Like many women, Jen Smith’s career veered slightly off the straight upwards trajectory after she had children. Like many women she was searching for a flexible job which was meaningful to her.
She left a long-hours career in investment banking to pursue her passion in art, but it’s a difficult industry to make a good living in.
Through trial and error and an ability to adapt to change, something which requires a good deal of ingenuity and invention, she has managed to forge her own path and has recently qualified as a Salesforce Administrator, thanks to a flexible new training programme. Jen reckons it has taken her around six or seven years, but she feels she has now got her momentum back.
From banking to art
Jen had worked in investment banking for nine years rising to a Group CAO position. However, her role was very wide-ranging, embracing everything from IT to project management and she didn’t have a professional title or accreditations as such – something which she says, in hindsight, has been a bit of a hindrance. She left banking when her daughter Sophie was born in 2010 and saw it as an opportunity to pursue her long-standing interest in art.
She took a postgraduate diploma in the history of art and then worked in an art gallery which had just installed an Artlogic customer relationship management system [CRM]. Jen had worked closely with CRM systems in banking so she took on responsibility for implementing it and linking it to the gallery’s website.
Although the job was part time, three days a week, she found herself, like many part timers, checking emails and firefighting on her days off when she was with her daughter. Looking for a more family-friendly solution, she set up her own online business, Little Carousel Gallery, selling artwork online made exclusively for children, gaining a lot of experience negotiating with artists and clients and building her own website. Within the first year of launching Jen had a baby boy and it was a continued challenge to maintain the momentum needed to grow the business. Jen also found that she missed working in-house as part of a busy team.
A contact asked her to install Artlogic at a local art gallery and she did some freelance CRM work with other arts organisations. It became clear to her that her skills in this area combined with her business experience could be valuable to a variety of different organisations and at around the same time she came across Economic Change’s Salesforce Superheroes course. Salesforce is a widely-used cloud-based CRM platform which organisations use to manage and analyse customer interactions and data.
The breadth of the course appealed to her and the fact that she could work across any industry after completing it. She says the course, which include two projects working on live implementations, was tailored to mums – there were breaks during the school holidays and a regular timetable which was easy to fit in with childcare. Heather Black who set it up did so in part to provide a flexible work option for mums and the course helps secure work for those who complete it.
Jen, whose children are now aged three and seven, says: “It took me a while to find the right way back into doing something I was really good at in a way that compensated me adequately. I could have returned to banking, but I see that as the least family friendly option. It was really nice to find something so flexible.”
She finished the course in April and sat her exam in May shortly after she started her new job at the Sustainable Restaurant Association. Although it is a different industry from those she is used to, Jen says what they all have in common is a need to know their customers and deliver content to them in ways that are relevant to them.
Initially she worked three days a week, but later requested to move up to four days. She stresses that this was her decision. Indeed, when she sent some emails on her day off, her colleagues told her off. “That was so refreshing,” she says, “I work with a great team at the SRA and I’m learning all the time.” She adds that there is a lot of flexibility and says she can work from home occasionally if she needs to. Many other Salesforce Superheroes jobs are part time and remote.
Jen says: “The Salesforce course has refreshed everything I knew before and given me a modern, relevant skillset and the course and has opened up lots of doors for me. It is important to me to make a difference doing something I am good at and I now feel that there are exciting opportunities ahead.”