Workforce Development with Shirlene Chow


Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Shirlene Chow, Senior Director of Workforce Development Programs at Salesforce.

Join us as we chat about the programs she and her team offer to help people get started in the Salesforce ecosystem, connect with mentors, and develop their careers.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Shirlene Chow.

Turn new knowledge into a new job

A common piece of feedback we hear is that while Trailhead is great at helping people skill up in the Salesforce ecosystem, it’s hard to figure out the next steps. How do you turn your new knowledge into a job opportunity?

That’s why we wanted to hear from Shirlene Chow. Her Workforce Development team is all about helping people with those next steps, connecting them with mentorship, interviews, free vouchers for certification tests, and more. The jobs market has been a little tough recently but that makes it a perfect time to skill up into something new.

Why mentorship is so important

Shirlene’s team offers a Salesforce Fundamentals program with classes happening all over the world and, while most admins don’t need to brush up on the basics, maybe you know someone who’d like to learn.

For those more experienced in the ecosystem, the Trailblazer Mentorship program matches you with a Salesforce veteran who can help you one-on-one with your job search strategy, your resume, your interview skills, and more. There’s also a new program called Mentor Circles program that puts you in a group setting with several peers and mentors for a longer period of time. Think of it as group coaching.

In almost every #AwesomeAdmin story we hear, mentorship is one of the key ingredients for success, so we really want to put the word out there so you can take your career in a new direction.

Other programs to help you grow your career

Shirlene and her team also run the Trailblazer Career Fairs, which are now virtual events happening on a global scale. We put you together with engaged recruiters from some of our closest strategic partners so you can learn about their organizations and what they’re looking for in a candidate. From there, there are group networking and one-on-one breakouts with individual recruiters. New Career Fairs are happening all the time, so check the Trailblazer Connect Hub for details.

Finally, we wanted to highlight the Salesforce Pathfinder Program. It’s a four-month intensive program to give you the practical skills you need to launch your career. “The goal is to help you be well-rounded,” Shirlene says, “not just with Salesforce technical skills but also business skills, how to work in a team, how to do things in an Agile format, and how to practice your active listening and speaking and presentation skills.”

If all this sounds good to you, take a look at the resources we’re linking to below. And if you want to get involved, you can get listed in the directory and start mentoring other Trailblazers.

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Full show transcript

Gillian Bruce:
Welcome to the Salesforce Admins Podcast, where we talk about product, community, and careers to help you be an awesome admin. I’m your host today, Gillian Bruce, and we are talking about workforce development today. We are going to be joined in just a moment by Shirlene Chow, who is a senior director in charge of workforce development programs here at Salesforce. I’ve been working with her for many years and seeing her at many different events and presenting at different groups of people learning Salesforce. And she is just a wonderful human who has really put together some incredible programs along with her team to help serve people looking to get Salesforce jobs.

And especially as admins, I know some of whether you’re new in your career as a Salesforce admin or maybe you’re looking to make a career change, or maybe you are looking to hire some Salesforce admins, this is an episode you’re going to want to listen to because the programs that Shirlene’s about to share, there are multiple ways for you to get involved, multiple ways for you to help, and multiple ways for you to learn and to participate and get connected with that next opportunity. So without further ado, please welcome Shirlene to the podcast. Shirlene, welcome to the podcast.

Shirlene Chow:
Thank you, Gillian. Thanks for having me.

Gillian Bruce:
Well, I am actually… Is this your first time on the podcast? I’m trying to think.

Shirlene Chow:
It certainly is. It is.

Gillian Bruce:
Well, welcome to the podcast. I am very happy to host you, and I’m surprised it’s your first time because you do a lot of things with admins. And so I wanted to get you on the podcast today to talk a little bit more about kind of workforce development programs. This is a space that you work in. A lot of our admins are constantly looking how to grow their careers, maybe get different jobs. We’re talking to new admins all the time, and I wanted to pick your brain and find out a little bit more about what the workforce development space looks like within the Salesforce ecosystem and maybe learn a little bit more about some of the programs. So can you introduce yourself and what you do?

Shirlene Chow:
Yeah, absolutely. So my name’s Shirlene Chow. I’m Senior Director of Workforce Development here at Salesforce on the Trailhead team and working closely with Gillian’s team as well. And our team’s mission is to fuel the success and growth of our Salesforce ecosystem by building net new talent to support our customers, our partners, our ISVs, and we essentially empower Trailblazers like yourselves from anywhere. And we like to focus on underrepresented, and that means creating access to career training, mentorship, free vouchers, employer connections, and automatic interviews. So we run the gamut of things.

Gillian Bruce:
I was going to say, you said a lot of things that are I’m sure many listeners are like, hold on a second, you said free vouchers, you said employer interviews. Those are some really critical pieces to the puzzle. I know one of the things that we often hear as people are trying to grow their career is we’re really good at providing all the training with Trailhead and all of that. But that next level, getting that mentorship piece, getting the opportunity to get interviews, maybe understanding a little bit more about what it takes to turn this knowledge into a job opportunity is kind of tough. And so, that’s the space that you’re in. And so I’d love to learn a little bit more what specifically digging into some of those pieces, what kind of workplace services do we have at Salesforce in the community to kind of help folks?

Shirlene Chow:
Yeah. Well, first I just want to take a step back and acknowledge it is a tough time in the market right now. There have been a lot of tech layoffs, Salesforce included, and we recognize that in our ecosystem. So it makes it a wonderful time to really skill up, re-skill, cross skill, learn new skills, make yourself marketable. And I’ll definitely share a couple of programs today, but I just want to recognize our community is really at the heart of everything. So whether it’s serving as mentors, educators, or hiring managers, they really power the growth and all the support behind it. So I mentioned a couple of things, and the first program I want to talk about is Trailblazer Connect. My team pulls together content, trail mixes, videos. We offer a fundamentals program. If you’re already in admin, you probably know a lot more than the fundamentals, but if you’re looking for a free introductory course, this is a really great place to start.

And you can check in our show notes where to find our next fundamental class. We’re running them globally now in different time zones and async as well. And then we also have this wonderful trailblazer mentorship program. So we launched this in 2018. We have a one-to-one program where you can get matched with a Salesforce veteran who you can talk to for about 30 days is kind of the first piece of the program. And they’ll help you with your job search strategy, your resume, your interview skills, your networking, and that’s our one-to-one. We also recently launched a mentorship circles where in a group setting you’ll have a chance to meet with peers and several mentors for six weeks. So you kind of have two different options. All we ask is that you’re an active job seeker looking for a job, and we’ll match you based on your role, your time zone, and what you’re interested in. So again, that’s Trailblazer Connect. You can find that on under the community tab. And if you click on Trailblazer Connect, you’ll find links to both of those as well as the show notes of course.

Gillian Bruce:
So those two programs, I mean, I just want to kind of pause for a second and just discuss them a little bit more because I think a lot of… I’ve talked to listeners about in the past that are also helping other people get into the ecosystem. And so especially that Trailblazer Connect program sounds like a wonderful way to expose people, get people introduced to kind of Salesforce. If they’re beyond maybe they’ve done a module or something on Trailhead and they’re like… Or they kind of know about it, they’re interested in it. So I think that’s a really wonderful resource.

And the mentorship, are you kidding me? That is one of the keys to success I think I’ve heard in every awesome admin story is that there has been a mentorship element. So I am so grateful that there is an actual program about that now in the Trailblazer community. So I mean, I know that this has been in the works for a long time and it’s not entirely new, but can you talk a little bit more about that mentorship piece? Because you’ve been having these discussions. You’ve been working in this space for a long time, and so I’d love to learn a little bit more about the mentorship piece and how that works. And you had the one to one, you had the scaled circles. Just tell me a little bit more.

Shirlene Chow:
Yeah, I’ll start off by saying, you mentioned this earlier, Gillian, but it is not easy landing a job in the Salesforce ecosystem, let alone any new job. It takes a lot of skills to… So say you’ve learned a little bit of Salesforce, you’re working on your first super badge, or maybe you’ve earned your first certification. There’s still a lot of soft skills that you need to pick up just to understand how to talk to a recruiter, how to get through interview questions. Of course, there are probably specific questions for admin type interviews versus a business analyst. So there’s a whole job search process that happens behind the scenes before even getting to that interview step. And so a lot of that is going back to this job search strategy is breaking down what type of company you’re looking for, what type of role is a match for you.

And what often happens with a mentor is they help to unlock some of this and help you identify, well, what are some of those skill sets that you either have or want to grow? What are you strong at already? Maybe you’ve already got great customer service skills, or you’ve worked in reports and dashboards before, and some of these skills lend themselves to becoming a great admin. So I think having a mentor, someone who’s been in the industry who can help you figure out what’s that great role that’s going to be a good fit, and then what are the companies I can start to research. Now, once you break that down to which companies and roles, then you can get very targeted around your search for, okay, well, what skills should I be looking for in that job description? How do I start to work that into my resume? And now’s a great plug for the admin skills toolkit, right?

Gillian Bruce:
Yes. The Salesforce Admin skills kit. Yes.

Shirlene Chow:
Yes. So the skills kit is a wonderful way to really highlight your skills for whether you’re applying for a new job or you’re asking for a promotion or you’re hiring someone. I love the skills kit because it breaks down each skill very tactically and gives examples. And Gillian can share about where to find that. But I think it’s such a wonderful way to help paint that picture of what your skills are in that resume and that mentor will really help bring that together with the guidance and the advisory having been in the ecosystem.

Gillian Bruce:
Yeah, I love that. I mean, I love the idea of using that mentor as a way to kind of translate and connect some of the skills that you might have from other experience within the context of Salesforce. And so we’ve got the skills kit, it’s a good guide, but actually having someone to talk through that and maybe give you some feedback and give you some helpful coaching, maybe even have some good connections of other folks for you to talk to in your process. I think there’s just nothing more valuable than a mentor.

I talk to mentors all the time, so that’s really, really wonderful. And I know for a fact that in the Salesforce ecosystem, I remember Cheryl Feldman, who now works at Salesforce, but was our original awesome admin awardee 10 years ago. She was such a proponent of mentorship and how once you mentor someone and that person mentors another person, it’s kind of this ripple effect. And so you see it so strongly in our community. I love how that’s reflected now with an official kind of program to help support that. So just extending a little bit of gratitude your way, Shirlene, for helping make that formalized process there and formalized program, so wonderful. Wonderful. Okay. But you’ve got some more stuff, some more amazing programs that I know that all awesome admins should know about. So can you talk to us a little bit about some of the other ones that you’ve got?

Shirlene Chow:
Absolutely. So another exciting one we’ve really taken virtually is the Trailblazer career fairs. And we started this in person at Dreamforce in Trailblazer DX back in 2017 and decided why not scale this globally, especially in the midst of the pandemic? So we actually run these across the globe in 10 plus countries, actually in I think closer to 30 countries and across APAC, across Europe, as well as Latin America. And we bring the most engaged recruiters who are our very close partners and strategic employers to share about their company. They help network with our trailblazers to talk about what they’re looking for in a candidate, how to be successful on the job. And then we break out using our technology into group networking as well as one-on-one settings. So you show up to the career fair, you get to enter into booths that each company’s hosting. You kind of hear a little bit about the group discussion, and then a recruiter can invite you to join a one-on-one discussion, almost like a pre-interview and just really accelerating that process throughout the interview process. So it’s a really great way to get connected.

Sometimes they’ll collect your resume for a book. And the best way to figure out when the next event is, is check the show notes, but again, you can find it on the Trailblazer Connect page on

Gillian Bruce:
I love that you took it virtual. I think the last career fair I went to was in college, and it literally was that you go from table to table and you see which kind of swag you can get, right? Oh, they have pens, but this one has a ball. I’m for sure talking to this one more, but I love that you brought that virtual. That’s really, really great. I mean, again, and the world is now so much more connected globally and virtually, so it totally makes sense. And I mean most from an employer’s perspective too opens up so many more options for candidates and finding candidates. So I bet you probably have feedback from on the employer side, hey, this is helping me find folks that I otherwise wouldn’t find.

Shirlene Chow:
Yeah. Yeah. I think part of it is in the pandemic, as our workforce continued to grow and no longer be focused on one regional area, like recruiters can start to recruit virtually across the US for example. And we also found that by hosting them virtually, we were able to be much more inclusive because it was a bit unfair to be hosting them only in person in certain cities and with not everyone having access to it. So I think the global growth has really given us a stronger mission in making sure that access to career connections and opportunities is truly global and accessible to everybody.

Gillian Bruce:
I love that, really being the part. I mean, our trailblazer community is all about generosity and equality and giving back. And that really… I love how that career fair program has really taken off in that same direction. It exudes those same values. So there’s one other program, Shirlene, I want you to talk about that I have participated in and as a Salesforce employee that I know is just so awesome and so powerful. Tell us more about Pathfinder program.

Shirlene Chow:
I’m happy to. So our Salesforce Pathfinder program empowers the next generation of trailblazers to build out their careers in the ecosystem. And this specific program, I know there’s many in the ecosystem, provides free immersive technical training. So that’s like a week of ADX 101, also business training. So there’s like business skills week, soft skills, you get a mentor, so much coaching, there’s weekly standups, you’re put in a group and you do case studies and you present. So there’s a lot of this hands-on experience that Trailhead does some of that. But I think practicing in action is what is really going to refine your skills. So this is a 20 week program. I think we’re shortening it just a bit next year or this year, but essentially this makes up about 200 hours of live and asynchronous training. And the goal is to really help you be well-rounded, not just with Salesforce technical skills, but really business skills, how to work in a team, how to do things in an agile format, how to really practice your active listening and speaking skills and presentation skills.

So really proud of this program. We’ve graduated almost a thousand participants at this point. We have a UK cohort and we’ve offered a number of different tracks, marketing as well as Tableau. And we’re really expanding globally this year in a couple more countries. So we’re really excited for what’s to come. And to Gillian, in your point, we have partnered with over 300 volunteers internally. So this program has really grown over the last five years, really proud to see where it goes. We typically place… We’ve placed over 50 to 60% of our cohorts into jobs, and I think most of that is through just the strong employer partnership that our team builds across the ecosystem with many of our partners and customers. So it’s truly been a wonderful program that we’ve seen grown and we hope to see it flourish in the next couple years.

Gillian Bruce:
I mean, it’s awesome. I definitely, as being a part of it from the Salesforce side and just hopping in on a session to present and answer a bunch of questions, it’s really, really amazing to see the kind of engagement that you get from the people who are in the program. And I mean, these people are really invested. And I think from one of the things that you said that is part of this that I think is something we’ve talked about on the practice several times is putting the technical knowledge into practice. And on the idea of doing a case study, the idea of working with a mentor to actually solve a model business problem using Salesforce. And more than just what are you building, but how are you approaching it? How are you talking about it and communicating about it? What other skills are you putting to use in that process?

I think that’s so valuable. And one of the things that we’ve been saying on the podcast is, hey, you want to show employers what you can do? Go build a demo and get a screencast and show it off. And I think that having that embedded in this program is even more validation that that’s a great way to put your work out there and just learn what it’s like. So fantastic. I can see a whole… Like you said, you’ve got what, a thousand people who’ve gone through it already. I feel like this time next year there’s going to be even three times, four times as many. It’s just such an amazing, powerful program.

Shirlene Chow:
Exactly. Our hope and vision is to enable new partners to launch their own training programs. Pathfinder really has some best in class practices in supporting with content, marketing, outreach, employer relationships. So this is our broader vision for scale is how do we empower other organizations to launch training initiatives, especially in a time like this. I think it’s such an opportunistic time, but part of that is the Salesforce network, the ecosystem community. It is so strong across the globe that I too Gillian want to see this grow and to become thousands of graduates in the next few years.

Gillian Bruce:
It’s going to happen. It’s going to happen. Yeah.

Shirlene Chow:
So speaking of training programs, they’re not the only training program in our ecosystem. We have hundreds of other amazing organizations out there. So I want to talk about this next program, which is our workforce partner program. And one of the teams here supports whether it’s a community-led organization, an academic program, an authorized training partner who’s teaching Salesforce. If they’re teaching Salesforce, they can join this partner program and be a part of our directory. So we launched a brand new directory last year, and you can also find that under the Trailblazer Connect page, if you just click on Workforce Partner. You’ll be able to find an excellent directory outlining some of our pilot organizations. You might have heard of some of them. Pep Up Tech, Climb Hire, Tech Forward. These are some of the bigger ones. Salesforce Supermoms, Mom Relaunch, there are so many out there doing such incredible work, and they’re all focused on different audiences teaching a variety of pathways and certifications with a variety of roles and employer partnerships in the ecosystem.

And these orgs are doing incredible work. So talk about gratitude. They are doing the heavy lift of mentoring, coaching, supporting, teaching, all of our incredible trailblazers. And so I think the magic of this is that they’re really putting together the cohorts that are bringing the magic and the community to the learning aspect. And I think without that peer support, it’s tough. It’s really tough. It’s not an easy path to become a trailblazer. And doing it with the community in your cohort is so incredible. So if you are looking for one of these incredible training programs to join, again, check out our Trailblazer Connect directory. It’s on, also in the show notes. And our goal this year is to scale this directory to capture the hundreds of organizations teaching Salesforce. I think there’s honestly an opportunity to help with that branding and help with the recruitment and help surface some of these organizations across the globe. And on the directory, you can actually filter it by region, by role, by duration. So we know everyone’s got different time commitments, but if you’re interested in joining one of these programs, check out the directory.

Gillian Bruce:
Oh, I love that. Yeah, I mean, you mentioned some of the… We’ve had many people who have been part of the programs that you just mentioned on the podcast in the past. And I mean, all of those were born out of people wanting to help others. And I think that’s, again, it’s like this common theme of being a part of the Trailblazer community is that you want to help other people succeed. And I love that we’ve now got some more structure to help everybody find all these great resources. And I mean, hey, maybe there’ll be even new ones that pop up. We got some more motivated folks out there. Yeah, it’s wonderful to see. So it’s really fun. Now, one thing that you mentioned, Shirlene, that I wanted to just have our listeners understand is we’ve got probably some tenured Salesforce admins listening. I see you, even though I can’t see you, and they may be wondering how they can get involved. Is there opportunities for mentorship for helping with some of these programs? How would they do that?

Shirlene Chow:
Absolutely. So you hit it on the head. Mentorship is our number one volunteering opportunity. In fact, we have a backlog of… A wait list rather of mentees who are waiting for more mentors to sign up. So we are in a mentor shortage. We would love for you to sign up for Trailblazer Mentorship. So find us on or in the show notes. And if you can sign up, you’re really just committing to a minimum of one month matching or a mentorship circle. As a mentorship circle, you can either co-host with someone or you can host your own circle. It’s totally up to you. But we will give you all the tools, all the materials to get prepped. We’ll give you agendas, we’ll give you content just for topics to talk about week by week. And we’re really streamlining this through an email journey as well.

So we’re trying to make it easy. And we just want to remind you, imposter syndrome is real. You may not think that you qualify to be a mentor, but you actually do. If you’ve got a job in the Salesforce ecosystem, you’ve got something that a lot of people are looking for and want, and you have a lot of experience and probably wisdom to share with these new mentees. So we ask you to join, we send gratitude for those who are already a part of our program, but that’s probably the number one way to get involved.

The second way I’d say is if you’re a hiring manager, we can definitely use your help either joining a career fair or enrolling into our Talent Alliance program. And you can find that on the Talent Alliance website. We’ll add that to the show notes as well. But that is also an incredible program run by our alliances and channels, our partner team. And they essentially are helping to raise the bar in hiring net new talent and diverse talent in our ecosystem, which is so important. So if you’re interested in how do I hire this talent, join the Talent Alliance, or also check out our workforce partner program directory, and you’ll have access to all these incredible training programs. You can click on their website, link directly, get in touch with them, and get plugged into the untapped talent that is happening now. So those are three ways to get involved.

Gillian Bruce:
So great. I can hear people like typing in now and going on Trailhead and being like, oh, this is a great way for me to find the next person that I’m hiring on my team. So wonderful. Thank you for sharing those resources, and thank you for inspiring everybody to continue to give back. And thank you for all of the work that your team does to help connect job seekers with opportunities. And it’s especially important these days. As you mentioned, this is a really, really tough time for a lot of folks, but it’s amazing that these resources exist to kind of help everybody find what they need. So thank you, Shirlene, for joining us on the podcast today. I really appreciate your time, and thank you so much for the wonderful work that you do.

Shirlene Chow:
You’re welcome. Thanks so much for having me.

Gillian Bruce:
It’s always such a joy talking to Shirlene. Huge thanks to her for joining us on the podcast today. Now, if you want to learn more about any of the incredible programs that Shirlene mentioned, she mentioned a lot. We had Trailblazer Connect, Trailblazer Mentorship, Trailblazer Career Fairs, Workforce Partner Program in the Pathfinder Program. Don’t worry, check out the show notes that are either right there in the app as you’re listening. Or if you’re on our website at you’ll be able to find all of the links directly to each of those programs and more information about how you can get involved. So check those out. And if you just want more information on how you can be an awesome admin, check out my favorite website, All kinds of great content on there. With that, I hope you have a wonderful rest of your evening day, afternoon, morning, and I’ll catch you next time in the cloud.

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