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#choosetochallenge: a story of inspiration

Thank you for joining us for the fourth session of the bloomly limited blog series. This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nalani Kopp. This interview was raw, emotional, and inspiring. There were moments where Nalani left me speechless. Her story is extraordinary and I hope you enjoy - and empathize - with it. Nalani is an advocate, mentor, and leader for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and she shows that in her everyday life. I’m proud to know her and share what an inspiration she is.

How she found her beginning in the Salesforce ecosystem . . .

Nalani was first introduced to the Salesforce ecosystem about seven years ago when she joined a company to work in an HR operations role.

"I knew nothing about Salesforce,” she recalled.

Nalani has a history of working for startups. She had joined a startup company by accepting an HR leadership position that needed to internally implement Salesforce.

Photo provided by Nalani Kopp

During her analysis of the company, Nalani noticed that one of the things missing was the people element. There was no humanitarian element to the CRM that was currently being used and implementing Salesforce was a big change - they were rolling this new CRM out to three different teams. This first glimpse of Salesforce piqued Nalani’s interest and she became intrigued by the possibilities of Salesforce’s capabilities.

Her intrigue led her down a path of problem-solving and optimizing business processes with the use of Salesforce.

At Rutgers University, she was the head of business development. They didn’t have a great CRM in place and desperately needed it to manage the funnel and conversations she was having with people.

Nalani speaking at the Rutgers coding bootcamp

Photo provided by Nalani Kopp

She convinced leadership to implement Salesforce and worked with a consultant to smooth out a successful implementation that met the needs of the BD workflow.

In 2018, Nalani moved from startups to enterprise consulting. She began as a Sr. Consultant on the team responsible for Bluewolf's acquisition into IBM Digital Strategy practice. Her role was to ensure both internal consultants and external clients could realize the value of Salesforce as a platform for innovation.

She needed to help them understand the complexity of Salesforce and translate that to a client preparing to undergo a 30 country rollout of the platform.

Working with Salesforce gave Nalani the opportunity to work with several international clients and the ability to realize her dream of living abroad in Amsterdam. While there, she developed go-to-market strategies that were supported by Salesforce Sales, Marketing, and Service Clouds.

Salesforce continues to be in many of Nalani's discussions with clients as is a Sales Engagement Platform that natively integrates with Salesforce, extending its CRM capabilities to become action-oriented playbooks for Sales Representatives.

On advancing other women . . .

She has been an active Diversity & Inclusion advocate for over five years now.

Nalani led Bluewolf’s internal group, Ladies in Tech (b.Lit), and consulted on content for the external group, Women Innovators Network - WIN) that held joint conferences with Salesforce. This program was designed to increase the ability to build a diverse workforce, create an inclusive workplace, and leverage diversity as a competitive advantage. I remember tagging along for a b.Lit meeting when I first joined Bluewolf and it was an incredible experience.

One of my favorite moments during that meeting was when a working mom said, “I don’t have to come to work, I get to come to work.” This changed the way I think about the workday, going to the gym, and even the simpler things in life that I usually took for granted. Nalani’s efforts in creating this immersive and inclusive experience have stuck with me for years.

In 2015, it was reported that Bluewolf's workforce was 67 percent male and 33 percent female, rendering Women in Tech was not only necessary but imperative in the drive for inclusion and equality in the workplace. In 2018, Nalani represented IBM at the Women in IT Awards Gala in New York City. Her goal was to continue to learn from other womxn leaders in the industry and bring back ideas for IBM Bluewolf.

Nalani at the Women in IT Awards Gala - IBM

Photo provided by Nalani Kopp

Today, Nalani has her own business as a freelance Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategy Consultant. One of the coolest elements of Nalani’s website is ArtherapyHQ, where changemakers come together and where women are empowered to find new ways to express themselves through art forms such as dance, photography, and poetry. Throughout my research of DE&I, I’ve personally reached out to Nalani with questions; I can attest to her kindness, resourcefulness, and patience whilst I’m trying to learn and expand my skillset and mindset.

Photo provided by Nalani Kopp

Typically, her freelance services are brought in to resolve compliance or legal issues; however, there are also clients who are making DE&I a cornerstone in culture and corporate strategy.

She begins by working with the c-suite executives to understand how and why DE&I can become part of their business growth strategy, then she works all the way down to the staff with immersive workshops.

Nalani specializes in design thinking sessions and applied learning. The topics she covers range from advancing women in leadership to implementing an inclusive recruitment strategy, or how to ensure inclusion becomes part of cultural values.

When I asked Nalani about the pain points of DE&I, she said, “Historically, there are a lot of companies who use DE&I as part of marketing to attract certain talent and hit talent goals that were set but not ingrained in the corporate culture.” Nalani continued to say how impressed she is with Outreach and its embodiment of diversity.

“DE&I is UNPARALLELED at Outreach because they breathe it.”

Nalani shared a story from her first week: “I started with Outreach in December 2020 and during my first week of work, a colleague held a trans history session where a lot of people attended and the leadership was in full support.”

This was one of the solidifying moments for Nalani as she had previously felt burned out fighting for DE&I in other roles.

“I learned that it is no longer an option to work for a place that values DE&I - it is a requirement.”

Her why:

Nalani’s purpose in life is to elevate voices -- using hers as a tool to showcase that equity is a huge issue for many groups. She has conducted her own learning to go the extra mile to be inclusive. “You can never be an expert because people are unique and have unique needs,” she commented.

Photo provided by Nalani Kopp

“If you want to be somewhere where people feel included, you constantly need to educate yourself.”

Throughout my conversation with Nalani, I realized that she is a disruptor and that is fantastic.

She is a splash into otherwise still waters and she’s making waves to elevate the voices of the unheard and the overlooked by taking a stand and setting examples at every turn.

She spoke about general disabilities and how she thinks of them as a superpower or a person’s greatest strength. “Identity is an onion with layers - you peel it back - and as a company, you will never fully realize the skills that people have or acquire these valuable experiences if you think of people as disabled.”

Society is becoming more aware of issues surrounding identity and minority experiences. We need to continue to push the boundaries and be more aware because why wouldn’t we want to envelop that into our company's culture?

“All of us have a responsibility to be an active ally or sponsor to any person. The definition of humanity means to be humane to one another.”

Her advice to womxn in the ecosystem . . .

Nalani highlighted that even though we experience microaggressions on a regular basis, Salesforce does open enough opportunities for womxn where we can continue to challenge the gendered norm that exists in a White Dominant workplace. Each of us should continue to discuss and to share our experiences for the betterment of the workplace for future generations.

Who inspires her . . .

Nalani has a few role models who come to mind, although she told me there are so many women who inspire her. She’s inspired by Oprah because of her perseverance and her experiences growing up that translated into her wanting to change the world. She appreciates how Oprah is an ally to elevating voices and how she works diligently to show the world how we can be better humans.

She noted that Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s meditation experience is a healing element in her life. This is a huge focus in her life as she is an active yogi. Nalani practices mindfulness and yoga by minimizing screen time.

“If we want to be kinder to other people, we need to go inwards and we need to have more conversations with ourselves.”

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