Career paths aren’t always predictable for BKD professionals. In fact, sometimes they’re quite unorthodox.
For Zac Otero, the journey began with a series of blue-collar jobs that took a hard turn when he learned about Salesforce and then mastered the customer relationship management platform to punch his ticket to a better life.
Time for a Change
Zac was homeschooled until he was 16. He earned his GED and migrated across the country, taking on low-wage jobs in a pallet construction plant, popcorn factory and grocery warehouse before landing in Springfield, Missouri, slicing deli meat at a packing plant.
“The routine was mind-numbing,” he says. “Slice it, pack it and stack it.”
Zac faced some hard truths after his son was born; the new demands of fatherhood meant he needed to make more money.
“In the four years I worked at the factory, I received one 30-cent raise,” he remembers. “That’s not enough.”
In a post-recession economy, Zac felt his options were limited. That’s when his cousin introduced him to Salesforce.
“He explained I don’t have to have a degree to take the test,” Zac recalls. “That’s what I started to go for and that took about a year.”
Setbacks & Hurdles
Finding time to study was challenging. Fortunately, Zac’s 10-hours-a-day, six-days-a-week factory job didn’t require excessive mental focus, so he downloaded Salesforce training sessions to his phone and listened to them while he worked.
After a year of studying, he took his first certification exam … and failed.
Motivating himself after the setback was difficult, but Zac soon had a renewed interest in achieving his goal when the plant announced it would be closing. He doubled down and earned his certification.
Zac now faced a new challenge—he was certified for a job he’d never done. He needed to connect with a local Salesforce user group. Since he couldn’t leave the factory during the day, he used all his sick time attending group meetings over lunch to get face time with experienced Salesforce professionals.
After the plant closed and Zac was laid off, he was out of work for four months.
“I was getting unemployment and being Mr. Mom for my kid while my wife went to work,” he says. “It was a hard stretch. I was looking around for jobs, but there are very few Salesforce jobs in Springfield. I was still going to user group, begging people for interviews.”
That’s where he heard about a Salesforce administrator opening at BKD, and one of the members helped him line up an interview. Zac was ecstatic and petrified at the same time.
“I was 30 years old, and I’d never done a real job interview.”
Heath Alloway, BKD’s national growth manager, initially interviewed Zac.
“With his background being self-taught and without real-life experience prior to BKD, he has such a drive and purpose behind what he does,” Heath says.
In the interview process, Zac told Heath, “You won’t interview anyone else who is as excited to be here as I am.”
He was right, and he got the job.
A Perfect Fit
Moving from the factory floor to an office cubicle wasn’t easy.
“I was paranoid,” Zac recalls. “If you’re standing still in a factory, that’s when the boss comes after you.”
BKD culture helped put him at ease. Greg Cole, BKD’s chief marketing officer, saw Zac was a great fit from the start.
“The fact that he’s willing to invest in himself is really a testament to his character,” Greg says. “I think it aligns very well with the culture of the firm—our PRIDE values and commitment to unmatched client service.”
Zac saw to it Salesforce end users had what they needed. Everything is customized and built-to-suit, and Zac ensured database information was entered correctly, up-to-date and maintained. He primarily supported the industry marketing team, office marketers and Advance Team.
The Advance Team, which identifies prospects and coordinates targeted marketing initiatives, leaned on Zac the most. BKD Project Manager Steven Ward, who was the Advance Team leader at the time, worked closely with Zac to make the system the well-oiled machine it is today.
“Zac is the kind of person who’s never been afraid to break the mold,” Steven says. “He’s collaborated with my team on numerous projects to streamline and enhance our way of doing things and his knowledge of Salesforce has been a tremendous asset.”
The Honor of a Golden Hoodie
In 2015, Zac took advantage of BKD’s professional development opportunities and attended the Salesforce Annual Conference. Through a series of lucky meetings, Zac’s story of perseverance began circulating—so much so it caught the eye of top Salesforce executives.
At the 2016 conference, he was awarded the Trailblazer Award, which recognizes a member of the Salesforce community who’s done something innovative.
“Part of the award was getting a gold lamé hoodie—it’s just like a bright gold disco ball,” Zac says. “Mine was the first.”
For the past two years, Zac has spoken to marketing research firms about the rise of technology jobs replacing more traditional jobs. He’s also continued to share his story, even participating in a Salesforce podcast and appearing in a recent video promoting Trailhead, an online training program.
Zac’s happy his story connects with others, but he’s remained grounded.
“I was just a guy looking for a good job that provides health insurance for my kids and doesn’t require me to kill myself,” he says. “I think of my dad—he’s 60 years old, worked hard all his life and will never be able to retire. I’m not going to be in that position.”
The Sky’s the Limit
Zac’s notoriety and expertise gave him national recognition within the Salesforce community. Just after the video was released, Zac accepted an offer to work with his cousin—the same one who introduced him to Salesforce—in San Antonio, Texas.
Even though he’s leaving BKD, Zac credits the firm with launching his career and giving him the chance to rise within Salesforce.
“The best thing about working at BKD was that they let me do it,” he says. “I’ve always had a lot of respect and good things to say about my co-workers, just because our culture is so ingrained in what we do. I’ve never had a BKDer let me down.”
While he’ll be missed, those at BKD who worked with Zac know he’ll continue to do great things with Salesforce and keep representing the firm’s unmatched client service standards wherever he goes.