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Dreamforce 2023 - Supermums aims to train up raft of women AI experts

Madeline Bennett Profile picture for user Madeline Bennett September 13, 2023
Summary:
Catching up with Heather Black, founder of Supermums, to talk AI ambitions.

Supermums
Heather Black

Since its launch in late 2016, Supermums has trained over 1,000 mostly women – with some men – equipping them with the skills needed to forge a career in the Salesforce eco-system.

More than 200 companies have now hired a Supermums’ graduate; around a third of those hires are in the US, with the remaining two-thirds predominantly in EMEA, alongside a few in APAC and Australia. The average cohort is 70% ethnic minority, 80% female, while 95% are classed as mature talent (over 30).

There are now around 360 students going through the Supermums’ program per year, double the number compared to the previous year, and a mammoth increase from the three women participating on the first course. When I first spoke to the Salesforce training company’s founder, Heather Black, back in mid-2019, just over 100 people from five different countries had taken the course.

About 75% of the trainees have successful outcomes, according to Black. Some individuals who go through the program decide it's not right for them, or some women have another baby and other priorities take over. Black notes:

We are pretty confident that those that want to get job opportunities do progress into it.

During the pandemic, there was a big surge of employing people to support digital projects. As we've hit the recession, Black has seen a slight slowdown in companies taking on new products, but not a stop by any means. Supermums has experienced a slight reduction of hiring in Salesforce consultancy firms but not in end customers, who still need these core systems. Black says:

We haven't seen any of those jobs being hit and they're still in demand. From a recruitment point of view, we are still placing talent, it just might be in different roles. It's a great opportunity to step into an end customer first, get your skills for a year or two in there, and then go into the consultancy world where you're then more of an expert in it.

Community

Recently, the organization has focused on building an ongoing learning and development community to enhance its core training program. Black explains: 

One of the reasons people come to Supermums and upskill is they want to be around like-minded people. We didn't want to go after six months - bye, you are on your own. Now we've got a massive support community. They are always on WhatsApp and Slack sharing and supporting each other with technical questions and queries.

Supermums has added a range of additional free and paid-for training products to keep its community up-to-date, keep the momentum going for lifelong learning, and help people increase their salary over time. Black says: 

I talk about a two-year progression plan, where they can double their salary if they do all these free and paid-for learning opportunities, it will get them that flexible, well-paid career.

AI goals

The next target for Supermums is to ensure its trainees are fully skilled in AI, and can take advantage of the potential opportunities around this wide-reaching technology. But it can be difficult to know where to start, Black notes:

There are so many different products and so many different ways you can use it. The main thing to look at is what is the job I'm in or that I want to get, and where will AI make a difference? If you want to work and implement Salesforce for sales, what are the AI tools that are going to make a difference working with sales teams right now, and what do I need to be focusing on learning to support that ecosystem?

A good example of this is Supermums’ use of Alfred AI technology to support its own sales team. Alfred transcribes the sales team’s phone calls, and produces a range of recommendations via email without people having to type anything: 

Immediately, that's a really great use case, rather than this big overwhelm. It is about making it real for their use cases right now, so that might be Sales Cloud or Service Cloud, and giving them a real example so they can start with that.

At Supermums, we have that full holistic training program where you educate them on the why and how first, then you provide the technical training, but also a peer discussion group, an opportunity for them to ask questions, to do practical exercises.

Salesforce’s recent Digital Skills Survey highlighted that many more workers are enthused about adopting AI than are scared about it taking their job. Black says:

They're very keen on how it can improve their productivity, efficiency and outcomes. As a woman, we absolutely want something that's going to make our life easier.

One possible barrier to getting women into AI is around prioritization and time pressures, Black suggests:

We always are looking at what do we need to prioritize when and how? People will say, why do I need to learn this, when do I need to learn it, and how is it going to impact me? Unless they see the urgency or it's relevant to their job right now, there isn't a reason for them to carve out five hours of the day to do it.

To encourage more interest among female employees within businesses, firms need to have a strategy looking at their pain points and identifying where AI is going to make a difference in that; and ideally appoint a female leader or a gender-balanced leadership team around that AI strategy. Black adds:

It's not to say men don't work in that way, but we prioritize very much the why and how now, and get it done if it's going to make a difference to their job.

AI will certainly be front and center at this week’s Dreamforce, which is billed by Salesforce as “the AI event of the year”. Black, who will be in attendance at the San Francisco event this week, will be taking advantage of this focus.

I've lined up all the AI sessions to learn as much as possible, because that's my type of learning environment. I love learning practically with live training sessions. I'm looking forward to finding out all about the new AI products and from all the other stands as well, how they can enhance the skills of our staff at Supermums, as well as sharing all this content with our community.

Looking ahead, Supermums is ensuring it has training and provision across CRM, data and AI. It has appointed an instructor to deliver a CRM analytics course, and is just launching AI provision around that. The company is also looking at introducing training for MuleSoft and Tableau.

My take

Depending on what research you read, women currently account for fewer than 25% of all AI roles and possibly as low as 14%; meanwhile, only 15% of Facebook’s AI research staff are women and just 10% at Google.

Programs like Supermums that specifically target women wanting to re-enter the workforce or change their career path, and which are in the process of adding an AI element to its offering, are vital. Women need to be offered much clearer and immediate paths to AI-centered jobs, and shown why it’s crucial for them to be leading on development of this technology today, not at some point in the future.

 

For all the highlights from Dreamforce 2023, check out our dedicated events hub here.

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