#choosetochallenge: a story of creativity

For our third interview, I had the pleasure of virtually journeying over to London to chat with Vera Loftis, Managing Director of Solution Junkies. As she’s grown throughout her career, so has her relationship with Salesforce. Vera has found herself questioning and redefining the way business works, which has often led her to create and explore new paths and business models for herself, with Salesforce in tow.


How she found herself in the Salesforce ecosystem . . .


Vera haphazardly fell into the ecosystem. She was a liberal arts major who had never considered IT or consulting. She originally had gone into marketing but found that her marketing coordinator role didn’t suit her aspirations and she had no idea what she would do next.

“I panicked and applied for all kinds of jobs.”


Her cousin was a consultant at the time and suggested that she explore consulting, specifically a company called Bluewolf. After one interview with the CEO, she was hired. They didn’t know what to do with her particular skill set at the time, so Vera started in an entry-level position. She began working on Salesforce certifications straight away by studying for the Salesforce admin certification, but there was one slight problem: she didn’t know anything about systems and had never previously heard of Salesforce. “I came home one day thinking I had made a mistake. It was a shock to the system.” Still, she kept studying, and shortly, Salesforce began to click for her.

Photo provided by Vera Loftis


As she geared up for her journey with Bluewolf, a conversation with CEO Eric Berridge showed her the potential for career growth when he asked:


“Well, what are you going to do here?”


Her journey at Bluewolf was nothing short of impressive. Although she began in 2007 as a Business Analyst, Vera climbed the ladder to become UK Managing Director of Bluewolf in 2012. Vera grew a team of 10 to a team of 60 and was responsible for thought leadership around the Salesforce consulting industry. As a leader, Vera also ensured that Bluewolf had a successful integration into IBM after acquisition. Once the acquisition was completed in 2018, she was promoted to Partner in the IBM organization and continued to grow the team to 120 people.

Photo provided by Vera Loftis


Vera describes her relationship with Salesforce as ‘interesting’ because she started so young. She grew in her career through the ecosystem and recently found herself at a fork in the road. She wondered if she truly loved Salesforce - or - if she loved it because it’s all she’d ever known. Haven’t we all been at that crossroads at one point or another?


As Vera contemplated her next career move after Bluewolf, Salesforce remained a big question on the table. It took some soul searching to realize that she did, in fact, want to continue her career in the ecosystem.


“I surprised myself by realizing I love Salesforce and why I love it: I believe in the product, in the pace it moves, and in the ecosystem.”


This was the defining point in her career.


A proud moment . . .


When I asked Vera what one of her proudest moments in the ecosystem has been, she remarked that it's the genuine difference you can make with a customer, whether they’re big or small. Salesforce can change business for anyone and she loves to see the way a customer’s face lights up when she makes even the simplest of adjustments.


Photo provided by Vera Loftis


"Salesforce has an incredible way of enacting change - both big and small. From being able to instantly move a field on a page layout to create a better user experience to completely transforming a business process. Its impact potential is limitless."


She also referred to herself as a page layout geek because she loves to analyze page layouts and make them more user-friendly. Me too, Vera. Me, too!


Her why and the pandemic-forced reflection . . . .


Vera says the biggest changes and lessons learned occurred during the COVID19 lockdown. It was the first time in her career where she paused and started to ask, "Why am I doing this? What does it mean? Am I fulfilled?"


Photo provided by Vera Loftis


She realized that she had been living on autopilot; going through meetings, days, weeks . . .

Vera likened it to being on a treadmill and running so fast that a person doesn’t often reflect, pause, or stop to figure out if it’s worth it. She was asking herself if she was truly happy.


“The sudden change in my environment forced the reflection and changed the outlook of my career,” she said. She wanted projects to mean more from a business standpoint and for the 9-5 workday to have a greater purpose by giving back.


Thus, Solution Junkies was born. Solution Junkies runs on a special model: Projects for Purpose. Every project provides an opportunity to impact a charity of the clients’ choosing. This idea is embedded in the framework of how the company delivers projects. The concept is two-fold: at the end of the project, a piece of the profit goes back to charity and instead of company-sponsored dinners or celebrations, the team takes two days to help that chosen charity.


“As hard as the workdays are, you feel better, because you're achieving something more structured around the idea of 'giveback initiatives' which is usually thrown by the wayside.”


Projects for Purpose provides a different lens of delivering Salesforce that helps everyone rally around something physical to move the organization forward while keeping the charity at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts.


On advancing other women . . .


Advancing other women is a conscious effort and should be something we do every day,” Vera noted. “It shows itself in big gestures and also through the little things that are overlooked.”


Vera’s company is working towards continually creating and recreating an inclusive and nurturing environment where people feel comfortable and valued in sharing opinions. She wants people to be open and authentic, which is difficult to do unless it’s practiced by leaders on a daily basis. She’s observed that it is easy for people to stay quiet and feel afraid than to be front and center. Vera’s goal is to nurture these leadership skills so more people are amplifying their voices.


Vera adamantly believes that standing up for women is important and that we should aspire to be that type of leader. Although I’ve heard many wonderful stories of Eric Berridge throughout my Bluewolf days, Vera shared one that is now my favorite story.


She began by saying that Eric is a champion when it comes to standing up for people. She recalled a situation where she didn’t have an equal voice and Eric interrupted by saying,

“Let her speak.”


Vera continued by sharing that she has witnessed him refuse to attend a dinner meeting because there were no women in attendance.


“Men don’t understand how powerful men as allies are. It forces people to assess the situation and make a change.”


Who inspires her . . .


A collection of women inspire her, but she followed suit by saying that obviously, Jolene Chan inspires her. She is an everyday inspiration.“I owe my career, in large part, to Jolene.”


Another inspirational woman is Alis, a friend of Vera’s. Her friend is a VP Account Director at a large firm and gave birth to her third child during the pandemic. Running these programs with three children (one being a newborn) is extremely admirable because of the time, dedication, and focus it takes to juggle so many different elements with such grace.


That’s the amazing thing about women. We create. We adapt. We persevere.

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