By Nikke DeYear
Recently, a team of John Hancock volunteers completed a Salesforce implementation project with the Urban Farming Institute (UFI), a social innovation organization that supports the development of urban farming and promotes healthier, locally based food systems. Since its founding in 2012, UFI has trained individuals to practice urban farming, increased the opportunity to farm by acquiring and leasing urban plots of land for farming activities, and developed awareness of the benefits of urban farming through public education and advocacy. As the organization grew, UFI leadership recognized that a more efficient and effective database would help them continue to scale their program and they ultimately selected a nonprofit-focused Salesforce system.
John Hancock Senior Salesforce and Operations Analyst Amy Ly joined her company’s volunteer team, which worked with UFI to document and translate their business needs, make customizations to Salesforce, and migrate data from the organization’s multiple sources. The impact of the project for UFI was immense and resulted in increased staff efficiency, streamlined operations, and deeper engagement with stakeholders.
While already experienced in Salesforce, Amy had the opportunity to tackle completely new tasks, apply her knowledge in different ways, and diversify her overall Salesforce skill set. In her current role at John Hancock, Amy supports user adoption of Salesforce for Distribution Operations & Business Intelligence, assisting with enhancements, training needs, and field changes. She was able to utilize and improve her business translation skills during the course of the project as the team worked to understand the nonprofit’s organizational needs and challenges, document the optimal Salesforce structure, and execute the customizations. As a result, Amy now has an even deeper understanding of Salesforce infrastructure and the customization process, which enables her to be more effective in her day-to-day role.
We recently caught up with Amy to learn more about her experience on the project and how it provided a valuable professional development platform.
Amy’s Background at John Hancock
Amy was introduced to John Hancock through Northeastern University where she participated in a co-op internship that translated into a part-time role while she was finishing school and a full-time opportunity when she graduated. She has been with John Hancock for seven years and currently works in the Business Intelligence group supporting the investment sales team. About three years ago, Amy learned John Hancock would be implementing Salesforce. Her manager asked if she wanted to be part of the implementation process and she soon made the jump into Salesforce.
Leveraging Existing Business Skills to Build New Ones
Translating business needs and functions into technical needs is a key component of Amy’s work. She enjoyed the volunteer opportunity with UFI because she sat on the business side of the process and had the chance to dig into the technical aspects of a Salesforce implementation with a smaller and less complex organization than John Hancock.
Amy utilized her business process translation skill set to convert UFI’s stated needs into a Salesforce customization that would work for them. Since Salesforce was completely new to UFI and they didn’t already have data in the platform, Amy was able to gain skills in the technical build out of a Salesforce implementation in a low-risk setting. She also had a great opportunity to see UFI use Salesforce in ways completely different from how John Hancock does.
Skills-Based Volunteering for Talent Development
Originally, Amy’s role on the team was a business analyst. As the project progressed, another team member with Salesforce expertise helped them get started in the right direction. Gradually, Amy worked with the lead at UFI to understand their needs and work on the actual customization of the Salesforce database. In part because of this experience, Amy recently took the intensive Salesforce Certification test and passed. She believes having this certification will open up leadership opportunities and provide a pathway into other sectors of Salesforce work beyond business translation. Through the Common Impact project with UFI, Amy was also able to connect with people outside her network who worked on the technical side of Salesforce implementation.
Lasting Project Impact
Amy’s favorite experience during the project was the day the team did a working session at UFI’s site and visited their farm. It was amazing for the team to see it in person, further understand UFI’s mission, and see first-hand how it impacts the community.
“This was a completely different organization and business process than I typically use the Salesforce system for. I had to learn new ways to use and apply my Salesforce knowledge. This project really allowed me to diversify my Salesforce skill set.”