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Heather Black talks to workingmums.co.uk about how she set up Supermums to train mums to be able to work in well paid, flexi jobs.
Heather Black started using Salesforce, a customer relationship management system, when she was working in a non-profit that helped young people enter employment.
She quickly grasped the opportunities it offered charities, but also how, through becoming a Salesforce consultant, she could work flexibly yet be paid a reasonable salary.
Having benefited herself, she decided to offer that opportunity to other mums and launched Salesforce Supermums [now Supermums], a training course to help other mums become consultants and have a flexible career.
She says as soon as she started using the system she could see the potential. “I really liked how you could customise it to look at the impact of things like how many young people had been helped into job opportunities,” she says.
When she was thinking about starting a family she decided to look for a more flexible alternative to the traditional 9 to 5 and retrained in Salesforce so she could be an independent consultant.
She had her first daughter seven years ago and worked three days a week as a consultant, building to four days the year after. Over the next few years she switched between being based with an employer and working as a consultant.
It worked very well and she was earning between £60 and £70K a year pro rata. As a consultant she only needed to commute to clients for occasional meetings.
Soon she was getting more work than she could handle so she decided to look for investment to expand her consultancy. She managed to attract £140K and has built up a team of 20 to deliver Salesforce consultancy to non-profits.
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That wasn’t enough for Heather, though. She could see that the work she was doing was perfect for working mums – it offered not only a reasonable salary but the flexibility many needed.
In November 2016 when her second daughter was only three months old she launched her Supermums course with three mums. One has since taken on another Supermums candidate. Another is on her second Salesforce job and speaks regularly at events. The course has been run 15 times since then, has helped 145 mums find well paid, flexible work and now has around 30 mums on each course.
Heather says 85% of those who do it find work within three months of the course. She is really pleased with the success rate, given some drop out for entirely personal reasons. “The course gives them training and mentoring over six months as well as practical work experience and job coaching support. People have gone into a whole range of roles from sales to customer success, account management and project management.
It suits people from a diverse range of backgrounds,” says Heather. Those who have completed the course include lawyers, teachers, sales people, charity workers and those with a technology background. Heather says there are no particular entry criteria as the range of jobs available is so varied. Many come to the course through the charities Heather’s consultancy works with, but others come through word of mouth and social media. The organisation has not had to do any paid advertising.
Before they do the course, candidates do a five-day career challenge, which involves doing five activities in five days so they can understand what Salesforce is and the jobs available in it.
The 20-week course itself is done remotely and involves 16 hours a week of study. There is homework which is checked by mentors and a two and a half hour live webinar. Participants sit an internationally recognised exam at the end. Salesforce itself offers guided learning through its trailheads, but what the course, which costs £1.5K plus VAT, offers is a fully rounded package, including mentoring and work experience. There is a community support area on the website and different cohorts form their own Whatsapp groups and sometimes meet up.
Charities, which often cannot afford consultancy rates, get six days of pro bono work out of the 12 days of work experience. “A lot of my competitors have had to turn to commercial clients to be viable because charities have limited budgets, but I really wanted to find a way to continue working with charities,” says Heather.
She says Supermums has become “accidentally” international and now has people who have done the course in countries from Germany and Dubai to Spain. It has just launched a course in the US time zone and next year hopes to expand to Australia.
Heather clearly feels passionately about the model. She says many of her team have been on the course and they are great role models. She adds that it has many positives, including boosting returners’ confidence, helping mums back to work and boosting diversity in the workplace and promoting gender equality through offering well paid jobs and contributes to addressing the female deficit in the technology sector.
In addition to expanding geographically over the next year, Heather is launching a podcast called Mums on Cloud 9 and an accompanying book. It covers four main areas: exploring your potential as a working mum; creating a vision for change and coaching tools; showing how to have a life you love and promoting a flexible workplace; and demonstrating how women can create their own success, including getting paid their worth and developing their own networks.
Heather says: “I want to raise awareness about what Salesforce is – one of the biggest growth products in the world. A lot of people don’t know what it is. I love the Salesforce ethos which is all about creating a connected, supportive ecosystem. It has inspired me. It is a business, but it is also about giving back and supporting people.”