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  • Writer's pictureGemma Blezard

Spotlight Series: Blanca Leon-Carter

Blanca V. Leon-Carter started her career early in the non-profit sector and quickly moved to specialize in non-profit technology. She has over 18+ years of experience and recently came to a crossroads.

A little over 12 months ago, she took a huge risk on a leap of faith and invested in herself. Without a plan, with a 9-month-old, near heart attack, worn down and like many non-profit professionals, near burnout. This type of risk was foreign to her as she is very much a planner and prefers the stability of all facets. After a trip to the emergency room where she was first tested for a heart attack and later diagnosed with acute anxiety and post-partum depression, she decided something had to change. She chose her wellbeing and family when she decided to resign from her tenured position in mid-February of 2018. She has stated, “It was the BEST decision I’ve ever made.”

She started the RAD Women Code course in February 2018, passed the Salesforce Certified Administrator exam in June 2018, transitioned and revitalized her career. In July she secured a position as Salesforce Administrator at her 2x alma mater, Devry University. She proudly works alongside a very supportive CRM team of five women in tech. A few months after securing the position at the university she passed the Platform App Builder certification. Over the course of seven months, she has led two Ladies Be Architects study groups, focused on PD1 content and learning to code. She also volunteers for RAD Women Code.

Blanca proudly celebrates the announcement of her passing the Platform Developer I certification exam in March 2019!

She is passionate about community empowerment, lifelong learning, and breaking down barriers. In her spare time, she embraces family fun with #babyblazer (now 22 months old), her eldest son, husband, family, and friends. She finds calm in practicing yoga.

Tell us how you heard about Ladies Be Architects?

“On May 15, 2018, I received a Twitter DM from Ladies Be Architects. I would have never imagined in a million light years that my admin learning adventures (shared on Twitter) would catch Charly’s attention. In her message, she expressed excitement of my studies to become a Salesforce Certified Administrator. She went on to extend a helping hand by offering to set up a “quick mini study group” to help me prep for any areas that were tough and answer any questions I had.

“I just want you to know we are here to support you!” was Charly’s next statement.

“I remember thinking to myself, “Oh my – this is Ladies Be Architects, this is Charly Prinsloo! If she has time in her very busy day and life to extend a helping hand, if she is investing time to support newbies like me- I have to pass!” I was immediately excited to learn more about Ladies Be Architects. Mostly, I had to find out how I too could get involved and help others feel like they have a safe space to learn something new, grow professionally, and thrive.”

What feelings did Ladies Be Architects inspire within you?

“Hope. My learning adventures mattered. I mattered. This may not seem big for some people, however, for a Latina woman in tech who always had to prove her worthiness in the tech area to even be considered the equivalent to a “tech guy” by a vendor and/or technology provider, this was HUGE. When Charly introduced herself to me and introduced me to Ladies Be Architects, I was immediately afforded support and a safe space to be my true self.

“Shortly after, I saw the need for a Platform Developer 1 study group. I reached out to Charly and Gemma to express my interest in volunteering to lead the #LBAjourneytoPD1 group. They welcomed my interests and provided the thumbs up. I was empowered. They taught me that I didn’t have to know all the answers or to be an expert, and most importantly it was okay to not know everything. My tenacity to learn, curiosity to dive into the PD1 content, and my passion to help others was appreciated and respected.

“Overwhelmed with positivity and encouragement, this would spark the beginning of my study group leader journey. I was about to embark in unchartered waters, to continue to learn how to develop for the Salesforce platform.

“Throughout this journey, Gemma, Charly, and Susannah have consistently provided guidance. They supported us with the tools we needed to conduct successful virtual study groups. Often they would sacrifice their valuable time to join us for live sessions and present of some of the most challenging topics.

“Extreme joy and gratitude are what being a part of the Ladies Be Architects initiative have continuously made me feel. I have a strong appreciation for each one of my fellow #LBAjourneytoPD1 & #LBAapex16 study buddies who study hard, invest their time with our group, and to cultivate their professional development. Words cannot express how incredibly thankful I am for Charly, Gemma, Susannah, and all my study buddies. I would not be here today if it weren’t for each and every one of you!!!

“Inspiration in knowing there are many others like me, Apex code newbies who will move mountains to excel and achieve great success in becoming PD1 certified.

“Pride to be part of a community that is truly inclusive and uplifts women and allies on this journey, not only to PD1, but to CTA, too.”

Author’s Note: Since Blanca completed her study group in August 2018, we’ve recorded 28 Platform Developer I achievements!

Tell us why the CTA journey is important to you...

“I am a minority. Throughout my life, I was doubted, discouraged, and at times rejected. I’ve always had to work triple hard to prove that I was competent and worth an opportunity. I have worked tirelessly hard to find ways to not only survive but to be resilient. This journey to PD1 and CTA is no doubt challenging but I know with my Ladies Be Architects study buddies, we will prevail. Together we will jump outside our comfort zones, break down barriers and bridge gaps for women in technology. Together we will grow the number of women as platform developers and CTAs.

“The learning curve for certifications for the Salesforce platform is steep and rightfully so. I have been tempted to slow down. I have been distracted with managing work, family, and life’s curveballs. I have for a split millisecond thought, “maybe I should wait to try next year when I am more prepared, and life is calmer”. Being a part of the study groups and have the Ladies Be Architects ohana alongside made it easier to keep going when content and times got tough. The high levels of motivation, many levels of enthusiasm and expertise and helping others cultivates a force of learning that you cannot avoid. You cannot fail, you can only grow with. Therefore, I will never study for a Salesforce certification alone again.

“The benefits and comfort knowing that we have each other’s back through the ups, downs, and all around, is invaluable. It is an honor to learn from and with so many individuals who share my passion. Everyone brings a wealth of knowledge, differed interpretations of content and approaches to code solutions and more. Everyone brings their stories of success and pain points and it is as real as it gets. There is no other way I’d rather invest time and share my learning experiences.”

What’s the next step for you on your Journey to CTA?

“I have finally passed the Salesforce Platform Developer I certification exam at the fifth attempt. That’s right folks, 5th! I know this is only the very beginning of a lifetime love affair with learning to code and develop for the Salesforce platform. I have had times where I strongly disliked the content, the many hours understanding materials and debugging code, or that I struggled intensely. Despite all those times, I have hit the jackpot in finding something that I love enough to do, even when it is tough. I have gained many study buddies, mentors, and have grown my Ohana worldwide. I study with individuals of all backgrounds and walks of life. This journey to CTA is sure to bring many benefits and great adventures.

“I am sure that I am on the path I want to be, that I deserve to be on and that I enjoy with all my heart. I will continue up the #JourneytoCTA pyramid, however, I may focus on Community and non-profit certifications next. While they will not expedite my climbing up the pyramid, those topics are where I have the biggest interest in, having come from an 18.5-year nonprofit tech career previously.

“I will continue to volunteer for Ladies Be Architects and RAD Women Code. It is because of initiatives like these that I was enlightened as to what a career as women in tech could be. I was afforded an opportunity to learn from highly skilled and compassionate coaches and mentors. For this, I am forever indebted to Ladies Be Architects and RAD Women Code.

“A fire has been ignited in me and it shall forever provide light to keep me on this wild path to CTA!” – Blanca Leon-Carter

What allies and resources contributed to learning successes?

“I’d like to thank our allies who have contributed content in support of our study groups, dedicated time to help us start off on the right foot and remain on a strong path to developing for the platform.

Don Robins, we appreciate the tremendous amount of resources you gathered for us and provided access to. They were of great quality and incredibly helpful on our learning expedition.

David Liu, thank you for developing the Apex curriculum, blog, and for taking time to join us for a live Q&A session.

Mike Topalovich for teaching Intro to Apex workshops in Chicago and in other cities.

Andres Perez for sharing exemplary content during Salesforce & Trailhead’s #CertificationDays and for the abundance of resources of your blog to help break down complicated topics when it comes to Salesforce platform development.

Martin Gessner & Mike Wheeler, we appreciate the courses and practice exams that help us get a small sample of what we must prepare for.

I’d also like to give a shout out to my Chicago ohana members, Chicago Women in Tech User Group, Chicago Salesforce Saturdays, and WITdevs for all that they do to host in-person and virtual meetups for the ecosystem.

“Salesforce staff, we tremendously appreciate the extensive resources available throughout all your sites, including Trailhead, Salesforce docs, and the Success community. There is no better way to learn than hands-on experience and we appreciate your efforts to provide us with tools we need to succeed!”

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