Wed, 1 April 2020
We’re back with another episode of the Salesforce for Good mini-series on the Salesforce Admins Podcast. These special episodes are hosted by Marc Baizman, Senior Admin Evangelist at Salesforce and nonprofit veteran. He talks to Judi Sohn, Director of Customer Centric Engineering at Salesforce.org, to learn how she organizes around the nonprofit Salesforce community.
Join us as we talk about how Judi’s nonprofit work brought her to Salesforce, and the work she’s done to create a framework for the community to contribute to the platform.
You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Judi Sohn.
How Judi first got involved in nonprofits.
“Customer centric engineering sits in the technology and product part of Salesforce.org,” Judi says, “we are the connection point between other teams and product development.” What that means is that whenever there’s a customer impactful issue like a bug, her team investigates and then puts a team on it.
Jodi has a deep background in nonprofit work, starting in 1998 when her father was diagnosed with cancer. “He and I grew up in technology together,” she says, and naturally they found a listserv to connect with others dealing with colorectal cancer in their lives. He ended up cofounding the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, and because Jodi had all of his passwords she was able to log in and volunteer her graphic design skills to help them with their first website and logo.
On the frontiers of community building.
For the next two years, Jodi ended up working closely with the CCA to help them get off the ground, and in the process picked up a lot of first-hand knowledge about starting a nonprofit. She got to put those skills into practice pretty quickly, setting off on a new adventure to help found Fight Colorectal Cancer, an organization devoted to research and advocacy. She was also blogging about early remote work technology since both organizations she had been a part of were distributed, which was how she heard about Salesforce.
As Fight Colorectal Cancer continued to grow, Judi needed a cloud-based database platform to support her distributed team. She tried a number of options that were all ultimately frustrating, “I wanted to change it and adapt it to my organization,” she says, “it just didn’t have the flexibility and didn’t feel like I could grow into it.” In the search process, however, she saw that Salesforce was offering free licenses to nonprofits. She signed up and started working with a consultant to learn about the platform, blogging about her journey as she went.
“I didn’t know at the time, but I was one of the very few customers making this work and talking about it publicly,” Judi says, and the blog got her in touch with a lot of partners and early adopters also working in Salesforce. She got involved in the conversation around building a bona fide nonprofit app. That landed Judi on the Dreamforce stage in 2008, and she’s been to every one since.
How Judi ended up at the Salesforce Foundation.
Judi continued working in the nonprofit Salesforce community while still running Fight Colorectal Cancer, but as she got more involved she realized just how much of an impact she could have helping others be successful on the platform. She made the decision to start working as a Salesforce Partner to consult with more nonprofits, right around the same time the Power of Us Hub got started. She dove into those conversations, learning more about the platform as she helped others.
In 2015, Judi joined the Salesforce Foundation, helping as the Nonprofit Success Pack evolved from a community-driven open source solution for small nonprofits to something that could scale for large organizations. As the NPSP changed, they wanted to find a role for the community to still innovate on the platform, which lead to the creation of Open Source Commons. While Community Sprints were already a thing, what Judi brought to the table was a format where folks with many different backgrounds and levels of experience could participate. “The community makes it so easy, it is embraced and supported and welcome and open,” she says, “and I want everyone to feel that.”
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