Our VP of Partnerships Zak Pines recently sat down with Laura Kaiser, Salesforce Consultant at Penrod, as part of our ongoing Partner Interview Series. Zak and Laura had a far-ranging conversation that touched on Laura’s career growth at Penrod and implementing Formstack for Salesforce to support heart safe school designations in Wisconsin. Here’s an abridged transcript of the chat.
Career Development & Growth at Penrod
Zak: I know a lot about Penrod from the time we spent together at Penrodpalooza. But can you start with a quick summary of who Penrod is?
Laura: I think it’s been eight years since Penrod was founded. We’re a Platinum Salesforce Partner, Health and Life Sciences Master, and we digitally transform healthcare companies with Salesforce implementations. We also work with other platforms that are part of the Salesforce ecosystem, such as Formstack, to help customers get the most out of their Salesforce-related processes.
Zak: And what is your role at Penrod?
Laura: I’m a consultant on the Salesforce managed services team, which provides ongoing support for our customers. I started here as an intern, which helped me get acquainted with the business. Prior to joining Penrod, I hadn’t had any experience with Salesforce, but when I was introduced to it for the first time, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I was promoted to Salesforce Consultant once I really got to know Salesforce, and it was a pretty quick transition from intern to consultant.
Zak: Wow. I absolutely love that story of you joining as an intern and then growing with Penrod.
Laura: Yes. There’s someone who just recently transitioned from intern to consultant about a month ago, and now we’re building an actual program around it. We want to market this program to college students to get them interested in Salesforce, train them in consulting and Salesforce knowledge, and then promote them to a consultant. We want to grow our team independently rather than trading Salesforce Consultants.
Zak: It’s like a sports team—you want to develop the talent and build your team.
Laura: Yes, exactly!
Zak: What was it like learning Salesforce as someone without previous experience?
Laura: I heard about Salesforce for the first time at a wedding actually! I was talking to a friend, and they had just gone through a career transition into Salesforce, and I thought it was interesting at the time. I took a couple Trailhead classes and realized this was something really fun to work within, and it was just such a huge platform. It seems to have a longer lifespan than many other software systems, replacing Dynamics and the like. It seemed like a long-term career, and that’s when I dove in.
I took my admin certification before joining Penrod but failed on the first try. After a couple of weeks with Penrod and meeting with mentors and getting more hands on with it, that’s when I really started to implement my learnings and really got to know the product.
Zak: Your story has some great wrinkles to it. There’s a lesson for sure in how you overcame the failure of that first certification. And now I’m sure you have several.
Laura: Yep! I just got my fourth Salesforce certification, and I also have my Formstack for Salesforce certification. So five!
Zak: Glad you’re counting the Formstack one, too! So you’re on the managed services team. Are there specific teams within the organization you typically work with?
Laura: It’s a handful of different clouds that we all work within. I started in two CPQ Clouds—both for medical devices—and then I have moved to standard Sales and Service Clouds and some Health Clouds working with health providers. Health providers are the clients I work with the most.
Zak: Are there any themes around who your customers are? What are the roles you typically work with?
Laura: Primarily the system admin or their technical person. Sometimes the technical person doesn’t actually know Salesforce completely, so we go through and help them get a basic understanding of it. In these instances, we provide tip sheets or screenshare so we can walk through how to complete certain tasks. This is anything from broad training to building out automation through more complicated tasks.
Zak: What does your typical day-to-day look like?
Laura: I probably have about four meetings a day with my clients, and typically they’re check-ins or last minute fires that need to be taken care of immediately. It varies, though. At the start of my day, I will go through my tickets that need to be worked that week, and I complete those in between meetings. I have about 10 different items I’m working on right now, but it varies week to week. I also email directly with clients, so it’s juggling that throughout my day as well.
Keeping Wisconsin Children Heart Healthy: Penrod, Salesforce, & Formstack
Zak: Speaking of clients, I would love to dive into the project you worked on to implement Formstack for Salesforce. How did this story begin?
Laura: We’ve been working with a hospital focused on helping children for about three years now. We’ve built a community for them and help to maintain it. Within their hospital, they have a program that has the goal of keeping schools in Wisconsin heart-safe. This means that they have successfully completed a sudden cardiac arrest program of awareness, training, and emergency response to promote a heart-safe environment for students, visitors, and staff.
The certification expires after two years, and the program’s coordinators have been working hard with schools to ensure they maintain certification. It’s a lot of work keeping track of this. In the beginning, it was all a paper-based program, which was very manual. There were only two coordinators, so the need to find a digital solution was apparent, and it also needed to be easy for them to do. This is why they reached out to Penrod in the first place, as they wanted help implementing Formstack. That’s how I got to know your product really well. We actually wrote a Salesforce Case Study about it.
Zak: So at that point, you had all of the requirements. What did you do next from a solutioning standpoint?
Laura: Ryan Banks is our Solutions Architect, and he met with the hospital to gather those requirements and build out the solution with Formstack. I was assigned to implement. There was an internal kickoff with the hospital program coordinators, which included a technical individual from their side and then the main stakeholder of their Salesforce instance. We talked about what Formstack would do, what it would look like, and how it would solve their issues. Once we got sign-off, we started building and had a check-in on progress every week with their team. We all wanted to make sure it met their needs and it was customized the way they needed it to be.
Zak: What were some of the main components of this process? Did Process Builder factor in?
Laura: Process Builder was used for the forms automation to update accounts in Salesforce. So what we did was create a new object. We call it Activities, not to be confused with the activity object. So when a form was created, we mapped it to the activities object, and when that came in, the Activities record was created. Process Builder was used to update the account record and stamp the date that the form was created.
Another layer is looking on the account level to determine if the certification has been completed. We pulled a developer in to set up automation around the expiration date. If the certification expires, it would wipe out all of the activities—so the system wasn’t pulling in old data—and, instead, display only the most recent activities required. This allowed coordinators to easily see which schools were going to expire soon so they could reach out.
Zak: What was the process like, helping the hospital move from paper-based processes to digital?
Laura: It was all paper-based prior to implementing Formstack. They had a ton of in-person meetings, and they would actually go to each school, provide the paper forms, and then collect those papers into huge stacks. When they first started going digital, they manually added forms into Salesforce. They could have used a data loader, but they chose to manually update the historical data.
To help with that process, we created a large tip sheet that explained the process and helped them solve for certain situations that might come up. Now, they’re able to send a link to the school that can complete the form and send it in, and if there are questions, we have the report built that shows all of the new forms created in Salesforce each week. If there are any questions on activities or when the form was created, they’re able to call the school and check in.
Zak: I can just picture that visual of huge stacks of paper after doing those in-person school visits.
It’s great to hear how you’ve set up reporting that enables them to follow up with schools as activities come through. Have you noticed any other improvements in their processes?
Laura: A couple of months ago, they started a new project, and they used the tip sheets we’d created. The transition was very thorough, and what’s nice about having this digital setup is the training processes. If there’s someone new to the team, it’s a seamless process to get them set up. Another thing that’s really neat with Formstack is that the hospital has found ways to use Formstack in different scenarios. When COVID-19 hit the community, they had a lot more demands for online tools. They created a form for their community members to create cases. If there was an issue or they needed to reschedule, community members could easily create a case. They were able to get this implemented extremely quickly—way quicker than they would have before Formstack—because they could just build their forms directly in Salesforce using Formstack.
Zak: So they were able to adapt very quickly to a new business process challenge.
Laura: Exactly. It was really cool to see! They needed very little support; they could build the form, put it on the community, and maintain it.
And on the Formstack side, the documentation is so easy to follow and readily available. I was able to find documentation every step of the way, and any place I got stuck, I could find the resource to help me. So that’s really helped enable us and our customers during this crazy time. Formstack’s customer support was also super responsive, but I can’t say enough about the tool’s ease-of-use. I was actually able to utilize some CSS, and the documentation for that was great as well!
Zak: Let’s wrap up with the lightning round. What are some of your personal interests or hobbies?
Laura: I love running and have run a lot of marathons. One of them was in Bermuda, called the Bermuda Triangle Challenge. You run a mile on Friday, a 10K on Saturday, and then a full marathon on Sunday. I couldn’t walk to the airport the next day. It was rough!
I also have to admit this: with COVID-19 and being stuck in the house, I’ve been hitting Fortnight like a 14-year-old child! That’s my number two hobby, video games.
Zak: Very impressive! It’s a good balance, running and video games! Do you have any productivity tips you can share?
Laura: One thing I’ve been doing is getting distracted with emails. If I see an email come in, I want to jump in and address it right away, especially if it’s a client who needs a solution. But lately I’ve been trying to keep my email closed and only look three times a day, and set those times. That’s a productivity tip I have tried to work on.
Zak: There’s always a balance between responsiveness and getting stuff done. What’s your favorite TV show?
Laura: I’ve been a “Survivor” fan since the beginning! I usually cook a dish or have some sort of food or appetizer that’s related to the country they’re in.
Zak: What’s your go-to lunch during the work day?
Laura: Chick’n (fake chicken) either on sandwiches or wraps. I actually went pescatarian a couple of months ago.
Zak: My last question is a debate we have here at Formstack. Is a hot dog a sandwich?
Laura: I have to say no, but I understand the rationale that it is a sandwich.