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From Shark Scientist to Salesforce Solutions Developer – My success story at SmartenUp by Helené Coetzee

  • February 14, 2023

About 18 months ago, I didn’t really know what my career would be. I was busy completing my PhD Aquatic Health with a focus on shark health and reproduction whilst being a teacher’s assistant. Confusion about the future isn’t the greatest feeling in the world, so I decided to take a leap and learn new skills completely out of my area of expertise: Salesforce. 

In September 2021, a dynamic and people-oriented Salesforce Consultancy in South Africa called SmartenUp decided to take a chance on me and offered me an internship in what is now known as The SmartenUp Academy of Excellence. 

I thought to myself, “Well Helené, this is your opportunity. Go full steam ahead and immerse yourself in the Salesforce environment!” 

I immediately fell in love with Trailhead and how easy the platform was to help me with my studies. I finally felt that this was something that I could have a future in; helping other companies improve their own business strategies and finally making a worthwhile contribution to the South African economy. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved working with animals in their natural habitat, and understanding the problems our marine life faces, but in reality, I wanted a stable job that would challenge me everyday and provide me with a clear career path all while actually making a tangible contribution to the South African business sector. 

Working in a corporate environment at SmartenUp was a period of many lessons and great experiences – but not without its obstacles and some challenges. I came from a laboratory and field work environment. I had to learn how to operate in an office setting, and navigate a post-covid work environment. 

I went from being well read in my field, to not knowing exactly what my colleagues were talking about – and that was a scary experience for me.

I still had my PhD looming over me, some research aspects still had to be completed, and I was simultaneously learning Salesforce skills and finishing my thesis!

The most important lesson I took away from this experience was that I needed to slow down and take a deep breath. It was okay to not know everything, and I had to learn to take it a step at a time. 

With the amazing support and understanding from SmartenUp, I was able to successfully complete my PhD in September. 

SmartenUp provided me with an opportunity to learn and grow my Salesforce skills at a comfortable pace, and the more I was upskilling the more I wanted to know. I became a Trailhead Ranger within 6 weeks of starting at SmartenUp and within 6 months I was a permanent employee;  a Salesforce Administrator with real-world experience. 

SmartenUp gave me a supportive working environment and access to incredible mentors. I learnt a number of new skills such as basic coding and business logic.  Just as importantly, working with a great team of people makes me stand up every morning with purpose and looking forward to my day. 

As long as I keep applying myself and being passionate about what I do; the opportunities are endless. 

18 months on, I am now a Four Star Ranger and the proud owner of 4 Salesforce Certifications … and counting!

My advice to people who want to change career paths and learn new skills: You will never know if you don’t try. There is nothing you cannot learn as long as you possess the right mindset and find the right company.