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On this episode, we are pleased to welcome Jessica Murphy to the show. We talk about Jessica’s journey into discovering development with Salesforce and the influence others have had on those experiences, as well as sharing those experiences with Salesforce Saturdays. She is a co-conspirator of Salesforce Saturdays in Phoenix since 2015 with two other women with the goal of helping other developers find success.

Salesforce Saturdays occur around the country in various coffee shops and sometimes office locations, as a casual environment to educate and empower people. Their success stories are amazing, as some people have attended Salesforce Saturdays and then gone on to accomplish their goals. They also encourage people to give back. For example, they had an attendee come back to hire others at a Salesforce Saturday when he was looking for employees. There are always new people who want to learn Salesforce, so it is an exciting environment, and all are welcome. Just come – you don’t need any special qualifications! The door is open for you to join a Salesforce Saturday near you.

Show highlights

  • Jessica’s journey to becoming a woman in technology
  • The profound influence education has had on her life and the confidence it has given her
  • Introduction to Trailhead and how it ties into your commitment to making yourself better
  • The opportunities presented through Salesforce that have had an amazing impact on Jessica
  • People learn things different ways, so there are various hurdles to learning Salesforce
  • The evolution, impact and growth of Trailhead and all the options available that it is supporting
  • Ways you can participate in Salesforce Saturday. Your help is valuable! Everyone is a leader in this group setting and we support each other

Resources

The many shout outs for this episode

Episode Transcript

Jessica Murphy:
I am the co-leader of women and tech developers, co-founder of Phoenix Salesforce Saturday and SaaSie Tech Socials. And I like to call myself a co-conspirator of a 100 Days of Trailhead.

Josh Birk:
That is the return of Jessica Murphy. I’m Josh Birk, your host for the Salesforce Developer Podcast. And here on the podcast you’ll hear stories and insights from developers, for developers.
Today, I thought we’d do something a little bit different. Last week, we heard from Dominique over from the Admins Podcast for the holidays. We’re still kind of changing things up a little bit. And I thought it’d be great to go back and replay one of my favorite classic episodes, my conversation with Jessica.
Also, this is a way for me to give a great and proud shout out to Jessica and her soon-to-be bride, Rachel Watson. Hope you two have a really wonderful wedding, and best wishes for your future. But now we’re going to continue on with that interview, and kick things off as we often do, with her early years.

Jessica Murphy:
So I did get my Master’s in education after getting a Bachelor’s degree in liberal arts. And I thought that I would end up working in an office of disability services, because I’d worked with deaf people. And I have several family members, including my mom who’s blind, and other people in my family who are disabled. And I thought, “Okay, I’ll be doing this for the rest of my life.” And that’s not what happened.

Josh Birk:
Like so many things after higher education, expectations don’t always get in that. So how did you go from trying to land a job with disability learning into coding itself?

Jessica Murphy:
So I graduated with my Master’s in 2014. Couldn’t find a job. And so I was at a workshop, and it was that time in the workshop where we’re supposed to go around and introduce ourselves. And so I’m introducing myself, but I’m kind of shy. I’m kind of keeping to myself. But I hear, in earshot, this woman say to another woman, “Hi, my name is Sheena. And I’m with Women Who Code. And I love teaching women to code.” And I went, “Wait, what?”
So, because I’m kind of shy, I sent Rachel… My co-conspirator with me, I sent her over there to meet Sheena. And so we met Sheena. And Sheena was so nice. I thought, “Oh, wow, this is actually something that I could do. This is a potential career for me.” So I met Sheena, went home, immediately started Googling all the things. Googled and found out about Girl Develop it, found out about Women Who Code. I started teaching myself HTML and CSS.
And pretty soon after that, Sheena was like, “Hey, come to this Ruby on Rails workshop.” And I went, “Okay, I’ll do it.” I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m about to go to this Ruby on Rails workshop.

Josh Birk:
So you had no previous… Coding wasn’t a thing in college. Obviously, you went Master’s in education. This was really just a tipping point for you?

Jessica Murphy:
Right. The closest thing I had to this was a logic class during my undergraduate degree, which is a combination of logic and English, where you step things through and come up with a conclusion. But that’s it. That’s the closest thing I had to go-

Josh Birk:
And fair confession on my own side, my earliest days of programming actually in college was using… I think it was almost a similar thing. It was a logic class that used Turtle graphics, and I nearly failed that class. So moving on.

Jessica Murphy:
I loved my logic class.

Josh Birk:
So I’m actually going to jump to a point here, because it sounds like there have been a lot of women in your life that have either helped you, or at least joined with you on this path from learning to code, to coding, to the Salesforce platform, to teaching others to code.
Talk to me about the importance of having women, and having a space and a community to interact with women or just even diversity groups in general.

Jessica Murphy:
Okay. So I will tell you this, I am from a small town in northwest Georgia. And, as a woman, the people who were successful, who were both women and African American, were usually teachers. So the only example I saw of any type of success were teachers, which is fantastic. But also teaching is not a profession where you make a lot of money really.
And so when Sheena came out and said, “Here I am, a woman from Women Who Code,” I thought this is something that is a possibility. Equally, I think about my uncle, and my uncle was an engineer. And he was my first example of an African American who did something beyond teaching. So those were two amazing examples of something other than this one career path that most people followed in my small town.
So when I had these examples in my life, I incorporated them into myself, and I thought, “This is an opportunity, especially since I’m going to do something more technical, something more STEM related, to be an example for other girls and other women.” And stand up and say, “Listen, a developer…” It’s amazing that we have this idea of what a developer is, which is mostly marketing, okay? We had this idea of what developers are. But, in reality, developers are very, very diverse.
And so it was important to me to say, “Hey, I am a developer. I never thought I’d be here, but here I am nonetheless.” And so that’s the cool thing about the Salesforce ecosystem. We have women in tech. And we have all of these women, all of these diverse, amazing women with these amazing different ideas, who are saying, “I’m a woman in tech.”
But one of my goals though was to bring these women forth and say, “Okay, so I’m saying I’m a woman in tech. But don’t just look at me. Look at Bonnie Hanners because she is amazing. And look at Stephanie Herrera because she’s amazing. Look at Shauna Hughes. She is amazing. I mean, look at Nadina Lisbon. She’s amazing. And look at Tammy Lao. She’s amazing.” That, to me, was important to bring these women to the forefront.

Josh Birk:
I think it’s interesting how you picked up on… There’s this angle of marketing and image-based advertising and our expectations. And even I will admit, I come from a certain generation. I think you share a lot of these experiences, that we have this image of an engineer. And when somebody says engineer to me, it’s that guy. He’s in a dark room with glasses. He’s got a buzz cut. It’s an ironed down shirt. It’s buttoned up the way. He’s got a dark belt. I can picture him clearly.
And I’ve worked in tech for a couple of decades now, and I’ve met a wide, diverse cast of engineers and programmers and QA analysts and things like that. And I still have that as like… It’s like the Kool-Aid man to me. The moment you say engineer, boom, it’s Michael Douglas with a buzz cut. How do you think growing up with that image affected some of your early decisions about going into programming?

Jessica Murphy:
It made me think that I’m not that, right? So I was told, “Oh, you’re good at music. You’re good at language. Do that.” And so I did. That’s what I went for. And actually I don’t regret it, not one little bit, because it made me who I am. Right? So I love that I was that.
But it did affect my decision in terms of a career. I could have led a very different path, had I even thought that this was an option. But the truth of the matter is that this is actually good marketing. We could go down to history, but more specifically, in the eighties, that’s when a lot of video games came out. And these video games were advertised towards boys. And so basically that gave us this perception. And then also there was the movie, I believe it was called Revenge of the Nerds, right?

Josh Birk:
Yeah.

Jessica Murphy:
And that was the thing that gave us all this idea that this particular human being is the engineer, or the developer, or the person who does this. And it’s simply not the truth. But the thing I love about hidden figures is, if it didn’t show us anything else, it showed us that there were rooms full of women who were human computers.

Josh Birk:
Right. Right, exactly. It’s not just that this image is not true now. It’s never been true. And it’s just that it’s been drilled into our brains. And I also like what you said about music, because one of the reasons I like to talk about people’s backgrounds, when it comes to engineering or programming… I myself, I come from an English psychology degree. I was either going to go write the great American novel, or go to some city and become a therapist.
And then the internet happened, and that turned out to be a much more interesting route. And so I think it’s also people assume programming is this hard skill. It’s like rocket science. But there are a lot of people who have been successful with a music background, with “softer skills,” partially because programming is so much about communication, both to machines and to people. Do you think that that background in music and some of the liberal arts, do you think it’s helped actually go into what some people would call more of a hard skill?

Jessica Murphy:
Absolutely. Well, first of all, as an educator, I think about the theories of learning. So there are different ways that people learn, kinesthetically, visually, auditorially. So that plays into the way that we learn things in general.
But then when you’re talking about music more specifically, music is rhythmic. And what is rhythm? Rhythm is math, right? So they teach you what a whole note is, and what a half note is, and what a quarter note is, very young. And then you get into syncopation and all these types of things. All of that’s math, right? And so it puts math in your mind.
In fact, if I’m not mistaken, I just read this article that John Coletrane put together about the mathematics of rhythm. And it was mind blowing, right? It was just amazing. So, yes, these things play into each other. So it absolutely has something to do with my ability to understand logic.

Josh Birk:
Now, I’m trying to think of how to rephrase this, because I think the way I originally had pictured the question had a softer scope to it. Because it feels like educators have had a profound impact on your life, I mean, all from your early days, to now your co-conspirators in doing things like Salesforce Saturdays and 100 Days of Salesforce.
How do you think that that’s worked? And it feels like it’s very, I want to say, progressive. What do you think is the positive net value of educators educating educators, educating other people, if that makes sense?

Jessica Murphy:
Okay. So, for me, the power of education is what really changed my life. If education didn’t do anything for me, it absolutely gave me confidence. And I say that more specifically about my Master’s degree. But I’m going to be very honest and candid. The first day of my Master’s degree, I thought, “Oh my God, what have I got myself into? Can I do this?” Right? And I did. I made it. I made it with a 4.0, which is like, “Wow.” Right?
So education is very important for giving both information and giving confidence. And I think that, realizing that about myself, I wanted other people to feel empowered through education. And education is not just going to a university, although that’s beautiful. Even in school, they were teaching us about MOOCs, which is basically online learning, which that’s what Trailhead is, right?
All right. It started off with me just being in a Salesforce Saturday, or starting Salesforce Saturday in 2015 with my other two co-founders. That darn woman also knows Paula Nelson and Rachel Watson. And it started with people absolutely going, “I don’t know what I’m doing. I have no idea where to start.” And back when we started with Trailhead, there wasn’t these very, very beginner trails. It was absolutely just start admin, and boom, there you are. So we had to give people an introduction.
And me being someone who had just come out of grad school and doing curriculums for people, thought, “Let me create something to make it easier for them to learn.” And that’s what happened with Phoenix Salesforce Saturday. And we’ve continued in that path. When it comes more specifically to WIT Devs, it was a fever dream. It was a fever dream that made them go, “We’re going to do 100 days of code.” It’s really the truth.
But it was also this idea that if people really, really want to commit to making themselves better. When I think about Christmas, or the holiday season, I think about you have a month and a half where you’re doing everything for everyone else. But then starting January 1st, it’s all about you. So why don’t we focus on something that’ll make your career better? That was 100 days of code back then, which became 100 days of trouble.

Josh Birk:
Gotcha.

Jessica Murphy:
And so we have this learning path. And now we have an app building path. And the cool thing is we’re adding something in 2020. Thank you Brian Quang. Thank you Jen W. Lee. We’re adding something really cool in 2020, and I’m really excited about it.

Josh Birk:
I have a feeling the related list for this episode is going to include a lot of Twitter handles.

Jessica Murphy:
Yes, absolutely.

Josh Birk:
Okay. So, Sheena, you got involved in Women in Tech, you started learning some of the core of web development, HTML, JavaScript, Ruby. How did you get involved in the Salesforce platform?

Jessica Murphy:
So I went to two bootcamps back to back, the commitment to learning thing. And so I went to one bootcamp for Ruby on Rails, which was fantastic and I absolutely loved it. And then I went to JavaScript, and JavaScript was hard. But in the middle of JavaScript, I learned about Salesforce. I ended up at a Salesforce event. That darn woman, also known as Paula Nelson, she invited me to come and learn about Salesforce.
And so I was actually unsure. Rachel was the one who wanted to go. Rachel Watson was the one who wanted to go. And I said, “Okay, maybe.” So I went. And I was doing JavaScript homework. And Chris Duarte was the one teaching the class. And she kept on talking and I kept on thinking, “I’m going to become a developer.” And she kept on talking. And then I closed my laptop and listened to what she was saying. And next thing I knew, I was like, “I’m doing Salesforce when I grow up.” So there you are.

Josh Birk:
Nice. Nice. Okay. So then let’s talk a little bit about the origin of Salesforce Saturdays itself. When you got into it, it was already a concept, but you helped bring it to Phoenix, correct?

Jessica Murphy:
Yes. Okay. So Salesforce Saturday was started by Stephanie Herrera in Austin. Her idea was that she was going to go to a coffee house every Saturday and work on her Salesforce skills. And if people wanted to join her, great. So, a few months later, in Phoenix, we had David… You know that workshop that I jumped first into to learn Apex, not knowing what I was doing, that one?
So David Lou had a workshop. And we put in hashtag Salesforce and Saturday. So basically that darn woman, Paula and Stephanie got together, and said, “Oh, this is cool.” And Paula said, “Let’s do one in Phoenix.” And Rachel and I said yes. And we didn’t know what we were doing, but we said yes. And we started Phoenix Salesforce Saturday in late 2015.

Josh Birk:
All right. So is it still in a coffee shop?

Jessica Murphy:
Yes, we have actually tried several versions of this. We’ve tried an office building and this place and that place. Ultimately, the coffee shop is the best place because people can come and go when they want. There’s not keys involved, all these other things. But we’re going to add this cool thing about once a month. We are going to have a Salesforce Saturday in an office space. So we’re pretty excited about that.

Josh Birk:
And how long does a typical Salesforce Saturday run?

Jessica Murphy:
I think that they vary around the world, but hours is about two to three hours. We always say it’s from 9:00 to 11:00, but then at 11 o’clock we’re still talking usually. So it’s 12:00 or later.

Josh Birk:
And it seems very organic. It’s people just come, they have questions, you try to help each other out. Is there a lot of structure to it? Or is it just really kind of casual?

Jessica Murphy:
It is very casual. We want it to be a space where people can ask their questions, or work on their own projects. Or if they’re just grinding on something in Trailhead, or at work, we might not know the answer, but we can find out. We can look it up, or we can phone a friend. That’s the nature of Salesforce Saturday.

Josh Birk:
Nice. So let’s talk about some of the success stories you’ve had coming out of Salesforce Saturdays.

Jessica Murphy:
So we have had one person who moved to San Francisco and got a job in tech…

Josh Birk:
Nice.

Jessica Murphy:
… after being at our Salesforce Saturday. We have another individual who… He had a little bit of difficulty finding a job due to ageism. He did keep on looking. He kept on coming to Salesforce Saturday and getting more certifications. And now he’s running an entire implementation for an organization.

Josh Birk:
Oh, wow.

Jessica Murphy:
And he’s actually hired people, which is fantastic. Yes. We have another person that started with our Salesforce Saturday. And he went to an organization in Denver and is now working for Salesforce, the organization itself.

Josh Birk:
Nice.

Jessica Murphy:
So we’ve had several people that have just come and really accomplished their goals, learned stuff, and have ended up in fantastic positions.

Josh Birk:
And so that goes back to the person who’s facing ageism, but now he’s in a role where he’s gone through that experience, but then he can help other people get hired. So it seems like it’s a solution that has long-term gains.

Jessica Murphy:
Yes, exactly. So it’s not just a matter of us… Yes, it is a matter of us training the person who comes, right? But also idea of instilling in everyone, we give back, we reach back. And when he was looking to hire someone, guess where he came? He came to our Salesforce Saturday. And he starts basically talking to people on the spot, because he knew he was looking for people.
So it’s this idea of not just come and get what you came to get, which is fantastic. We love it when people come and accomplish their goals. But we also encourage people to give back, because that’s important as well.

Josh Birk:
Right. So looking just at yourself personally, at the journey that you’ve been on, how would you describe the impact of learning Salesforce to you?

Jessica Murphy:
Wow. I think I’m almost at a loss about that one, because it has changed the entire way that my life is. You see, when I graduated in 2014 and couldn’t find a job by 2015, there was a lot of fear there about money, about how to pay the bills, about how to move forward.
Because of learning Salesforce, because of stepping into all of these things that I’ve been able to do, money isn’t an issue anymore. The idea of buying a house is actually something that will happen. It’s going to happen. There’s no ifs about it. It’s something that’s going to happen.
And not just that though. The money is the most immediate thing that most people think of, but it’s the other opportunities that I’ve had, opportunities to speak, opportunities to give back, opportunities to make friendships from other people in the community. It’s more than just one simple part of my life that’s been affected by learning Salesforce. It’s all aspects of my life.
This has been an amazing journey. It has. It’s been an amazing journey. And I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many cool people like you. And I’m not just saying this, but it’s really the truth. So many cool people like you, and other members who work for Salesforce, it’s more than I could describe. It’s a blessing, absolutely a blessing.

Josh Birk:
And where do you go from here?

Jessica Murphy:
Take over the world though.

Josh Birk:
A thousand days of code.

Jessica Murphy:
You know what? I think that would be a bit much. And I might lose some people along the way. So I probably won’t do a thousand days of code. But I think, from here, what I really want to do is… Personally, I want a few more certifications soon. And, personally, I want to go up the architect path. That’s one of my personal goals.
And, in terms of my groups, is to continue onward and upward, and to continue to give back, and continue to learn. Because the interesting thing about Salesforce Saturdays specifically is we always get new people who are looking to learn Salesforce. And so we have a starting point. We’re always growing, expanding, and getting smaller. And in the expansion times, we want to be there for the people who want to learn Salesforce.

Josh Birk:
Talk about some of the hurdles when people are first… And maybe some of the hurdles that you yourself have run into, learning the platform. What are some of the key things that maybe frustrate people or they find difficult about learning Salesforce?

Jessica Murphy:
Okay. So I’m going to come from the standpoint again of an educator. Again, people learn things different ways, right? So I think, for me, one of my frustrations initially was that I was on the admin trails, and I’m learning one piece at a time, but that’s not quite how my brain works. I’m one of those types of people that I want to see the big picture first. I want to know what are all the things that’s going to be involved in this, or a larger amount of things that’s going to be involved in this.
So one of the people in Salesforce Saturday said, “Why don’t you take this class called Intro to Point and Click App Development by Udacity?” So this is going to say when I started. But, anyway, I took this class, and it was so much fun. It was fun because it was a big picture of all the things I need. I was building an app. And I thought I was so cool because I was building an app. So I took this class online through Udacity. And the wonderful thing is that it gave me this huge overview of many of the aspects I needed to build an app in Salesforce, which was fun.
Okay. So then I turned around, and then I got back on the trails, and suddenly everything made more sense. So this was something that was amazing for me. This was like, “Wow, this is a cool way to do this.” So, shortly after that, Trailmixes came out. And so I was like, “Well, let me see if I can replicate this idea in a Trailmix.” So I started the admin Trailmix with the Battle Station app for the very same reason. Because the Battle Station app gives you all the things at the same time, and then you can attach them to individual ideas of how to specifically do things, and why you’re doing what you’re doing. So yeah.

Josh Birk:
Which kind of rounds to another point, because your timeline of getting into coding, learning the Salesforce platform, teaching others on it, really does mirror… You’ve gone from the very early days of Trailhead to its current iteration. How have you seen that evolution and the impact of the growth of Trailhead, when it comes to being an educator and trying to help people learn these skills?

Jessica Murphy:
Okay. Well, first of all, I’m going to tell the truth. I’m biased. I love Trailhead. I love it. Okay. So, first of all, Trailhead, they listen to us, right? Okay. So it was first the admin and the developers, and then they went and said, “Okay, let’s start with how to actually just be in Trailhead, and how to create a developer org or now a playground.” So that is amazing. So expanded the learning that way.
But then, on this other side, they’ve expanded all of these other things that you can learn on Trailhead, including how to be in business, and diversity, equality, I mean, so many amazing things. I love what the Trailhead team is doing, because it’s just growing in so many cool directions. Whereas it in the past felt like, “Well, we’re either an admin or a developer.” Now, it just feels like there’s so many options. And Trailhead’s supporting that. That’s so cool.

Josh Birk:
And I got to just note, I mean, when you have Chris Duarte herself being one of the people who inspired you to learn the Salesforce platform, I don’t think you can get more of a direct impact from Trailhead than that.

Jessica Murphy:
I agree with that 100%.

Josh Birk:
All right. Two final questions on Salesforce Saturday itself, because I really want to make sure we frame a shout out. So how important would it be to you if somebody in the Phoenix area heard this episode and decided to come out, help with Salesforce Saturdays, participate in any way?

Jessica Murphy:
I would absolutely love that. In my time on the Salesforce platform, I’ve become an MVP? And, for me, that means a little bit more travel, more things I have to do. And also working has something to do with it too. I should mention that I do work. So that has something to do with it.
I think that it would be amazing if people would come and help, because Rachel and I are not always able to be there. And it’s really great to have someone there to greet newbies. But then there’s something more too. Whether we’re there or not, we always remind everyone, Salesforce Saturday is like a democracy. We absolutely don’t have leaders. We are all leaders.
And I love what Stephanie Herrera says about this. She says, “If you’ve come to Salesforce Saturday one time, at least you know how to get into Trailhead, or you know how to create a developer org. So you can help someone, even if you have only been once.” So the idea of helping us, it’s just amazing. And we need the help. We need the help because newbies are coming all the time. And we want everyone to feel comfortable and be helped on their Salesforce journey.

Josh Birk:
And so it’s very much a more the merrier type situation, it sounds like. We keep seeing, “Help. Come in and participate.” What qualifications would you be looking for?

Jessica Murphy:
Come. No, really. Okay, I will remind you, when we started Salesforce Saturday in Phoenix, we knew very little ourselves. We were new. So we are saying, “Just come. Just come. And you don’t have to have any special qualifications.” Just like the qualifications that you need to start Trailhead, start. [inaudible 00:28:08]. Start, that’s the qualification, just that simple.

Josh Birk:
To be present is to participate, and to participate as to help. And that’s our show. Now, back in the early days of the show, we didn’t always ask people what their favorite untouchable hobby was. We changed things up a little bit. And so this time around, I was actually asking Jessica, what is her favorite place that she’s ever visited?

Jessica Murphy:
I would have to say Chicago.

Josh Birk:
No way. Really?

Jessica Murphy:
I love Chicago. It’s amazing to me. It’s beautiful. It has all of these big buildings. And I was just at Midwest Dreaming. And this is really funny. I was staying at the Aloft. And right outside of my hotel room, guess what I could see? Salesforce.
But, no, really, I love Chicago. I really think that it’s amazing. It’s a big city. All of these different things and places and fun things to do. Lincoln Park. Oh, wow, I love it. Yeah. I had a fantastic time during Midwest Dreaming. And it’s one of my favorite places the most.

Josh Birk:
I once again want to thank Jessica for the great conversation and information. And, as always, I want to thank you for listening. Now, if you want to learn more about the show, head on over to developer.salesforce.com/podcast, where you can hear old episodes, see the show notes, and have links to your favorite podcast service. Thanks again everybody, and I’ll talk to you next week.

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