In March 2020, Stephanie Brown learned that the Detroit hotel where she worked full-time as a banquet chef was laying her off. She received no warning and no severance. Brown qualified for unemployment but she knew that wouldn’t last forever.
Given the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the hospitality industry, it didn’t look like she would be returning any time soon to the career she’d enjoyed for five years. Faced with this challenge, the Air Force Veteran knew she had to figure out a way to make ends meet.
Fast forward to last fall when Brown started as a Salesforce administrator at a company about whose mission she is passionate. Until then, her professional tech experience had been limited to working as a Genius at an Apple Store.
Her key to this new career was Trailhead, Salesforce’s free online learning platform that prepares people for careers in the Salesforce ecosystem.
Partnership with VA helps Veterans with job opportunities
VHA and Salesforce recently entered into a partnership aimed at helping Veterans and their spouses access free training, education and job opportunities through Salesforce Military. The program is committed to upskilling the military community with high demand technology skills. It also provides partners with a diverse and trained talent pipeline.
Brown was one of millions of service industry workers who lost their jobs in 2020 as the country closed down to slow the spread of COVID-19. The restaurant industry was hit particularly hard. Two months into the pandemic, 40 percent of America’s restaurants were closed, and 8 million employees were without work, three times the job losses in any other industry.
The Veteran unemployment rate had jumped from 4.1% in March 2020 to 11.4% in April 2020, according to the Institute for Veterans & Military Families.
Dedicated 60 hours a week to training
Brown had always been interested in technology, but she didn’t know how to break into the industry without a relevant degree or experience. She’d heard about Trailhead while working at a nonprofit. After being laid off from her hospitality job, she decided to give it a try.
She engaged in learning as though it was her job, spending up to 60 hours a week on Trailhead. She earned her first certification as a Salesforce administrator in three months.
Last August, due to her status as a Veteran, Brown was selected for the inaugural Hiring Our Heroes Salesforce Fellowship, a 12-week paid internship under the umbrella of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
Since its launch in 2014, Salesforce Military has reskilled and upskilled a growing community of more than 30,000 Military Trailblazers. Those selected for the fellowship gain hands-on experience as certified Salesforce professionals. This provides a competitive edge to help them prepare for a career in the Salesforce ecosystem.
After being selected for the program, Brown interned with a tech startup. She then hired on with them as a full-time Salesforce administrator and later moved on to a global cybersecurity firm.
“Technology career has given me a new lease on life.”
“I absolutely love my new career in technology. It’s given me a new lease on life,” she said.
Brown is grateful to work remotely during the pandemic so she can minimize COVID-19 risk for her 74-year-old mother. With her new job, she decided to get her own apartment and stop worrying about how she’d pay her bills.
“I’m making up to three times as much as I made in the culinary field,” she added. “I’m able to live comfortably and not stress about living paycheck to paycheck. And I’m actually looking forward to the possibility of buying a house someday and saving for retirement.”
VA’s partnership with Salesforce is managed by VHA’s National Center for Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships (HAP).
Jared Crain is the director of Workforce Development, Salesforce Military.