August 19 | Blogs
Salesforce and Wine: A Salesforce Admin’s Cross-Country Journey to Napa Valley
Estimated read time 9 min

I fell in love with the wine country in Northern California the first time I visited, and fell deeper each time I had the chance to explore a new area. Little did I know that each of those trips was like a stone – and I was slowly building myself a completely different path, driven by a dream I never knew I had. But first, let’s set the stage…

When I was in college, I studied Management Information Systems (MIS) at The University of Texas. I had my daughter while still in school, so I knew that right after graduation I would need to get an “adult” job. I quickly joined the corporate Fortune 500 world, and for the first ~20 years of my career was in business-facing IT roles (such as project management/application portfolio management) supporting the oil and gas industry in Houston, Texas. It was in my last role at BP that I was exposed to Salesforce, and quickly became a huge fan of how even the base platform functionality could solve so many problems. The teams I worked with there – both internal and from Salesforce – were enthusiastic, and I was excited to be a part of it all.

Retiring and hitting the road

Fast forward to a few years later…I found myself with a layoff package and big questions for what I should do next. I always had a thread of wanderlust, and by then my daughter was in her early 20’s. I did some major soul-searching – and as a result, felt an urge to make a big change. After deciding to take what I called my “mid-life retirement”, I put up my house for rent, loaded up the travel trailer with my two dogs and two cats, and explored the western half of the country. I visited New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Wyoming (Yellowstone), Montana and California – and was exhilarated that I was doing it all by myself. There were certainly trips, bumbles, and lessons learned along the way, but I was challenging everything I had been my whole life and stepping well out of my comfort zone. The rewards were a renewed sense of self, and a boost to my confidence – which after the layoff, were both definitely needed. It led me back to the Napa Valley, and to the realization that I could actually live in a beautiful place (and moreover, that I deserved it!)

I decided that I would stay awhile, and found a job in St. Helena working in a winery tasting room. I had an amazing view of the valley from behind the counter, enjoyed working with and meeting fantastic people – and of course, there was the wine! But after 4 months of  blissful employment, COVID hit and the tasting room was indefinitely closed. Given the big “unknown” surrounding how long the pandemic would actually last, I thought it best to head back to Houston to regroup and figure out what was next. I wasn’t completely sure what I was going for at the time, but decided to study for the Salesforce Admin certification. After a month working through the prep content in Trailhead, I soon took and passed the exam.

I couldn’t wait to get back to the Napa area, so I started reaching out to a few contacts to get some ideas for what I wanted to do. I picked up some freelance work (remotely) providing Salesforce administration supporting wineries in the valley. The work was fun and exciting, and I felt good about the skills I had to offer. Most importantly, I found it challenging – because with Salesforce and with wine, the learning experiences are endless…you will never get to the end of the road, so the “fun” is the learning journey itself.

“With Salesforce and with wine, the learning experiences are endless.”

Becoming an outsource employee

Now that I had my foot in the door for becoming a Salesforce administrator, I began looking for something more permanent. I came across a job posting from Delegate, and the role seemed too good to be true…remote/great compensation/challenging work.  Needless to say, I applied and was excited to get a quick response. As part of the interview process, Delegate asked me to complete a technical challenge. I was presented with a set of real-life scenarios: specific customer problems, where I had to figure out how I would solve, build it out in Salesforce, and present my solutions back to the interviewer. Given my hiatus from the IT world, I worried that my work wouldn’t be good enough – but the feedback I received showed me that I could actually be great at this.

I was offered the job at Delegate and had my first client within a week.

Hitting the road, round two

I was still in Houston when I joined Delegate, and several months later my partner and I decided it was time to make the move back to Napa. Over a 6 month period, we bought a 20-seater shuttle bus and converted it into a living space. We sold our homes and downsized everything else that we owned into a small 10×10 storage unit. Once again, I loaded up the dogs and cats and hit the road…this time with a partner and a plan!

For several months we drove around the country from the east coast (the Carolinas), Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida, New Mexico, and Arizona. We visited friends, and enjoyed the great outdoors by camping in national forests and on public land. The “remote” aspect of my job at Delegate allowed me to keep working while we were on the road. After the big trip, we settled into a cute little town at the north end of the Napa Valley.

Sitting on the other side of the table

My background prepared me to be a Salesforce admin because I’ve been on the other side of the table. I know what it’s like to need help, and not really know what to ask for. I also know how it feels to worry about selecting the wrong service provider: someone that might take advantage of the fact that they know more and essentially hold all of the cards…in other words, I can put myself in their shoes. And when I walk into a situation where the client feels backed into a corner, I do what I would want done – and turn my focus to simply “making them look good”.

What I appreciate most, is how this feels like it’s all mine. Once the sales process has gone through and the handover has been made, the client’s experience is essentially in my hands. It’s my personal challenge to keep doing better, because if the client isn’t happy with what I deliver, they can walk away at any time. That dynamic is tremendously rewarding for me – I have several clients that I have worked with for well over a year. A few I have had the pleasure of meeting in person, a few I am connected with virtually (with them following our adventures on social media). I believe these relationships flourish because of the open and supportive culture here at Delegate. I don’t have to put walls up to protect myself, I am allowed to be vulnerable. I am free to do things like admit when there is something I don’t know, to raise my hand if I need help. My teammates are so eager to hop in and help one another, it has been incredibly refreshing to know that (especially, virtual!) places like this do actually exist. This supportive environment allows me to be transparent with my clients about what I know well, and areas where I am still growing. I feel safe saying, “I don’t know” when I need to, and seeking guidance from my team so I can come back to the client with the best answer. The best part for me, is that they trust I’ll get the work done.

Creating happy clients

One of my most intense projects at Delegate was when the client wanted to convert their data from Zendesk and launch Salesforce – in just one month. This was my first client as a solo admin at Delegate, and I wanted it to be a success. After discussing the challenge and making some tough decisions, we jointly set expectations and agreed what could reasonably be delivered in the initial deployment. We ended up meeting the one-month goal – and as a result of this successful working relationship they remain a client of mine (now a year and a half in).

Another challenge I was presented, was being asked to take on an existing Delegate client. They’d been with us for several months, but were ready to churn because they weren’t getting the results they were looking for. I was able to step in as a Solutions Engineer to get the relationship back on track, and am still working with them today. They have also utilized our model to flex and built out their team to accommodate changing priorities, and have brought on 2 more Delegates. It continues to be a fun and rewarding engagement and I look forward to working with more of my teammates!

Working on what I love

Reflecting on my Career Part 1, I realize that I spent most of my work hours responding to emails and managing spreadsheets. I wasn’t satisfied, because I wasn’t actually “doing” anything! However, even if I was in the wrong career for 20 years, I can appreciate that everything I learned along the way brought me to this place. Now, working as a Salesforce Admin/Solutions Engineer, I can look back at the end of the day and appreciate that I actually accomplished something and delivered real value. I love handing the client something tangible – something that either eliminates a pain point, or helps them get better data to make important decisions. I get to use both sides of my brain, having balance between the creativity of solutioning, with the logic of how it will all fit together.

Working remotely at Delegate has opened up a whole new chapter for me. I am living my best life in the Napa Valley, exploring my passion for wine and enjoying all that Northern California has to offer. We can pack up and travel the country whenever we want, and I can continue to work on challenging projects and with wonderful people.

I guess all of this can be summed up with my answer when people ask me, “How are you?” My honest answer is, “I’m living the dream”. And…I truly am.