Skills for Life – My Introduction to Bluewolf, an IBM Company

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It’s been ages since I last blogged and I know I need to write some more chapters for the cancer story, but I feel a break is in order, so I want to tell you about what’s been happening work-wise.

Tough Decisions

It’s been a weird few months for me, with many transitions. In January this year, I made the difficult decision to leave that dream company (C) I started working with right at the beginning of the cancer stuff. It wasn’t an easy decision to make; naturally, I had a lot of loyalty to them, given that they looked after me so well whilst I went through that life-changing experience. I also worked with some amazing people. However, it had started to feel like a one-sided marriage; a marriage I knew I shouldn’t be in, but was hanging on to because 1) I was loyal and 2) after years of changes in my life, I was desperately trying to hold on to something and stick with it.

With respect, disagreeing with the way I was expected to deliver implementations also contributed to that feeling of misplacement. I’ve been working with Salesforce for 9 years. In that 9 years, I’ve learnt through feedback – good and bad – that in order to deliver a great customer experience as a consultant, you’ve got to put the time in to LISTEN. To PULL information. I was at odds with the strategy when I started at C. Their strategy, which was absolutely fine – was to sell seats and push information to customers:  “You’ve bought our tool because you want to be a better company – you can only be a better company if you follow our ‘best’ practices” (not a quote, just my way of articulating my impression of how I was expected to consult). I remember looking at my colleague during my first training session with them and KNOWING that wasn’t what I was doing this job for, but I’d give it my best shot. And so I did, and I was successful for a time.

In The Interim

After deciding to leave, I took a job working with my old boss – he and some friends had started a consultancy firm and wanted someone to help build up a PSA (Professional Services Automation) practice, specialising in C’s competitor product, but despite working with some lovely people, that unfortunately turned out not to be the best decision I had made, so I hit the job market again in June. I hit it hard – I made a decision NOT to continue working with managed packages – that this time I would seek to work for a company with a strong sense of fun, respect for well-being and family, with a collaborative spirit. I hadn’t actually been particularly happy in what I was doing, despite the incredibly valuable experience I had from it.

I got chatting to a recruiter at Bluewolf, about a Solution Architect role. Finally, after doing that job informally for 2 years, I could do it formally! She had me in front of the Director of Architecture before I had time to think! I was on a week’s notice period – being a probie – so the process moved quickly. Having been given a scenario, then putting my usual spiel of diagrams and notes together, I presented it to the Director (who lives not far from me, so arranged for the interview to take place in a location that was equidistant from both our homes, meaning I didn’t have to spend money going to London!!). After a few days of radio silence, I asked the question and it turned out I had an offer! I handed my notice in, amicably agreed to stay on a few extra days to help out with a client and rocked up, excited, for my first day at Bluewolf on Monday.

My First 2 Weeks

First day at Bluewolf; on the train with friends

To cut a long story short, I was immediately made to feel welcome, directed to some fantastic resources to bring me up to speed and invited to spend a few days at the new starter event, Bluewolf Ready. I was chargeable in my first week, having been deployed to an in-flight project pretty much straight away. Apparently not ideal, since I needed to ramp up, but I was grateful to be brought in so soon. Bluewolf has this reward scheme to increase employee engagement; it’s called PRIME – and it’s referenced in the CEO Eric Berridge‘s book, “Customer Obsessed: A Whole Company Approach to Delivering Exceptional Customer Experiences”.

I was thrilled to receive my first PRIME badge in my second week at Bluewolf – all I did was ask a few questions and get involved. Feedback is so important and it’s been amazing to come from an environment where feedback disappears, to an environment where all feedback is seen as a gift. LOVE LOVE LOVE IT.

Mad Consulting Skillz

Even after 9 years as a Salesforce consultant, I had never actually received facilitation training. We spent 3 days doing exercises about everything you need to do this job – from emotional intelligence, learning how to introduce yourself in a memorable way; how to run workshops, even down to how you would stand when you are drawing on a whiteboard. What symbols to use, how to control your nerves, how to manage dominant people in meetings….I was totally blown away.

The view of Prague Castle from my hotel bedroom

Top that off with the training being held in the beautiful city of Prague, in a lovely hotel, I felt welcomed and looked after. It’s going to be hard to put these into practice; tamoxifen means my moods are all over the place and I have to work harder at controlling myself than perhaps I did before. But I feel inspired to try. It’s not been perfect – I was on a conference call and it didn’t go too well, but the support of my new colleagues, coupled with the facilitation training I received helped me learn something from it.

And Now?

I’ve got direction, a support network and I am actively encouraged to improve in ways that suit my personality. I’m hitting the certifications hard now; I’m going to give Platform Developer 1 my best shot next month. Once I’ve done that, I just need a couple of the specialist exams and I can become a certified Application Architect.

Literally can’t wait.

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