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 Tom Hoffman, our Pittsburgh Practice Lead at Spark.Orange.
You’re pretty open about your love of Salesforce and your personal and professional journey. Let’s start with a little background on how you got into Salesforce in the first place.
My journey with Salesforce began in 2010 when I became the Director of a healthcare foundation. One of the first things I did was evaluate CRMs and decide which we would start using. I looked into Salesforce and haven’t looked back since.
You’re also very involved in the community and Salesforce in general, outside of your day-to-day job responsibilities. Can you talk a little bit about that?
I started a Salesforce Nonprofit User Group back in 2015 and we’ve had an event every month now for 3 years. I started it as a way of getting more involved and helping other people find their way with Salesforce.
We have a heavy focus on skill building with non-profit admins, helping them learn the tools to be effective within their organizations, as often times they are solo admins with other responsibilities and limited budgets. Our group mixes in work sessions, where we invite consultants, admins, and developers to come assist our non-profits with solving various issues, as well as social outings & Salesforce Events (Dreamforce Global Gathering, Launch parties, etc).
Something really cool that has come out of this is that 7 people (who were originally in completely different fields) are now Salesforce Consultants. I helped them change their career path and trajectory, increasing their income potential and happiness at work.
I’m also very involved in the Salesforce Answer Community. I’m currently ranked 6th in the World for providing answers. It takes a lot of time and effort! I’ve answered about 1300 questions so far, and I enjoy doing it. It helps make my skills sharper. Since thousands of people are looking at these answers, I make sure they’re as accurate and helpful as possible.
You have another blog you contribute to, The Accidental Admins. How did that come about?
Late in 2017, I realized I had my own personal Ohana. I really connected with a few people through my user group experiences and learned a lot about their Salesforce journeys. I started thinking we could bring a unique voice in the Salesforce ecosystem, there is a need for more people to talk about their journeys as its happening and be real about the successes and struggles along their personal and professional journeys. If you read stories about people working in Salesforce, it seems like everyone has made it. They’re just at the top. They gloss over talking about all the work that it took to get to the top of the mountain. That’s where our stories come in. Now, it’s cool to see what a few conversations before/after user groups have turned into – we’ve already built up a decent following!
How would you explain your job to a child?
That’s a good question! I have a son, and he thinks I just talk to the computer all day. The simplest explanation I have is that I help people do their job better. I give people tools to make their jobs easier.
How did you first hear about Spark.Orange?
I was working with a recruiter who introduced me to a few different Salesforce partners. When he mentioned Spark.Orange and described the growth phase they were in, it sounded like something special to me. I had a “first call” with Derek (Managing Partner at Spark.Orange) and our timelines didn’t line up at the time, but I could tell there was something there. We stayed in touch because I felt like Spark.Orange was doing something that other firms weren’t. I followed up a few months later and here we are!
What are you hoping to accomplish at Spark.Orange?
Take over the world! Really. But for my part in that: I want to establish the Spark.Orange offices in new markets and really focus on the SMB and Mid-Market spaces. Those tend to get left behind right now in the Pittsburgh and Cleveland areas. There are a lot of enterprise and commercial consultancies but small businesses and nonprofits don’t have the same coverage. A year from now, I want to start giving the Syracuse HQ a run for their money in terms of business and employees!
What advice would you offer to someone hoping to work at Spark.Orange?
Let’s back that out a little bit. For someone looking to work with Salesforce in general, I’d tell them to stay current with their knowledge. Understand what’s new to Salesforce: what’s on the roadmap, what’s coming, where the market is taking things (whether its CPQ, Communities, etc.). I’m seeing that what distinguishes people is their knowledge of what’s up and coming, not just their knowledge of the core platform. Take it a step further and get to know one area of Salesforce really deeply, too (CPQ, Pardot, etc.). This is a great way to get noticed and gives you an idea of how you’ll fit into the team.
My advice for someone looking to work at Spark.Orange specifically: you have to be ready to be flexible. Everyone contributes on all projects in a lot of different ways. You don’t come in, do the task outlined for you in a silo, and call it a day. Everyone has a hand in business development and is expected to help with our marketing efforts. It’s a total team effort. What Spark.Orange is looking for is expert generalists.
Since we’re new to operating in Pittsburgh and you’re a veteran, can you tell us some of your favorite things about it?
Pittsburgh is basically a small town inside of a city. The feel is small, friendly, and local-oriented, even though the city itself is big. It’s amazing how you’ll be talking to someone random at an event and then through conversation, you find out that you have 13 connections in common. Everyone knows each other in Pittsburgh – even though it’s a big city, it feels like everyone is connected by 2 degrees of separation.
I also love that if you travel 10 minutes in any direction outside of the city, you’re in the wilderness. It’s nice to get outside of the downtown feel when you want to. It’s also worth noting that the city is alive in terms of cultural energy. The food scene is top notch and there’s always something to do, from our three professional sports teams to the music festivals regularly popping up.
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
My favorite thing in the whole world is my mom’s cooking. To me, the best meal is Puerto Rican rice and beans. But, once a year my wife and I do the 9-course tasting menu at 9 on 9 in downtown Pittsburgh. They always do 9 courses of creative brilliance and we love it.
What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
I like The Four Agreements. It’s a good guideline for life. The four agreements are: be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions and always do your best. They can be very hard to live by sometimes, but I strive to.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
Time travel. I think being able to jump back in time would be really cool, and love the idea of manipulating space and time to take full advantage in both directions.