Wed, 17 July 2019
Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we’ve got the final live episode from the DC World Tour. We’re joined by Meghan McCoy, Senior Associate in CRM Applications at the Pew Charitable Trust. We’ll hear how she’s building innovative solutions for her nonprofit in Salesforce, and talk about the human side of technology.
Join us as we talk about how she approaches technology from the human side of things with her experience in anthropology, how she uses Agile practices to help get things done at a large organization, and how she’s customizing her org to better serve her constituents.
You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Meghan McCoy.
Meghan’s unique perspective on technology.
Growing up, Meghan studied modern creative dance from the age of five to fourteen. She performed at festivals and worked in a special system called global somatics, which focuses on highlighting the anatomy and physiology of the human body. Her creative background led her to Howard University in DC, trying to figure out what to study. She ended up focusing on anthropology. “It’s really human-facing and it’s something that can be applied to various industries,” Meghan says.
The late 90s and early 2000s were an interesting time to be a college because of the explosion of technology: from Friendster to Black Planet to AOL Instant Messenger, college students were beginning to use the internet to connect in new ways. “There was a Computer and Sociology class,” Meghan says, “and once I took that I knew I was very interested in where humanity was headed, and so I took my anthropological skills and applied it to the IT realm. As soon as I graduated I started to work in the network equipment industry as an account rep.”
Using Agile with Salesforce.
Today, Meghan is happily employed as a Salesforce Administrator for the Pew Charitable Trust. “What I’m able to do in this role is operationalize a lot of customer delivery we’re providing as a Salesforce team,” she says, “I’m managing the day-to-day user permissions, onboardings, offboardings at an organization of about a thousand employees, which includes about seven hundred Salesforce-licensed users.” She doesn’t have to solo admin, and can instead focus on the relationship between her users and team members to make everyone’s job easier.
They use Agile methodologies as a team to get everything done. They get requests through ServiceNow, then pipe them into Jira to organize and assign the work and sort it into two-week sprints. There are specialized team members for grants, Marketing Cloud, and general requests come to Meghan.
The magic of the Salesforce community.
Coming from the network equipment industry to Salesforce, Meghan was looking for a different environment. “I wanted something a lot more diverse, a lot more inclusive in terms of a professional network to participate in,” she says. She started looking into the platform through a mentor and began attending World Tours where she connected with folks (including Marc Baizman) who kept saying, “you belong, even though you might not yet know the platform we know that because you keep showing up we’ve got something you can contribute to.”
With her team today, Meghan is working on a lot of innovations. “I call our instance a constituent management database,” she says, “and one of favorite projects right now is looking at how to connect activities to multiple objects within our instance.” They’re developing a tool on the platform so their users have a better way of tracking the lifecycle of an activity across the organization. Working with their Salesforce Success Reps, they’re trying to create some kind of identifier to keep the multiple records connected—almost an internal Salesforce record ID. It helps them keep track of when multiple users meet with the same constituent, and any other conversations that have happened between that person and the organization.
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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 become a more awesome Salesforce admin. I'm Jillian Bruce. Today, listeners, we are wrapping up our series that we recorded while we were in Washington DC for the world tour, not too long ago. Today we are talking to Meghan McCoy who is a senior associate CRM applications at the Pew Charitable Trusts. She is amazing. She's so fun to talk to you. She's incredibly smart, incredibly passionate about what she does. And I wanted to get her on the podcast to share a little bit about some of the cool things that she's doing with Salesforce, how she's building some of these solutions and talk about more of this human side of technology. She actually studied anthropology and has found a lot of really great parallels between that and what she does in the IT sector and with Salesforce. So without further ado, please welcome Meghan to the podcast.
Gillian Bruce: Megan, welcome to the podcast.
Meghan McCoy: Thank you. Thank you, Gillian. Thanks for having me.
Gillian Bruce: Well, thank you for having me because we're actually in your hometown of DC. We're out here for the world tour and I am very happy that I get the chance to sit down and chat with you in person.
Meghan McCoy: Thank you. I hope you got a chance to walk around. Our city is absolutely beautiful. One of a kind.
Gillian Bruce: I am a huge fan of DC, and the community here and the town, it's really, it's really fun.
Meghan McCoy: It's an interesting juxtaposition between various city lifes throughout the US, it's kind of an amalgamation of what we have to offer in this country.
Gillian Bruce: That's very great ... That's a fantastic summary of DC, yeah. Well, we got some good spring weather now, so it's nice.
Meghan McCoy: Yeah. Next time you got to make it for the cherry blossoms.
Gillian Bruce: Oh, yes. I did get to live in DC for a couple years. I got to be here for that and it is mind-blowingly beautiful.
Meghan McCoy: It is.
Gillian Bruce: Like cloud land.
Meghan McCoy: It is. It is like pink clouds.
Gillian Bruce: Wow.
Meghan McCoy: They're real, I thought those only existed in the Ohana Salesforce.
Gillian Bruce: Right.
Meghan McCoy: Salesforce tours.
Gillian Bruce: Ohana lands. Yeah. Well, Megan, I wanted to get you on the podcast to talk about a whole bunch of things, but to introduce you a little bit to our listeners. I love to start off with a question. Megan, what did you want to do ... What did you want to be when you grew up?
Meghan McCoy: So, growing up, I actually studied modern creative dance from like the age of five until I was about 14, I wanted to be a modern creative dancer.
Gillian Bruce: That is so cool. So did you do dance most of your life growing up or?
Meghan McCoy: Yeah, I performed at various festivals. We had an instructor who really focused on what's called Global Somatics. So it was a form of movement that focuses on your body systems, whether it's your bones or your fluid systems. So I learned a lot about anatomy, and then how to kind of move my body to sounds that reminded us of kind of those anatomical natural movements.
Gillian Bruce: That is fascinating. That's so great. Okay, so then how do you go from dance and all of this amazing kind of very expressive creative land to now working in the Salesforce ecosystem. Tell me a little bit about that career journey.
Meghan McCoy: So when it was time for me to pick university, I was fortunate to have a really good mentor at the school I was attending in high school. I attended Scattergood friends school, Quaker boarding school in Iowa. And my mentor there, she kind of suggested based on what I was looking for, that I apply to a plethora of universities and Howard was what I landed on, which brought me to Washington in '98 and I've stayed since. And really, there, I was undecided, I was a bit nervous. I wanted to study dance, wasn't sure if maybe I'd switch from liberal arts to the fine arts program. And I ended up landing on anthropology really because I got in a debate with some students and they totally smoked me in the conversation. And I just said, "These guys are just so smart." They were from Philly and I asked my girlfriends, what are these guys studying? And they said anthropology. And I said, "Okay, this is for me because it's really human facing. It really is something that can be applied to various industries."
Meghan McCoy: And then, while I was at Howard, it was early 2000s, and really that's when IT was starting to really kick off where we were on AOL, we were on Black Planet, we were using, whether it was Friendster-
Gillian Bruce: I remember Friendster.
Meghan McCoy: And downloading music and chat rooms. So at that time studying anthropology and sociology, there was a computer in sociology class. And once I took that, I knew kind of, I was very interested in where humanity was headed. And so, I kind of took my anthropological skills and applied it to the IT realm as soon as I graduated, where I started to work in the network equipment industry as an IT professional, like an account rep.
Gillian Bruce: That is really fascinating because I love ... Clearly you are fascinated by kind of like the human experience, right? From doing the expressive kind of dance, creative dance. And then, I love how you say, you got smoked in that conversation.
Meghan McCoy: Oh yeah, toasted.
Gillian Bruce: You were like, I want to do that. And then, kind of delving into this human side of what is going on with kind of humanity at large and then finding that intersection of technology and all these digital transformations that are happening in the ... I remember Napster and Friendster and like all of that in college.
Meghan McCoy: Limewire.
Gillian Bruce: Oh my gosh, totally, totally. Oh all the hours spent downloading things.
Meghan McCoy: Yeah.
Gillian Bruce: And so then, that kind of took you in this IT route. So I think that's really fascinating because so many people who are ... find themselves in Salesforce admin role, come from a very non-traditional tech background. But you came from the humanities side intending to go into IT in a little bit. Right?
Meghan McCoy: Right. So it really turned, once I took that computer and sociology class to where I started to understand technology was going to be kind of the future of human progression in the workforce. So when I thought about how do I want to apply my degree, I was sure I didn't want to go and become a professor and get a master's in anthropology, which kind of put me at risk for freaking out, which I did because I said, "Oh gosh, I got this BA and I don't know how to exactly transition it." But I just kept promoting the fact that I had great writing skills and I got picked up by an IT company to write the copyright for their website and customer facing interfaces.
Meghan McCoy: And as a result, not only did I excel in that role, but I was brought in as a manager then, to hire and train the workforce. As a result to kind of found my niche was operations. So I developed a lot of our quality control process and logistics around the work we were doing, which was primarily routing Cisco network systems around the world, whether it was to our federal customers or US-based customers and making sure we paired them and partnered their needs with the right technology.
Gillian Bruce: So I'm hearing so many things and your description of what you just said, it's you were able to be a translator between the technology and the people, which is a very valued skill because there are so many layers of jargon and understandings of systems that don't necessarily inherently make sense to a lot of people. And then the fact that you were brought into a management role because you understood kind of these relationships and how people related to the technology and the systems are related to each other. So this kind of training in anthropology really prepared you in a very significant way. Probably more so than a traditional IT training background to be ... to grow your career and be where you're at.
Meghan McCoy: Yeah, I recommend highly, as much as people have an opportunity to, to at least take one cultural anthropology class in your lifetimes. I really wish it was a prerequisite for business majors, because I really think it does help us navigate in those environments that are cultural at our institutions where we contribute as employees.
Gillian Bruce: Yeah, that's fantastic. I agree with you. Could not agree with you more. It's like along the same lines, I always tell everyone, everyone should have a service related job at some point.
Meghan McCoy: Yes.
Gillian Bruce: To appreciate those who serve you at a restaurant or sell you the hat at the store or whatever. But-
Meghan McCoy: Exactly. We're constantly navigating social spheres, whatever they may be, whether it's we participate in hobbies, extracurriculars, our church communities, our neighborhoods, our workplace, parental groups, et cetera.
Gillian Bruce: Absolutely.
Meghan McCoy: It's very important.
Gillian Bruce: So let's talk a little bit about what you're doing now. So you kind of went the IT route. You were implementing systems for all kinds of different organizations, government, private. What do you do now? Tell me a little bit about your role.
Meghan McCoy: Yeah, so now I am very happily employed as a Salesforce administrator for a local nonprofit in the DC area. And I'm really proud of this transformation that I went through to get here because what I'm able to do in this role is essentially operationalize a lot of the customer delivery we're providing as the Salesforce team.
Meghan McCoy: As an administrator, I'm managing the day-to-day user permissions, onboardings, offboardings at an organization of about a thousand employees, which includes about 700 Salesforce licensed users. I'm also looking at our systems and meeting with the customer and the business to see where do they want to take the platform next, gathering those requirements and translating them into applicable technical solutions within the platform. And I get to work on a team of about six other administrators. So I don't have to play that really, really challenging role of a solo admin. Instead, I have kind of a more complex relationship to navigate with the users and then the various team members who each handle the different part of our Salesforce ecosystem.
Gillian Bruce: That's awesome. So I love how you kind of described that you're part of a team because there are ... We have many solo admins in the world, but we also have many admins who are part of a team. And you know, maybe you could tell us a little bit about how you work as a team to kind of divide up and like, you know, does everyone do all the things? Like how do you divide and conquer? I mean, 700 users is a lot.
Meghan McCoy: So essentially we're using Agile methodologies, scrum practices here at our organization, which I find very, very supportive and helpful to setting a cadence within the workflow of anything related to IT especially, but specifically Salesforce here for me. And in that regard, we really receive the business requests through a system that we're using here at our organization called ServiceNow, once those come in, we'll pipe the request into JIRA system and platform, where we can then assign the tickets out and assign the work, schedule the work. We'll put it into various two week sprints so that the work can be completed within two week periods.
Meghan McCoy: And sometimes the work being projectized, sometimes there's project related work, it's a bit larger, so that'll take a few sprints, but we're able to break it up into separate chunks, and so chunk the work. When the work comes in, we've got people who work specifically on our grants workflows. We have people who work specifically with our marketing cloud workflow, and we're able to assign the tickets to those specialized team members. General requests for uploads, et cetera, generally come to me, where I'm looking at things like de-duping, using demand tools as well as people import to make sure that we're matching the data to preexisting data or identifying data that's related, before we complete our upload to prevent duplication.
Gillian Bruce: So I'm hearing a lot of kind of data modeling, data management-
Meghan McCoy: Data governance, data quality.
Gillian Bruce: Yeah, very important.
Meghan McCoy: Exactly.
Gillian Bruce: Very important.
Meghan McCoy: Very important. The key.
Gillian Bruce: Right. So, one more thing that I would love to know. So you know, you mentioned you were working on Cisco systems kind of prior to this role. How did you find Salesforce? Because now you are in deep in Salesforce, you know Salesforce Admin, you have whole team. What, tell me a little bit about that first encounter you had with Salesforce and how that came into your life.
Meghan McCoy: So I was transitioning out of my career in Cisco. I really missed the opportunity in my career to really connect with other professionals. Being that I'm a woman, I'm also a woman of color. The environment that Cisco's ecosystem provided was really a lot of former IBMers, a bit good old boys. It was pretty vanilla, is the saying I think that's frequently used. And so, I wanted something a lot more diverse, a lot more inclusive in terms of a work professional network to participate in.
Meghan McCoy: So Salesforce got introduced to me by a mentor of mine, who kind of suggested I take a look at the platform. And when I went to my first nonprofit, I was the director of IT there and I thought, hey guys, we should definitely get a CRM in place because we were managing multiple spreadsheets and old databases. At the time though, they weren't quite ready as an organization. And as a result, I just continued my journey. I went to many of the world tours. I attended the NPSP day sprints where I was brought in by the likes of Judy Shalom and Mark Baizman and other fantastic participants like John Barsi, who's now in documentation at Salesforce. And they just said, you know you belong even though you might not yet know the platform, we know that because you keep showing up, we've got something you can contribute to.
Meghan McCoy: And they would position me for success in those environments where I was in say networking or contributing on documentation process for a new trail head or talking about addressing and the challenges there. So really, the community, my mentor is what kind of brought me into the Salesforce ecosystem.
Gillian Bruce: That's so cool. I love that that community was kind of your way in or exposure, forced exposure to Salesforce, because a lot of times people, you know, Oh hey, our organization bought Salesforce, congratulations, you get to implement it, or you get to be the admin and they're like, wait, I had never really heard of this before. So to get introduced via the community is actually a really special way to do that. And I think that's really awesome. And the people you mentioned are incredibly, incredibly great at that. In fact, Mark Baseman is now on our team as an admin evangelist.
Meghan McCoy: He's brilliant. One of my favorite Hi Mark.
Gillian Bruce: Me too. Hi Mark. So all right, so now you've got kind of into the community. You have got this really great role that you're working on a team and doing some really significant things. What are some things that you're building or working on that excite you?
Meghan McCoy: So right now we're ... I call our instance like a constituent management database because really we're managing the relationships either with donors or state and local governments. We're managing it with congressional members, we're managing our relationships with other constituents who may be donors or larger participants in the work that we do as an organization. And one of my favorite projects right now is this project where we are looking at how to connect activities to multiple objects within our instance. What we're kind of terming as interactions or activity links, how can we develop a tool within the platform, based off the standard functionality in support of the standard functionality of activities, whereby our users can link those singular activities to multiple objects, so that they have a better way of tracking the life cycle of an activity across the organization.
Meghan McCoy: It's fascinating. It's fun. It's challenging. We've met with our success reps at Salesforce who say, wow, okay this is a doozer we recommend you don't create a new object.
Gillian Bruce: Yeah.
Meghan McCoy: That was great to hear. And instead we are really thinking about some kind of unique identifier that we can use when an activity's created to keep the multiple records that are created linked together, using one unique string of numbers, for each activity instance, across all of those records. So kind of creating our own internal Salesforce record ID.
Gillian Bruce: That's fascinating, yeah because I mean it's not quite like a campaign. Yeah, it kind of is a new way to think about how to connect all those data points together.
Meghan McCoy: And we have many various project teams ongoing at our organization. We call them programs. And those programs often are interacting with the same group of constituents or related constituents and it's hard for those groups in their own workflows to understand who else is relating within the organization to their group of constituents. And it's really important that we are able to bubble that information up to them.
Meghan McCoy: We've had it before the case where a program user will go out and meet with say a congressional member and they'll see another person from our organization walking out the door, and they'll realize that somebody else from our org just had a conversation with that constituent. They don't know what that conversation was based on and the constituent's kind of saying, hey, how do you guys come from the same organization and don't realize you were both meeting with me today? Even if it's on different subjects because they're usually from different programmatic areas of our org. Having a way for users to proactively understand the relationships happening on behalf of the organization instantaneously within their Salesforce instance, will increase user adoption here at our organization and provide them a tool that helps them be prepared to build successful relationships out in the rest of the world with our constituency. With a greater awareness of kind of our engagement with that constituent at any given time.
Gillian Bruce: That is awesome. I mean, that's a fantastic use case, because yeah, you want to look like you know what's going on. It's very similar to this idea behind customer 360 that-
Meghan McCoy: Yes.
Gillian Bruce: Where it's kind of new at Salesforce, we've been talking about it.
Meghan McCoy: I can't wait for that.
Gillian Bruce: I bet. A lot of people can't. I also am quite excited to see how it's all going to work together, but yeah, it's a really cool, awesome use case. That's fantastic.
Gillian Bruce: Well, Megan, I want to thank you so much for taking the time to share with us today.
Meghan McCoy: You're welcome.
Gillian Bruce: But I'm not going to let you go without a little lightning round fun.
Meghan McCoy: Bring it on.
Gillian Bruce: I think that's the new, the new music for the intro to the lightning round. That was fantastic. All right, so three questions. First thing that come to mind. No right or wrong answer.
Meghan McCoy: Cool.
Gillian Bruce: First question is a this or that question, dine-in or delivery?
Meghan McCoy: Dine-in.
Gillian Bruce: Yeah.
Meghan McCoy: I like that experience.
Gillian Bruce: Yeah. I like it. I don't blame you. Go sit down, a nice relaxing kind of thing.
Meghan McCoy: Atmosphere, get you out of your zone.
Gillian Bruce: All right. Next question is would you rather. All right, would you rather take an exciting European sightseeing vacation or relaxing Caribbean vacation?
Meghan McCoy: Relaxing Caribbean every time. I love the ocean. I love the vibes and I favorite genre of music. I'm genre agnostic is reggae, so Caribbean-
Gillian Bruce: Love it.
Meghan McCoy: Definitely.
Gillian Bruce: I love it. I'm on the same page. I want to go relax with the cocktail on the beach in the water.
Meghan McCoy: Don't get me wrong. I've been in Dublin dancing the reggae before, but in the Caribbean they really know how to put it on.
Gillian Bruce: Totally agree. That's great. Okay. Your final question. What is the best present you've ever received?
Meghan McCoy: Really in a way my parenthood, it is a true gift, and I know it can sound a little cliche but it never stops giving. It's every day. And although it's the most expensive and burdensome gift at times, it is one that I will never ever want to transform or change from what it is.
Gillian Bruce: That's so beautiful.
Meghan McCoy: Yeah, parenthood, absolutely.
Gillian Bruce: Thank you for sharing that. That just gave me all the more fuzzies. So Megan, thank you so much for sharing with us today. I'm so ... I really appreciate your career journey and it was so fun to talk about kind of how anthropology set you up really well to be super successful in your role as a technologist and I really appreciate what you shared and hopefully it inspires a whole bunch of other admins.
Meghan McCoy: Thanks. I would just like to say one word to all these admins out here. You all just stay the course, make sure you build those relationships. We're here, I'm here in the community and you know, we just love engaging anyone who's interested, I can relate to when it begins. So begin your journey as you're ready and we are all here to welcome you to the community.
Gillian Bruce: On that note, thank you so much.
Meghan McCoy: Thank you.
Gillian Bruce: I had an absolutely delightful time getting to know Megan while I was in DC and getting to hear more about her story and really got her passion for what she does and how she does it.
Gillian Bruce: Some of the highlights from our conversation, I loved how she approached and talked about technology from the human side of things. You know, as someone who studied anthropology, bringing in that human facing side of why we use technology. It's really important to think about because all of us as admins, that's really what it's all about, right? We are all dealing with humans, who are trying to work and accomplish specific goals and how do we help them do that? Well, we implement technologies, specifically Salesforce to help them do that. So it was really great to talk to her more about that, kind of get more of that perspective. It was also really cool to hear how she uses Agile and scrum practices at her various roles to really kind of get things done.
Gillian Bruce: A lot of us maybe work on teams and are trying to kind of implement change and work across different teams on different projects. Agile is a great way to think about approaching that. We've heard from a couple of amazing admins on this podcast, who have raved about Agile and how it has helped them. So if you are kind of struggling or maybe figuring out better ways to work with your team, definitely check out some Agile methodologies.
Gillian Bruce: She's building some really cool things to help solve some complex problems. Specifically tracking relationships. I mean we do call Salesforce's CRM, a customer relationship database, but it's not just limited to your customers, right? So your customers can be constituents, which is the way that Megan talks about it. Tracking really all the interactions between all the relationships across various groups and projects. Really important because you want to have this unified front of, we know everything that's going on as an organization about how we're interacting with you, congressperson or donor or volunteer. It's very important to have that perspective. So it's very cool to hear that she's using Salesforce in that way. If your organization is facing some similar challenges, might want to reach out to Megan and see how she's solving this problem at her organization.
Gillian Bruce: I also thought it was really cool that she was introduced to Salesforce via the community. You know, before actually being a Salesforce admin, she was welcomed into the Salesforce space because she was seeking something a little bit more diverse, more inclusive, more of a community feel, instead of being isolated in this kind of Enterprise IT space. So she was welcomed into kind of the Salesforce nonprofit space, thanks to some amazing community members, started attending events. And then, next thing you know, here she is being a rock star in the Salesforce ecosystem. So you can come into Salesforce a variety of ways you never can predict. I bet if you ask someone else who's working with you on Salesforce about how they found Salesforce, you'll find a very interesting story as well.
Gillian Bruce: So huge thanks again for Megan for sharing with us and taking the time to sit down with me when I was in DC. If you want to learn a little bit more about some of the things we've talked about on the podcast, we've got some great content for you. We have trailhead content on both Agile and on nonprofits, so make sure you check out the links in the show notes. Trailhead is a great way, not only to learn more about these specific topics, but also to prepare you for your certification exam. So I hope that if you have no certifications or 20 certifications, you have getting another Salesforce cert on your list to complete this year. It's so important. It's a great way to prove to potential employers or current employers your skills and really kind of amp up your career opportunities. So make sure you put getting a certification on your list of things to accomplish this year.
Gillian Bruce: You can also find more about being an awesome admin admin.salesforce.com, where you can find blogs, webinars, events, and even more podcasts like this, to help you in your journey to truly become an awesome admin. Also, please make sure you subscribe to the podcast to make sure you get it directly delivered to your platform or device of choice the moment of its release. And share it with your buddies, share it with your friends. Maybe people who are thinking about a career change. This is a great podcast to expose them to this amazing world of Salesforce.
Gillian Bruce: You can find us on Twitter @SalesforceAdmns, no "I." And our guest today, Megan McCoy is all over the Trailblazer community where you can find her and you can find her on LinkedIn as well. You can find myself on Twitter @GillianKBruce. Thank you so much for listening to this episode and we'll catch you next time in the cloud.