Pro Bono Profile: Call Me Odhrán
By: Odhrán Lenaghan
They pronounced my name wrong. Not that it’s an easy name for non-Irish people to intuitively understand, of course. Let’s just say I’m used to being called OH-DRAAN, so I shrugged off the name-butchering. For all I knew, I would forever be known to the team at Simprints as “OH-DRAAN, our Salesforce volunteer” —with weekly 30-minute calls packed full of Sebastian’s (Director of Business Development) and Christine’s (Project Manager) dream CRM requests, I didn’t have the heart to correct them on this small detail. Besides, there’s a window for name correction, and I’d clearly missed it. OH-DRAAN it is, I thought.
Turns out I got more than I’d bargained for.
When I signed up to volunteer with Simprints, I saw that this tech nonprofit based in Cambridge needed someone to help them set up and customize their own CRM. It sounded perfect as I was looking to put my Salesforce skills to good use, gain new consulting skills (always great for my CV), and work remotely (always great for my family).
Of course, one of the first things Sebastian told me when we first kicked off our weekly calls was that the Simprints team would really, really like me to work with them, physically, at their office in Cambridge. “Only for a week,” he said. The timing of this wasn’t great, since my son was only six months old, and a week is like a month for new parents. While I would have loved to have spent a full week away with all of the sleep, it would have been unfair to leave my wife alone with the baby. Just like the correct pronunciation of my name, that information went unsaid. I managed to shorten the trip to two days, but I was headed to Cambridge. Two days of hearing OH-DRAAN, here I come.
Here were my impressions of Cambridge (fellow Salesforce volunteers, take note):
- 1. I nearly got run over by bikes on several different occasions.
2. Clotted cream should be packed in my luggage, because apparently it’s not widely available to the rest of Europe.
3. Vietnamese “pho” is really good in this town.
4. Simprints exceeded my expectations entirely within the 48 hours I spent with them.
I didn’t think I would get so much out of my volunteering when I initially signed up. Honestly, I was just happy I was working with techies who spoke my language. But my visit gave me an amazing overview of how passionate, honest, and driven the work ethic is at Simprints. It might have had to do with the fact that they work out of a 13th century castle, but this team was constantly upbeat, energetic, and welcoming — I felt like one of them the moment I walked through the doors (of the castle) and was pelted with offers of tea, coffee, water, snacks, and a seat on a beanbag.
Yes, a beanbag. I had walked into their bi-weekly “sprint review,” and they were gathering around their physical scrum board to discuss the projects they had completed in the past two weeks. This was truly fascinating because my own team are doing sprint reviews at the moment, so it was really insightful to see this in action (I may or may not have stolen some ideas).
Within the first hour, I could see how everyone’s work seemed to flow into multiple parts of the company, how the team relied on each other, and most importantly, that this was more than just a job for them. Providing fingerprint identification tools in poor areas of the world so people can access services like healthcare and education — this is their social mission. The passion was a constant undercurrent in the sprint review.
This element was what I had been missing when we were only conducting weekly calls. Before, I was simply building a customized CRM for ambitious, smart, and friendly clients. Sitting on a beanbag and listening to everyone, I began to see how my volunteer project for Simprints would really help them make a positive difference in the world.
This realization was only reinforced my last day with Simprints. Thirty minutes before I had to leave, Toby (CEO) walked through the doors, jetlagged but (like the rest of the team) energetic and smiling, just returned from deploying Simprints tech with a healthcare NGO in Uganda.
For one thing, I’d never seen so many employees rush their CEO to be the first to give him a hug — he was soaking wet from the downpour outside, but it didn’t seem to matter much. Then the deployment debrief started, and I didn’t want to leave. I almost missed my train because I wanted to hear the rest of the discussion: How do you roll out cutting-edge biometrics in a remote village? Did the frontline workers find it easy to use fingerprint scanners with their phones, or did they need extensive training? What were the challenges in the field? How delicious was the food they plied him with? Unfortunately, I didn’t get to hear the answers to these questions — I was out the doors and whisked away to the station to catch the train and plane home.
It was a whirlwind trip. In between sprint review, building key CRM features, and the deployment debrief, I was also able to spend time with the team outside of the office —Helen (Project Manager) and Sebastian even took me on a fast and fun evening tour of Cambridge. How ironic that two months into my remote volunteering with Simprints, I was strolling past the 900-year-old buildings that make up the University of Cambridge.
I left having experienced the environment at a fast-paced tech start-up, a renewed sense of the importance of Salesforce volunteer opportunities to small companies like Simprints, and best of all? A correct pronunciation of my name.
OH-DRAAN is no more — I am Odhran, silent ‘d’ and all. And the world is a better place now that 12 more people know this. After a full 10 minutes of hearing practiced OH-REN’s bounce off the castle’s stone walls, I’m confident that when I jump on my weekly calls with Sebastian and Christine, I’ll hear my name right. And then we’ll get down to business: their dream CRM.
Learn more about Salesforce.org’s Volunteer Program.
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