Geek of the Week: Slalom’s Maya Peterson is a Salesforce force for women entering tech

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Maya Peterson lounging during a hike in Washington’s North Cascades National Park at Hidden Lake. (Photo courtesy of Maya Peterson)

Unable to finish college and working as many as three jobs at once in the service and nonprofit industries, Maya Peterson took a risk and borrowed money from family in order to enroll in an admin class with Salesforce. It paid off.

Almost six years later, Peterson has 11 Salesforce certifications and is a Salesforce MVP as a consultant at Slalom in Seattle. Our latest Geek of the Week works with a variety of clients ranging from large organizations to small nonprofits to help them solve problems.

“I was raised by a single mother who worked over 80 hours a week to support my sister and I,” Peterson said. “Growing up, I saw firsthand the challenges low-income women and mothers face when transitioning their careers.”

Two things stand out from her experience: not everyone can just borrow money from family and not everyone has connections in tech they can reach out to for that first job, advice or training resources.

“To help other Seattle women who want to enter the tech workforce, I piloted a 10-week free program preparing nine women for the Salesforce Certification exam using Trailhead — Salesforce’s free online learning tool,” Peterson said.

The women were also matched with mentors in the tech industry.

Now, thanks to the partnership and support of Slalom, the nonprofit Dress for Success Seattle, and other members of the local Salesforce community, all nine women graduated from the inaugural class and will continue with a new cohort this fall, according to Peterson.

Learn more about this week’s Geek of the Week, Maya Peterson:

What do you do and why do you do it? As a salesforce consultant, my role varies depending on my client. I can wear many hats from business analyst, solution designer, builder, or tester. I write documentation, create and facilitate trainings. It can range from super complex story mapping to data clean up. I like helping clients solve problems. I genuinely enjoy the work and seeing the results make a difference for someone. When it comes down to it, I’ve always been motivated by the human aspect of the job.

What is the single most important thing people should know about your field? This is a big question with a bigger answer than I have time to provide. I specialize in Salesforce, which is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool. However, it has reached beyond that into a Customer 360-degree platform.

To work with Salesforce, you need to understand and work with people. You don’t build in a box. Your primary concern is always to understand the users and customers using the system. It’s much more interesting than it sounds. I get the chance to learn about a variety of different businesses and how they function and to work with fascinating and talented people.

You don’t need a computer science degree or background to learn Salesforce, you need the perseverance to learn new things, people skills, and the ability to think critically and ask the right questions. This is why it’s such a great bridge into tech, especially with free learning resources like Trailhead.

Where do you find inspiration? In my free time, when the weather allows, I hike. Hiking is a great reminder that we’re all capable of accomplishing daunting feats. When I do feel overwhelmed with the tasks I’ve set before myself, I remind myself how far my legs can carry me. Even if it’s hard, even if I must stop and breathe, I can accomplish my goals if I just put one foot in front of the other.

What’s one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? I know I should say my phone or computer and those things both contribute to my livelihood. I REALLY could not live without my Rigid Gas Permeable Contact Lenses. I have a rare eye disease called Keratoconus, I need my lenses both to see and to help stabilize my condition. My astigmatism is too severe for glasses or soft lenses to work so I am always grateful that lenses like this exist.

(Photo courtesy of Maya Peterson)

What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? My workspace is always changing depending on the client I’m working with. At Slalom we have shared desks as well as a variety of other spaces to work from. This works for me because I dislike clutter and I enjoy the freedom to move around and work from anywhere I have my computer and WiFi.

Your best tip/trick for managing everyday work and life. I think it’s a myth that we’re all supposed to have everyday work and life completely managed. I try my best. I often take on more than I can manage and must make tough choices or sacrifices. I’d rather shoot for something big and fail than stay safe. If you’re trying to accomplish anything, its going to be hard and you’re going to feel discouraged, just keep doing your best. Focus on small wins, be patient, if you fail, try again. It took almost two years of planning, failing, and re-trying, to bring the Salesforce 10-week class to fruition. Don’t compare yourself to others, including me. None of us have it all figured out.

Mac, Windows, or Linux? I have a Mac at home and Windows for work. I try and stay OS agnostic.

Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? Lt. Commander Worf

Transporter, time machine, or cloak of invisibility? Personally, I’d choose Transporter, take working remote to a whole new level, but I did write a blog article about a source control based time machine: https://unhandledsunshine.com/2018/12/26/how-to-git-back-to-the-future-man/

If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … start a nonprofit that provides laptops and other tech hardware resources for nonprofit tech workshops/bootcamps/and classes. Getting access to computers was our biggest hurdle with the Dress for Success Class; thank goodness Slalom was able to help!

I once waited in line for … most of the Harry Potter books when they were first released.

Your role models and why? I remember my mom working 80+ hours a week and teaching herself web development so she could build a better life for us. She’s one of the smartest, hardest working, and kindest people I know. She taught me to be a strong woman, speak my mind, and work hard to accomplish my goals. She’s always lifting people up.

Greatest game in history: “The Incredible Machine.”

Best gadget ever: Inspector Gadget.

First computer: We had a desktop PC. I don’t remember the brand.

Current phone: Some kind of Droid… The important thing about it is it’s waterproof and shatterproof.

Favorite app: Chrome, Maps, OneBusAway — I like the apps that let me access the information I need in a matter of seconds.

Favorite cause: Since moving to Seattle, I’ve been involved with the International Rescue Committee, Babies of Homelessness, and Dress for Success Seattle. I’m an AmeriCorps alum. The causes I support change over time. I do what I can locally to try and make a difference.

Most important technology of 2020: Probably AI/automation. The fact that more and more, we can replace human workers with intelligent automation. I was in the San Francisco airport and I saw a robot that was making fancy lattès for people. As someone who spent eight years working in the service industry, who has friends who work in the service industry, it makes me stop and think; this will have a big impact.

Most important technology of 2022: Any technology that reduces or helps address the impact of climate change will be of the utmost importance in the future.

Final words of advice for your fellow geeks? Don’t panic and carry a towel.

Website: Unhandled Sunshine

Twitter: @mayaliciap

LinkedIn: Maya Peterson



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