The Community Club

Discussion on: AMA with Holly Firestone

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Holly Firestone Ask Me Anything

Community has played an important role at every company that I’ve managed community, which is obviously awesome. It wasn’t always that way though. Towards the beginning of my career, community was still a relatively new/unknown industry. At the place I was working at that time, I had a manager that didn’t understand or believe in the value of community, which made things really tough in terms of career growth and resources for the programs. Terrible managers/ decision makers can truly make or break a community strategy or a community career. I mean this goes for everyone in every role outside of community, too, but for community, which is still so dependent on being able to prove value, it’s even more difficult. I knew that the only way I could move forward was to make sure that the community absolutely could not be ignored. I can’t stress how important this was. Getting the community front in center at events, making sure community members and leaders voices were being heard across the company and across the leadership team, and some lucky run-ins between the CEOs and the members of our community got community the attention it needed. Community couldn’t be ignored anymore. The CEOs saw what was happening and they understood the potential. Community became a huge priority for the business the following year and beyond.

At Salesforce, community is absolutely central to the business. You can’t go to a Salesforce event without Salesforce talking about the power of the Salesforce community. This wasn’t always the case— you can certainly ask Erica Kuhl (linkedin.com/in/ericakuhl/) about that— but I believe it was 2016 when community was first mentioned in the Dreamforce keynote. This was a big deal because every single word spoken in the keynote is very intentional, and community had never been mentioned like this before. It was a big deal, and we were very excited about it. It showed up in every keynote at every event moving forward. However, that doesn’t mean we got more resources. We definitely had to be scrappy. People always assume that because it’s Salesforce that there’s a never-ending stream of cash being thrown at each team, but that’s definitely not the case. For the community size, our team was extremely small. It was very difficult to get headcount most of the time I was there. Because of that, I spent 5 years deeply focused on rebuilding our processes so we could operate at scale. I hired 2 people to focus on operations. That was 1/3 of my team. It was that important.

As for Venafi, our leadership team has always understood the investment and resources it takes to really build community. The plan for community was much smaller when I started (January 2020), but I’ve worked closely with our CEO and leadership team to elevate and expand Venafi’s vision for community. They are all in on prioritizing community, and it’s really exciting. I’ll share more about that exciting transition soon!