Episode 17: Dave Atkins Salesforce Career Conversation with ROD. Dave has worked in IT since 2003 and moved into Salesforce in 2017. Dave shares his story as both a candidate and employer in the technology space and why money shouldn’t be the main motivator when it comes to your career.
Lee Durrant: Hello, it’s Lee Durrant here with another episode of RODcast where, as you know by now, we dive into people’s Salesforce careers to find you little nuggets of inspiration that might help you in your Salesforce career. I’m pleased to say that joining me today is Dave Atkins, who I’ve known for a long, long time. Hi, Dave.
Dave Atkins: Morning Lee, are you well?
Lee: Good, good, good. Thank you so much for agreeing to share your Salesforce career with us or your career before Salesforce as well, and then obviously, any little tips you’ve got along the way will be brilliant. I was thinking perhaps you can, I know you and I go back a long way, perhaps you can give us a high-level intro about you and then before we dive into where it all began, and then bring us up to date. A little intro would be great.
Dave: Sure, yes. Okay, where it all began? Well, I came through a software background, usual sort of development and design way back in the day. I was introduced back in the mid-’90s, to something called CRM. Now, I’d never heard of it. Nobody else appeared to have heard of it, and it was something entirely new. It took some time for that to, shall we say, come to fruition and it was quite weird, really because the first real introduction to Salesforce I had, I was working for a software company, and they wanted to try out CRM. I did a bit of research and came across this thing called Salesforce, which was in its very, very early stages then.
Lee: Yes, if you’re talking mid-’90s, they didn’t start til ’99.
Dave: It was ’99. Yes, ’99 they started. I think this by then was probably about 2000, 2001 something like that. Strange thing was that one of my colleagues in my present company said the same thing and he described it as when Salesforce was nothing more than a glorified address book which was way, way back.
We adopted that and obviously, in those days, you didn’t have the infrastructure around it that you have today so everything we did, we did ourselves, we found that it was very customisable and it worked well, it worked well as a sales tool. Something that we could track customers on, track their purchases, and their prospects but it was a very, very simple system then. I just moved on through.
Dave: This was a company called GAVS. Which I think you may remember.
Lee: I remember GAVS.
Dave: That’s right and I was working with them and really, it was an internal system we needed to use something to track sales. That’s how I got my first taste of CRM and of Salesforce.
Lee: It fell on to you that it’s to be that person to get it to work?
Dave: Yes, I was literally chief cook and bottle washer. Everything, I had to do. We did it ourselves and obviously coming from a software background, it was interesting for me to do that and interesting for me to become involved in the business side of it. How we use CRM.
Lee: As I said before to you, I’m going to go off on tangents here, but I looked at your profile even though I’ve known you for a long time and I kind of know your profile well because obviously we’ve worked together for so many years in terms of me either recruiting for you or finding new jobs so I know your profile. More often than not you refer to yourself as a project manager.
Lee: T hat leads to my first question that is a bit off-topic in terms of your career anyway. If you’re called a project manager but you’re doing what you did with Salesforce, there’s so many different things you can call yourself because obviously to do what you’ve done just to build that from nothing for GAVS, sorry, it’s so much more than project management, isn’t it?
Dave: Yes. It was a lot more and that continued for probably five, six years with various CRM packages. I spent a lot of time with something called Avaya Interaction Center, and again, the original position that they asked me to do was a technical position, and then I ended up managing the entire project. That was my introduction to real project management, which I thought, “Wow, I quite enjoy doing this,” and that’s when I’d finished that project. I then decided that I try and angle my career more at project management than the technical side and that’s really the sort of widening of the stream there.
One of the problems as a technical project manager, is that companies tend to use you when things go slightly adrift, shall we say or they don’t have the expertise, you suddenly ended up being a techie again. Certainly, in those days, it probably doesn’t happen quite so much these days, although you still dabble.
Lee: The reason I bring that up is because I think if you’ve had a vast career like you have, and you’re looking around or what have you, you see they can sometimes come across as I don’t know what this person is, they look they’ve done a bit of everything and I think hiring managers and recruiters can get a bit confused as to what you are. I’m wondering whether there’s a tip there about writing a CV for the job you kind of-
Lee: -rather than a whole big list of everything you’ve ever done. Do you know what I mean?
Dave: Yes, absolutely right. In fact, that is a trap that I’ve fallen into a few times when I’ve gone for a, certainly a few years back anyway, gone for a position as project manager or even program manager. They’ve looked at my CV and said, “Oh, you’re a techie.” I said, “No, I’m not. That’s my background but I’m a project manager”. I’ve gone through the print stuff, the agile stuff, but that is, you’re dead right, that’s a top tip. If you’re going to go for a position, make sure your CV reflects that position. Don’t let it waffle on about I’ve done this and done that in other sectors. Make sure it’s to the point. If you’re going to be a project manager, you’re a project manager.
Lee: Yes and obviously, without not saying you’re saying this, but without fabrication, though you just maybe it’s just taken away all the noise that’s not relevant to that particular role, or because we do get that a lot actually in the Salesforce space with someone is, let’s say, they say they’re an admin and they’ve done some development, and they want to be a developer but the CV smacks of I’m an admin.
Then line managers, which I’m sure you’ve been in that situation yourself. You’re not reading CVs from top to bottom, your skimming. You’re too busy and it’s very quick to just go well, that person’s an admin not developer or that person in your case is a techie, not a project manager. That’s it. That is first really good tip. Thanks very much. I remember then, that you worked for a company called Lagan that were a CRM company, but I’m guessing not cloud, obviously, not Salesforce.
Dave: That’s exactly right. Lagan were a Northern Ireland-based CRM company that dealt exclusively in the public sector. It was an interesting period in my life, actually, because I did a lot of travel all over the world working with different governments and different government departments, companies, countries where we were putting in quite a sophisticated CRM system. Throughout the UK. We put it into just about every local authority you can name. Also places like San Francisco, and the most interesting for me was New Orleans just after Katrina. We put it in there. That was an experience. Probably the details of which are for another day, but yes, it was interesting.
Lee: No, I didn’t know that. That’s quite interesting, isn’t it? You’re getting to see the inner workings of these government systems all over the world. You must have had a high level of security clearance for that?
Dave: Yes, yes, I did. That came into fruition later on as well when I dealt with the UK security side of things as well. It’s strange, you never set out to actually do this and say, right, this is my plan. This is my career path and whatever. It’s just how things drop. You’ve got to be ready to take those opportunities and equally ready to realise your own requirements and maybe even your own limitations. Sometimes you just got to say, no, that’s not what I do. That’s not what I want to do. That’s not what I want to get involved in. Equally, you say, well, yes. When something comes across and you think that sounds interesting then you go for it. You go for it 100%.
Lee: That’s actually really good advice. Especially in this Salesforce world, we are living in probably even more so. Salesforce has always been an industry where there have been more opportunities than there have been experienced people I think that’s been exacerbated by COVID and Brexit. More recently, it just seems like if you are a Salesforce person you have any kind of experience there are so many opportunities out there that it’s probably difficult to sit still and not have your head turned every five minutes by the likes of me.
Probably good advice to know what you want and try and tune out the rest of the noise. That would be another little nugget for people. Like a lot of people I speak to they’ve certainly had a long career. Two things you said that I think resonated, you look back on the career and go blind. It looked like it was all a plan, but of course not necessarily. Also, you didn’t plan to get into Salesforce. It just happened to be a system that the company you were working for wanted to implement.
Dave: Yes, absolutely. John Lennon said that life is what happens when you’re busy making plans and that’s exactly how it turned out.
Lee: On that note, what did you think your career was going to look like before Salesforce came along and you then went down that road?
Dave: I saw my career really being in engineering sectors, managing projects within an engineering sector which has worked out totally different. Very rarely am I involved in the engineering sector. Although strange enough, the project that I’m managing at the moment is with a large engineering company. It’s probably the first time in gosh, 10, 15 years.
Lee: I suppose that’s the good thing about Salesforce, that unlike in your Lagan days when it was all government, now it can be anything. You could be working on engineering one day, and I don’t know, a bank the next.
Dave: Absolutely. In fact, as you say, engineering, banking, gaming systems, and all sorts of areas. Salesforce is such a diverse tool now that there’s so many angles to it. It’s very difficult to keep up with everything. As much as you can do the Trailhead, and as much as you can keep up with what you think you’ve got, the next project, certainly as I’m working for a very large SI now, they’ll drop something else into. You think I’ve not done this before, but Salesforce is Salesforce. The amount of support now you get from Salesforce compared to 10 years ago is incredible. Yes, it’s a good time.
Lee: When you started then with this project at GAVS, there was no Trailhead was there?
Dave: Absolutely no.
Lee: I think you had to just Google stuff. I seem to remember iTunes University used to do like some little courses you could watch, but I guess you just had to wing it, did you?
Dave: Yes. Oh, absolutely. You’d spend quite some time doing the simplest of things because on at the start of it you had absolutely no idea how it was going to work. That’s where obviously my software background came in handy for me. Even these days as a project manager, pure project manager, I don’t think they let me near anything technical these days.
Lee: You got where you wanted to be then, which is good.
Dave: Yes, yes. The overall goal has been fulfilled and I got to say I’m really glad it’s a decision I made. I’m really glad that I’m in the Salesforce ecosystem somewhere because it is so diverse.
Lee: The next natural question is, when did you know that I’m going to do this, this is the road I want to go down. Was it at GAVS or did it come a bit later?
Dave: Oh, it came a bit later. Again, I’d gone from permanent jobs to contracting.
Lee: We’ll come back to that.
Dave: The contract I had was with a company called Arqiva who are the people that supply the communications for the smart metering. The reason I got it was simply because, in some stage of my CV, it mentioned Salesforce, and I think it was the beginning of where Salesforce people were few and far between. I did also have quite a lot of project management experience and that’s really what they were after.
At that stage, I really got my teeth into Salesforce; I realised then that it was a very, very useful tool. Talking to various people within Salesforce and users and also government bodies, it became obvious that it really was going to be the way ahead. I did make a conscious decision then that everything I did would be revolving around Salesforce.
Lee: Lovely. You mentioned you went from permanent to contract. Was that a conscious decision or did it just happen that way?
Dave: No. No. Like a lot of people, I got made redundant and I made the decision that I really didn’t want a permanent position. Contacts came up and that was the first one that looked viable for me. Also the interest level. I was at a stage really in my career where I didn’t really need to take the first thing just to put food on the table, and so I was able to choose and I’ve got to say it was a great choice. Set me on the way to serious Salesforce project management and serious involvement.
Lee: For someone listening that perhaps is in a permanent job and think about going contracting and even the other way around. What are the differences and how did you find going from one to the other? From what I understand now you’re back to permanent now.
Lee: What do you think the difference is and the pluses and the minuses of both?
Dave: The pluses of contracting I think are that you can have probably a better work-life balance because you can, if you are prudent, make enough money to be able to maybe take two or three months off and then look for a contract. It’s probably easier now, certainly in the Salesforce world, than it was back then, but that’s a definite plus. The downside is often you are not treated the same as a permanent employee so you don’t get the benefits. Obviously, you don’t get paid holidays. You don’t get any sickness and some companies don’t include you in their social side. Although I’ve been very lucky. There’s only one that’s ever done that but some will take you on as though you’re a full-time employee and treat you exactly the same.
Lee: Yes that’s interesting. I didn’t think of that.
Dave: In the end it is how much do you value job security because when there’s a downturn, the first people to go are the contractors.
Lee: Yes, absolutely, but then, is any job secure? You mentioned earlier on you were made redundant which is what got you into it. I think the word permanent should be changed to something else. It’s never permanent, especially in Salesforce world.
Dave: Yes absolutely.
Lee: It’s always interesting to hear the difference and then obviously, you switch back. I won’t fast-forward too much to the latest perm role. Obviously, we got to the point that we thought right, that’s it, I’m doing Salesforce, I’m a contractor now. Did you, I’m interested to know, I know that you’ve been on both sides of the fence in terms of obviously being interviewed for a Salesforce job. Also, I know from my experience, you’ve interviewed people to work for you on projects as well. Any stories of maybe weird experiences on either side of the fence, no names, obviously?
Lee: A lot of people that listen to this podcast are probably thinking of at some point moving jobs. It’s nice to get different points of view on tips.
Dave: Yes, I mean, one of the things that I always look for is not just the Salesforce side of a CV, but also their general side. The reason why I do that is quite often you do get the odd person that you get that they’ve had very little Salesforce experience, but you get that feeling through their CV, that they could easily fit in. With all the learning material that are provided by Salesforce, and other companies, it’s not that difficult to actually get the overall gist of everything within Salesforce.
I like to make sure that there’s a varied CV. Don’t overdo it, don’t go over the top about Salesforce, especially if it’s, should we say, a slight exaggeration. That’s one of the things that you can certainly, I’ve come to notice when I go through CVs that there’s too much emphasis and you think, well, you couldn’t possibly have done that in that period of time.
CVs really have to reflect you, not just your work experience, but they have to reflect you as a person because you can be the best PM, the best technical architect, the best BA in the world but if you don’t come across as being able to fit into that environment that you’re being recruited into, then it’s not good for the company, and it’s certainly not good for you. Make sure your CV is really rounded in that sense.
Lee: I wonder if that is because obviously with yourself and a lot of people I speak to on his podcast that fell into Salesforce, you probably got that rounded view whereas some people these days, it’s all about how many certifications I got. How many Trailhead badges have I got, and it’s all so Salesforce because they want to get into it. Unlike a lot of people like yourself who fell into it, these people are targeting it. It’s good advice I think though because I’ve heard that a few times where the one thing that you can learn probably is the Salesforce stuff.
You can’t learn the personality, the other experiences. They’re just things that have happened to you. And from a point of view of you being interviewed yourself, any strange experiences? I know I’ve sprung this one on you.
I hope you don’t mind me saying this.
We had a recent podcast with a fellow who was made redundant, Richard Pay. He was probably on the last podcast we did actually, made redundant in his 50s. Decided Salesforce was for him, try to get into the Salesforce world and he found it quite challenging because people were disregarding him because of his age. Almost forgetting that there’s all this experience in some really, really good industries that Salesforce could benefit from. In the end, he’s got a good job, so that’s great. Did you find that a little bit in your the middle-end of your career? I’m just curious.
Dave: Yes, very rarely, I’ve been lucky. I mean, obviously, you’ve only to look at my CV to see I’ve been around a bit. I’m, obviously not 25 years of age but I’ve been very lucky, I think maybe the fact that my CV is tailored, and slightly rounded, to show not only experience, but who I am and what I am. Then I think there’s only probably twice I could actually say, yes, the reason why I didn’t get that is because of my age.
To anybody listening to this, that, is, shall we say, slightly more mature provided you look at your CV and think, right, would I employ this person? The technical side, not the project management side, but would I employ this person? Would he fit into a team? Would he be able to join in with people that are sometimes, I’ll be honest, young enough to be my sons or daughters? Then I think most people are pretty fair, you’re obviously going to get some that are biased.
Lee: I think I’ve had this with yourself, and maybe some other people where the CV gets disregarded because there’s no certifications on there. This is my back to the point from earlier. All this experience and you’re saying no because there’s no admin, Salesforce certification on there when the guys are really experienced project manager, doesn’t make any sense to me. What are your thoughts on that?
Dave: I suspect that has happened to me. I’ve never had any out and out proof. My view is that the experience that I have across that, it should be enough for any worthy employer to be able to say, well he’s actually done it. He’s not sat in the class and learned it from a book or learned it online or whatever. I go back to the days, where certification for certain things, back in the days when Microsoft Certification was supposed to be the be-all and end-all.
I was in a managerial position, then and people would turn up. The only thing they’d ever done is going through all these certifications. When you put them in front of a system, they didn’t have a clue, because they never actually done it. All they’ve done is learn it from a course and spent a lot of money on it. Maybe I’m a little bit biased the other way, I would never ever say to anybody don’t do certifications, but when I’m looking through CVs, I glance at that and sometimes you’ll see multiple certifications, and my reaction is always “Wow,” but that isn’t going to sway me in one way or the other. It’s about the person, about their experience, about the times they’ve spent within a company and things like that.
Lee: Obviously, I have a recruitment company. We spend a lot of time on the likes of LinkedIn and you see people referring to themselves as 17 times certified this or 15 times certified that. It is interesting that it is the higher the number, the better I am. I think from what you’re saying, for me, it always makes sense to get a certification to almost rubber stamp, what you’ve just done, if you’ve done a project. Then maybe going to get the cert afterwards. Don’t just get the cert when you’ve never actually done it. It doesn’t seem to make a great deal of sense.
I remember the Microsoft days as well and in the end, it got to be flooded, didn’t it? In the old days, if you had a Microsoft Cert, you could walk into the job and get lots of money. Within a certain number of years, the market was so flooded with Microsoft Certified people that it didn’t mean anything. I wonder whether that will happen to Salesforce one day.
Dave: I suspect it will. It’s a certification inflation really.
Yes, that it becomes meaningless, becomes worthless. I don’t look at it like that at the moment but I could see that happening because again, even today I probably get three to four recruitment agencies a week saying “We’ve got this position, are you interested in talking,” and whatever. Simply because they can look through a CV, and often the CV they’ve got is quite old but they can see the projects that I’ve run, and the verticals that I’ve run them in, and the way I’ve worked things round the issues that you get in any project. I mean, one of the questions you asked me earlier about, did I have a funny story? I’m not sure it was funny, but one company that I went to, I had 14 interviews.
Lee: Is it in the Salesforce world or is this previous?
Dave: This was Salesforce, yes, and not that long ago. I won’t mention the company and it’s not the one I’m working for at the moment. Yes, I was on video. I was on the phone and whatever. I had interviews with quite a large company. I think I had interviews with just about everybody, including the tea lady.
Lee: Did you get an offer at least? Not offer of a cup of tea from the tea lady, but did you get to offer that company in the end?
Dave: I did. I actually, in the end they came to me and said, “Yes. We want you to lead this project.” Yes, I spent two years there and it was the interview sequence was a good indication of what it was like working for the company.
Lee: Oh, so you joined? Sorry I assumed that you didn’t take it.
Dave: I was working then as a contractor and they came back to me several times. The last time they came back to me, I didn’t have a contract.
I wanted to join the company. I mean, from the moment the opportunity came up because it was quite a good company. I’d heard a lot about it, but their interview processes were absolutely diabolical. Absolutely ridiculous.
Lee: Well, and I assumed as well when you said 14 interviews, I’m assuming that was for a permanent, because that’s still a ridiculous amount for permanent person, but you could almost understand it, but a contractor that’s even more ridiculous.
Dave: Yes. Again, it was originally as a contractor and it was going to be a lengthy contract rather than the usual three months and then renewal. In the end, they said to me, would you go permanent? Then they made an offer which made it sensible to go permanent. I said, Yes. I was with them for two years permanently. I interviewed people while I was there. Some of whom you know, and I certainly didn’t go through 14 interviews with them.
Lee: No. On that note then, so you’ve worked for an end-user, in that case, in fact, your career, you’ve probably covered all of them haven’t you? In terms of the way I look at it, you’ve got end user, you’ve got a consultancy, you’ve got the app-maker, builder, ISV type, which I’m thinking was probably Lagan. What are the differences in your opinion, in your experience of those three.
Dave: As a project manager, obviously you alternate between a gamekeeper and poacher, really. When you are with a company and Salesforce SIs are working for you and with you, then the whole way of working is different because you have a different set of values. You work, you’ve got to remember that in a lot of cases, you have sympathy for a SI because what they’re being asked to do is not necessarily what you as an ex-SI worker would agree with. You’ve got to ask that question. You’ve got to make sure that you get the best for your company.
That’s one of the things, as they say, don’t go native. It’s very easy to go native when you see that what’s actually happening is in your opinion, the wrong way to treat an SI. It’s very easy to switch over and say, well, no, they’re right. Maybe they are in some senses, but you have to understand that your company has a business need. As a project manager, you are trying to put a business tool, be it Salesforce, or any other piece of software in, to enhance the business and in the end, save money and make more profit.
Lee: Make more money. Yes. Sorry to ask a stupid question, but what do you mean by don’t go native? What does that mean?
Dave: Well, it’s very easy. When you are talking to Sis, a lot of the people you’re talking with, if you like at a human level, are people that are in a position that you yourself have been in. It’s very easy to sympathise with them and say, “Yes. Don’t worry about that, we’ll sort that and whatever.” I’m afraid to say on occasions, I’ve done it. It’s one of those things, but you have to understand that your loyalty in the project has to be with the company you’re working for. Sometimes you have to be a little bit harder and say, no. “I’ve heard your advice. I’ve heard what you say. I understand what you say, but his is the way we want it done. This is the way it has to be done.”
Lee: Yes. I see what you mean. Have you got a preference now? I know at the moment you’re working on the SI side and have you done that before, obviously, and you’ve done the end users quite a bit. Is there a preference for you?
Dave: I like the SI side simply because the variety is there. You can be working on Sales Cloud one day and three weeks later, you are working with Amazon Connect and Salesforce, and six week later you’re working with Service Cloud or Marketing Cloud or all the various clouds.
Lee: They are so many.
Dave: Yes, I was going to say. That takes me back to an earlier point. You’re never going to know everything, never. You need to understand that at times you have to adapt yourself, but also work with your colleagues. I mean, obviously, as a project manager, I have technical people working with me and BA’s working with me and they know a hell of a lot more about the technical side than I do.
That’s why they’re on that project. My job as a project manager is to make sure that the whole thing comes together, that you provide the best possible service. You keep everybody updated; you look out for any issues. One word really is communication. That really is the whole thing about project management is communication. Communicate with the customer, communicate with the team, communicate with your company, and make sure that everybody’s in the loop.
Lee: Yes. I suppose, as I said earlier on, the amount of opportunities that are knocking around in the Salesforce space, it probably could be quite easy for people to get pulling from pillars to post and try and understand everything. I think in the way Salesforce is going, people need to probably pick a lane if you like, and become an expert in that and not beat themselves up for not knowing the ins and outs of everything and having all the certs for everything. If that’s a bit of advice.
I was going to ask, actually, what is it like then? You mentioned that you get messages all the time on LinkedIn and what have you. When you are in a job and you are happy, is it really quite annoying you just be constantly pinged by people like myself with a “I’ve got this job. Are you looking?” Because I’m imagining it’s constant in the Salesforce space.
Dave: Yes, it is. If I go through my personal email today, I’m sure there’ll be– In fact know there is this two that’s saying, would you like to talk about this? I wouldn’t say annoying. In some ways it’s great and it’s very flattering. It’s also the fact that they may catch you in a period of time when you’re not very happy where you are and it’s a way out. Yes, no, it’s never a problem. I always politely say no, I’m permanent currently with EPAM and say “No, I’m very happy there. I’m not looking to move.”
Lee: That could be a full-time job, just managing your inbox on LinkedIn.
Dave: Yes, it can be, yes.
Lee: It goes back to my point; sometimes you look at, this is for someone listening, maybe that might be in a situation. If you’re not careful your CV can look like nine months here, eight months there, 10 months there, and you’re jumping around, this is not even a contract. This is a permanent person because the minute something isn’t quite right where you are, you go to that inbox and you go, “Right, I’m out of here.” Is that the best thing of your career or do you try and figure it out and stick where you are for a little bit?
Dave: Yes, to learn anything, you need to take the pain. It’s great when a project finishes, and it’s very successful. Everybody’s your friend, everybody’s patting you on the back in the team whatever. Sometimes there’s a lot of pain in that. A lot of late nights and a lot of — I’ll use the word stress, you do get stressed. I’m not a stressy-type person, but even if I sometimes get a bit stressed about it.
One of the things I do look at on a CV is, if the job is permanent, and they are from a permanent background, then I look at how long they’ve been there because, certainly at the moment, if things go wrong, it is easy to bail, it’d be a very easy thing. I don’t need this, I’ll go to X, Y, Zed, but [crosstalk] there-
Lee: I get from where I’m coming from, recruitment companies, we’re out there, dangling these opportunities out there for people in the hope that they say they’re looking. There are some occasions where you look at someone’s CV and go, you really need to stay where you are for another year or something, otherwise your CV is going to start to look like there’s a common denominator in you moving every number of months. People assume that that’s something with you. Which sounds awful. I think if your reaction is to glance across opportunities, every time there’s a little issue in your current company, then you’re never going to stay anywhere very long.
Dave: Yes, that’s very true. Obviously, from a contract point of view, sometimes you get a three-month contract and that’s all there is to it. You’re not going to get an extension simply because you’ve done what you had to do. That’s why I’m very careful to read up on that, to make sure that there is a contract, because you can’t discriminate.
Lee: This leads nicely into a question that it’s a hot topic at the moment and it’s always been a reasonably hot topic in the Salesforce ecosystem. I’ve never known in all the different recruitment lives I’ve had because I obviously have known you from before, we both pointed out. This marketplace at the moment is absolutely rife with counteroffers. That’s obviously only really for permanent people but bearing in mind what we just said about how easy it is to glance across and go “Right, I’m out of here.”
I don’t think there’s many people at the moment that are saying, “Right, I’m out of here. I’ve interviewed, I’ve done my 14 interviews at this company. I’m leaving.” Then lo and behold, this magical new opportunity arrives at the company they were at with a nice pay rise. Where do you sit on the whole counteroffer thing? From the point of view of receiving one yourself maybe or even giving one if someone was saying to you “I’m off.” Has that ever happened for you?
Dave: Yes, it’s happened in both ways. I mean, obviously, you know your financial requirements, and you know what you need. My advice, in that sense, is never ever go chasing the big money, unless you really, really need it because I can only think of my own experience. I’ve only ever done that once and it was the worst decision I ever made many years ago. I was on what I considered a fair wage and somebody came in with a huge offer virtually tripling what I was on. I thought this is for me, but let me tell you, it wasn’t. It was the worst period of my working life, I hated it. I got out of that, I tried to stick it out but I couldn’t. That was a lesson.
Lee: What I tend to find something, did you then- because you then get used to that level of salaries. When you’re trying to get out you can’t because–
Dave: Yes, you can’t. I think you wouldn’t call it a poverty trap, reversed poverty trap. You become used to having a lot of spare cash, a lot of things that you hadn’t been able to do. Especially as it was, then I had a young family. It was nice to be able to spend money on really good holidays for them. You tend to put up with quite a lot. When you suddenly you feel your own mental stability being affected, that’s the time to get out.
Lee: No details necessarily, or naming companies. What was it that made it the worst? Was it that they expected so much of you because they’re paying you so much?
Dave: Yes, they do. I mean, obviously, they’re not going to give you an easy ride and I knew that when I joined. I mean it was a company that I dealt with in the past as a customer. What I didn’t realise is their internal ways of working were high pressure on everybody. I mean, the turnover of people in that company was absolutely incredible. Their ways of treating you and talking to you it was virtually, “We’re paying you this much, we’ll talk to you how the hell we like and you’ll do what I tell you to do,” working seven days a week in some cases 15, 20 hours.
Lee: That’s the thing, isn’t it? That’s the trade-off. You’re saying about it’s nice to have the money to spend on a young family, but you’re not there.
Dave: Yes, you also end up the richest man in the graveyard.
Lee: You come up with some really good little quotes today. Richest man in the graveyard.
Lee: I mean, I know as a recruiter, we could keep going on about counteroffers and from our point of view, it’s annoying because you say to people, “Are you sure you’re not leaving?” All that. It’s very right for the minute. There’s a lot of money being thrown around for people. I’m happy that for whatever reason, and obviously, you try and get to the root of that reason.
Then they obviously go out to the ecosystem, they spend some time talking to other companies, which is a waste of their time, effectively, if they’re not really going to leave. You don’t need to be lured to stay for, in some cases, quite a lot of money. Can the Salesforce ecosystem continue to do this, do you think?
Dave: I think under the present climate, this will continue for a period of time. There will come a day of reckoning in the end, there always is from the financial angle. I mean in the reverse situation, I look at a person’s worth and if they come and say, “Look, sorry, Dave. I’m handing my notice in.” I always like to talk to them about why. I always say, look, would you mind telling me what you’ve been offered. If they’ve been offered a salary that, in my view, is above their capabilities in the company, then I won’t even attempt to match it.
The reason why you would often do it is you don’t want the hassle of trying to employ somebody to fit in. You know, that once that person leaves, if they’re at all competent, they’re going to leave a hole. Yes, you can fill that, you can fill that maybe with somebody that is even more competent, but you’ve got to ramp that person up. They don’t come in from day one, know everything about everything, the way you work, the way your clients work, and hit the ground running. In reality, in that situation, it doesn’t happen. You need to give them time to understand your systems, understand the way you work, understand your company values, things like that.
Yes, when somebody leaves and they’re reasonably good at their job, it does leave a hole and sometimes you think, well, actually, we probably are underpaying them. You make them a counteroffer better than one they’ve had, but I would say that’s always the exception rather than a rule.
Lee: Do you then not look at them a bit strange every time they have a doctor’s appointment or are off ill or are they really off again interviewing.
Dave: You do. The relationship, the personal relationship is never really the same because as you say, you get a phone call and say, “My granddad’s died,” and you think, “How many granddads have you had? The doctor’s appointment, as you say, and things like that. It can’t be the same again.
Lee: It’s interesting, because it is rife at the moment, and it’s good luck to some people forgetting what they’re getting, but it’d just be nice if people got that before going out to the market and speaking to people and what have you. There you go, that’s counter offers covered anyway. I already appreciate it’s been an hour. I didn’t ask you at the beginning, is how long you’ve got. Just say if you need to stop, but we’ve got more questions I want to run by you.
Dave: I could do another 10, 15 minutes.
Lee: Cool, fine. If you can think of it, what would you say has been the biggest challenge so far in your career? I suppose we’re talking about Salesforce now.
Dave: Yes. If you’re talking about Salesforce, is understanding how you approach a project knowing full well that in fairness, Salesforce, the clue’s in the name, they’re a company that, obviously have to sell a lot of licenses and things. They will set customer expectations at a very high level, and you need to be very conscious of that, and understand maybe the reality of the situation, and work with the customer to, I won’t say bring that down, but to align it more than it’s normally possible.
Lee: No, that’s fair enough. Do you have a favourite thing about the Salesforce ecosystem or the Salesforce product suites?
Dave: Yes. I think my favourite thing is there’s always something new. If you get bored with Salesforce, then the problem’s with you, basically, because there is always something new. It’s a very, very good sector to work in, the interest levels. I do sometimes look at the technical side of things and think, “Yes, I see how this works.” Then you slap yourself, and certainly I do and I’d be thinking, “Those days have gone. Don’t touch it.”
They’re a good company to work with. I find that certainly over the last two or three years, they really have become more customer-focused than they were before. I think at times they sold things that were not really fit for purpose, or were but you’d have to do so much customisation on it that it would make it financially unviable. Now, I think they actually look at their customers, as partners. They’ve always claimed to, but I think they do now. That’s nice. With the customer success programs that they have, it’s very good. Working with them, they do keep the SI’s on the straight and narrow, as well.
Lee: What are you most excited about in terms of the future of your career, I suppose, and Salesforce, the ecosystem?
Dave: I think the future is really big for Salesforce. You almost think, “Oh, God knows what they’ll come up with doing next,” but I can’t wait. It’s a bit like in the old days waiting for the evening papers, or what’s in that now? It’s always a challenge. There’s always something new, and it’s interesting. Provided, you can personally take that as a plus because with that comes stress.
You can get landed with things that you have absolutely no idea about and you think, “It’s my job to work this with the team, but we’ve got to work through this and work it out. Provided you can take that, then it’s a great sector to be in, and I’d recommend it to anyone. Absolutely brilliant.
Lee: Any final thoughts or tips or anything like that, or are you happy with the hour and a bit we’ve done?
Dave: No. I think we’ve gone through a lot of things. If Salesforce is your chosen path, then make sure that you know your product, but make sure you know your business sectors, and make sure that you come across as a person, as a human being and someone who can fit in, not just some sort of genius machine who knows everything about Salesforce.
Lee: The certification collector, yes. Brilliant. Lovely. Thanks, Dave. It’s been great catching up with you. It’s been a while since we’ve spoken, and I totally appreciate your time going through. Like I said before, there’s topics in there that you could spend a whole hour talking about those one topic. Maybe we’ll follow up one day and do that.
Dave: I’ll tell you about my 14 interviews.
Lee: Why not? That’d be fun. It sounds like if anyone does want to find you, obviously LinkedIn, but then your LinkedIn inbox sounds like a nightmare, but are you quite open to that if anyone wants to look at you?
Dave: Oh, absolutely. If anybody wants to chat or wants anything that I can help with. I’ve been around a long time, so probably you’ve seen most things. Very little surprises me these days. Yes, I’m more than happy.
Lee: Are you on LinkedIn with your Portsmouth shirt on, if I remember rightly?
Dave: Actually, I think LinkedIn, I got my West Indies shirt on.
Lee: That’s my knowledge of outside of the Premier League football.
Dave: My Portsmouth shirt stays hidden. I got too much to think about.
Lee: Fair enough. Thanks very much for spending an hour or so with us, mate. I really appreciate it. I look forward to what happens in your career moving forward. Thank you very much for your time. Thank you.