10/26/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 10/26/2021 07:25
"I needed a new start because I was mentally and physically unhealthy."
That was Tony Nguyen's mindset in 2020 after the pandemic left him jobless - and consequently - without a permanent home. The Minneapolis resident was laid off as the regional manager of a local Vietnamese sandwich chain; one of 114 million people worldwide to lose their job during COVID-19. Despite the restaurant industry being the only professional work Nguyen knew, despite being unemployed and homeless, the then 27-year-old Vietnamese immigrant wanted to change careers.
"We came here to America as a family and we all talk a lot about how important that is, but you're doing something that gets rid of everything - your support, the people you talk to," said Nguyen, who regularly worked 6 to 7 day weeks. "I lost sight of that because I was 'chasing the American dream,' but I didn't even know what the American dream was."
Welcome to the Great Resignation. Or the Great Reshuffle. Whatever you want to call it - the American workforce is shifting at a historic rate. After the pandemic led to record unemployment and the worst recession in U.S. history, the country now faces a labor shortage, partially because people like Tony Nguyen realized their priorities have shifted and burnout is real. As of September, there were 10 million job openings despite more than 8.4 million unemployed people looking for work.
For Salesforce, it's not only about creating new technology and career opportunities; we have to pave pathways to these new jobs."kris lande, svp trailblazer ecosystem, salesforce
Businesses aren't just trying to fill those jobs, they're looking to fill those jobs with people who have the right skill set. Even before the pandemic, 70% of employers had trouble filling roles because of a skills gap and nearly 90% of executives said there's a shortage of needed skills in their workforce.
But what if the problem wasn't just a gap in skills, but instead a gap in opportunities to build those skills? It's a gap Salesforce has already been looking to close with Trailhead - its free online learning platform - and its Trailblazer Community - a global network of people using Salesforce to build successful careers, companies, and communities.
"For Salesforce, it's not only about creating new technology and career opportunities; we have to pave pathways to these new jobs," said Kris Lande, SVP of Salesforce's Trailblazer Ecosystem. "We've made it our mission to empower people with the tools they need to build dynamic careers, companies, and communities with Salesforce, and thrive in a digital-first world."
Tony Nguyen was listening.
After getting laid off and unable to afford rent, Tony Nguyen moved to his cousin's basement.
"I was scared. It was the lowest I've ever felt," he said via video conference. "I didn't have anywhere to stay. I'm grateful my cousin was able to take me in. I ended up living in her basement for the next six months."
"People won't leave their own country to come to America if they don't have to. When we came here it wasn't easy. There's always this feeling that you want to belong somewhere."tony nguyen, trailblazer and salesforce administrator, calabrio
Those six months changed the trajectory of Nguyen's life. To determine his future, Nguyen reflected on his past. From immigrating to the U.S. from Hue, Vietnam, when he was nine; to facing constant discrimination that led his family to move 14 times; to his father returning to Vietnam and leaving his mom to work two jobs and take care of four children by herself.
"People won't leave their own country to come to America if they don't have to," explained Nguyen. "When we came here it wasn't easy, there's always this feeling that you want to belong somewhere. There were a lot of obstacles we had to overcome. What I've noticed: either you overcome it or you don't. You don't have a choice."
As Nguyen tried to overcome unemployment, his nomadic and isolated experience in America contributed to additional challenges. Like many from underrepresented communities, especially low-income, first-generation immigrants - Nguyen didn't know what he didn't know. As he searched for job openings, a friend suggested his transferable skills could be a nice fit as a Salesforce administrator. Small problem.
"I had no idea what Salesforce was. It was a foreign word for me," admitted Nguyen. After googling the world's leading CRM, he quickly became intrigued but couldn't afford the proper training or relevant education. Or so he thought.
"I was looking around and everything was $4-5 thousand. We're in a pandemic. I lost my house. I lost my job. I don't have $5,000 to pay for a program. That's when I ran into Trailhead and from there, everything started falling into place, like a domino effect."
I lost my house. I lost my job. I don't have $5,000 to pay for a program. That's when I ran into Trailhead and from there, everything started falling into place, like a domino effect."tony nguyen, trailblazer and salesforce administrator, calabrio
Trailhead is Salesforce's free online learning platform that helps people without a tech background learn digital skills and land in-demand jobs. Its surrounding Trailblazer Community supports those learning how to use Salesforce through Trailhead and looking to join the Trailblazer Ecosystem, which features individuals from all backgrounds, roles, and experience levels.
Nguyen couldn't believe Salesforce offered these career-building tools and resources for free, especially at a time when the public colleges costs have jumped 55% and fewer people have the time and money to reskill through traditional education.
In America, everything comes with a price. Wrapping our heads around something this significant seemed too good to be true. Everything you need to learn was for free? Are you serious?"tony nguyen, trailblazer and salesforce administrator, calabrio
"Coming from a foreign country, we always talk about going to school and how expensive school is. In America, everything comes with a price. Wrapping our heads around something this significant seemed too good to be true. Everything you need to learn was for free? Are you serious? I treated it like my full-time job."
Whether from his cousin's basement or on his phone, Nguyen studied on Trailhead for 6-8 hours a day. A video game lover, he was hooked on Trailhead's gamified interface, where he could earn points and badges for learning different content in business, tech, and soft skills - like time management and networking.
"Trailhead doesn't just teach you about Salesforce - it's way beyond that," said Nguyen. "You can learn how to be a good boss, how to be a good mentor, how to be a good student. Everything is on there!"
As Nguyen racked up Trailhead points and ranks, the Trailblazer Community pointed Nguyen towards PepUp Tech, a non-profit committed to increasing underrepresented populations in tech to further him in his career journey.
"The hardest challenge is for people like me who are not surrounded by these opportunities," explained Nguyen. "How do we get exposure to Salesforce or technology in general, when we don't see that in our local, immigrant communities? What about the people that can't afford school, or the people that just stepped foot in America and work at a restaurant or in construction? That's a really big population, so we need to find a way to bridge that gap."
For Nguyen, the Trailblazer Community helped bridge that gap; the first of many times the Community, with 1,300 groups across 90 countries, would offer a helping hand.
"The Community has supported my journey every step of the way," said Nguyen. "I knew I belonged here because every time I failed, I got lifted up by random strangers. I don't know these guys, why are they so nice? Why are they showing me so much love? I didn't think it was real."
While Nguyen loved Trailhead, that didn't mean it was easy. As when anyone tries something new, there are a lot of speed bumps. Nguyen says reading about the success stories of his fellow Trailblazers - including 3.5-million Trailhead learners and growing - inspired him to continue his certification to become a Salesforce administrator, a role that helps companies customize their Salesforce platform.
"People talk about living outside of your comfort zone or your bubble," said Nguyen, "That's what I wanted to do. So I put all my faith in this. If it doesn't work out - okay, I lost six months of my time. But I believed in the mission, the culture, and the people doing it before me. If they can do it, I can do it."
Spoiler alert: he did it.
Nguyen is currently a Salesforce administrator for Calabrio, a software company. He says he couldn't have done it without the Trailblazer Community.
"What stands out about the Salesforce ecosystem is it's people that you want to work with. There's a community that you love. When you consider what you want to do, there has to be a greater meaning than just a career," said Nguyen of the Community.
When you consider what you want to do, there has to be a greater meaning than just a career."tony nguyen, trailblazer and salesforce administrator, calabrio
"We're going through some dark times. We need people to be together. The moment I saw and felt that, I knew this is where I wanted to be."
Fast forward a year from sitting in his cousin's basement homeless and unemployed, Nguyen was on stage at Dreamforce 2021 earning one of the highest honors in the Salesforce Trailblazer Community: a Golden Hoodie, given to those who exemplify inspiration and innovation. The magnitude of the moment left him emotional. It wasn't about the shiny gold sweatshirt, Salesforce, or even his new tech career; it was about finding something that's eluded him his entire life in America - belonging.
"For the last 20 years, I've been looking for that thing. I knew I wanted to make change in the world, but in what way I wasn't sure. I feel like I finally found it."
Visit and join Trailhead
Salesforce's SVP of the Trailblazer Ecosystem on how the company is providing people of all backgrounds with tools to innovate and unlock career opportunities.
For more on how Trailhead and the Trailblazer Community are fueling the Salesforce Economy, click here