It’s Never Too Late to Work in Tech When You Are Willing to Upskill

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Hiring Our Heroes

It’s never too late to switch careers, if you have the drive and desire.

Despite wanting a career in information technology (IT), for the last 15 years, Janelle Fields worked jobs that were not in that field. She has her MBA and was a successful cosmetologist who owned her own salon. The Air Force veteran enjoyed professional achievements, but an unfulfilled goal continued to nag her until it couldn’t be ignored any longer.

She doubted her dream to work in IT because of her lack of education, training, and experience.

“I didn’t do an IT role when I was in the military and I felt like that was a limitation. I didn’t go to school for it after the military, so I felt like that was a limitation,” Fields said. “I didn’t get chosen for other IT programs that were offered to veterans in the past, and I felt like that was a limitation.”

Now, nearly 18 months after Fields first enrolled in Salesforce Military Trailhead — the online self-paced training for in-demand skills – she is a Salesforce software engineer at USAA.

Fields is part of a growing number of veterans graduating from Hiring Our Heroes’ Salesforce Fellowship Program. Launched in 2020 and expanded in 2021, the Salesforce Fellowship Program offers virtual, paid 12-week internships with participating companies throughout the United States to veterans, military spouses, and transitioning service members. Service members complete the program during their last 180 days on active duty through the DoD SkillBridge program.

Without a college degree or military IT experience, the hands-on fellowship prepares participants for high-growth Salesforce careers with an average starting salary of $87,000. 

Her Salesforce Journey Comes Full Circle

Fields first stumbled across Salesforce in 2019 while researching software solutions to improve her employer’s data tracking system.

“I quickly learned that Salesforce was a solution for those inefficiencies so I began studying the material provided on Trailhead and became a member of the Salesforce Military community,” she said.

She tinkered around with the self-paced online modules. She attended an in-person holiday meet-up with other Salesforce Military community members in December 2019.

In January 2020, Fields was unexpectedly laid off.

Janelle Fields, U.S. Air Force Veteran, Hiring Our Heroes' Salesforce fellow

Janelle Fields

“That’s when I started to take it (Salesforce training) seriously. I completed my (Salesforce Administrator) certification in under two months,” she said.

She obtained the Salesforce Platform App Builder certificate in June 2020 and went on to complete additional certifications while applying for Hiring Our Heroes’ Salesforce Fellowship Program.

For Fields, this fellowship program was a godsend.

“When you’re doing all of these interviews, it’s nerve-racking, You are told you have the certification, but you don’t have the experience,” she said. “The fellowship provided an instance where I was able to join a company without the experience of the job requirements and they mentored me at the same time.”

Fields was able to measure her abilities and prove her worth as a Salesforce professional in a corporate environment.

“The fellowship builds up your confidence and lets you know where you’re at,” she said.

Her fellowship with USAA was a very rewarding experience.

“I was paired with a mentor, who showed me the ropes. I got to learn about the company’s internal culture, its history, the different things that the company has accomplished over the years, and the members that USAA serves, veterans like myself,” Fields said. “I learned more about how USAA uses Salesforce and I was able to build an application that the team uses, so it was a pretty awesome experience.”

On the last day of her 12-week paid fellowship, USAA extended a full-time employment offer to  Fields. She accepted it and celebrated her success with her connections on LinkedIn.

“Perfect timing, right?! lol! I’m honored to have participated in this fellowship program. I’m one of the first #hohfellows to join USAA’s IT department, and now one of the first to be hired,” Fields wrote in her LinkedIn status update.

After being unemployed for all of 2020, Fields started her new career at USAA on January 11, 2021. 

“I feel at home at USAA,” she said.

Fields pointed that Hiring Our Heroes is a wonderful resource for all veterans at any point in their career journeys, not only during their military transitions.

“I’m so happy that Hiring Our Heroes was a resource that I had access to as a veteran,” she said. “And it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been out — I’ve been out of service since 2005.”

Pivot Into an In-Demand Tech Career

More than 150,000 companies of all sizes around the world use Salesforce, a customer relationship management (CRM) solution, to grow their businesses. With a Salesforce certification, you likely won’t work at Salesforce, but instead you will administer or manage the Salesforce platform at a company. You can also work as a Salesforce consultant.

There is a huge demand for certified Salesforce professionals with work experience. By 2024, it is estimated that the Salesforce ecosystem will create more than four million jobs.

Through Hiring Our Heroes’ Salesforce Fellowship Program, veterans have the opportunity to pivot into an in-demand tech career, regardless of their past work experiences.

“I feel like if it’s something that you really want, it’s never too late to go after it,” she said. “And I know that it sounds very cliché, but it’s the truth. Every day that you wake up and open your eyes is another shot at achieving your dreams.”

Before qualifying for the fellowship, all applicants must earn their Salesforce certifications. Through Salesforce’s Trailhead Military program, active duty military, veterans, and military spouses have the opportunity to learn in-demand skills on Trailhead and earn Salesforce certifications for free. The self-paced training can be started in minutes.  

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