Episode 5: Penny Townsend Salesforce Career Conversation with ROD. Penny reflects on her journey from Salesforce Programme Manager to Chief Operating Officer of a growing Salesforce Consulting Partner.
Lee: So joining me today, is Penny Townsend. Hi Penny, how are you doing mate?
Penny: Hi Lee, I’m great thanks. Thanks very much for having me in for the chat.
Lee: You’re kidding aren’t you? I’m very grateful that you said yes. I know how busy you are, and it’s great to have you on the podcast. As you know, we’re doing this because it’s our ten year anniversary and we had this… Actually it wasn’t me, our marketing department had this idea that it would be great for us to speak to people that have been around the Salesforce ecosystem for as long as we have, or even longer in some cases. Which I think might be you. So yeah, it’s kind of like take ten years of being in this space, and great to speak to what we’re calling Salesforce legends, but I what I like about your profile is you refer to yourself as a Salesforce veteran, which is nice.
Penny: Yeah, and it frequently feels like that.
Lee: Yeah I know. So yeah… So thanks for doing it, and I appreciate you’re doing this kind of off the cuff as well, which is really exciting I think, because all we really want to chat about is your career, and how you got into it. We’ll break it down, but how you got into it, what your first experience was in Salesforce, and then sort of the journey that’s taken you from getting into it, to where you are today. And obviously, if you want to give us a little overview of you, and who you are, and what you’re doing now, then we’ll just sort of get going from the beginning if that’s all right?
Penny: Yeah, sure. Thanks Lee. Well I saw on LinkedIn, because you did a conversation like this with Gemma, and she shared it. And I saw that Frances wrote on there, “Oh, yeah I think Lee was the first ever recruiter I spoke to as well.” And I was going to put a message on there saying, “Yeah, Lee was all our first.” And I thought, “Lee won’t thank me for that.”
Lee: No you’re right. As we say, you were the veteran, yeah you sort of feel like it don’t you?
When did you get into it though? When was your first experience of Salesforce? I’ve obviously gone through your LinkedIn profile trying to remember, but perhaps you can let us know?
Penny: Like a lot of people, my first experience of Salesforce was by accident. So that must be about 12 or 13 years ago now when I was working at the Carbon Trust, who were an early not-for-profit customer of Salesforce.
Penny: So back then, Salesforce really only had more than a handful, but certainly not hundreds of customers over in EMEA. And Carbon Trust were quite a good brand for them to win, and their not for profit space. And I was working for the Carbon Trust Standard, which was a subsidiary, and we were using an old database called ACT. So I’m showing my age here, it was a-
Lee: Oh, yeah I’ve heard of that as well. So yeah, I’m with you on that one.
Penny: Yeah and it was really… It’s perfect for keeping track of people’s names, and addresses, and birthdays, and stuff. But it didn’t really provide much functionality. And the standard company was growing really fast, and given that core Carbon Trust had Salesforce, the decision was made to roll out an org for the standard company. So, my initial experience was, as kind of the product owner I suppose, the end user. So we got our consultant in, and I worked with him on defining the requirements, and I was initially incredibly sceptical about what Salesforce could deliver, and then was really blown away by seeing it in practice.
You know, back then, having the stages, having the process flow, having the workflows, all of that was really radical, and fantastic to be able to see that. So, that was my first experience there, and we actually had a couple of really innovative things. So we did a website using Salesforce, so that small companies could put details of their energy footprint into that website, and it would automatically come through to Salesforce, and that kind of thing. So that’s what first got me a bit excited about Salesforce.
Lee: That was going to answer – my next question usually is then at what point did you know that, that was going to be your career? And I’m going back a little bit now, but you had a reasonable career before Salesforce didn’t you?
Penny: Okay. That’s a very sweet way of saying, “You’re really old aren’t you?”
Lee: Hey, you’re younger than me, so let’s just remember that.
Penny: I’m the oldest person here at Crusader, I’m their oldest employee, which really makes me laugh every day. So yeah, I’d worked for a long time in financial services, predominantly before going to the Carbon Trust, I’d actually just before I started there, I’d had about 18 months off to be at home with my daughter. So I’d sold a business that I was… There was two of us running that company, and we sold it, and I used the money from that to spend a bit of time at home with Lottie, because she was about 20 months when we sold that business, and I’d gone straight back to work after she was born. So I was really worn out by then. And also, by the time your child gets to that kind of age, they know you, they can grab you, and they can say, “I want to be with you mummy!” So it was a lot harder to go off to work every day, so I took kind of belated maternity leave I suppose, for about 18 months. But then, I think like a lot of women, it was quite difficult for me to get back into work, more so than I’d expected.
So, the job I went into at the Carbon Trust, actually was on less than a third of the salary that I’d been on before.
Lee: Whoa, wow okay!
Penny: Yeah it was a completely different industry and all that. It was a big, big switch.
Lee: I didn’t know that. I didn’t know that you’d had a successful business that you sold before even getting into this space. That’s quite interesting. And so, whilst the time then taking a third… Well, be on a third of the money you’re used to, that I’m guessing you’re looking back thinking, it’s one of the best things you ever did, in terms of where you are now?
Penny: Yeah, exactly. And honestly, it didn’t feel like that at the time. It was quite a tough time. I broke up with my daughter’s father during that time, and then with going back to work, I actually… You know, there’s a lot of talk these days around diversity, and getting women back into the workforce, and for me, if it hadn’t been for the working families tax credit supporting me with my childcare costs, I don’t think I’d be in this job now. So I was very fortunate that I had that, and it could help me stay in work. And I think that speaks to some of the values, and the ways of working that we have here at Crusader now, which I can maybe talk about a bit later. But yeah, it’s fortunate I was able to be in work.
And so, after I left the Carbon Trust, I did a bit of contracting for a few months, and then I went to work at British Standards Institution, which was another one of Salesforce’s early EMEA customers. And I initially went in there to be the Head of Sales for their services, which was a tough job with a big team. And they already had Salesforce, but I could see compared to the innovative brand new solution I’d had at Carbon Trust, I could see lots of scope for improvement. And basically, somebody asked me to put my money where my mouth was, and run a big project to transform their Salesforce org, which then took over my life.
Lee: So basically, at BSI, you were initially Sales, as in like doing the sales, and just using Salesforce in it’s basic form that they had? So that even that was still a sales role initially?
Penny: Yeah exactly. So I was Sales Leader, so BSI has many different aspects to it, and the team I was responsible for was selling auditing of standards. So we had 12 territories with a field sales guy, and a tele-sales guy on each, and a really tough target… A monthly target to hit. And so Salesforce was absolutely crucial to our ability to both have transparency of what was going on, and to hit our number, and all the associated processes around that. And there were some things, like around using Conga, and Echo Sign, that I’d done at Carbon Trust that I wanted to bring to BSI. So I ended up running a really massive project there, because they’ve got… You know, there’s thousands of users in multiple different countries, and over five apps that we brought in, including a really sophisticated early CPQ.
So again, it was quite an innovative project to work on.
Lee: Yeah blimey! Early CPQ. So it’s so current at the moment, but to be doing it… When was that then? Sort of seven years ago. Crikey.
Penny: Yeah, at least yeah, yeah, a good long while ago.
Lee: Yeah, and so that then. So, even though you did Salesforce at the Carbon Trust, you didn’t go into BSI thinking, “I’m a Salesforce person.” You went in there still being Sales. So when was it then that you had that a-ha moment, and just thought, “Do you know what, this is for me, this technology. I’m going to just specialise in that from now on.”
Penny: So I guess I’d been… That had gone from being an idea of doing that project, to very quickly being a kind of change of role to be responsible for that programme of work.
Penny: And I could see the need that there is in Salesforce to combine business understanding, and process understanding with getting the best out of the technology. And I think for me, that job at BSI was kind of the perfect combination of all of those things. Because I came with a long history of working in business, and pretty good understanding of what makes business tick. Both at Carbon Trust, and BSI, they’re very orientated towards good quality business process as you’d expect from an ISO 9001 auditing, and writing those standards type of company.
Penny: And combined with a bit of knowledge around Salesforce, that I had especially some of it more innovative side, it kind of was a perfect storm for me to really understand maybe some value that I could add about that. And at the same time, so I said that we’d had five apps that we built into that org. So back then, Conga was very, very small, and World Tour was tiny. You probably remember it Lee? No, I think you’d go along, there’d be a few hundred people there maybe?
Penny: So I’d got to know Mark, and Paula at Conga reasonably well. And it was just funny timing, because Mark had decided it was the right time that Conga had enough customers across EMEA, that they wanted to hire somebody to lead, and grow the Conga business in EMEA. They’d had a couple of people working to cover the time difference on doing support tickets, and so on, but he felt he really needed to make more of a business over here.
So, I started talking to them about doing that job, and it was a very difficult decision for them to make, because they’d never hired any managers, or anybody senior before. They’d always just grown their own internally, because culture was so, so important to Mark and Michael, and they didn’t wasn’t to hire anyone that might break that.
Lee: Yeah and so that’s when you got the role as MD, for the EMEA at Conga?
Penny: Yeah, and it was… It was more like joining a family, than just getting a job in a traditional sense. That it was really important to them that I had a good fit, and I went out to the States with my daughter, and Mark’s wife looked after her while I went to work every day. It was a completely different experience to any I’d had before in terms of getting a job, and I keep nagging Mark, and Michael to write a book, because their whole approach to running that business is quite exceptional, and very, very successful. So yeah, I came in, and that was then a bit of a baptism of fire, because I started working for Conga, and we must’ve already had five, or 600 customers across Europe. Initially there was me, and Ross, and Karen just in her last couple of weeks to do all the support tickets.
So even though my job was to run the business, and grow the business, I was also dealing with the support tickets day in, day out, and it was crazy, but wonderful.
Lee: That’s a good early example. You hear me talking about the World Tour, or whatever it was called back in those days. I want to say Cloud Force, was it Cloud Force?
Penny: Cloud Force!!
Lee: Yeah, that’s right. But a good example of it, and that people can go along, and obviously learn about different things, but there’s opportunities everywhere isn’t there? So for you to go along as a Conga customer, and then come away with a MD role, that’s pretty exciting, but how did BSI take that? Is that a strange question?
Penny: They were okay about it, and it was a challenging time, but yeah, yeah it was fine. It was fine because in a way, they were Conga customers too, so knowing that they had somebody that had their best interests at heart over there was a good thing. And you know, they’re a big company, and people move around a lot, so it’s fine.
Lee: Yeah. And what’s… I mean, there a lot of people out there that are starting their careers, or whatever, or maybe they’re in their first job in Salesforce. Some of the questions we always get asked is, “What’s the difference of being at a customer, to being ISV, and of course now later in your career?” And we’ll keep going through obviously. You’re now at a Consultancy. How different was it at Conga? And I know your role was obviously much more pressure on you by the looks of it. But how different is it being an ISV at a company, to being a customer?
Penny: Yeah, that’s a really, really good question. And I think, definitely one of my advantages in my career has been doing a little bit of all of that. So, being involved in a greenfield implementation at Carbon Trust was really important. Because you get to see what an organisation goes through in that kind of, before Salesforce, after Salesforce experience. But then also knowing what it’s like to be living with a Salesforce org years into it, and some of the challenges that come from that. That was very valuable. And working at an end-user, that helps especially for young people in our industry to understand when they’re given requirements, what those actually mean. How they relate to people’s real jobs, and what it’s like to be maintaining that kind of a system, and that’s so important that so often if I’m interviewing people, I’ll often recommend that they do make sure to have time under their belt at an end-user in their career. You can’t beat it for understanding that.
But then being at an ISV is very different, because when I was at Conga, I must’ve seen hundreds, and hundreds of Salesforce orgs. And that was great for me to see this huge range of implementations, and different approaches that people take to Salesforce. But also, you’re only getting to see this tiny, narrow window of what they’re doing.
Penny: So for instance, customers would call up for help, and I’d see… And I’d be like, holding my head in my hands thinking, “How on Earth did you end up here? Why did you build it to do this?”
Penny: You know, the Conga bit’s fine, but the rest of it’s insane! But it was really good to see lots, and lots of different systems. And you definitely get that from being an ISV. But one of the big challenges with being an ISV, is often the last thing on the list. So products come in when a particular requirement can’t be delivered any other way, and then it’s often challenging dealing with customers around the commercials, and that kind of thing, because [inaudible 00:17:46] they feel like they don’t have budget for that. So there were lots of challenges, and lots of changes for me in terms of how that went. But I really enjoyed building the team, and for me there as you know, because I recruited… I was recruiting groups of three at a time directly through you, and so hiring people, and bringing them on to learn Salesforce, I learned a lot about how to onboard people. So definitely hiring two, or three at a time, so people have somebody else to lean on, so they’re not in it on their own. That was something that was really important, and figuring out how to train people, and how to actually push people into taking support tickets before they feel ready, because otherwise, it’s very easy to end up feeling like you’re never ready.
Lee: Yeah. I remember trying to… obviously myself and the team here working on those roles for you. Two things I was going to say. Actually three things. But firstly, I remember the Conga T-Shirts that you used to… Not T-Shirts, like Hawaiian shirts you guys used to… If I remember rightly, you kind of did that before tequila made it a thing, am I right?
Penny: Yeah, yeah definitely. So, the floral shirt, we actually even had a hashtag for a while. So floral shirts were a big thing in Conga, and you only got your floral shirt, you had to earn it. So you had to be in Conga for at least three months, so you had to pass your probation, and you had to be doing a good job of resolving your tickets before you could get a floral shirt, but I remember being at Dream Force, and a big group of us walking up the street in our floral shirts, and having people literally shout from across the road, “Conga, conga!” I think everybody knew us, and everybody knew those shirts, so that was such a big thing at the time, [inaudible 00:19:40] really yeah.
Lee: I know, and pioneers in that respect because you go to Dream Force, or the World Tours now, and it’s almost like everyone’s got some form of, for want of a better word, gimmick haven’t they? I mean, I’m sure it’s a possibility that you guys weren’t the first, but the fact that you did that, it’s quite memorable.
The other thing I was going to say, was you must’ve done something right in regards to training people, because there’s… I don’t want you to necessarily name names, it’s up to you if you want to, but there’s two, or three people that worked for you at Conga and I specifically remember they’ve gone on to become seriously big names in the Salesforce space. So you obviously looked after them well?
Penny: Ah, yeah thank you. I mean, it is… I think it is a great opportunity to when you get in front of lots of different customers, when you get to see lots of different Salesforce set ups. It’s a great grounding to learn about. And Conga is a very strong brand, and that helps with your own personal brand, and growing your career. So again, those are things for people to think about, who are maybe young professionals in the space, and are looking forward to their careers. Those are the considerations to have about how the role they’re taking now kind of relates to where they want to get to in the future, and working with a strong brand is a really good idea.
Lee: Yeah, that’s a good tip and something we come up against… I’m sure you might’ve done it as well. When you’re recruiting for, or you are an ISV let’s say, and you’re recruiting for Salesforce skills. Sometimes the people are a bit concerned that they’re going to be pigeonholed. Like you said, your reference to a very narrow window of what Conga would do for a Salesforce org. Did you find that sort of pushback with candidates, or did you… And if you did, how did you overcome it?
Penny: Yeah, you’re right actually. Because sometimes you’d interview people who wanted to do the whole kind of suit to nuts implementation, or wanted to really geek out about a new dev that was coming from Salesforce that they wanted to play in, and they didn’t get the same chance to do that with Conga. So that’s very true, and I think that is true of hiring people into ISV roles. But at the same time, it gives you other benefits, particularly soft skills. Whether you’re going into a Sales Engineering type of role, or a support role, that ability to really understand how a product fits into the landscape more broadly, and get to know lots of different customers. Those are invaluable skills, and I think in the Salesforce space, for the last few years, and I think for the next few, it’s so highly competitive for people in roles that I think you really don’t run much of a risk of getting pigeonholed, because all of that experience will be valuable. As long as you kind of keep your certs up, or keep your knowledge up, then you’ll continue to become a valuable resource for other types of roles.
Lee: Perfect. And then moving on from Conga. So sorry, I know I interrupted you a little bit. So when you then, your journey at Conga, which we know, was three years. That’s probably the longest, if I’m correct, the longest at that point you were in a Salesforce related role. What happened with your move to Documill, and where you are now? What was the thought process around those moves?
Penny: So one of the things that I was very lucky to be able to do in Conga, was that in the last year I was there, Mark and Michael were thinking that they wanted to retire. So I was very lucky to have been able to work directly with founders, and again, I think that’s something I’d say should be on everybody’s checklist of something they want to do at one point during their career, because it’s a very different experience working with founders of a business, compared to leaders of business.
Lee: Okay, in what way?
Penny: Because the founders, their personality and the businesses’ personality are interconnected. It’s a very blurred line between where the person ends, and the business begins. And they… Leaders can be incredibly passionate about a business, but when somebody has founded it, that sense that it’s their baby, and also that it’s their money never goes away. Even the practical things change. That level of attachment, of, you know, like the apron strings, they remain there, and it’s really fascinating seeing how founders operate, and where their values are about the business. It’s quite a different experience. So definitely one I’d recommend.
Lee: I’ve asterisked that to share on the notes afterwards, because that’s a great tip of [inaudible 00:24:29]. Because there’s so many out there now, isn’t there, there’s so many ISVs, and consulting companies where you probably can get to work with the founders, as you are now with where you are now. So what-
Penny: [inaudible 00:24:42]
Lee: Sorry, go on.
Penny: [inaudible 00:24:42] About Salesforce that you can still do that. There are small enough businesses that you can still work in founder led companies, and work directly with the founder, it’s really cool.
Lee: Get to see what it’s like to be a founder, and the stress that they put themselves under. And obviously, you’ve had the experience yourself then from the company you mentioned previous to your Salesforce experience where you’ve sold something. And yeah, I’ve got that, but the problem we have as founders here, is that I think, like you just said, you’re so ingrained in it, that you just don’t know when, and how to let go. But that’s obviously something they managed to sort out, so good luck to them.
Penny: Yeah, for the past three years, I assumed that you had somebody called Rod, is one of your founders, Lee. I was like, “When am I going to get to meet Rod?”
Lee: I know. People still think that, and it’s great. One day we’ll hire a Rod, and perhaps he’ll take over these podcasts, and do a much better job. So what happened then with Documill? A very similar kind of company, were they not?
Penny: Yeah. So, in my last year, or so, at Conga, Mark and Michael had decided that they’d been there for 10 years. They’d put a lot into it, and Mark especially was kind of ready to retire. You know, his first grandchild was on it’s way, and that kind of thing. So they were… One of the great things about that being a very flat, structured, and despite the fact the two founders were men, actually all of the senior leadership underneath them were women.
One of the great things about the way that we worked, is that it was very flat structured. So when it came to then thinking about, where to take the business next, we were all completely involved in those conversations, and in those options. So in the end, the business was sold, and just loads of changes flowed from that. Some of which I really loved, and some of which not so much. And overall, as so often happens in these situations, just a whole bunch of us moved on to do other things. So, over the next six months, to a year after that, lots of us moved on to go and do something new.
So I left, and although i was primarily working for Documill, I was actually contracting. So I was helping a few other small ISVs get off the ground as well. So they’re a Finnish based company. They also do document generation like Conga, but with a very different take on that kind of a product, a different angle. So they’ve got different strengths, and weaknesses. And it was really interesting to work with those guys, as well as a couple of other small apps to help them kind of grow, and build a bit of a market in the UK, and for me it was another good experience of going from a really well known strong brand, to a fantastic product that nobody had heard of.
Lee: Hah, yeah.
Penny: It was cool. So I spent a lot of time going to user groups, which was also a really good experience, and definitely something I’d recommend people do.
Lee: There’s so many of them now isn’t there? It’s almost a full-time job to probably keep on top of what one’s going on, and where.
So that’s… Because I forgot that you were a contractor then, because I was going to ask, that’s one of the questions I do ask people, is, what’s the day to day difference of being a contractor, to being a “permanent employee”? Does it feel any different, or did you do it long enough to get the feeling of there’s a difference to it?
Penny: It definitely does feel different. It definitely does feel different, because there are… You’ve got more risk, and I think that was ultimately why I decided to stop being a contractor. And so, although I’d taken out insurance, and all that kind of thing. I still felt… Oh, I don’t know. Yeah, I felt more risk, but I also felt a little bit lonely as well. Building the business in the UK on my own, I had a team in Finland, but I’d had a bit of the same experience at Conga actually, where especially in the early days, it was just me, and even when the team grew, I was the boss. Which sounds very grandiose doesn’t it? But [inaudible 00:28:57] can be very lonely as well. So at Conga, I was the head of EMEA, but all of my peers were in Colorado. So when I had a bad day, or when I was having a tough time making a decision, or when it was just difficult, there was no… I had no peers around me to talk to, to help me make those decisions, to share in the responsibility. I was carrying it all, and it felt the same then when I was a contractor as well. And no…
And in my personal life, I carried a lot of responsibility, because I’m a lone parent, and it felt like it was just not fun anymore, and I missed having peers to kind of bounce idea off, and share the load with at work.
Lee: Yeah, I can appreciate that, and as you probably know, my wife and I, THeresa, we own ROD, and it’s tough, but it’s nice to have that person that you can basically winge at, and then get it back. You can’t… With peers, you can probably have a drink after work, and just get stuff off your chest. You can’t do that downwards can you, so to speak?
Penny: Exactly you can’t put that on other people for a whole bunch of reasons, you know? You don’t want to make iT seem like you have favourites, or that you’ve got friends, and non-friends in the team, or you don’t want to… When you’re… You’re paid more to carry the responsibility, it’s then not fair to share that burden with people who aren’t paid to carry your responsibility. So for all of those reasons, there’s lots of real positives about being the boss, but it is also quite isolating [inaudible 00:30:44].
Lee: Tough at the top, yeah, yeah. Do you know, I’m looking at your LinkedIn, and I’ve just realised… So you left Documill, and then you went somewhere else, but that’s not on your LinkedIn I just noticed.
Penny: No, no. I never got around to it Lee, that’s how I rubbish I am.
Lee: So you know why, it’s us recruiters, we’ll just assume that everyone’s LinkedIn is perfectly up to date, and everything’s like a CV. But yes, I kind of almost forgot that you had a spell at a large consulting company. So was that a shock to the system, or what was that like?
Penny: Yeah, it was a bit of a shock to the system okay. It probably doesn’t surprise you. So yeah, I went to work… I don’t know. Can i name them? I can name them can’t I? I worked there so-
Lee: Actually, I don’t see why not. Yeah, go for it.
Penny: If I could get round to putting it on LinkedIn, there’s nothing secret about it.
So I went to work for Cognizant, and that was really different, and my thinking there is that, that would give me a lot of the things that I felt I was missing. So, I’ve just spoke a bit about feeling a bit lonely at work, and I thought, “Great there’s 250,000 people in this company. Surely I’ve got to find one or two friends.”
Penny: And then I thought, “I really want more of a day to day routine, and it would be nice that somebody else has the responsibility for paying me, and not having to do it myself.” Now, there was lots going for it, and also, you introduced me to JK who’s yeah, probably somebody you should have one of these conversations with, because he’s been around forever hasn’t he?
Lee: He’s on my list. I’m trying to get Jonathan to agree to a time slot, he’s not easy, but I’m on him don’t worry.
Penny: Yeah, yeah he has no time does he?
Penny: And JK is absolutely brilliant, a lovely, lovely man. Real, true expert at Salesforce, and kind of no ego, just loads of knowledge, and [inaudible 00:32:36] wonderful man to work with. So I spoke to him, and I thought, “Wow, yeah this will be really great.” I can learn a lot from him, and having not really had a boss for a few years, I thought this would be good. So yeah.
So I went to work for them, and I was there for about ten months all told, and was working on a big enterprise project for them. So one that had a rolling programme of Salesforce development. So some innovative things happening, but also a lot of routine maintenance, changes, and updates. Thousands of users so quite complex in terms of the ongoing BAU work. And that was the first time I’d worked on anything on that scale. That was way bigger than VSI, very different. I had teams across at least three, if not four different locations. Yeah maybe I had two teams in India, a team in Barcelona, a team in Eastern Europe, and a team in the UK, so five locations. And I was travelling a lot for that project which is ultimately a big reason for moving on.
But yeah, that was a bit of a shock to the system, and a very busy time, but good, again lots of fun.
Lee: Yeah, and lots of experience gained even in the ten months you were there. And that’s… As we discussed earlier on with the ISV perception of people. A lot of people don’t want to work for a big consulting firm, or even a small one sometimes because of the perceived amount of travel, and lack of time they’re going to spend at home with their loved ones. Would you say that, that’s fair, or was that your experience in that scenario? And it’s not just about coppers, and I appreciate there’s a load of others that are just like that. Is that a fair assumption that’s what consulting is like.
Penny: Yeah. So I think yes, and no. Working through… Yeah, working at a GSI is something again I think is really useful in your career, because the whole thing of being at a GSI is then you get the experience of being in a really sophisticated Salesforce practice, but that where the Salesforce is a small part of their overall offering. So for me, what was really interesting was about seeing how the Salesforce piece of the work slotted into the creative, the digital, the innovation, the general strategic consultancy that’s offered to a customer. And that was really fascinating to be part of that, and not something I’d been able to do before. So I got a lot out of that, but you’re right, there is a lot of travel. I think I went in there at a relatively senior role, so I had more opportunity to control that, but even so, when you are part of such a massive organisation, and especially when the Salesforce part of that business is relatively small, you can feel a bit like you’re bobbing around on the ocean. For me, something was a real switch. Going from being a big fish in small pond, to being a tiny little fish in a ginormous ocean. So yeah, it was-
Lee: I quite like that. Yeah, that’s good. Listening to your journey to this point, or to the point we’re at in the chat, you can see why you were the perfect choice for the role that you’re doing now can’t you? I mean, obviously you may have not noticed that at the time, but for people that haven’t looked at your profile LinkedIn, you’re now Chief Operating Officer is that right? Is that your title? I always say Procedo, is Procado?
Penny: You can say either. We’re not fussy. [crosstalk 00:36:16]
Lee: Good, okay..
Penny: Procado or Proceedo, they’re both right, yeah. And this is another one where I have to thank you Lee, because half of these jobs we’ve talked about you’ve got me, and Procedo, it wasn’t even just that you got me the job, it was that you had the whole idea of me being the right fit for the company at the right time. You made the whole thing happen, it wasn’t like Matt was advertising a role, or anything like that. You just knew it.
Lee: Wow yeah. You have that thing that a lot of people that are really, really good at what they do, though you just don’t seem to… I don’t know what it is, but you don’t necessarily seem to believe in yourself that much, you know? Is that fair do you think?
Penny: Yeah, probably a bit. I don’t know. Yeah, I suppose yeah there are. I’m [inaudible 00:37:10] striving to do better, or be better, and you know, it is tough. It’s tough being responsible for everything at home, and that does give you a different perspective on yourself, because even if I have a day at work where I’m like, “Yeah I smashed it. Well I was just a rocking COO today!” I can go home, and I walk in the door having had a really long day, and my teenage daughter says, “Can you make my carbonara now? I’m starving.”
Penny: And it just [inaudible 00:37:38] bring me back down to Earth.
Lee: Yeah, no I love that. And actually, I knowing Matt, and Proceedo, Procado, obviously one of them. Knowing them when I do, you probably have that feeling now that you’ve found that family, that you perhaps had a while back, but you didn’t necessarily get in the bigger consultancy, is that a good-
Penny: Yeah definitely. It was like a match made in heaven I suppose. I think that Matt was at the right stage of growth in the business to be able to take somebody on into this role, and a bit like finding the job at Conga, I was the right person at the right time. So I think somebody that had come in who was much more rigid around process, much more used to big company ways of working, wouldn’t have fitted here. But equally, it needed to be somebody with a lot of experience, and kind of able to come in, and be a bit of a safe pair hands. And so yeah, you fixed up for me and Matt to chat, and just instantly I knew this was the perfect job for me. It was the dream job, and I was just so hoping that I was going to be able to get it, and unknown to me Matt was thinking, “Yes! I’ve found the perfect person for the job!”
Lee: Yeah. I love that. And do you know what? Sometimes as a recruiter in the middle of all of this, you just get a feeling that if the two people just meet, they’re going to fall in love, so to speak. Ignore the CVs and all that sort of stuff, just meet and have a coffee, or whatever you guys did, and it will click. I mean, you don’t get it right every time, and I appreciate your nice comments, but I still feel gutted about… One or two of the roles that didn’t quite work out for you, but it’s great that talking about it now, looking at it from a helicopter perspective, how it’s got you to where you are now, and you’re really happy. That’s great. So what does a Chief Operating Officer actually do at a small, but growing, or medium sized consultancy? What’s the day to day? Is it everything?
Penny: Uh yeah, it is. It’s a little bit of everything. So, in terms of the Salesforce projects, ultimately all of our Salesforce projects roll up to me, and that has both an internal, and an external facing side to it. So internally, it means that if a consultant is having a problem on a project, or they’re worried about something, they hit a roadblock, they don’t have the knowledge to be able to solve a problem, then they come to me, and I can help them. With the external facing part, that means that if a customer has any concerns about a project, or wants [inaudible 00:40:23] to check in about something, then again I’m their person.
So that’s the kind of [inaudible 00:40:32] managing projects. Then similarly to that, ultimately the performance of projects rolls up to me. So I need to be making sure that we’re delivering on time, and on budget to customer satisfaction, and that equally we’re hitting our own milestones in terms of our revenue forecasts, and that we’re getting paid, and all of those practical things that are happening. So we have a lot of projects, maybe twenty or thirty sometimes running at once, so that’s quite a substantial amount of work. And then I also am responsible for the back office. So all the HR people, and accounts, and just generally making things happen kind of comes into my remit. And then we have our innovation centre in Soho, and so ultimately, kind of if there’s a leaky toilet, then that becomes my problem as well.
Lee: Really? Blimey. You’re almost describing a founder’s role aren’t you in that respect, because yeah you do have to literally roll your sleeves up, and get stuck in. Yeah.
Penny: Yeah, exactly. So Matt’s role is really… He’s responsible for managing the relationship with Salesforce, he’s responsible for all of the sales, all of the strategy, all of setting the direction about what we’re going to go after. Where we’re going to grow, our key partnerships, how we grow internationally. So there’s a really… And of course, the two of us cross over because, I mean, Matt’s a very talented consultant in his own right, and far more technical than me. So the two of us kind of cover for each other, and yeah, it just really works. We’re kind of really different, but we really get along, and yeah, we work brilliantly together, and I think between us, we do a pretty good job of keeping things going.
Lee: Fantastic. Well that… So it sums up what a Chief Operating Officer does. It’s something that I was always curious about, and it sounds like everything. But having discussed your career to date, you can see why like I say, “You’re the perfect candidate for that.” I can’t believe this has been 45 minutes already. So I need to hurry up, and try and ask you just a couple of final questions if that’s okay.
Lee: One of the ones we normally ask is, is there… And I know this is off the cuff for you, so you might not have an answer, “Is there a particular project that you’ve worked on in Salesforce that you’re most proud of for any reason?”
Penny: Oh that’s a great question.
Lee: Yeah, sorry. I should’ve warned you about that one, yeah.
Penny: Yeah, there’s probably a few different things actually. So, I think sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest difference. So rolling out Postcode Anywhere… Anywhere that I’ve rolled out has always been really great, and now they’ve been bought. I think they’ve been bought by Locate Now. But there’s such a tiny little app that can make a world of difference. I think BSI do the Blueprint CPQ, which as really at the edges of what was possible, that was super rewarding. I think some of the Conga projects I worked on were really good fun because again, you could do something fairly small, and make a huge impact on customers. And then I think while I’ve been at Procedo, we recently went live with a community for a big non profit, and they absolutely loved it. I don’t have to permission to name them, but they probably wouldn’t mind, but I ought not to. But they have a community that was for people running out of school holiday clubs, so that they could share best practise, and ideas. And we made a community for them, that was really beautiful, and that had a fantastic chat function so that they could all share their own best practise, and ideas, and they loved it.
So that’s the thing that makes me really happy, is that everyone in that organisation immediately had ideas of how they wanted to use it, and what they’d do next, and so that was very satisfying.
Lee: Wow, you know, fantastic answer considering you didn’t know that question was coming, so that’s… Obviously I appreciate you can’t name them, and that’s fine, but yeah three then, normally I only get one, so that’s really good.
Do you… Okay, I’m close to wrapping up I promise, but do you have any particular tips assuming that people that listen to this are people that are going to want to aspire to follow in your footsteps if you like. Do you have any tips for people about their career, or if there is one thing that you would say to someone at the beginning of their career to do. Is there anything you could think of that you would give us a tip?
Penny: Yeah definitely. So I’ve given a few I think through the conversation.
Penny: So one thing I would always suggest is that, if you want to build a career in Salesforce, you really need to understand business first. So, Salesforce, although it’s part of the high tech industry, and it is ultimately a technology product, and you need to be able to have a tech brain to do well, because it’s so embedded in how organisations operate. If you want to get into this space, you could do a lot worse than spend a year as an Admin Temp going from company, to company doing different kinds of roles, different admin roles, different call centre roles, and really understanding what makes businesses tick, and I did that in my early years of working. I left school at 17 and worked, and I worked in loads, and loads of different jobs, and at various times between jobs, and while I was at Uni, I would temp if I had any spare time. And then you’re doing a week, or a month in company, and then boom, you move into the next one, and that’s the way you really learn [inaudible 00:46:24] about what makes offices work. What makes organisations work, and the more you get to grips with that, the more you can see repeating patterns, repeating personalities, because ultimately, business is all about people.
And when you really understand what makes organisations work, and people work, only then can you build a sensible Salesforce org for them. Because otherwise, if really what you know very well is Salesforce, you’re just going about in the dark with your hands tied behind your back, because there’s nowhere you can really map that knowledge of Salesforce to what the organisation is doing. So learn about organisations, working lots of different jobs, build up your knowledge that way. That would be my big tip.
Lee: What a great tip. Thank you very much for that. That was… I’ll be writing it down as well, so yeah, that’s fantastic.
Penny: [inaudible 00:47:19]
Lee: Was there anything you think I should’ve asked you, you know, anything else you want to say before we say goodbye? I appreciate I’ve kept you longer than I thought?
Penny: [inaudible 00:47:28] You know what, if you’d said to me before this call, that we were going to be chatting away, I’d have thought I’d struggle to think of anything to talk about. So your questions are very good, but also, it’s only when you stop and reflect on it, you think, “God Wow, I really have been doing this stuff for ages.” I sort of take that for granted sometimes.
Lee: I know, and obviously I see, and meet you quite a lot, and I always love chatting to you about well, anything really. But obviously, I really appreciate you being part of the podcast, and I would like to think it might not be the last time, because I might do more of these with you. So for the sake of the podcast, thank you very much, and hopefully speak to you again soon.
Penny: Yeah, thanks a million Lee, and thank you so much for all your help over the years, both finding people for me, and finding me great jobs, and yeah, I always say to people that you’re the only Salesforce recruiter that I would really rely on in this space [inaudible 00:48:27]. Very, very well earned.
Lee: Thank you very much. That’s brilliant, thank you.