Music. Sales. Military. Culinary arts. Aviation. What do these things have in common? They’re all paths Jim Deal explored before finding his role in security governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) at Salesforce.
Jim served in the United States Marine Corps for 12 years before transitioning to a civilian role in sales. On top of the challenges military personnel face entering the private sector, he had another hurdle to face: a financial crisis. In 2008 the economy crashed, and Jim found himself unemployed, sparking a period of self-reflection.
“I knew I wasn’t very good at sales so I took time to identify what my strengths were,” reflects Jim. “Coming from the military, I had access to training, so I tried a lot of different things.”
As this self-discovery continued, Jim decided to return to the military, this time with the National Guard. They retrained him with many new skills, including network security. When his service concluded, he realized he’d found his passion: technology.
Jim gained experience in network infrastructure while his eyes were on Salesforce. “I was hearing things about the culture, work/life integration, and innovation — it seemed exciting. I made it my goal to work for Salesforce.” And in 2015, Salesforce came calling with an opportunity to join as a network security engineer.
Jim has now been with Salesforce for over five years in a variety of roles. Today, his position is similar to that of a Process Architect — transforming business processes into technically enhanced and executable templates. And he’s sharing his template to help you craft an engaging career.
1. Find Your Passion
This one is easier said than done. Understanding what you like to do may take time, courage, and — in Jim’s experience — perhaps process of elimination. But give yourself grace, as this is a continual journey.
For Jim, identifying interest in network security was a great start. But as that function grew, he needed to dive deep into an area of expertise. Once deciding upon that area, of course.
“Since joining the company, I’ve had the luxury of trying different things,” says Jim. “In career conversations with my manager and pausing to look back, I noticed building programs was the work I enjoyed most. I like to find problems, build out processes, tools, and procedures, and then empower others to adopt and run the program.”
If you’re not certain where your passions lie, think about projects you’ve enjoyed in the past and be open to themes that emerge. Unpack those learnings with your manager or mentor.
Related: 7 Principles to Drive Your Career Forward, From a Microbiologist Turned Techie
2. Sell Your Ideas
Many of the roles Jim has held and projects he’s worked on are a direct result of identifying and suggesting opportunities. But not every pitch has been successful.
“It’s okay to try and fail,” reassures Jim. “That doesn’t mean that failing feels good. But in order to truly innovate, you have to be open to failure.”
This experience has also taught Jim how to successfully sell an idea in a complex environment like Salesforce.
- Create a coalition: Find a diverse group of individuals who feel the same needs and pain points you’re trying to solve for. Your idea will flourish when you bring in their unique points of view.
- Rebrand your idea: If something falls flat, consider creative ways to repackage it. Ask your coalition to help you tailor the message to resonate with your audience.
- Wait for the right timing: Everyone in your company is on the same team; you all want one another and the business to prosper. If no one’s latching onto your idea just yet, don’t lose heart! It may just be a matter of timing — consider holding until there’s an appetite for what you’re proposing.
As a subject matter expert, you may very well identify the next big need for the company. If you’re looking for more tips to persuade others to latch onto your ideas, check out No More Boring Presentations: How to Deliver Engaging Content, Virtually.
3. Find a Mentor and Be a Mentor
When Jim joined his small team at Salesforce, colleagues welcomed and onboarded him. He valued the opportunities to learn from others and found himself surrounded by mentors. One of which was his scrum master, Cindy Goyer.
“She’s so wise. She recognizes opportunities for me to grow — like crafting messages and positioning myself — and offers honest feedback to help me grow.”
Jim pays this mentorship forward, both formally and informally.
He’s a member of the Salesforce Insiders Program, which connects candidates with employees of similar backgrounds to address any questions they may have about life at Salesforce. Through the Insiders Program, Jim’s become an unofficial onboarding buddy of those who accept an offer after connecting with him.
He also takes an interest in new employees in the Indianapolis hub and GRC team, encouraging them to set up one-on-ones and helping them thrive at Salesforce.
Related: People Over Process: How VP Kwesi Ames Empowers Our Site Reliability Team
4. Give Back
Jim’s concern for others doesn’t end with mentorship. Having served for 12 years and having been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Jim is no stranger to the tough times our military service members can experience. So when he joined Salesforce, he was excited about our volunteer time off (VTO) and the chance to help others overcome struggles he’d faced.
Jim and a few others in Indianapolis volunteered by offering training and certifications to help vets qualify for tech roles as civilians. Soon after, they realized the interest in an employee resource group to gather veterans and their allies. This was a launching point for Vetforce Indy, of which Jim is now the chapter director.
Being a part of this community reinvigorates Jim and helps him achieve the work/life integration that attracted him to Salesforce.
5. Keep Learning
Jim’s resume reminds us about the importance of boldly trying new things. This exploration will help you develop new skills while learning more about yourself. Tap into the resources at your disposal — like Trailhead, which offers free on-demand guided learning modules on a variety of topics.
Manifest a future of abundance by thinking about and moving toward the vision you have for yourself. In this time of rapid change, it’s never been more important to pause, reflect, and focus your energy.
That being said, sometimes the most provocative resources can’t be found on a bookshelf or through a Google search.
“The thing that benefits me most is talking to my family,” advises Jim. “Find that family member, friend, or mentor who you can say anything to. Your success is already inside of you — you just have to verbalize it so someone can help you process those thoughts.”
Jim’s career story reminds us to learn from the journey and continually evolve. He’s reskilled from the military, to sales, and tech. And he’s upskilled while honing his security expertise at Salesforce.
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