Story Time: How the Org Database Became My Career

A personal reflection on how taking on my org’s database – as a side project – turned into a full-blown career.

Gang! If you’ve been following me for a while, then you know a bit about my story. Like that before becoming a data princess (real nickname), I was an external-facing relationship manager. 

But I wanted to share more about my journey, because I know many of us are reflecting on our careers during the pandemic. Myself included.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the work I do. I find it interesting, I feel capable, and I am constantly learning how to get better at it.

But nothing is ever completely perfect. More on that a little later.

My fuel as I get this story going.

#1: How I got out of database work

First, the short version of my beginnings. I started my nonprofit career as a fundraising operations coordinator for a national organization.

At the time, this was perfect. I’m a huge introvert with an analytical bent. So settling into the operations side of fundraising felt like a nice fit.

But I never want to shy away from an opportunity just because it’s outside my comfort zone. After a few years of watching my fundraiser colleagues work, I began to wonder if I might be happier as an outward-facing professional.

So when it came time to leave, I landed a role as an account manager in my current organization. That feels like forever ago now. 

#2: How I got back into database work

I guess you could say this is one of those multiple-hat situations.

1 year into my role, our org decided to revamp our withered Salesforce instance. As the account manager, I was one of the first people to weigh in on what we needed to track.

Fortunately, I already had Salesforce experience from my last job. And thanks to what I learned there, I’d been logging all my account activities in our current system anyway!

As the project got underway, I found myself spending even more time in Salesforce. I made adjustments, relayed needs from our team to our consultants, and slowly became the point person for the implementation.

We didn’t have a data admin on staff, nor were there plans to hire one at the time. So I should’ve seen this next part coming.

I became the accidental admin for my org, balancing Salesforce administration with my day job. And I kinda liked it.

#3: How the database took over my job

This was all a few years ago. As I write this now, I’m the Systems Manager for my org – an actual department! None of this was part of the plan.

But the past year and a half, a few things happened. Some of it luck, some of it intentional.

First, our CRM needs skyrocketed. We were ramping up email communications, implementing a customer service platform, and launching new programs. We needed someone who could stay on top of all the tech and automation required.

Second, my org supported my decision to get my Salesforce Admin certification. It made good business sense to have someone knowledgeable on staff, who could easily address the issues that were holding up our projects.

Third (perhaps as a result of the second) is that my org began to recognize the knowledge I had on our different systems.  I could answer tough questions and fill data requests. I’d become an unofficial technical resource.

At the same time, I was finding less time for my Account Manager job.

# 4: How I Made the Database My Career

The data work became too much. After a conversation with my leaders, the opportunity presented itself. I could make a shift and take on this data/systems role full-time.

Which I happily accepted.

Obviously, this outcome wouldn’t have happened if the needs weren’t there. But it also wasn’t a total accident!

Some of my decisions along the way – even though I didn’t realize it at the time – helped make this path possible. Here’s what worked.

First, I honed in on the work I enjoyed. I tried to balance my duties, but inevitably put more care and enthusiasm behind my technical role. It started to show, and motivated me to keep going.

Next, I spent time skilling up. Getting my certification put things into perspective: this wasn’t a project anymore. It was becoming a career, and I was becoming a lady in tech. So I started to take that – and myself – more seriously.

I built relationships across my org and contributed where I could. I genuinely wanted to make people’s lives easier. So I spent time learning about different teams’ needs, and kept them in mind anytime I caught wind of a feature or event that could help.

Finally, I started to look beyond my org. I stayed on top of new features and learned from other admins about how they organized their CRM. I continued to focus on small details, but started spending time on the big picture too. I began to see our system both for what it currently was and what it could eventually become.

BTW, same with my role, I recognized this work could follow me in my career, if/when I leave my org. So I started to think about what that might look like. Hence this blog.

So what’s next?

I love this work. I wouldn’t spend 8+ hours a day on it for my day job, and then even more hours at night blogging about it (!!) if that weren’t true.

But it’s a funny time with the pandemic. First, I never thought I’d be working from home 5 days a week. But here we are, and I don’t hate it! So I’m trying to figure out what that means when we one day return to normal.

The social justice issues of today + the election + personal things have my mind all over the place. Some days, I’m torn about the fact that I’m not spending more time focused on these areas of my world.

And of course, I’m thinking about this blog, my job, and how it all ties together. You might say I’m in a real “figuring it out” phase.

But I’m a little deeper in the Salesforce ecosystem now, thanks to my recent certification. My work world is also expanding, and I’m starting to see more paths than I did even one year ago.

I’ve just got to figure out which one is the right way to go.

Anyone else in a similar boat? Let me know in the comments – would love to hear your advice or lessons learned.

2 thoughts on “Story Time: How the Org Database Became My Career”

  1. Ha! I love that your mom has given you that title. (To my mom, take notes! 😂)

    Speaking as a fan of ‘The Data Are Alright’, really appreciate your comment and offer. Thanks a lot!

  2. My mom calls me her “Personal Data Queen” – Data Princess is a good one too! She called me with an urgent question recently about moving photos from her external harddrive to the Cloud. Love your writing!! Keep it up… and if you ever want to talk career stuff with another human, add me to your list!

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