the job we did at that organization.
Theresa: Fantastic. It’s always nice when the mother ship gives you recognition for a project well done. Just out of interest – we have to talk about the thing that we’ve all struggled with over the last 12 months. How has COVID affected your business, your career, or even just in general?
Goolshun: I think given that we’re not that big, and we only work with a selected few clients, so business-wise, it didn’t really affect that much because we had long-term contracts with our own clients. Our clients were all in high tech. The more we are working with them, the more money they will be making themselves. A lot of them thrived during the pandemic. Especially one of them is in logistics, so they won contracts with the NHS. A lot of them thrived.
What it did affect is to change from office to fully online. Especially in consulting, you need to do many workshops; you need to do a lot of process mapping—a lot of meetings were physical. Face-to-face is easier. We had to adapt very quickly, especially with the tools. Having the meeting online is fine, but having tools to do the workshops to process map live was tricky. We managed to pivot very fast in that. We redevelop our methodologies around this.
It affected a lot of people mentally, not being able to go out. It certainly shows in the work we do sometimes because you’re tired, and you have eight hours a day for some calls, and you’re brain dead. It was hard, personally. Business-wise it was okay. It’s just more mentally draining. I think that was the issue. I think everyone’s been surprised by the reactions, haven’t they? No one’s ever experienced this before, certainly not for our generation. It’s just been a huge massive learning curve for businesses and individuals, I think.
Lee: Do you foresee yourself going back to an office? Were you fully in an office before, or were you a little bit of a mix?
Goolshun: We’re always a mix. I’ll be very honest; we’re one of the odd ones. I don’t really like the whole corporate thing. I don’t really like office. I don’t really like the whole formal structures or always behaving like a startup. We have a very small office, but the idea is that it’s just a base when we need to hang out as a team. We are all remote from day one. The only thing that we used to do is we used to go to a client’s office or book a meeting place to have workshops. That’s the only thing that we had to reinvent. We’ve been remote from day one, mostly. To your question. I would still like the balance of meeting face-to-face but then remote work as well.
Theresa: Well, hopefully, we should get that soon.
Lee: We should today. This is recorded in May. In 2021.
Theresa: We’re looking forward to lockdown easing.
Lee: As an ecosystem, Salesforce seems to have come through this okay. Ultimately, Salesforce in what it provides is almost made for this kind of situation. It’s come through, and if anything, it seems to be stronger at the moment. I don’t know if you would agree with that, Goolshun.
Goolshun: Absolutely. The thing is, it just proves the idea behind cloud computing. It was good that Salesforce existed because a lot of businesses wouldn’t be run properly. Because if you had only office space or mainframe system, nothing on the cloud, none of your employees or any employees will be able to run or operate efficiently. It proved that cloud computing actually works. You can actually scale on the cloud and scale your business fully remotely, which is what I always liked about Salesforce because, in fact, I’m a big fan of apps on my phone.
Lee: That doesn’t surprise me.
Goolshun: If you can do that on the app, that means you’re good. I do all my stuff on my phone itself. I barely use even Salesforce desktop to be honest. If you can do that on your phone, then you know it’s the right solution.
Lee: I like that.
Lee: I know you’re wary of time. How do you see the future of the Salesforce ecosystem with what’s happened in the last 12 months? Did you have any thoughts on how it’s going to go?
Goolshun: I think they’ve got more fuel. They’ve got rocket fuel at the moment. They will move even faster. You’ve probably seen this; work.com was one of the fastest products ever created, and they created it within a couple of months just during the pandemic. The fact that they didn’t have to do the whole Dreamforce every year, there’s so much budget that could be put back into R&D work. A lot of people were sceptical when Salesforce was ran. People think, “Oh, no, Microsoft was going to be the big thing. SAP was still going to be around.” A lot of people still on Siebel at that time.
I think they were hard to scale. Salesforce has just proved that it scales really fast. When they reached their limits, they went on acquiring other products, and they will carry on doing that. You’ve probably seen how many domain names they’ve changed over the years, and they had the best domain names: recent, data.com, community.com, all of these great domain names. I think in the next five years, as they already announced it, they’re creating close to 5 million jobs in the ecosystem. I think they’ve got plans to explore it further. The only issue I see here is so much demand. How do you get people to learn that fast?
Theresa: We’re not as quick as technology, are we? [chuckles]
Goolshun: That’s a trick. I think they’re going to go bigger and bigger. They’re going to be even – I heard the rumours where Microsoft had an interest to buy them out – but they were too big to even be acquired.
Goolshun: Yes. It shows how big they are, and their mindsets at Salesforce is all about innovation. I think what they started with, the whole thing around customer-centricity baked into the whole DNA of Salesforce, I think that becomes an obsession. Everything they do has that obsession in them. They’re always creating new things, and people coming to Salesforce become or inherit that obsession. Everyone I speak with feels like it’s a cult, but it’s actually a great cult at Salesforce. Because they obsess about the customers, they’re always going to create new things.
Lee: When you think back to the beginning of this conversation when you first started, there still is that sense that people will still help you, and this whole trailhead thing, this whole phenomenon around that. Do you still feel like you did maybe back in 2010 when you asked a question, it gets answered, and people are still helpful, all that?
Goolshun: That’s quite interesting. They did push quite a lot. I think they have a lot of demand, so they had to scale their learning platform, and trailheads was the answer. The only thing I’m worried about is you can learn the platform very quickly. The platform is very easy to use, but that will not create the best consultants or the best problem solvers. That’s what I’m worried about, especially with new hires. They all do the trailheads, hundreds and hundreds of thousands on trailheads, but when you put them on a project, now there are no trailheads you could use when you have to deal with a unique scenario.
Theresa: There’s no substitute for real-world experience, is there? Where that experience translates into business processes and business systems and stuff like that.
Goolshun: Yes, that’s my worry.
Theresa: You can learn that, but where’s your common sense?
Goolshun: Exactly. As you say, where’s common sense, right? It doesn’t mean that because you can build it that you should build it. Sometimes you have to stop and think, “Okay, is that the right choice?” Sometimes I know a customer’s always right, but you’re the consultant at the end of the day. Sometimes a customer is paying you and your time to get them to think differently. This is a point that’s hard to train, and you can only train that if you have people giving you the opportunity to learn on the project or learn on the job. Given that trailheads, it’s all great that people can learn fast, but how can you build experience that fast as well? That is the issue that I see in the current marketplace?
Theresa: I think there’s only one thing that we can’t cheat and that’s called time. You have to pay your dues. You don’t get to be an expert like yourself on day one; you’ve put in a good 10 years of hard work to get there. Unfortunately, you can’t bypass that.
Lee: Like you said, a lot of failing, which is how you learn, isn’t it? I appreciate we’re nearly an hour in already. Do you have any final comments? I think the people that tend to listen to these are people that would look at you and think, “Well, that’s an interesting career trajectory. How do I get into that?” Do you have any tips for people at the beginning of their Salesforce career?
Goolshun: Yes. There’s no single blueprint of success if you want to be at Salesforce because you need to be passionate about problem-solving. I think that’s my personal opinion. If you like to problem-solve, then I think Salesforce is the right platform. The thing is, you need to have that motivation first. I had many careers even before Salesforce, so I think if I had some kind of mentor at that time, I probably wouldn’t waste my time failing a lot. Certainly, help for sure but definitely get yourself a good mentor who’s been in the ecosystem for a couple of years at least, and talk to them and share experiences. Then see whether that’s the right fit.
If you’re in doubt, you still have to do it because that’s the only way you can learn. You can do your trailheads, but then the best thing to do is to start, get yourself one of the developer orgs and start playing around with it. Start breaking stuff, but don’t break stuff with the organization you work for.
Theresa: Not a custom [unintelligible 00:49:54].
Goolshun: Exactly. You start breaking stuff, practice your trailheads, and don’t only follow trailheads. Trailheads is just a way just to get you started, but then you have to break the system yourself to be able to understand how it works and how can you solve real business problems. Definitely, a mentor or anyone who can guide you is helpful. Then before you start doing certifications and more trailheads, get yourself used to start understanding the industry. Start understanding what you’re trying to solve, and see whether that excites you. Because you know that down the line, you’re going to be working on many tough projects, where it’s going to be quite heavy and energy-draining. Can you sustain that yourself?
If you really like what you do, it’s going to feel like a gain. If you don’t really like it, you will start blaming the system, blaming yourself. You chose a different career, or you just didn’t choose the right career. It’s not a right or wrong answer.
Lee: We did mention mentoring. Are you still a mentor for virgin start-ups as well?
Goolshun: I am indeed, yes.
Lee: Well, that’s good. Did Salesforce do something similar because that would be cool if they did.
Goolshun: I’m part of the mentor recruitment force. This is all on a pro-bono basis. I’m part of the whole Salesforce Talent Alliance, where I give talks to people who are just starting their Salesforce careers and starting in the trailheads or had their first certification, and now they’re venturing onto the next one, how they’re going to get into work and practice more. Salesforce has the whole Salesforce Talent Alliance, which we are a part of, and we do that quite a lot. In Mauritius, what we’re trying to do as well, is to build the whole academy. Hopefully, with Salesforce, we’re getting people to understand, especially the whole African and Mauritius market. We’re trying to get them to understand Salesforce and bring Salesforce into their own universities curriculum.
Theresa: Oh, fantastic.
Lee: Well, I’m happy to wrap it up because I think you had an hour and you’ve given us a full hour, which is brilliant. Unless you have any further comments, I could probably book another one of these with you because you got lots of– I know we just scooped over the top a little, but I appreciate your time.
Goolshun: I can talk for hours and days about Salesforce and the different variances of careers I had. More than happy to talk to anyone about it. For me, I always believe in the more you teach, the more you share knowledge, the better you become. The more strong your knowledge will be. I’ve always believed that. I believe I think the biggest university I‘ve been through was Google.
Goolshun: I’ve Googled so much in my life, which was for free. Why do I need to charge people to share that knowledge? Again, it shows in my own organization. Everyone who started there has been trained by myself in the ways that I thought it was fit. I still do; people come in as interns, and I train them up, leaving for better places. I’m happy that even though they don’t want to stay, I’m happy they’ve learnt something and then hopefully, they can pass that down to other people. That’s the best way to solve it. Again, if you want to solve the whole world’s problem, start by solving one person’s problem at a time.
Theresa: Yes, I love that.
Lee: Great. What a great way to end.
Theresa: Yes, thank you. Thank you for your generosity of time because it’s been an absolute pleasure speaking to you.
Goolshun: Thanks, and thanks for having me, Theresa and Lee. A pleasure to be part of your podcast, and hopefully, your audience will be able to learn something from this conversation.
Theresa: We’re getting good feedback from people who are listening to these podcasts. You’ll be pleased to know that.
Goolshun: I’m definitely one of them, so it’s definitely good.
Theresa: Thank you.
Lee: Thanks so much, Goolshun. Speak to you soon mate.
Goolshun: Thank you very much both, pleasure. You have a great day.
Theresa: Thank you.
Lee: Thank you.