Living the Dream from Salesforce to Berklee
Langston Hughes wrote a poem called Dreams, in which he says, “Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly. Hold fast to dreams, for when dreams go, life is a barren field frozen with snow.”
My definition of a nightmare is to have a dream in the absence of opportunity. I had been living this nightmare, intermittently, for six years. I wanted to attend Berklee College of Music to pursue music and business, so when my mother told me she couldn’t afford to send me, I was crushed. It was my mother who found out about Year Up. Year Up is a workforce development program whose mission is to close the Opportunity Divide by providing urban young adults with the skills, experience, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education. While I didn’t initially see the value of an artist pursuing a tech training program, I also hadn’t found success in traditional job searching without a college degree. I made a choice to try something unorthodox.
During Year Up, two important characteristics were re-ignited in me: my passion for leadership and my facility with language as a conduit to public speaking. I developed both of these traits through opportunities, small and large: from building relationships with my colleagues in the program to representing Year Up on the White House Committee for Community Solutions. During my internship at Salesforce, I worked with Fredrik Alkdal’s IT Release Engineering team as a Jr. Sys Admin. I was placed into a whirlwind of metadata configuration and code deploys with no previous Salesforce experience, but found my team so helpful, generous, and encouraging, that I was leading all releases by the end of my internship. When Fredrik asked me about my future, I shared my artistic ambitions, but that I also wanted to continue with the team. He smiled, and asked how he could help. This was a question that I wouldn’t answer for a while.
Over the course of the next two years at Salesforce, I would spend time rebuilding that broken bird Langston Hughes talked about: I would self publish my first book of poetry (Runner Up in the 2014 SF Book Festival), release my first album (Winner of the 2014 International Songwriting Competition), serve as President of the Year Up Alumni Board, be converted to a full time Salesforce employee, and launch my own company, Dom Empire. When the time was right, I returned to Fredrik with a simple ask: a recommendation letter to Berklee College of Music.
When I received my acceptance letter, the excitement and pride were both there, but a more prevalent feeling of responsibility was at the forefront. I felt a responsibility to everyone who had helped me reach this next step, to my community still very much in that no-access vacuum, and to the young people whose ability is great but whose vantage point is limited. Year Up and Salesforce fortified my vision for myself by giving me a lens into possibilities which I did not know existed. I learned that success isn’t linear, its path not monolithic. My mother taught me that access to opportunity may come through unfamiliar doors. Fredrik taught me that leadership is as much about helping others achieve as it is about your own accomplishments. My mentor at Salesforce, Ebony Frelix taught me that excellence is a muscle, grown over time and habit. I can repay their investment in my development by continuing to develop myself and others. That’s why I can say that Salesforce was my #dreamjob. It literally has helped me to dream bigger.
And by following Langston’s advice…now I can fly.
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