Interview of a Trailblazer on how to leverage peer groups, constant communication to deliver Salesforce projects on Time within budget – Joshua Stein

Could you tell me how you got started in your Salesforce career and ended up in your current role?

I started my career in IT infrastructure. I held several positions from desktop support to system administrator and network administrator.  10 years into my IT journey I was working out of a company’s Sales office supporting their network, but I was surrounded by energetic and highly motivated sales folks.  I had a very supportive manager and she agreed to let me go on a ride-along with an outside sales rep so I could learn more about the business.  

While on this ride-along, I watched the rep utilize Salesforce for all aspects of his calls.  From preparing for meetings, facilitating meetings, and documenting meetings, he flew through the tool with ease as it spoon-fed him all sorts of valuable information to be able to close a deal.  I was astounded by the impact of one tool.  It did it all!  

A few months later the Salesforce team was looking for some technical help, which I gladly volunteered for.  A few months after that, they had an opening for a CRM Analyst which I was able to secure.  Fast forward to today, I’ve been able to leverage my technical knowledge along with sales operations to lead a talented group of Product Owners.

What was your childhood dream career and why?

As a child, I always wanted to be a baseball player or a sports announcer.  I lived and breathed sports as a kid, which is probably why I  preach the benefit of strong teams within the business world.  While playing baseball, I was a stand-out pitcher, but for whatever reason, couldn’t hit.  Into my teenage years, I realized the majors wouldn’t be in my destiny, so I thought about sports announcing.  My nasally midwest accent didn’t convert well through the microphone, so I knew it was time to concentrate on something else.

What is the one habit which you tend to do on a regular basis which has made you successful in your career?

Be approachable.  We all know the saying, ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.  While I don’t believe that to be 100% the case, I do believe there’s something to it.  Making connections and building business relationships is vital, no matter what industry or role you’re in.   

An old friend of mine started wearing a name tag every day more than 20 years ago as a social experiment.    As he continued to wear a nametag throughout the years, he became a subject matter expert on approachability.  He’s now written 50 books, 3000 articles and given over 600 speeches on the topic.  

By being approachable, I’ve been able to make connections with people that have helped me throughout my career.  By being approachable, I’ve been able to harness trust in others. By being approachable, I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about others and find out what’s worked for them.  By being approachable, I’ve allowed my team members to truly feel they have a voice.  I could go on and on…


Can you talk about your most recent project which you completed recently, what business results did it achieve, 2 obstacles or challenges you faced, and how you overcame it?

At Hunter Engineering Company, I rolled out Salesforce to our field reps in the Spring of 2020.  The direction I was provided by the business was to make the tool as simple as possible while providing maximum benefit to the users.  We all know how many different things Salesforce can do, so we agreed to strip it down as much as possible, and only include the necessities in the first release.

Coming from previous companies and utilizing very extensive and complex implementations of Salesforce, I thought this would be a breeze.   Easy, right? Nope!  A challenge we all face is taking something that’s complex and making it simple.  I created a Salesforce Peer Group made up of vocal sales reps that I could lean on for feedback and suggestions.  As a business, we discovered we thought we know what the users wanted, and we came close, but there were several aspects we didn’t take into consideration.  This peer group helped uncover the unique uses of the tool to drive a better experience.

I spent time with this group going page by page and field by field to get a better understanding of what’s the most important pieces, what’s not used, and what needed to be added.  There were lots of, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if the tool could do this’ statements.   After a couple of months, we ended up with a completely better user experience, while still simplifying.  Using automation wherever we could, we made Salesforce go to work for them, allowing for fewer inputs and more benefits.

What is your leadership philosophy and how do you keep the team engaged and motivate them?

I like to enable my team to make decisions.  This forces them to think strategically and come up with well-thought-out ideas. I’ll always be there as a governing body, but encourage them to throw out ideas they think will improve a process or project.  A simple, ‘What do you think we should do here’ question makes them feel like a valuable asset to the team and adds diversity of thought in everything we do.  

I also try to find the best qualities out of employees and capitalize on them.  By doing this, not only is the company getting more bang for their buck, but you’ve put the employee in a spot where they can succeed, gain confidence, and continue to grow.

With the current COVID 19 situation, what are 2 or 3 key challenges you faced and how are you managing them effectively?

In March of 2020, the entire company was sent home to work until further notice stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.  We went from having daily standups huddled around a whiteboard, to using Microsoft Teams to communicate.  Being an Agile team, we were used to moving post-it notes around the board to communicate where we were with projects.  That wasn’t physically possible anymore, so we had to get creative. We began using Jira boards and everything was all digital, all the time.  We quickly realized this was the way to go, even for the future.  Jira allowed us to capture not only the title of a story but acceptance criteria, risks, sub-tasks, etc.  Now that we’re back in the office, we continue to use Jira as our go-to project management solution.

Leading into the COVID pandemic, we were 100% work from the office company.  Once we sent everyone home, we weren’t sure what type of production we were going to get from everyone.  Our department quickly realized most employees are actually more productive at home as they have fewer distractions and always have quick access to their computers.  Since we’ve returned to the office, we now have a more flexible work arrangement allowing for time to work from home if needed.

With the current COVID 19 situation, can you list 1 key project which was given more attention, the reason for it, and what results did it achieve for your business?

Our Regional Sales Managers meet with their largest customers on a quarterly basis.  For decades, they’ve flown out to the customer’s headquarters and reported back an action plan for that customer to sales executives.  COVID took away the option of flying and meeting with customers face-to-face, so we knew we had to leverage digital platforms to keep communication up to and be able to stay in front of customers.  

Zoom quickly became a household name, even outside the 4 walls of corporate America.  The problem was we were making it too difficult for our managers to manage the meeting process.  They would find a time that worked for both them and the customer, go into Zoom and schedule the meeting, put the Zoom details in Outlook and send out another invite, log into Salesforce to fill out a large form where we asked for all kinds of customer priorities and feedback, then complete a task stating they actually had the meeting.  As the quarters went on through 2020, we worked to streamline the process via Zoom, Salesforce, and Outlook integrations, allowing for just a handful of clicks within Salesforce to be able to set up the event, log details, and create follow-up items. We leveraged the zoom app to integrate with outlook and Salesforce which would automatically add all the attendees to Salesforce in a week. We also had an automated process to follow up on the attendees to help the sales team close deals quicker. One issue to watch out for is spam blocks which can block the attendees to get the invites on their outlook email tool

With COVID 19 was there a project which was pushed on the back burner, given a low priority in your company and the reason for it?

We did not have any specific projects that need to go on the back-burner, but we quickly learned we needed to be as deliberate as possible when scoping projects.  During uncertain times, we wanted to make sure we were working on projects with the utmost importance to the company.  We also were very careful in the way we identified resources needed for said projects.  Asking for 1-year for a project was out of the question, so we broke them down into phases, loading up core functionality and other must-haves in the first phase, then continuing other features in subsequent phases.

With teams working remotely now, what 1 or 2 key activities do you do more with your team to increase engagement with the teams?

Digital communication within the business has been a huge key to success.  For every major project, we push out a 1-page project status on a weekly basis to the stakeholders.  This includes what we’ve recently accomplished, are currently working on, and what’s coming up next.  The report also has a gauge so the stakeholders can instantly see where we are within the project and if we’re on track.  We highlight the team players on the development side to put a face to the work we’re doing.  Stakeholders have really taken a grasp of this weekly communication and they feel included and able to raise a red flag anytime needed.  Below is a sample project status report which I use for my projects which shows pictures of team members bringing the humane side of Salesforce!!

With remote teams, what activity have you stopped doing or doing less which seems to be less effective in this situation?

We used to do more frequent team-building activities.  When everyone was forced to work from home, we, unfortunately, had to abandon them.  These activities brought out teamwork, competition, and a whole lot of fun!  Thanks for asking this question, we’ve got to get back to it!

What is the one trend you see in Manufacturing happening now and how do you think companies should adapt to this new trend based on your experience?

Sourcing.  While I work for a manufacturer, this is certainly not my expertise.  With that said, the entire world is having procurement issues when it comes to microchips and other vital parts.  When COVID hit, consumer purchasing changed a lot.  Instead of buying a new vehicle, consumers were purchasing new TVs and other at-home electronics.  This forced manufacturers to allocate their chips to those types of products, and now everyone is feeling the squeeze.  Our purchasing teams have had to get extremely creative and work extra hard to find and source vital parts for our equipment.  

If you contribute to a nonprofit or a cause that is dear to you, can you talk about a few words on the activities they do and how people can donate or contribute to it?

I’m a huge fan and supporter of The International Institute of St. Louis. The IISTL has programs and services for immigrants, their families, and the wider community, which are locally and nationally acclaimed. They connect new arrivals with first-touch services and resources, engage foreign-born and the wider community, and build a more inclusive community. Our country is a kaleidoscope of different backgrounds.  Supporting newcomers to our country to be able to get them up-to-speed and begin contributing is vital for companies to be able to achieve diversity of thought and come up with and implement creative strategies. Please click this link to make a donation to this great organization supporting a great cause.

If you want to advise students who are looking for a Salesforce career or people who want to shift their career to IT like sales, marketing folks on Salesforce products as an example, What would be the 2 or 3 things you would advise them to follow now to get a job quickly?

Students interested in technology, sales, or marketing should definitely take a look at Salesforce.  Salesforce offers a lot of free training via Trailhead and the online community of Salesforce professionals is large and always willing to lend a hand.  If you find yourself wanting to pursue a career with Salesforce, there are several paths.  

If you’ve taken development classes, there is an extremely high need for Salesforce developers.  If you’ve learned Java, you’ve already got a head-start in learning Apex!

Are you interested in Sales Operations?  Then a Salesforce Admin might be right up your alley.  The Salesforce Admin wears many hats!  They have to believe in clean data, enjoy working with others, especially training users, and be able to think outside of the box to come up with innovative solutions.  

If you’re in school for Marketing, there are lots of Marketing aspects of Salesforce.  Get a jump start by understanding customer journeys and how to leverage digital marketing, and Salesforce has multiple marketing options just for you!

What are 1 or 2 key traits or skills you look for in choosing a candidate for the role apart from the technical skills in your interviews?

I’m looking for candidates that can be adaptable.  Within Salesforce, you’ll find yourself working with many different departments.  One day you may be working with a Junior Sales Rep and the next day with the CEO.  Being able to think like a rep, then turn around and think big picture and strategically like a CEO is a huge skill!

I also look for someone that is eager to learn. Technology is changing fast!  Skills you learned 5-years ago may not be as relevant today.  I often ask candidates what they do to stay on top of technology trends.  I’ve gotten answers that range from Twitter to Youtube to Google. There is no right or wrong answer with this one, I just want to ensure they have a strategy and desire to keep learning.  

Is there a gotcha you would advise students or job seekers not to do when they do an interview?

Yes! While we want to hear about your background and understanding of technology, no one knows it all.  Don’t try to fake your knowledge and understanding of topics.  You’d be surprised to know how easy it is for an interviewer to see through someone who sounds too ‘scripted’.  Instead, acknowledge that you’re wanting to learn more about that subject and show that you’re eager to educate yourself on it if it benefits the company and your personal growth.

Can you list 1 or 2 tips that you have used in your career to differentiate yourself from your peers which have helped you to position yourself and move up the career ladder?

Don’t get too high.  Don’t get too low.  The ability to stay level-headed through difficult and exciting times is certainly a skill.  Everyone has been through challenges stemming from change or other disruption in their work lives.  I’ve found that having the ability to be stoic and show others within the business that I can stay calm, cool, and collected through challenging times proves that I can make thoughtful and strategic decisions, no matter the situation.  If a pipe is leaking, you can easily stick some bubble gum on the hole, but what are the implications of doing so?  

Get really good at something specific. Show the company that you can be the go-to person for something and you are the true subject matter expert.  Suddenly everyone will know who you are and rely on you and challenge you to be creative and come up with ideas around your expertise.  This puts you in the limelight and offers you the opportunity for your successes to be seen and appreciated across the business.

For folks who are aspiring to become the next VP, directors, or CIOs, Can you list 1 or 2 challenges the current VP leaders face which prevent them from going up the ladder?

While I’m a leader, I’m not in a senior leadership role.  I believe I will be in time, however!  My impression is challenging around building a strong team beneath you.  You have to set up everyone for success, while you continue to challenge them.  You have to allow employees to gain momentum and feel like what they do is making an impact on the overall business.  Many IT groups struggle to keep their employees informed on the actual impact their work makes in the business.  If you provide updates to them on how the work they’ve done helps the business, they’ll continue to work hard and create innovative solutions.

Can you list  1 or 2 skills that you highly recommend folks to develop or learn which will help them move up?

Eagerness to learn more about the company.  It’s easy for someone in IT to just stay focused on the technology you’re working on.  However, if you start learning what and how other departments work, it will open up lots of ways to get creative and make a large impact with the technology you’re working on. 

Also, show confidence in yourself.  I’m not saying be pompous but show that you believe you can get the job done and in an exceedingly well fashion. Accept challenges.  While they may seem daunting at the start, the reward for successfully completing one will help you garner confidence in yourself and confidence from others around you.

If you would like to get the template of the project communication deck and other questions for Josh, feel free to email me at and I would be happy to make the introduction for you.

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Joshua Stein

Author: Joshua Stein

Josh Stein is the Manager of Application Management at Hunter Engineering Company, the worldwide leader in the under-car service business. He brings a background in Technology Infrastructure, Development, and Sales Operations to Hunter in order to lead a team of talented Developers and Product Owners to create innovative solutions that enable Hunter to take advantage of technology so it remains the gold star in the industry. Josh leans on his past learnings from working at logistics and manufacturing companies to help power the future of technology. His wife, Niki, and 3 boys (8, 6, and 1) live in St. Louis, Missouri, and are huge Cardinals and Blues fans.

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