Salesforce has taken the world by storm in recent years, and in the run-up to the global conference, Dreamforce in San Francisco, here at Talent Hub we have been considering the various continental markets, and the similarities and differences that they hold to that in the ANZ region. CRM Recruiter Chris Hopper from Imperastaff in Houston is a recruitment figure that we have long held in high regard due to his insightful and value-add content, coming originally from a CRM background himself. We took the opportunity to sit down with Chris in the APAC Lounge at Dreamforce to share our own experiences from the two markets, spanning two continents.
We thought you’d appreciate us sharing our findings with you….
Ben Duncombe: Hi guys this is Ben from Talent Hub. And we’re here at Dreamforce today, recording some slightly different content to usual. We’re here with Chris Hopper from Imperastaff in Houston, and we’re going to discuss the similarities between the Australia and the US Salesforce market, get some insights into both, and hopefully provide some content that you’ll find interesting. So Chris, your background is interesting to me, because you’re not your stereotypical recruiter that comes from a sales or service background, you’re actually from a CRM background. So can you tell us a little bit about that, and how and why you transitioned?
Chris Hopper: For sure. Thanks, Ben for having me today. So again, my name is Chris Hopper with Imperastaff out of Houston, Texas, and my background is from a CRM perspective. I started out my career in 1999, in the dotcom boom with Siebel CRM. And for any of the veterans out there that have been kind of been around the CRM industry for a while, Siebel was what Salesforce is today, 20 years ago. So I had a company called Hitachi or actually Unisys, hired me outside of college, got me trained in Siebel as a developer, and then I moved through the ranks in my CRM career from being a developer to being a technical team lead, and went on to be a Solution Architect and a Project Manager. Then CRM Manager over at Accenture. Then in 2008 I decided to leave Accenture and became an independent contractor, basically doing technical PM work, and solution architecture for oil and gas customers, and then as well as federal government and city and state government projects. I did that for about eight years, and then decided to move out of the consulting practice, into recruiting. So in 2016 I decided to leave that space, and become a recruiter. I started to bring a different level of service based on my background, as it relates to technical acumen and skills, and using that consulting and technical ability, to help customers locate and qualify candidates professionally and provide a different flavour to what they’re used to.
Ben Duncombe: Okay yeah, I can imagine understanding the technologies is obviously a huge benefit. And so you’re recruiting across CRM, but you do a lot of work in the Salesforce space. So what kind of projects are you seeing, and what’s dominating the U.S. market from a Salesforce perspective?
Chris Hopper: Sure. So a couple of things come to mind. One is that customers are gradually still transitioning over to Lightning, and so they’re always looking for either consultants or contractors or employees that have done that transition before. So understanding what nuances, what are things that may not work as good as it should yet in Lightning, as well as if they wanted to build some new Lightning components from the ground up. That’s really been a challenge so far for me to find folks that have done that, just because Lightning is still relatively new to the market. That’s one piece. And the other piece is going to be integration. So it seems like integration continues to be what makes a company successful as far as linking up their ERP system to the front end CRM, and it’s about finding consultants out there in the workforce that maybe had done an integration with SAP to a Salesforce or any kind of ERP system, as well as maybe migrating a customer off of a legacy CRM. So if they are running Siebel or running some legacy CRM on-prem, to be able to get or find someone who’s been able to migrate successfully from an on-prem solution to a cloud based product.
Chris Hopper: Sure. So you know, regionally we work across the U.S., but the industry side in financial services, like you mentioned, we have a couple of customers that are in manufacturing, right, and manufacturing is really whether they are using ERP, using IoT, linking those things the CRM system. And then we’ve seen some around government as well as far as government kind of moving from on-prem solutions over to cloud-based solutions as well.
Ben Duncombe: Has that been a slow burn on the government side?
Chris Hopper: It has. I think government’s really the last in my experience. One of the later adoptions, or adoptors of cloud. A little more sensitivity around citizen information being hosted outside of their direct purview, so to speak. But I think over time, based on what I’m reading, and what I’m seeing in the marketplaces, governments are starting to redefine that for themselves. Maybe it’s a hybrid approach, where they’ll have some customer or citizen sensitive information on-prem, and then some of that information which may not be so sensitive on the cloud and they have taken that kind of approach instead.
Ben Duncombe: Sure. Yeah and again we’re seeing the same. I think for us, government has definitely been the sector that’s kind of lagged behind a little bit, but we’re definitely seeing state governments adopting Salesforce and going full steam ahead with the cloud, and do some really cool things with the platform as well. A lot of, I guess, client or citizen facing platforms now and being able to self-serve, which has been quite exciting for the space. And we’re also now starting to see some federal government departments that are starting to adopt Salesforce. And I think that’s because they’ve recently built the data centre in Australia in the region, so that kind of gives people a lot more comfort around where the data’s held.
Ben Duncombe: Do you see companies investing in junior talent, or are you seeing people just trying to pinch an experienced person from their peers and competitors?
Chris Hopper: Good question. So I’m not really seeing enough on the junior talent side yet. I hope that that will evolve over time. You know, and it’s kind of somewhat one-sided because I just don’t get needs, or I don’t get requests from customers looking for junior talent. They may be doing that either internally with their own talent acquisition department or posting on a job board. I do have a lot of junior level talent, that are looking for the first break and it’s not happening as fast as they would like. Right. And I think there’s still a divide between customers looking for someone that has three plus years experience, or just taking someone and may only have six months or no experience at all, and training them into the skill set. But you know, people are always reaching out to me in Houston and elsewhere, looking for, what does it take to get a break, right. And you know I don’t have a silver bullet when I talk to them. I also go to these user group sessions across the nation as well and present about, really about networking, showing up at events, and continue to knock on doors. It’s like anything else right? Regardless of what you hear in the market as far as how hot Salesforce is, and how many open positions there are. That is true but you have to take that with a grain of salt that, a lot of that work is for experienced developers. If you don’t have experience yet, you have to figure out ways to get it, or just continue to network with people and eventually you’ll get a break. There’s one use case that comes to mind, where an individual I met with back in April this year, looking to break into the market, and he just landed something about a week ago, with a customer right. And so he’s showed up at every user event, you know, he’s he’s been able to go to the regional events and he just continues to network with folks, and eventually, he got in front of the right person at the right time. They’re willing to take on someone junior like him, cross-train him, and now he’s involved with Salesforce.
Ben Duncombe: Yeah I think we find the same. We run Trailhead Tuesdays in Sydney and Melbourne, and we have people turning up every month that hear about the market being hot and the salaries that you can earn, and the career potential. So lots of people want to get into the space, and also, you know, it’s a fun space to be, it’s not just about the money, but it’s about having a rewarding career. So many people want to get into the market, and we’ve found that the people that have the most success with that, are definitely the people that go to meet up events, people that brand themselves professionally and properly on LinkedIn, because the Salesforce market is so inclusive, that if you write a good blog about your experience or what you’re doing to get experience, people share it, people like it, it ends up falling into the newsfeed of a hiring manager that might give you a chance. So absolutely the biggest thing for us, is being seen, being heard, and being vocal about what you’re looking to do, and why you’re looking to do it. And then there’ll be opportunities out there for you. What about people transitioning from other technologies? Is that happening and if it is happening, is it just in the SI space or end customers giving people the opportunity to transition?
Ben Duncombe: So is the contracting market a big market. Are there more people wanting contract roles than permanent roles now?
Chris Hopper: Yes, I mean, even though, I read a statistic this past week about SIs, having over 60 plus percent of the Salesforce work in the U.S. But one thing that I know is happening, and is going to continue to happen is, you know, if you are working for a company and you’re looking for a change of pace for example, or you want to look at more of a work-life balance, things of that nature. To me, the contracting route is more lucrative financially, and you know, the work-life balance is what is good as well because you know when I moved out from corporate from being with an SI as a manager, or to do independent contracting work, I could work six to eight months of the year, and make almost as much as I was making on an annual perspective as a full-time employee. So I could have the luxury of working six to eight months and then maybe take two or three months as I choose. And so I think if anybody hasn’t tried contracting before, it does take a little bit of a leap of faith to be able to do that, because you have to be in a sales role and a marketing role concurrently. And we’re actually delivering technical work as well. And so the challenges are you’re so heads down on delivery work that you have to pick your head up towards the end of the project, start putting yourself back out on the marketplace and have new interviews and having conversations to be able to line up your next contract if that’s what you want to do, before you other contract ends or else you may have a lag time, and you may not care to have that.
Ben Duncombe: Sure, so what percentage of candidates that you speak to, would you say want contract work?
Chris Hopper: Most. So I mean I would say, keep in mind that a lot of customers that I work for and that I support if they’re SI’s, they’re looking for contractors most of the time because they use all internal recruiting departments to find full time hires. But I would say, you know, the other challenge that we’re having is the U.S. specifically is, there’s not enough seasoned technical, U.S. citizen talent in the U.S. to meet the demand, right. So what that means is, that when that happens, you have to turn to the contract in foreign labour markets in the U.S. that there are folks that are on H1B’s right, they’ll fill that demand.
Ben Duncombe: Okay cool. And what about, so you’re saying the SI’s predominantly when they’re coming to you, they are hiring contractors. On the end user side, are they also predominantly looking for contract resources?
Chris Hopper: It just depends. We do have some customers that want contractors because they can expense it as an operational expense versus a capital expenditure. And some bigger companies just continue to have the notion of using contract labour because it’s easier to pick who you want to be part of the project. And so they may have niche skill sets and they can find a better fit niche skill set by using the contractor versus a full-time employee. I do have some customers that don’t want anything to do with contractors. They want a really bring the talent in-house, have some initial capital involved with grooming them and get them used to the culture there and bring them on full-time from day one.
Ben Duncombe: So when a project is being delivered in the U.S. you’re saying 60 percent of the work would go to an SI?
Chris Hopper: That’s when I’m reading, and that’s the kind of challenge I have as a recruiter as far as trying to get an opportunity to work with a client directly. Because they say, well, you know, the big five own it or it is something else that I read, there’s hundreds of small system integrators now in the Salesforce market in the U.S., so that is my competition’s recruiter on a contract side with their size, the bigger SI’s is this also with all the small pop shops, that are also looking for the business from the customers as well.
Ben Duncombe: And they would place like individuals rather than delivering a product as well right?
Chris Hopper: Correct.
Ben Duncombe: OK. Yeah because it’s interesting. I mean we’ve seen in the market that there’s more and more contract work coming up and definitely more and more contractors, or more candidates of ours that are looking to go contracting. But it’s still not a 50/50 split. Like I would say it’s probably still 70/30 in terms of the percentage of permanent roles to contract. Even with SI’s, like an SI would have always, or predominantly they would look to hire someone permanently because it’s cheaper for them, and because everyone is in growth mode. So all of our consulting partner clients are looking to scale and grow their teams and they don’t like the peaks and troughs of having contractors rolling off, so they would prefer to hire permanent staff. On the flip side, we are seeing more of our candidates starting to look for contract work because the daily rates are obviously a fair bit higher. If the work seems to be pretty consistent like you can end up on a contract for 6/12/18 months now, whereas previously it was a bit shorter. So there is a bit of a balancing act between the two, which is, yeah definitely interesting. So one thing I’m really interested about with you guys is remote working. And also contractors relocating for work because you know, typically in Australia someone that’s based in Sydney will work in Sydney and occasionally might have to travel for a project, but do you see much remote working?
Chris Hopper: I don’t. And that’s something that I have a lot of candidates ask, and enquire when I’m out there asking if they’re looking to make a move, or if they’re on the market. You know, what is the client offering for remote capacity and it’s a rough estimate I would say 10 to 20 percent of the roles that I see are remote. I just don’t get those that often. Usually the roles I’m filling are highly technical and they want someone to be part of the team on site, because they may be interfacing with other developers or other tech or other highly technical people within the client site right, and so, on just on those roles that I’m filling, the remote capacity either doesn’t happen all up front, or maybe one day a week, on a Friday, maybe they’ll work remote, they have just to take care of administrative work or occasionally on a role can evolve to being remote after the rapport, the trust, and integrity and a way of working starts to work itself out. But just to say to offer remote positions on day one of opportunity, I just don’t really see those very often at all.
Ben Duncombe: Yeah I mean that’s exactly the same for us but that’s interesting because I’d always thought it was a much bigger remote market here, and that people would be based in San Fran but working on a project in New York as an example. But yeah for us we’re getting people asking to work from home one day a week or two or what not but typically they’re still office based, and they’re working on a local project so that surprises me about the market. And when you place a contractor, it’s not abnormal for them to relocate for a role, is that correct?
Chris Hopper: Correct. So with contractors, customers, some customers are willing to pay expenses for someone to travel back and forth. For example if they’re using an SI and they want to treat another contractor with the same type of set up as a system integrator, then they’ll pay the expense but occasionally we have some clients who want us to have an all-inclusive rate right, so the all-inclusive rate is up to the contractor, does he want to pay for his travel himself as an out of pocket expense, or some of the H1b and the contractors in the U.S. that are not permanent residents of the U.S. it’s just more cost effective for them to just make a one time move to the client location, set up shop there, rent an apartment, be in a hotel, whatever the case may be, and just relocate for the period of time of the project.
Ben Duncombe: Have you ever been to Sydney?
Chris Hopper: I have not been to Australia yet.
Ben Duncombe: So we’re based in Sydney and getting someone to go over the bridge is a nightmare. People don’t want to travel longer than half an hour for a job. So the idea of getting someone to, and I guess they do occasionally relocate for a project or an exciting challenge or career opportunity, but it would be so rare to pick up the phone and try and talk someone into moving state or location.
Chris Hopper: I think it depends on what’s happening there in their personal life too. So when I was a consultant, I was living in Houston and working in New York and I was an all-inclusive contract. I wasn’t married at the time, I didn’t have a family at the time. And so what I would do is I would rent an apartment in Manhattan. I still had my home base in Houston and I would travel back and forth maybe twice a month, write it down as an expense as I was still holding my things down back home. So I think it really depends on what you have going on for you personally, and if you don’t have any strong ties to keep you in one location, and you see opportunities where the bill rate is high, you may be flexible and willing to relocate for now.
Ben Duncombe: And what would you say the biggest challenge that your customers are facing, be it an SI or an end customer when it comes to resourcing Salesforce talent?
Chris Hopper: Yeah I think it’s overall skill set, as far as someone that has, or who is well rounded. So what I mean by that is someone that has both technical acumen, understands how to solve problems, as well as be able to interface with the business. And be able to understand requirements. What are they looking to do, and then you providing value by giving them options about, and you know, also having a conversation in a consultative manner, where you’re talking about technical debt and why the business may have to be a little bit flexible on a requirement in order for you as a developer consultant to be able to and meet that need, using declarative features versus having to do a highly problematic activity in order to meet the requirement as is. So I think any customer would find more value in that versus just, I call it a code monkey, who just kind of takes, you know, a problem and only solves it one way. And not really to educate the customer about best practices or technical debt or some alternatives to help the overall credibility or capacity of what they’re implementing.
Ben Duncombe: Sure. OK. Yeah. And those, you know, the people have that skill set and are able to kind of communicate, be put in front of senior executives. They’re the guys that are earning the most money right, and in the most demand, and we’re seeing the same thing, anyone can do that and has a history of doing so, you can pretty much name their price name, their location, name their job title and off they go. Yeah well that’s been really interesting for us to get an insight into the market. What we’ll do, we’ll obviously, we’ll share you your details on LinkedIn and the channels as well to make sure people you can find you, and we recommend following Chris, he’s got some really interesting content and, yeah, well worth having a follow, so thanks for that Chris.
Chris Hopper: Great thank you, Ben, for having me, it’s been a great time for me.
If you’re a Salesforce professional or customer based in the US, you can contact and follow Chris on LinkedIn here.
Website: The CRM Recruiter