Broke. Depressed. Unemployed.
That was me in May of 2016. After leaving the only vocation I had known for 20 years, I was at rock bottom. Even though I have a degree in mechanical engineering, I could not find work. I applied for a low-paying, unskilled factory job near my home – and did not even make it to the first interview. As a single-income family, with my wife home schooling and caring for our son, things became desperate. The future looked very bleak.
Fast forward to January of 2022, and I have my dream job – Lead Solution Engineer at Tableau, a Salesforce company. Wow! As of January 17, I start work with an incredible team, with amazing technology, for an incredible employer. 😯 Pinching myself!
Exactly how did this happen?
Looking back over the last five and a half years, it all seems quite surreal. The challenges and opportunities that have come my way have both excited and terrified me – yet here I am! It has been a wild ride indeed, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
So, how did I end up at Salesforce? I have pondered my crazy journey and identified six factors that led me to my dream job:
It all began with curiosity. I have always loved technology. I enjoy figuring out how things work – I get that from my father, an accomplished engineer. Throughout my studying and working life, I have always tinkered. Whether it was modifying my first car, a 1971 Mini Clubman, playing with an early finite element analysis program in our computer lab at university, or building a database to manage our church membership roll, I am totally in my element when tinkering. I even took up video editing and production while a pastor and used Adobe Premiere Pro to create ministry videos for friends around the world. I just love figuring out stuff.
I firmly believe that great minds are curious minds. Whatever the interest or endeavour, an inquiring and analytical mind is indispensable for growth, learning and success. My favourite question – one that drove my parents mad when I was young – is “Why?” That question serves me well as much today as it did then.
For example, while speaking to a customer recently in my role at ClearR, they were asking about the capability of Tableau CRM (formerly Einstein Analytics). I responded simply with, “Why?” I asked, “Why are you looking at an analytics platform? What is your use case? Why do you need business insights? Why are you evaluating Tableau CRM?” The ensuing conversation was of immense value and led to an exciting engagement to build some powerful Tableau CRM (TCRM) dashboards.
Never stop being curious. Cultivate a spirit of scrutiny and analysis in all that you do. Learn something new and apply a critical, questioning mindset as you do so. Curiosity provides fertile ground for the germination of innovative ideas and is a catalyst for personal growth.
The second factor in my journey to Salesforce is my willingness to take risks. I am sure that no one ever achieved anything worthwhile without taking a chance. No risk, no reward. True, there can be a fine line between courage and folly, but life is too short to play it safe.
Accepting my first role in the Salesforce ecosystem was a huge risk, both for me, and for my employer, InFusion360. When asked if I was interested in building Salesforce, a CRM, I said yes – then promptly Googled Salesforce and CRM, as I had no idea what they were! Implementing Financial Services Cloud for a wealth management business when I was totally unqualified both the bravest and craziest thing I have ever done. Opening up the office at 6 or 7 am and balancing Trailhead learning with business workshops and Salesforce customisation until I was the last one to leave at 6 or 7 pm was my daily routine. The fear of failure energised me.
No one ever grew in their comfort zone. You have to take a chance sometimes if you’re going to learn and grow. Richard Branson offers some great advice:
Without a doubt, it has been true on my journey that the harder I worked, the luckier I became. When I left InFusion360 to partner with Neil Moodley and launch a new Salesforce partner business, ClearR, I don’t think I knew what we were in for. Building a business from scratch is extremely hard work! As someone that was completely new to sales and pre-sales, I had to learn a whole new suite of skills. Also, I needed to deepen my knowledge of TCRM and Tableau, and become skilled in machine learning. Working with our amazing team to get a Salesforce partnership going was both exhausting and rewarding. It was no picnic, that’s for sure, with long days, continuous learning, and daunting challenges. But, we succeeded.
There is no substitute for hard work.
My wins at ClearR no doubt helped to open the door for me at Salesforce. My dream job would have remained just that, a dream, if I had not grabbed life by the scruff of the neck and worked my backside off.
I am sure I would not be a Solution Engineer at Tableau if I was a quitter. I am incredibly stubborn, and I hate to quit anything once I have started. Now, in personal relationships, stubbornness is not always a positive trait, but it has served me well on my journey to Salesforce.
For example, the first three months at InFusion360 were extraordinarily difficult. I was exhausted and stressed. The schedule was punishing and the work daunting. I struggled constantly with Imposter Syndrome. The temptation to give up was unrelenting, but I did not succumb. I am incredibly glad that I persisted, endured, and conquered. It wasn’t easy – but what worthwhile endeavour is?
By the way: I don’t know what you’re facing, but you can make it! You can keep going. You might need to pause, rest, reset, pivot, or reinvent, but you don’t have to throw in the towel. If Viktor Frankl can endure the horrors of Nazi concentration camps during World War II and not lose hope, then you can overcome your struggles and be victorious. Keep on keeping on!
I have no doubt that I would not be where I am today were it not for my amazing network of family, friends, and colleagues. There is no such thing as a self-made man or woman. I would be wallowing in misery and mediocrity were it not for my Ohana – the incredible community of trailblazers that has invested in me or impacted me in some way along my journey.
When I think of my Ohana, there are too many individuals to list, but I think of people like my parents, Mick and Sylvia Tossell; my wife, Christina; my son, Adam; my sister, Nichola; my friends, Reg and Neil Moodley; my business mentor, Niranjan Sundararaj; my friend and inspiration, Zac Otero; my TCRM and IT guru colleague, Gayathri Shivakumar; my encourager, Andrew Bacon; my mentee and friend, Arun Arunagiri; the Salesforce legends who are Megan Petersen and Adam Best; my data tribe, including Peter Lyons, Jennifer Shier, Rikke Hovgaard, Carl Brundage, Geoff Rothman, Kathryn Baker Parks, Ziad Fayad, and Bobby Brill. I could go on and on, but you get the point! I am utterly spoiled with an amazing Ohana community that supports, challenges and instructs me. Without it, I don’t know where I would be.
I must confess a serious addiction at this point: I am addicted to learning. This addiction, no doubt, has paved the way for me to join Salesforce. I could not begin to count how many hours of my own time I have invested in the joyous labour of learning.
At the beginning of this year, ClearR looked into becoming partners with DataRobot, an enterprise automated machine learning platform. In order for our business to join as partners, one of our team members needed to train as a DataRobot Data Scientist and pass their certification process. That challenge landed in my lap, even though I have no formal training in statistics or machine learning. Was it tough? Absolutely. Daunting? Indeed. However, I had a blast, and was chuffed when I passed:
Sitting here in a cafe in Windsor, NSW, Australia, I came up with a list of all the new things I have learned since 2016:
- Salesforce CRM (various clouds)
- Tableau CRM
- Dashboard design and storytelling with data
- The arts of negotiation and influence
- Solution engineering
- Consultative selling
- Partner sales
- Business strategy and planning
- Contract composition, negotiation and execution
- SAQL and JSON (after swearing I would never touch code)
- Einstein Discovery supervised machine learning
- Pardot marketing automation
- DataRobot automated machine learning
- Declarative process automation on the Salesforce platform
I think I surprised myself with how long that list is! Not to mention over 400 Trailhead badges – a piddling amount compared to someone like Jen Lee, but not too shabby an achievement. I love learning, and that passion has served me well. I’d like to think that this trait helped me earn the Gold Hoodie award in 2017.
I want to close with a word of inspiration and exhortation:
What I did, you can do.
You can do more than you think you can do. You can reinvent yourself, no matter how young or old you are. You can blaze new trails and excel at your chosen endeavour. If you work hard, take a chance, refuse to give up, and never stop learning, you will be amazed at what you can do!
The seven-week-long interview process with Tableau is not for the faint of heart. Not only did I have to succeed in five one-on-one interviews, but the final test was a daunting panel presentation, including a Director and an RVP. Phew! Also, I was wrestling with the agony of leaving our “baby”, a business I had birthed with Neil, and parting ways with friends of a lifetime. It was incredibly tough – one of the toughest phases of my life. I hardly slept for eight weeks!
I am so glad I persisted. You will be, too!
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
And the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns.
And many a failure turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow,
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than it seems
To a faint and faltering man.
Often the struggler has given up when he
Might have captured the victor’s cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out,
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are.
It may be near when it seems afar.
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit.
It’s when things seem worst that
You musn’t quit.
Published in the Detroit Free Press (March 4, 1921). This poem is now in the public domain.
Love this Mark…so proud of you!!
Thanks Geoff! Formal announcement to come later today.
Welcome to the family within the family.
Thanks so much for sharing. This is inspiring and more people need to know about your journey! I have been blessed by this.
All the best in the new role my friend. Keep in touch!
My pleasure, David. Thank you!
pretty amazing story Mark, thanks for sharing, and please stay in touch
Thanks, Joe. Will do!
Thank you Mark! For sharing this inspiring story with us all. Congratulations . Please I have just one question. what structured materials did you use to learn SAQL and JSON?
Please DM me on LinkedIn.