Magical. Inspiring. Lamé. Many words have been used to describe the Salesforce Golden Hoodie.

Photo credit: https://www.kelseycorinnephotography.com/

The Zoom where it happened.

During the completely re-imagined and virtual Dreamforce To You 2020 (#DreamTX) last month, I was incredibly honoured to receive the Salesforce Golden Hoodie from none other than rock star slash CMO of Salesforce, Sarah Franklin. Streaming live to over 100,000 viewers around the world, I had the opportunity to share my Trailblazer story and — to my surprise — unbox the Golden Hoodie. The moment was perfectly planned by the Trailblazer team who had mailed a package with strict instructions not to open it until the interview. What an honor!

A matching Golden Hoodie Astro came with the award.

So, how did I get started with Salesforce, anyway?

Over the last 10 years, I have had the amazing opportunity to work with social impact organisations, multi-national NGOs, and commercial companies around the world to design and implement solutions on the Salesforce platform. My first real job after university was working for an NGO in Washington, D.C., where I was lucky enough to be part of a team that chose to implement Salesforce for fundraising and business development. I immediately loved the Salesforce platform and what it could do for social impact organizations that struggle so much with capturing data in clunky legacy systems — it opened my eyes to a new way of thinking about the utility and power of technology. I was so smitten that I left that job and went to work as a full time Salesforce Consultant for an innovative impact partner based in Nairobi, Kenya.

After three years working with many amazing social impact organisations, I went on to pursue a Masters degree in international affairs and wrote my thesis on Salesforce user adoption. Upon graduating, I moved to Amsterdam, The Netherlands and landed a role at a platinum Salesforce partner, Appsolutely, as a Senior Consultant. Now three years into this role, I continue to help companies get the most out of the Salesforce platform every day.

As the co-founder of RefugeeForce, I believe technology, inclusion, and employment should go hand in hand.

At Appsolutely we get two voluntary time off days per year — my colleague (and now co-founder), Nick Broekema, and I took this chance to dream big. We thought hard about how we might use our passion to help solve local issues that refugees face in The Netherlands, like finding work in a new country and building a professional network. Our 3rd co-founder, Marielle Schweickart, brought experience in social impact programming and impact measurement to help us materialize the idea.

Out of this ambition and founding team, RefugeeForce was born in Amsterdam in 2018. RefugeeForce is a social enterprise that develops the skills and careers of refugees while bringing talent and diversity to the Salesforce ecosystem. Our aim is to boost the underemployed and unemployed refugee population looking for careers in technology and to bridge the digital-skills and talent gap across Europe.

We are on a mission to create a more diverse, inclusive, and integrated community of technical professionals. We work towards a world where talent is globally recognized and opportunities are equally accessible.

In 2019 we conducted our first pilot program with 5 participants and, within a year, have grown to 63 program graduates with 17 alumni placed in Salesforce roles and 12 Certified Salesforce professionals. There is so much more work to be done, but it has been an exciting venture so far!

Having some fun with the Golden Hoodie.

Do you want to get involved and help RefugeeForce succeed?

None of this would be possible without the Salesforce community. We know this because getting involved in the community is a core component of our training program. We are always looking for guest trainers, mentors, or volunteers who are passionate about solving local issues and willing to share their time and knowledge with our participants. We are also currently looking for partners and donors to help us scale — we plan to expand our program to other cities in Europe in 2021.

You can get in touch with us here: www.refugeeforce.com or email me: gaspar@refugeeforce.nl.

My new word to describe the Golden Hoodie: journey

I feel truly honoured to be recognized alongside such inspiring individuals who are doing great things every day in their communities. After 10 years of working with Salesforce around the world, I never thought that I would even be considered for the coveted Golden Hoodie. From Admin to Consultant to Founder spanning 3 continents: we are all on a journey. Sometimes we take steps alone and other times in great company — it’s those rare moments along the way that push you to pause, reflect, and, ultimately, keep moving forward. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have worked with so many amazing Salesforce professionals along my journey.

Looking forward to 2021 and beyond. Upwards and onwards! #lifewithgoldie

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Possibilist. Salesforce MVP and Golden Hoodie Winner. Co-founder @ RefugeeForce. Founder @ Blue Road.

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Gaspar Rodriguez

Gaspar Rodriguez

Possibilist. Salesforce MVP and Golden Hoodie Winner. Co-founder @ RefugeeForce. Founder @ Blue Road.

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