Welcome back to another S-Docs Salesforce Influencer Spotlight, where we highlight some of the most inspiring and influential individuals in the Salesforce community. As a native Salesforce app, we’ve had the advantage of working with hundreds of incredible admins, developers, architects, and other extraordinary people who make the community great. We’ll provide you with an exclusive look into their Salesforce journeys, featuring best practices, career advice, and favorite ways they give back to the community.
Salesforce Influencer Spotlight: Melissa Hill Dees
Melissa Hill Dees is a 4x certified Trailblazer who champions more than just Salesforce (although as a Lightning Champion, she’s an expert at helping organizations modernize their workflows with Lightning Experience, too).
Melissa has also been dubbed “The Trailblazer who Transforms Nonprofits” for her commitment to helping nonprofit organizations reach their goals with the power of Salesforce. She’s passionate about using her Salesforce expertise to create positive change in the world.
Though her day job revolves around supercharging nonprofits, Melissa also volunteers her own time to share her knowledge with others. She’s a volunteer teacher at PepUp Tech, a Life Reimagined Guide at AARP, and the leader of her own community nonprofit group. She’s also spoken at Dreamforce, Midwest Dreamin’, and Yeur Dreamin’.
Melissa is currently the Vice President and Founding Partner at HandsOn Connect Cloud Solutions. We sat down to hear about her Salesforce expertise, her nonprofit work, and her journey to becoming an influencer in the Salesforce community.
"Our doors are open to help leverage the power of Salesforce to make the world a better place for everybody."
Tell us about your journey with Salesforce and your nonprofit transformations.
I originally went to university to major in computer science, but soon realized that being a programmer or developer wasn’t my personality. I was much more of a people person, so I changed my major to marketing and wound up working sales jobs in corporate America -- for 20 years!
After I got married, I moved to Alabama and started working with nonprofits. I was an Executive Director at Habitat for Humanity, a Women’s Leadership Initiative Coordinator at United Way, and a Programs & Communication Coordinator at a volunteer center, which is where I first used Salesforce.
More and more, I saw that nonprofits were not embracing a business mindset. Their Boards of Directors were brilliant people who had been in business for years, but they would leave their business skills behind when they walked into the nonprofit board room.
When I started working at HandsOn Connect, I saw big potential to automate nonprofit workflows with Salesforce so they’d have time to do the things that couldn't be automated. I fell in love and did that for several years.
When the HandsOn Connect product was bought by our parent company, Aviato, they started a new organization. I've been a founding partner for the last four years, working with nonprofits, higher education, and anyone that’s looking to manage and engage volunteers. Our doors are open to help leverage the power of Salesforce to make the world a better place for everybody.
"If I have a gift at all, it’s my ability to encourage and cheer other people on."
Giving back is a core focus for a lot of Salesforce MVPs and Influencers. What’s your favorite way to give back?
There are so many different ways! The single best thing about the Trailblazer community is the people, and I love giving back by interacting with people in the community. Today, for example, I’m hosting a virtual social hour for a nonprofit group I run here in Alabama. We get on the phone, talk about what’s going on in each other's worlds, and provide support.
After that, I’m teaching a Nonprofit Success Pack class as a volunteer for Pepup Tech. They work with underserved and underrepresented communities to help folks get certified as Salesforce administrators. We’re working with our current class to produce more administrators that are specifically focused on nonprofit work.
Presenting at conferences is another way I love to give back, and one of the things that I'm missing most this year. People get a lot out of the conferences -- not just from the sessions, but the interaction and networking that comes with it.
Since conferences aren’t an option this year, I try to interact more on Twitter. If I see a woman getting a certification or super badge, I laud and encourage them even if I don’t know who they are. If I have a gift at all, it’s my ability to encourage and cheer other people on.
How do you find time to do it all?
My team thinks I don’t sleep! It can be a little bit overwhelming at times, but if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life -- I really feel that way. People talk about work-life balance, but I think it’s more of a work-life integration. Last year, my husband and my daughter went to Europe with me because I was speaking in Amsterdam at Yeur Dreamin,’ so we integrated family vacation with it. It all blends together. I like exposing my family to the smart, funny people that I know in the Trailblazer community, and vice versa.
"Hearing the voices of these young people along with those of us who have experience in the world can be so inspiring."
Who in the community inspires you most?
I hate to make a list because I know I’ll leave some people out!
Gemma Blezard is one person who has been an incredible inspiration to me.
Eric Dreshfield is one of my heroes. If I ever have a question or need something, I know I can text him.
Vanessa Viligomez is another one of my inspirations. I met her at WITness Success a few years ago, and she has done phenomenal things. People that I have taken under my wing often become the ones who inspire me.
Blanca Leon-carter is another young woman who inspires me. She is a Salesforce MVP and she led our first Platform Developer I study class for Ladies Be Architects. She's gone on to be such an inspiring part of the community to me.
Everyone on the RAD Women board inspires me; there’s so many great young women who just jump in and get started.
My presentation at Dreamforce in 2018, “Am I on Mute?”, was about diversity of thought, and how if you don't hear that diversity, you don't get the innovation that everybody needs. To me, that diversity of thought is not just gender or background, but also age. Hearing the voices of these young people along with those of us who have experience in the world can be so inspiring.
"The single best thing that I did was start attending community events, even if it’s just a local Trailblazer community in my town."
In addition to the people who inspire you, what else do you do to keep up to date on all things Salesforce? What resources are most helpful to you?
I very rarely have time to listen to podcasts, but I love the Wizard Cast. They always do a great job.
The Power Of Us Hub is another great resource. It’s like the Trailblazer community, but it’s focused specifically toward nonprofits and higher ed. There’s a wealth of information there.
I also like the hands-on approach of Trailhead. I’m a very kinetic learner, so if I can do it once, then I can probably do it again.
Are there any must-have apps or Salesforce best practices that you recommend?
Don’t immediately start thinking about how to solve a problem with Salesforce. Instead, you really need to understand what it is that the customer or users need to accomplish. Instead of thinking “This process needs to happen after record deletion, so it’ll need to be an Apex trigger,” think about the reason behind wanting to do something after a record is deleted. Ask yourself what the goal is.
I also think using solutions from the AppExchange is critical to meet certain needs. Mogli SMS is a text messaging app on the AppExchange that integrates beautifully with HandsOn Connect. Elements Catalyst is another great app that helps document, explain, and keep track of the technical debt you are adding to your system, so that when you’ve got to go back and explain it later, you can show why you did what you did and how it’s supposed to work.
What’s the biggest piece of advice you have for your fellow Trailblazers?
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Not that you don’t have to know things and have the expertise — but the single best thing that I did was start attending community events, even if it’s just a local Trailblazer community in my town. I go up once a month to either the admin group or the developer group in Nashville, even though I’m not a developer. Knowing those people and having those relationships will go farther and do more good career-wise than any amount of expertise.
The Salesforce Community Advantage
As Melissa Hill Dee’s inspiring story shows, the Trailblazer community shines because of the many people within that are willing to dedicate their time to help others. After a career in corporate America, Melissa began leveraging Salesforce to transform nonprofits and help make the world a better place. We hope that her unique insights have inspired you to learn something new, share your knowledge, and get more connected with the Salesforce community.
To stay in the know on all things Salesforce and the community, follow Melissa on Twitter and subscribe to the S-Docs blog, where we’ll be posting more Salesforce Influencer & MVP spotlights, along with the latest and greatest in the Salesforce world.