Speaking to Gemma Blezard has got to be one of the most emotional things I’ve done.
She has also been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer.
She talks candidly about her diagnoses, what it means for her, her family, her business and her sense of self.
That car that rudely cut you up on the motorway?
That team member who seems distracted and is producing sub-par performance?
The lady who got your order wrong? Twice?
The harrassed doctor who’s over-running and made you wait in pain?
Really… you never know what they’re going through.
It was a tough conversation, with some laughter and tears as she talked about her journey through life, and with cancer.
Season 2, Episode 7 is now out.
If you don’t know who she is, have a listen.
I think you’ll agree that Gemma’s an extraordinary individual.
You can find the spotify link over here.
Pei Mun Lim 0:02
Hello, Gemma, welcome to an episode of my podcast called OnThePeiroll. I feel really, really blessed and fortunate that are we able to connect to do this? Because it’s been a while. How are you feeling today?
Gemma Blezard 0:16
Yeah, I’m feeling really good. Thank you. And thank you for having me. I’ve been looking forward to doing this for a while.
Pei Mun Lim 0:21
Yeah, I think we were both kind of in the ecosystem for quite a long time. I’ve heard a lot about you. And I keep thinking, we need to have a virtual coffee. And that was when we actually, I don’t know why. There’s something I was quite shy to approach you because you are this amazing person who, you know, released all this free training guides on Salesforce and things like that. And I, you know, I was just bit starstruck, I can’t approacher. And then when we when you did the talk at London’s calling on the Salesforce architects different types, and the different roles they played, I thought, oh, that’s an opportunity for me to kind of slide in a message and say, Hi. And I think that was when we were first connected. And we’ve changed messages since. But I’m really interested to hear your story. And this is what I asked everyone is just tell me the story of how you got to where you are today. You can start anywhere, you can focus just on Salesforce, you don’t have to, because all the experiences that we gain, builds a picture builds the person that we are today. So I’d really love it if you can tell me your story.
Gemma Blezard 1:41
Yeah, absolutely. And, and I mean, I know exactly how you feel. Because when I first started getting involved in the community, I was pretty starstruck, there was some big names out there that I knew of, who I now consider to be really close friends. So, yeah, I completely get I guess I could just start by saying that when when I came out of education, age 21, I done a degree that I’d wanted to use, it wasn’t my top subject to a level, when I was 18. My top subject was actually English, followed by sociology, and followed by it. And but I made a conscious choice that I wanted to study for a degree that words helped me get into a space, an industry that I was interested in, which was technology. And, and I thought I can always do an English degree in the future. If I want to, you know, sitting around reading books sounds like a fantastic retirement for me. You know, sadly, that, that probably isn’t going to happen now. But I’m still grateful for the chance that I had to, to do that. So anyway, yeah, when I came out of university, my plan was to kind of work my way up towards being a project manager.
Gemma Blezard 3:04
Now, I couldn’t think of a worse job for me to do. I was a project manager for a year and a half.
Gemma Blezard 3:11
It just wasn’t for me, I’m an ideas person. I’m not. I’m not always as organized as people think I am, which is probably why I, when I wrote my course, my free course, I sat and plan to structure very meticulously, because I thought if I don’t have this spreadsheet leading me down the right route, it’s going to be a really bad course. So, so yeah. But then I fell into Salesforce. Because I’d spent two years sort of after university working in a data role. And my role was to write SQL queries and to present data in a easily consumable format for a local exam board and things like that. So my interest was in data. And I got a job at DMV, and Dun and Bradstreet, looking after sort of 250 salespeople on the sales floor, and they said, Oh, you know, you’re going into sales ops, your job is to make sure that people are complying with the rules on pipelines and load that you’ll be loading in data in and out and we were early adopters, this thing called Salesforce. And I was like, Oh, what’s this Salesforce thing. So they sent me off to a conference, which was called Dreamforce Europe and this was 2008. And it was at the Barbican, which is like, if you’ve ever been to the Barbican in London, it’s this brutalist architectural buildings absolutely horrible. And the venue was so hot that day, and we were way the conference was way too big for the venue, even even then. But I left feeling very inspired. I’ve been to workshops and learn about workflow rules and automation and the one and I remember Marc Benioff sat on the stage with Jimmy Wales who had founded Wikipedia and someone. I was like, Well, how did he get Jimmy Wales, you know, and Peter Gabriel’s came on stage and started playing his guitar and I was like, wow, okay, this is interesting, something different. I didn’t even know what keynote was I was in my early 20s, and very new to this sort of thing. But in that day, I left feeling like this is an interesting system. I love the fact you don’t have to install it on someone’s computer. You know, in the first time I logged into Salesforce was about three days later when I use the API to log in and manipulate some data live in a system. So I learned through the backdoor, if that makes sense, I learned because of my database background, I was able to understand that Salesforce was a posh database in the sky was what I called it. And then suddenly, it was called the cloud. And I worked as an admin for sort of 18 months, I loved it, loved the system wanted to do more with it. As a people person, it was an ideal role for me, because everybody always needed help with running reports and understanding best practices and routes. And my job was to make sure everybody’s outlook was connected. And, you know, I was the face of Salesforce for for that role. But I, it wasn’t enough for me, I wanted to do more. And I wanted to help more customers with it, I wanted to do different things. And I really thrive on variety. So the idea of, of working with multiple companies across multiple industries and learning as much as I could about each of those industries while I was there, led me into a consulting role. And I did that for so I started that in 2009 10. My first client was Woburn Abbey, it was the weddings and the wedding inquiries, so if any of you have ever heard about woven and their weddings, they’ve got a beautiful venue that the Duke of Bedford rents out for people to get married in. And they wanted Salesforce for lead capture. And from then on, I was kind of hooked and my appetite, my hunger to work on bigger projects to work on more complex solutions. And to really push and bend Salesforce as far as it would go. Really grew from that. And I went from sort of boutique consultancy roles to work with myself to working at financial force for three and a half years and becoming an expert on their PSA, professional services automation tool, before landing at Blue Wolf, and that was where I found my home, really, it was a really great environment for people to thrive, their enablement programs were absolutely beautiful. Like, I’d never been taught how to consult and then the first week, I just learned on the job and learned, you know, pulled on my drew drew on my own skill sets. And then I found myself at the induction in Prague, and they were telling us like how to whiteboard what symbols to use, how not to accidentally draw appendages on stick people, which happens so many times in meetings.
Gemma Blezard 7:51
You know, it was just interesting. And really, it was the right environment for me. And in that environment, I had a great boss, who believed in me, and I got some certifications, some extra certifications. So I didn’t mention all the certs. But I got I started getting certified pretty much straightaway in 2008. And then as Salesforce released more certifications. I did miss some while I was at financial force. But then at Blue Wolf, I found myself on the bench. And, you know, plowed through the architect certs and my boss, and I had a one to one. And he said, I think we could do the CTA. And I was like the certified technical architect. And I was like, No, that’s something other people do. Not really interested in that. Because I don’t want to learn to code, frankly. I mean, I can. I’ve been writing design specs for codes for coding for years and years and years before flow was invested in as heavily as it has been in the last few years. If you wanted to automate anything fancy you had to do it in code. So I was very used to specking out code, but I didn’t want to write it No way. It’s just not my thing. I’m more of a facilitator. I’m the one that understands the requirements and the vision and tries to keep everyone true to that vision and gives direction to developers and junior consultants and things like that. So, so I loved all that. But in the end, because I think my boss said to me, Well, you only have to pass PD one, you have to understand how to code you have to understand what good and bad code looks like. He said, Can you do that? I was like, Yeah, I can read through an apex class and go, Why are you doing that? And he said, right, well, and I was like, Okay, I went away that night thought about it came in the next day and said You’ve lit a fire under my ass now. I’m gonna have to go and do it. And it was like became like a Forrest Gump journey. It was like, Well, I figured I got this far. I better keep running. So I just kept going and I started preparing for my CTA. But then I was interrupted quite heavily by my sort of second cancer diagnosis by that point, and I’m skipping around a bit but, and that scuppered it and and it made me think Actually the effect that studying for the CTA had on myself, my stress levels, my mental health, my family, I didn’t really want to put myself or my family through that. Six months of intense study and not being able to do things with my family and leaving diagrams lying around the house, I was just like, I can’t, it’s too much. I can’t deal with that, and the counselor at same time. So, so I dropped it. And I’m still, I’m still I still have no plans to pick it up again. But I have a lot of encouragement for those people who do anyway, you asked me about my journey, and I just went off on one. So apologies. That is me. I hope that answers your question.
Pei Mun Lim 10:46
Yes, it took you all the way to, you know, kind of move. But you know, there’s still some parts of the journey haven’t finished and you’re taught. Even though you have you decided not to get on to the certified track, you are still very passionate about this particular aspect of Salesforce. I mean, you found that ladies we Arctic, and your company’s word architecting it? Yes. Talk me through about, you know, how you went from being employed. At A, I would say fairly secure role to the world of running your own business.
Gemma Blezard 11:33
And you’re right, it was a very secure, secure world. But as you say, as you spotted, it’s, it’s about that passion. And I worked very hard with two wonderful gentlemen, Andrew Hart, and Jason Guthrie. Jason is based in Tennessee. Andrew is based here in the UK. And they were kind of US UK counterparts, if you like they ran the architects team. And I spent a lot of time talking with them both about what is the role of an architect? And how does it? How do we create create career paths for consultants who want to become delivery leaders and don’t want to go into management. So I always felt that that was missing from the consultancy path. If you worked for an SI Partner, or an ISV, partner, sorry, consulting partner, or an epic AppExchange partner? Where do you go, if you’ve been delivering consultancy? Do you just carry on being a consultant, and then go into management because that’s how you get more senior. And that’s how you get more money. And I felt what was missing was a real career track for delivery and technical professionals that took them up into a senior role. And IBM was actually a big inspiration for that because IBM has its distinguished engineer program, whereby there’s kind of two tracks that you can follow IBM, you can go down the the Distinguished Engineer, which is like the pinnacle of realize like the equivalent of the CTO. And that gets you up into executive levels. So you can still become an executive without becoming a manager, or a director, you are recognized as a subject matter expert in your field, you’re pulled in to do pre sales, you’re pulled in to help with projects. And you’re an escalation point from a technical and delivery perspective. And you’re recognized as having that executive presence and that executive role, versus the management role, where you’ve got a lot more responsibility that the responsibilities are different, right, you’ve got you’ve got a lot of responsibility in both tracks. But on management side, it’s more about dealing with people and problems and all of those sort of things, who really wants to do that. Lots of people, but not me. So I was really interested in that career track. And I felt it was really missing for the Salesforce ecosystem. It was consultancy. And then architects were basically developers, or everyone thought everybody thought an architect was a developer. But also, what I saw and noticed was a lot of failing projects, because there was a lack of delivery leadership layer in there. Or that delivery leadership layer was kind of that there were politics or several people with the same skills who were kind of almost been fighting over that role, if you like, like, who’s responsible for the design, who’s responsible for making sure that design is scalable. And there are a lot of practices in the ecosystem where people are putting in solutions that that basically just meet one requirement done, tick done, move on to the next one. And what was what was missing was cohesion in the actual solution itself. If I build this field here, what’s the impact on the integration? What’s the impact on data migration? Do I have to go make that data up from somewhere when I push it in? And the big picture was missing? The big picture view is missing? So I had a lot of discussions with Andrew and Jason about this. And we were talking about what are the different roles and contributions that architects can bring to a project and how do we translate that into a career path for for senior delivery people
Gemma Blezard 14:59
and That COBOL that conversation was going on. I was doing certs. And I went into the architects success group on in the community online. And it was a lovely, lovely message board full of lots of messages. But I was also very intimidated by it because it was a lot of men posting, and a lot of men posting very technical topics. And I thought, gosh, if I write anything, I mean, I know what he’s talking about, and I have a view on it. But if I write anything, I’m just gonna get shot down, like what do you know? So I thought to myself, Okay, there’s just lots of people in here talking about Cody things. Is there anyone here that wants to study for certifications, and plus, were all the girls. So there was barely any women posting in there. So ladies be architects started as I was like, if there aren’t any here, I’m just going to create my own community. So I created a group, and I just called it called ladies be architects and invited 14 people, and then just started posting and thought, well, I’d rather this wasn’t just a message board, I’d rather actually that this became a place of active learning where people can share topics, they can have study groups, and actually one of the best ways you can learn is to teach. So why don’t I just start by doing a monthly webinar, pick one topic from one certification and go into it in a bit of depth. So I just did a I did a recording of enterprise territory management. And I wanted to encourage more women to come and replace me as a speaker and a presenter. And actually everybody get a chance to refine those skills, so that they can learn better. And that was how I met Charlie. And then that was how I met Susanna. Because Charlie was really interested in OAuth. And Susanna was really interested in in what she was learning to code at the time.
Pei Mun Lim 16:38
What’s your full name
Gemma Blezard 16:41
Susanna Susanna St. Germain, who’s now an architect evangelist at Salesforce. So I was very proud of that. She was on stage with Parker at the very first architect keynote, I was sat there in tears watching it go, Oh, I’m so proud of you. And yeah, and Charlie, Charlie became an MVP, and Charlie, Charlie Prinsloo. So she’s based in Texas, lovely South African lady in Texas, with a warm heart and soul. And so she she came on and presented about OAuth. And the thing that we all three of us had in common is that we took these very technical topics, and we broke them down. And we explain them in a way that would make sense to someone on the ground that perhaps was a bit intimidated by the language in the training. When I started Salesforce, there was no Trailhead. And even then, at back four years ago, there wasn’t much content on trailhead, that would help to understand a lot of it was written with the assumption that you already knew the development terms. Like what’s a constructor as my bloody idea what a constructor is. So I’m googling everything. And, you know, so being able to break down the terminology, help people understand it better, and then build it back up and put it back in, wrap it back up in the technical language was actually helping people to learn better. And I took a new concept to Dreamforce, which was to actually do a practical workshops. Instead of standing there lecturing people, we had a less than ideal room, but we split everybody into groups, gave them a scenario gave them all responsibility, an area of responsibility. And they all had to then feed back to the group what their design was going to be. And they got to critique each other. So that became our solution design workshop. And then the following year, Salesforce said, right, we’re gonna have an architect area, and we’re gonna hold workshops in there. So it just kind of went from there, just blossomed, and Salesforce really got on board and got involved. It was the trailhead team in San Francisco. And they opened the door for us, they created they gave us the space and the platform to really start sharing these ideas. And then we and then I started doing some talks, around around thought leadership around the topics that Andrew and Jason and I were discussing about the career path for architects and it just kind of went from there. And the business architect club has come from a real strong desire and a very pure desire to prevent read projects, because a lot of the projects that do fail, very rarely fail because of technology. Majority of as you know, majority of projects will fail because because because there are decisions or there’s reluctance to make decisions, or there are bigger things going on. And one of my things, one of the things that my friend Francis pindus says a lot is with architecture, he sees it as the it’s easy enough to put put a solution in but then once that solution can’t be changed, that’s when you need an architect because you’ve got to, you’ve got to slop things in and join things together around this thing that can’t be changed. And I thought that was a fantastic way of describing it really inspired me. And that was quite a recent thing. He said actually, that but it’s true. It’s very true. So the architect Club was born to create a home and To be a place where people who are consultants now can aspire to go work in the future, and bring that bigger picture problem solving, advisory and support to customers who are perhaps struggling to be ready for sales or are struggling with. Too many contractors gone in and fiddled around with things and just created a mess. And to deal with legacy, or Salesforce is 20 years old. Now, there’s a lot more legacy orgs out there, that need to revamp and businesses change all the time. So this is all about creating a great environment for the 9.2 million new jobs that are coming in by 2026 to actually grow and thrive and become sentient and create sensible solutions that last. So that’s what the architect club is all about.
Pei Mun Lim 20:47
I can see a lot of passion coming through your life, energy, love passion. You mentioned that you had your second bout of cancer that’s covered your CTA journey. How’s that been? For you, health wise, have you been
Gemma Blezard 21:06
allowed to swear? As you want, it’s pretty nice. Cancer doesn’t care what you’re doing. In fact, no illness that affects you on your day to day life, cares about what you’re doing in your life, they don’t care that I’m doing ladies, the architect is my body. You know, I was first diagnosed with cancer when I was 29. And I was absolutely furious about it really furious, because it was I was like, I shouldn’t be here everywhere I went was full of like, older people. And, but But what, but what we’re finding over the years is that it’s actually affecting more and more younger people now. So now feel a lot less isolated. But at the beginning, it was very hard. Because it was stage three, it was in lymph nodes. It wasn’t a joke. It was like, we’ve got to get you in for chemo immediately. And then we’ve got to get rid of this lump. So and at that point, I wasn’t doing that much in the community. I was just working. But I was very well looked after I was working. In fact, I got diagnosed with cancer. About three days after I’d signed the paperwork to join, I just I just left just handed my notice in at Capgemini. And I just accepted the job and sign the paperwork, that financial force. And then I found myself having to phone financial force and say, Yeah, hi, you know, I’m starting in like two weeks. Well, I’ve got some news for you. And he phoned me back, he said, I’m going to ring you back in 10 minutes environment, the HR director firm phoned me back and he’s like, Gemma, everything’s fine, you’re covered. You just join us. And you just do whatever you feel you can. And we will look after you. And there was all the benefits, they just paid me. They looked after me, they helped me and helped me make sure that I didn’t take on too much. Because they’d figured me out straight away that I will take on a lot. And often to the detriment of my own health and sanity, I’ll often put that to one side and just focus. So they knew that and they they took responsibility for making sure that I didn’t. They saved me from myself if you like or protected me from myself while I was there. So that grew an intense sense of loyalty towards them. Because they did look after me. And I ended up staying there three and a half years, which is longest I’ve ever worked anywhere. Let’s just because I like for it. And my career progressed quite fast, because I learned fast. And so when I was diagnosed again in 2018, as off god’s sake, what is going on? I mean, just missed a little bit. But this time, the doctor said, you know, we can’t we can’t just We can’t leave it there. You know, you’ve got to have a mastectomy. And I said, Fine, you’re doing both. And so that was what I called my upgrade. And I did get off quite like then because I just had I had this massive surgery. 10 hours I was in there. I was really sliced up to bits. There’s a description on my blog of what operation I had. But you know, it felt like as soon as that was done, it was like, right, here’s some tablets and off you go, well done. And I was like, Oh, right. Okay. But I still live with this fear. They’re like, what even wants to cancer is gone. People go, like even family and friends are going but you will right now. And I was like, but you’re not. Not not in your head, because you’ve been through an incredibly traumatic experience. But my problem is that I don’t see it as I didn’t see it as a traumatic experience at the time. I’m wiser now. But at the time, I was like this is just happening to me and I’ve just got to get on with it and just get through it so that I can come out the other side and carry on what I was doing. And so when it hit me again last year, and I had started a business, and I was absolutely devastated because As I felt like the business was finally getting I was starting to pick up momentum. We had clients that were interested in the Salesforce totally behind us a lot of support from them at varying levels. And I was just like, why is this happening again? But then when so they sent me for a scan, and when they came back from the scan, and then forget the phone call, and he said, he said, right, we do need to say that, you know, has gone into your skeleton, and I said, right skeleton, what do you mean? And so can you list the areas and he just went sternum, femur, up at it like tibia, your spine. And he just rattled off all these areas. And he said, and that’s why we say it’s the skeleton sounds like, right, so it’s everywhere. And in lymph nodes, as well. And he said, I’m happy because it’s not in your organs yet. And
Gemma Blezard 26:00
so that was a bit of comfort. So put me on some pretty pretty heavy hormone tablets, which I was very fortunate to have, because they’re not available on the NHS. But I felt like trash all the way through, like really tired, moody, dry, hot flushes, just having to cope with that, and the mental anguish of it all. Because ultimately, when someone gives you that kind of news, you then got to start thinking about your future, or lack of future.
Pei Mun Lim 26:34
And I’m a mother.
Gemma Blezard 26:37
My daughter is almost 10. She’s going to be 10 in a couple of weeks. And I’m a business owner. I have things that I’m passionate about, that I want to continue to lead the thoughts on, and to encourage Salesforce a bit more. So now I you know, it felt like I felt like my whole world just crashed, like dropped to the floor. And I was crying on I was crying. When I got off the phone. My dad came in and saw me like crying. And it wasn’t like this kind of crying. I know I sound emotional because it’s coming. I’m kind of reliving it at the moment. But I was on the floor. And I was screaming. And my dad comes in and he’s like, what’s that? What’s that? What’s that and said, Have you spoken to Dr. Shah, and I’d written down all the areas. He’d said the cancer was in, I just gave it to my dad and my dad just burst into tears. And we just cried and held each other. And then I had to go on a work call. And it was a client who was not very forgiving. The client was angry because of the delivery model that was being used. And I was having to deliver to that model because I was subcontracting. And I knew that it wasn’t the right approach for the client. But I had to do it anyway because I was subcontracting. And I had to do it in that way. So I get on the phone with this client. I’m trying to explain to her, you know, these, these are the best practices for loading your data, this I can get you a data template, and she’s just like you told me three months ago, you do this? And when? Yeah, I think I said it in passing. You know, I just couldn’t even think straight. I had a fog in my brain. And I said yeah, I’m sorry. I said that in passing. I will do that for you today. And she’s like you better. And I was just shocked at being first of all being spoken to you so disrespectfully. But at the same time, she didn’t know what was going on in, in my life. But that was when I think I felt I really started to feel the pressure I stopped. I was just like, You know what, I feel like I just want to go and hide somewhere right now. But I can’t. I’ve got to do this project. I’ve got to run this business. My sales guys on the phone going Jim, can you talk to this client, please, I need you. I need your pre sales expertise. And there was no, you know, getting someone else to do it would mean having to spend 100 pounds plus per hour to get a contractor to do it. So it felt like the walls were all closing in. Does that make sense? Pay and that’s never really gone away. Like it’s never gone away at all. And it is a big I feel very vulnerable right now. But it’s also really good to get this out because I’m not alone. There are so many other people out there who are dealing with these challenges. And it feels it feels so lonely sometimes because you’re because the ultimately the buck stops with you. If you own your own business, the buck the buck stops with you. And if you’ve got cancer and can’t focus all the time and you can’t be 100% You can’t lead you can’t steer you can’t direct it’s harder to make decisions, especially when you have bad news. And I’m a year on now From that third diagnosis, and I’m starting to make peace with my future, because I now realized that I could be a lot more sick than I am right now. However, when in November when I received the news that the cancer had gone into my liver, and I would have to start chemotherapy. That was the point again, that was the point where I said to my team, guys, I need to go down to three days a week, I just, I can’t. And I need, I need a succession plan, I had a succession plan is all set up. And I and I needed some support from the team. And I felt bad about that, I felt really bad about asking them to step up. You know, cuz that’s not what they signed up for. But then this cancer is not what I signed up for. And it all backfired. And I learned so much about people. And the way that people respond to this kind of thing, because nobody likes talking about cancer, nobody likes talking about death. But death is something that we all have to deal with in our lives. And ultimately, we are all going to be dead one day, all of us. So I think it’s really important that we, that we actually take a step back and think, you know, because people who are terminally ill a lot of the time, they don’t tell you, I mean, certainly in my case, they haven’t, they’ve told me they don’t know how long
Pei Mun Lim 31:33
I’ve got, I just got to get on with it.
Gemma Blezard 31:37
So I’m in the same position as all of you, I don’t know, when I’m going to die, I just know that I’m a bit further up the queue than you guys are. And it can be quite isolating. Sometimes I can feel quite alone, I look in it, I can sit in a room full of people and see all these lovely healthy people who feel great, you feel able to stand up and have conversations with other people. And actually, sometimes I can’t, I feel so sick, that I have to go and sit and lay at the back of the room or, you know, I can only handle short conversations at a time, because I get so tired. And it’s so frustrating because I still have so much to contribute to the world, I still have so much that I want to do. And I think completely cock blocked. For one of a better word, there’s just this barrier in the way of everything. And what I’m trying to figure out in my own head now is how to stop pushing back against the barrier and actually just ride the wave, do what I can think about how to delegate more successfully. And actually look at how I’m hiring as well look at the people I’m surrounding myself. There’s a lot of people out there who, you know, cat cancer is not a visible disease, unless you’re having chemo as you can see. So it’s very easy for people to forget that you’re as ill as you are. And they and I’ve been treated quite poorly in this last year by a few people who have said that I’ve not been pulling my weight. And they’ve not seen the hours I’ve done late at night, when I’ve been writing white papers or designing tweets or designing writing documents or, you know, writing procedures and doing the company wiki to try and give everybody some direction. And, you know, to basically set us all up for as much success as we can they’ve not seen all of that. All they’ve seen is that since April last year, they’ve had to work twice as hard. And I’m sorry for that. You know, every day I’m sorry for that. And that’s been a big point of contention for me is just constantly feeling sorry, all the time. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry that I’m not 100% I’m so sorry that I can’t join this call because I feel sick. I’m so sorry that my brain is completely clouded because I’m full of poisonous chemicals and they mess your brain up because they really do. And I can’t think straight can’t hold my took my thoughts. And I’m so sorry that we’re stuck here trying to get this company off the ground, which, you know, is doing actually quite well. company’s doing quite well. Especially for the use of it for its youth. Sorry, we’ve done really well and we’ve really achieved quite a lot and certainly from a revenue perspective. I’m very happy with it. It’s just
Pei Mun Lim 34:48
you got to
Gemma Blezard 34:51
deal with all that other stuff as well.
Pei Mun Lim 34:52
So yeah, sounds like You’ve had a lot on your shoulders for so very long. You mentioned when you were blue wolf than there was a lot of support. Running a business even without cancer is mind bogglingly difficult. And it’s like one of those things like like the, what do they call it? The armchair football, people who start yelling at the football game on TV? Why don’t you do this? Why don’t you do that? And they’re sitting there, not having gone through the blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice of the people who are playing. And I feel that that’s the same with people who run the business and there’s just so much outs when I’m looking for, you know, just complaints. And, you know, people like Elon Musk, why do they do this? Why don’t they do this? And you know, they aim so much at all these people. And yet they are not the ones who understand who can understand. And so, you know, I have, you know, I’ve run business before and I not even being sick, I can tell you the stress, and sleepless night wondering about the next day, you can make payroll if you can you make collections, and did what I do the delivery, was it done properly? Or is it done? Well, what do people think of me? Oh, there’s all of these things. Plus for you being pulling in, you know, just having to deal with the big see. In must and I can’t even begin to imagine how functioning just, you know, just carrying all this weight on your shoulders. owning a business is no easy. What kind of support do you have?
Gemma Blezard 37:08
medication. I’ve got a sweetie tin downstairs full of sweeties. Now a lot, a lot of them. And a lot of support that I’ve had has actually been self driven. Because I’ve, I decided to, to subscribe to some self help books. And I listened to those on Audible and they helped me I’ve got a lot of support from my team who stuck with me over the last couple of years, you know, I’ve had, it’s interesting, because like, the people that I have trusted, have come through. And I’ve also trusted the wrong people. And that I think that happens in any business scenario, any situation where you are running something, you really have to trust people, which means you have to really hire quite thoroughly. And really investigate what kind of people you bringing into that business. Because, you know, historically that attract been very easily manipulated by narcissism. And as a result, you know, I’ve found people with those traits very charming and very easy to work with and very driven and they’ve got the right idea on what to do. But then the poison comes out in the back sometimes. And that’s when I’ve ended up going down the wrong route, and trusting the wrong people. And right now I’m very, I’m in a great space in terms of that I’m surrounded by people who have empathy, who I trust, who get things done, sometimes have to steer them a slightly differently. And I sometimes have to push back like Gemma, can you jump on this call? No. Or Gemma, can you wait? Can you just write me two lines that explains this? And I’m like, No, here’s a blog. Here’s a thing, go read it and write your own thing. Now. You’re a big, big girl, big, big girl, big boy. Now off you go do that you don’t need me to do that. And that’s helped me as well because that’s helped me to show that the trust that I have in them, and the appreciation I have for them. So I’m in a great place at the moment in terms of my staff and the people that work in my organization. They’re all they’re all lovely people. I’ve not got a bad word to say about any of them and the fact that they’ve stuck with me for two three years you know, says a lot as well. So that that’s keeping me going and keep them motivated is that that home is building and I suppose from the other side as well, I mean, my as you may know, I’m a single parent. I’m very happily alone, happily single. The idea of a man kicking around my house right now, I couldn’t imagine anything worse, like oh my god, this is my space, you know? Just decorated it you I don’t want to come in and wreck everything known and I don’t know. So on the other side, though, it is hard, it is hard having cancer as a single person. But my parents are here for me. And they live five miles away, we have the dog. I have my cats, like I’m a proper cat lady. So I’ve got my Lucy and Steve and they’re my little familiars if you like my little black cats. And, you know, my, my daughter’s with me, it has been challenging, because she’s just reaching that preteen age, so we’re getting a lot of moods, and we’re getting a lot of defiance. But my mum phoned up a carer company a couple of weeks ago and arranged for me to have a carer come in for an hour every morning to help me kick the child out the door for school. And that’s, that’s been so helpful. Because sometimes children, they need to be told by someone who isn’t their parent.
Pei Mun Lim 40:49
Totally identify, I feel like I’m the only one He’s getting out of bed in the morning and getting into bed at night at the right time. And as grownups know, if you don’t get enough sleep, that just totally ruins your day, you don’t have enough rest, and you multiply that for a young child. So you know, I’m trying to be on the ball with the, with the bedtime and waking up, and I’m the evil person. So again, you know, just parenting by itself is hard, single parenting, you know, it’s just like fat multiplying the factors of the heart, stuff you have to do. You know, so parenting is already difficult parenting. So your daughter’s almost 10. And my daughter’s also around the same age. And we know what comes with pre puberty and all of that, and all that coming in. Plus, she’s dealing with you in
Gemma Blezard 41:51
Yeah, she knows she’s gonna lose her mom. And all the while while I’m doing this business stuff, she’s missing out on time with me. That very limited time with me. So there are things I’m doing to try and to try and curb that. So as you may know, we did the GoFundMe last year. And the I could not believe the response to that it was absolutely phenomenal. So I still got a lot of that and we’re sitting to plan on, we’re actually planning on what activities we want to do this year. So I want to take her away on a girl’s trip to New Yorker where she can just play in the sun for a little while. And we can both rest. But there are other measures that I can take, like reducing my work hours hiring sensibly, to cover the stuff that I do. And there’s always something I want to contribute as well. You know, there’s still going to be stuff I want to do in the Salesforce world, I still want to go out and do talks, I still want to go out and interact with people. If I’ve got the energy, the energy right now is my biggest currency. And I have to spend it really wisely and really carefully on things and probably really prioritize. But again, it’s still, you know, stuff I’m doing for myself. And that’s really, really important. Because I also want to show Molly that it’s really important to to use your skills, and that there is a point of going to school, she’s not just going there because of the law, she’s going there to learn so that she can find something that to do in her future that fulfills her life, you know, and I’m trying to show her that I’ve got that I’m very privileged to be doing my hobby for a job. Kinda kinda, but it’s important, but it is it is taking time away from her. And she needs a mum. And she needs and she we have such a close relationship, but the getting her out in the morning and do bedtime. You know, we all know as parents, that’s really stressful anyway, but it was starting to affect our relationship because I’m just over a go get to school shoes, shoes, shoes, shoes, go brush your teeth, Have you brushed your hair, come on love let’s go then and they’re gonna adjusted they’re not gonna and that’s not how I want to spend the last few years of my life you know, raising my child or however long I’ve got but now it’s in my liver as soon as they said it was in my liver as fuck now and I that’s actually the the attitude society has because that’s the West what the media does with cancer when you see someone with cancer on TV, you know, you see them go through treatment and come out the other side sometimes, like in the soaps and in documentaries and stuff. But you don’t see how people actually it’s not portrayed in the media that actually there is stuff that you can still contribute. And that just because you’ve got cancer and it’s terminal doesn’t mean that’s it. She’s dead now. That’s it, we’ll just sit and wait for it to die. And that’s the natural human in the natural human response to this. I mean, I remember when my friend Laura was was passed Do you know Laura Walker?
Pei Mun Lim 45:02
She was right. Here. They know that, you know, that’s been memorial for her. And there’s the award. I think that Amanda? Yeah. So her name kind of lives on. Plus, I know offline, I know how much more people think.
Gemma Blezard 45:24
Laura was a very special soul. And she was always full of jokes. And she was as irreverent as I was, some of our text messages that we exchanged. Were just brilliant. She gave me a gift, she gave me a recipe for a specific type of ham that you can have at Christmas. Because she, I said, I need something from you to take into my life. And she was like, I don’t know what to do. And then we started chatting one day about, you know, doing Christmas dinners and things. And she said, Oh, you were, she said, I’ve got to do this ham, because there’ll be a riot otherwise, and I was like, for her family. So I was like, Oh, can you give me the recipe and we’ll try it here. So now every year I make it. And that’s how I memorialized Laura in a way. But when, when, when Laura. I mean, Laura had a very different experience to me. She was very ill during her chemo, her white blood cells were very, very low. And she kept sepsis. And, you know, that’s a huge risk with chemo. I’ve been very lucky. I haven’t had any infections. I’ve basically sailed through it, by comparison to some people. Yeah, I feel it felt really, really sick the last two weeks, but they given me but Laura really struggled with it. And I remember even thinking to myself, Oh, no, it’s Laura’s got it in her liver, but she decided not to proceed with treatment. So she decided she was going to retire, and to and to enjoy the rest of her life. And she was in a great position to do that. And
Gemma Blezard 46:53
I’m glad that she was able to do that. I’m sorry, I went off on a tangent. But um yeah, I’ve lost my I lost my train of thought I’m sorry, pay.
Pei Mun Lim 47:11
Nine, you don’t have to answer this question. Do you have a ham recipe or something like that that you’d like?
Gemma Blezard 47:22
Oh, right. Yeah. Find the text messages from Laura.
Pei Mun Lim 47:26
No, I mean, from you.
Gemma Blezard 47:27
Oh, for me, how?
Pei Mun Lim 47:30
How would you like
Gemma Blezard 47:32
legacy. My legacy is seeing Salesforce tape the architect Success program from strength to strength. Because I know I influenced that. And but by and I influenced that by creating a demand. And all I did was just say stuff that everybody knew wasn’t saying, and that cause Salesforce to invest probably millions in this program, that’s going to make a new career path for people. So that’s my legacy. My legacy is also all of the new people who have been on my free training course and alerting and getting jobs. My legacy is a book that is coming out later this year. That I’m writing at the moment with a writer, because who has time you know, but she’s, she’s doing a great job of writing it in my tone, and we’re writing it together and collaborating on it. So, so that’s going really well. And my legacy is Molly, and it’s for Molly, it’s to show Molly
Pei Mun Lim 48:33
that she didn’t that
Gemma Blezard 48:36
I mean, just to pass on my values to Molly which is truth, honesty, you know, doing stuff that you love, not just sailings for a job because you want to get paid. You know, your life, your life is people talk about work life balance. And actually, I think, and some people see work as a means to an end, they’ll go their nine to five, come home, because what’s important is family, and that’s absolutely important. But what about you and your individuality? What about what makes you tick? What about your other identities, your other roles that you have, you know, I’m Gemma Molly’s mom. I’m also Eileen and Andy’s daughter. I’m also the CEO and founder of the architect club. I’m also founder of ladies, the architects, I’ve also got my own personal stuff that I do. I’m a friend to people. You know, the hardest thing for me has been trying to keep on top of all that I’m rubbish at replying to text messages, because I get so many. I think Geez, how, you know, have actually got the mental capacity to sit and go through all these messages and respond to them all. So that’s, you know, and there are things that you can do if your job if you’re spending paycheck always going to drop one or two. And my legacy for Molly is is around that self acceptance and knowing that, you know, she can do it Whatever she puts her mind to, if she just gets the resource, you know, she can go and find the resources to do it herself. And I suppose that that attitude is what I want to leave behind. If people find that inspiring, that’s great. If people find that really pretentious, then fine, you know, that’s your opinion.
Pei Mun Lim 50:20
I think you’re doing such a great job of all these things that you’ve had to do. And it’s just
I am in or, like I said, you know, running a business being a parent, single parent, running a business, plus all of this in everything else. And, and you know, the fact things but your free course, and the way that you’re inspiring others and the artifact track, and just telling people and just shining a light on anyone and everyone around you, is just been amazing. So,
Gemma Blezard 51:03
so low, actually, when you list it like that, it’s a lot. It’s one big, massive hurricane,
Pei Mun Lim 51:07
it is. And I think for you, when you’re kind of in it, and you’re just trying to prefer, you don’t see. So I see. And I think a lot of people see it. And a lot of people are grateful for you in so many ways. So you mentioned that energy is your currency at the moment. And you also mentioned before we started recording call that you’ve had, you know, quite a low few days last week, and you’re, you’re on some steroids that lift your mood up this weekend, that you want to spend that time and energy doing the stuff that you love, and I’m feeling really grateful that you’ve spent, you know, an hour with me, but more so I won’t be respectful and give you that, you know, just,
Gemma Blezard 51:58
I just love talking to you. And I love talking, you know, there are so many people in this ecosystem that I would love to see you meet, who share similar ideas and really care and are passionate about stuff like this and are so kind I mean, you’ve only got to walk around the middle of San Francisco during Dreamforce to make friends with people who are just they just like you unconditionally. You know, everybody’s nice until they’re not. You know, it’s it’s such a warm and welcoming environment. And people say Salesforce is a cult. It does have characteristics of a sect or religion, as does football. But I think any environment or any community that encourages people to find deep skills within themselves and bring them out to the surface, while celebrating those successes and achievements and creating friendship and smiles. What’s that there’s no harm in that. Is that and also giving back to the world at the same time?
Pei Mun Lim 53:01
No, no, and the fact that you are still so passionate and right now, you know, just tells me how deeply in this culture you are, and I think if this is a cult, right, I’ve spoken so many people on the podcast and it just comes through that it’s not just product, not just company, but the people that it creates an ohana basically has creates so much meaning for so many people and in for you to amplify a lot of that which you’ve received has been amazing to watch. And I’m really grateful that you’ve spent the time with me today. And I hope that we can do more but on the toothpaste that we’ve been doing so they’ll be great. Yep. Very cool to see. So
Gemma Blezard 54:02
more of those.
Pei Mun Lim 54:04
So I think you from bottom, my heart Gemma, and
Gemma Blezard 54:09
thank you and thanks for being here for me and for listening.