I could not count how many times I have been asked this question,
How can I get the Gold Hoodie?
After all, it is the most coveted of swag – just ask Business Insider:
Tech companies are known for their swag. Employees, customers, and event attendees often go home with complimentary t-shirts, baseball caps, jackets, and even gadgets.
But none of that swag shines quite as bright as Salesforce’s Golden Hoodie. And none is quite as rare.
So, what is the Gold Hoodie all about? Why is it awarded, and to whom?
Well, first of all, Goldie is not all about being the best and brightest in the Salesforce ecosystem. If it was, well, thousands would have been given out already.
Also, Goldie is not a reward for a multiplicity of Salesforce certifications or Trailhead badges, as much as Trailhead factors into many of the life stories of Goldie recipients.
Very simply, I think that I can sum up the Goldie award in two words.
What I do I mean by innovation? Well, more than just using Salesforce technology to transform a business or organisation, innovation is the way in which individuals have personally innovated in their own lives and careers.
I was a hairdresser who spent 12 hours a day on my feet blowing out hair which resulted in an injured rotator cuff. My injury forced me to take on a less physically strenuous position as a secretary and from there I worked my way up to becoming a Junior Analyst, responsible for compiling business metrics reports.
All of the reports I was generating were from raw data gathered from a multitude of siloed systems. When I started to think about how we could make this more efficient, I thought it would be great if all of the data was in one system. It would save me days of work of having to combine data, so I suggested it to my manager. It was during that casual conversation that I was told we were moving to something called “Salesforce” and in that moment I was appointed to be part of our implementation project. I had no previous knowledge of Salesforce, but as soon as I learned how to create my first formula field I was hooked. To strengthen my skillset, I turned to the Salesforce community and with their support, I was able to teach myself advanced Salesforce skills, including the ability to build and customize apps, perform data modeling, and even customizing UIs.
When starting out, I had no experience working in the technology field–to be honest, I didn’t even know what Salesforce was. It’s crazy to think that the skills I have today came from the support of the incredible Salesforce community, attending Salesforce’s annual user conference, Dreamforce and eventually, through finding Trailhead.
Recently, I had to quickly get up to speed on a Salesforce feature I hadn’t used before. When I realized I had a knowledge gap, the first thing I did was to go to Trailhead and hit the trails running. In under two hours, I was able get an in-depth understanding of this feature so that I could make a recommendation on how we should move forward with it to my manager and our business stakeholders. Trailhead is an invaluable resource and I now hold every technology company to the Trailhead standard. If they don’t have an interactive learning platform, I ask them why not, and point them to Trailhead and show them how learning and training should be done.
I’ve learned a variety of skills with Trailhead, but my biggest personal achievement was learning how to properly use Cloud Flow Designer which lets you design flows without writing any code. I had the hardest time wrapping my mind around it. The only way I was able to make it stick was by running through the actual experience using Trailhead.
Case in point: Zac Otero, recipient of the very first Goldie.
Zac, who is one of the most genuine people I have ever had the good fortune to meet, had (and has, to this day) a huge impact on my life and the life of countless others.
Zac was homeschooled until he was 16. He earned his GED and migrated across the country, taking on low-wage jobs in a pallet construction plant, popcorn factory and grocery warehouse before landing in Springfield, Missouri, slicing deli meat at a packing plant.
“The routine was mind-numbing,” he says. “Slice it, pack it and stack it.”
Zac faced some hard truths after his son was born; the new demands of fatherhood meant he needed to make more money.
“In the four years I worked at the factory, I received one 30-cent raise,” he remembers. “That’s not enough.”
In a post-recession economy, Zac felt his options were limited. That’s when his cousin introduced him to Salesforce. Finding time to study was challenging. Fortunately, Zac’s 10-hours-a-day, six-days-a-week factory job didn’t require excessive mental focus, so he downloaded Salesforce training sessions to his phone and listened to them while he worked.
After a year of studying, he took his first certification exam … and failed.
Motivating himself after the setback was difficult, but Zac soon had a renewed interest in achieving his goal when the plant announced it would be closing. He doubled down and earned his certification.
Zac now faced a new challenge—he was certified for a job he’d never done. He needed to connect with a local Salesforce user group. Since he couldn’t leave the factory during the day, he used all his sick time attending group meetings over lunch to get face time with experienced Salesforce professionals.
After the plant closed and Zac was laid off, he was out of work for four months.
“I was getting unemployment and being Mr. Mom for my kid while my wife went to work,” he says. “It was a hard stretch. I was looking around for jobs, but there are very few Salesforce jobs in Springfield. I was still going to user group, begging people for interviews.”
That’s where he heard about a Salesforce administrator opening, and one of the members helped him line up an interview. Zac was ecstatic and petrified at the same time.
“I was 30 years old, and I’d never done a real job interview.” In the interview process, Zac told Heath, “You won’t interview anyone else who is as excited to be here as I am.”
He was right, and he got the job.
In 2015, Zac attended the Salesforce Annual Conference, Dreamforce. Through a series of chance meetings, Zac’s story of perseverance began circulating—so much so it caught the eye of top Salesforce executives.
At the 2016 conference, he was awarded the Trailblazer Award, which recognizes a member of the Salesforce community who’s done something innovative.
“Part of the award was getting a gold lamé hoodie—it’s just like a bright gold disco ball,” Zac says. “Mine was the first.”
Zac’s happy his story connects with others, but he’s remained grounded.
“I was just a guy looking for a good job that provides health insurance for my kids and doesn’t require me to kill myself,” he says. “I think of my dad—he’s 60 years old, worked hard all his life and will never be able to retire. I’m not going to be in that position.”
Goldie recipients are people who give back to the community that helped to make them who they are – they aspire to inspire before they expire!
Let me close with this thought:
You don’t set out to win Goldie.
That is, Goldie recipients have been given this honour as they sought to innovate and inspire, not because they wanted a coveted piece of swag.