We have a pretty amazing team here at Spark.Orange, so it’s only natural to want to highlight our people! And, what better way is there for you to learn more about who we are and what we do? For this installment in our #SparkSquad series, I sat down with Nikki Ferritto, the Solutions Architect that heads up our Cleveland location.
Let’s start with your background – where did you go to school, how did you end up working with Salesforce, and how did you land at Spark.Orange?
I went to college at Miami University. I always have to mention that it’s located in Southern Ohio since most people automatically picture the University of Miami in Florida! I graduated with a degree in Management Information Systems and then entered into a two-year development program at GE, specifically in GE Lighting. It was called the Information Technology Leadership Program, and it consisted of four, six-month rotations that were designed to give you an idea of different areas of IT within the business as well as the business as a whole. One of the rotations involved Salesforce, and I loved it, so I knew when I finished the program that was what I wanted to do.
When the rotations ended, I was offered a Project Leader role on the IT side of GE, and Salesforce was a large part of the job. That’s how I really got into the tool and learned a lot about it. I spent four years at GE before starting a new job at KeyBank–again with Salesforce– but this time with a focus on user experience. I looked at how to increase Salesforce user adoption at KeyBank and I led enhancement projects to make it more user-friendly. I was there for a year and a half and saw a totally different side of Salesforce. Working on the business side was very different from the behind-the-scenes role I had at GE.
Toward the end of my time at KeyBank, I was at a wedding with a few colleagues from the GE leadership program. One of them was working at Spark.Orange, and when she told me about the culture, I thought it sounded awesome. I had to check it out for myself! I ended up getting in touch with one of the co-founders, Derek Vargas, and talking to him really confirmed for me that it was a place I wanted to be. He offered me a job and I accepted in late 2017. I love that I’m still working with Salesforce, but now have the additional challenge of growing our presence in the Midwest!
Speaking of our growth, what professional advice would you offer to someone hoping to work at Spark.Orange?
Do your research! You should understand what our company and culture are about. It’s important to enjoy the type of work you’re doing but, but you also have to love the environment you’re doing it in! We have a distinct culture, mindset, and way that we approach our work. Salesforce is huge, you can find work everywhere in this field, but the environment has to motivate you. Do some self-discovery to see if you would be a fit!
How would you explain your job to a child?
The simplest thing to say would be: we work on computers. I tell my goddaughter that I work on apps similar to what she sees on her iPhone, but for businesses, since she knows what they are and it’s easier to explain to her than getting into the details of Salesforce-specific applications. But if someone understands what an application is and is looking for more detail, then I will go into explaining CRM and why you need consulting services for CRM.
Since we’re new to Cleveland and you’ve spent a lot of your life there, can tell us a few of your favorite things about it?
Cleveland has really turned around its downtown scene and it’s been very cool to watch! I was brought up in Cleveland and moved back after college, and I always felt like it was so divided. It was broken up into separate suburban areas and there was no overall culture. Now, people are taking advantage of lake life and all that has to offer, and so many more people are moving into downtown. The city is starting to light up as a whole and there’s a lot of Cleveland pride! It really shows with our sports teams, too. We may not be the best, but we have the best, most devoted fans. People have so much love for this city, I really think it’s underrated to outsiders. You discover so much from living here.
When we came to scope out office space I could feel the resurgence energy. I also felt like Cleveland was full of hidden gems and fun places! What are a few of your favorite things to do in Cleveland?
Cleveland is a secret foodies town if you ask me! Barrio Tacos and Townhall are both great! We have more Lakefront restaurants popping up and they’re really cool, especially in the summer. The water, in general, has a lot going on now, there are kayak rentals and boats and ways to get out and enjoy the lake. Our Indians (baseball) games also have a lot of fun specials and events, like fireworks on the weekend, dollar hot dogs, and a bar in the stadium.
Now into the fun, more personal questions:
I know you enjoy being active – can you tell us a little bit about the kinds of fitness you’re into?
When it comes to fitness, yoga is the one thing that I always find myself going back to. It’s a physical challenge but also a mental one. I find that at night, it’s a great way to unwind and transition from my workday to my personal life. I actually went through my yoga teacher training last year which is an 8-month commitment! Since I completed that last May, I’ve been teaching once a week at Yoga Strong. It’s nice because I can share my love for the practice and stay connected. I’m also always trying different classes since Cleveland has so many fitness boutiques! I’ve been to studios for spinning, boxing, and more. Cleveland also has a huge Metroparks area so I go on a lot of outdoor hikes.
What’re the top 3 coolest places you’ve ever traveled and why?
Italy: My parents are both from super small towns in Italy–and by small, I mean there’s three churches, two soccer fields, and one bar. It’s cool to see how my parents lived before moving to America! Starting in High School, my family and I went every other summer to see my extended family, so I’ve been there a lot.
Patagonia: I went to the Chile side. It was made from a glacier and hiking through it made me feel so small in this giant world. It was the most surreal experience because you always see the gorgeous scenery in pictures, but to see something like that in person is amazing.
Thailand: I was surprised by how much I loved Thailand. I went once after a work trip to China and then I went back for my friend’s wedding. It’s so cool because one day you can be on the beach, the next day you can be in the city, and then the next day you can be in a remote location playing with elephants.
What was the first concert you attended?
*NSYNC: I actually went to see Justin Timberlake recently and was reminiscing about my first concert! I remember my mom going through a whole ordeal to get the last available tickets over the phone since this was before you could buy tickets online.
What’s a fun fact we don’t know about you?
I don’t have a middle name. Since my parents were born in Italy, they followed the tradition of not using middle names. It’s actually complicated more things than you’d think! Airlines call me all the time saying that I forgot to put in a middle name when I booked and I won’t be able to board my flight. I always have to explain that I don’t have a middle name and it works out in the end!
Nikki can be found heading up our Cleveland presence at the address below.