Odyssey Profile : Renee | Proposal Strategist, Salesforce
"...balance that with what is and is not acceptable to you for your own mental health, personal growth, and self-respect."
Hi, I’m Renee Ritchie! I’m a queer, fat, disabled (ADHD) proposal strategist at Salesforce. I help sales teams and solution engineers write effective, compelling, and accurate proposals to help enterprise companies establish or expand their Salesforce footprint. I’ve also written for tabletop roleplaying games, both indie and mainstream, and done event programming and management for sci-fi/fantasy conventions and live-action roleplaying game events.
How did you land your first job after school, and why did you decide to take that route?
My first job after college was part-time at Bath and Body Works for the holiday season. I took it only a few months after not only graduating college, but also escaping an abusive relationship by moving back home with my parents, 300 miles away from where I went to college. I took that job because I wanted to start saving money to move out of my parents’ house, and it’s usually easier to find a job when you already have one, for a variety of factors. They kept me on after the holiday season, which gave me a stable base to work from until the following April, when I found a different, full-time job.
If that route has changed since then, how has it changed and why?
My route definitely changed since I first got out of college. Before, I was primarily in survival mode, building myself up to actually start my career. I didn’t have any internships to build from, as it wasn’t my intention to work in the tech industry. Ideally, I wanted to work in publishing. Still, with the economy on the verge of a downturn, I had the good sense to keep my options open and try to apply my degree (creative writing) to wherever I ended up. Eventually, I worked my way up to a job where I do use my degree every day, and have built a multitude of other adjacent skills along the way, such as content management and internal enablement.
Who helped you along the way?
I didn’t have a lot of mentors early in my career. It took me three years of working full-time to encounter someone I could even consider a mentor. She was a writer and developer for role-playing games, which I still do as a freelancer. After I pinch-hit for her as an editor, she exposed me to a lot of her colleagues. Those additional colleagues made a point of sharing their knowledge with me to help me improve my writing. I also took on volunteer experience with local sci-fi/fantasy conventions, where I learned about event programming and people management from various SMOFs (secret masters of fandom). I also learned that I don’t want to pursue people management professionally, and that’s okay. I also had some fantastic peers and managers along the way who let me explore my own ideas and supported me whether those ideas succeeded or failed.
What is one important lesson you’ve had along the way?
Definitely keep your options and your mind open when it comes to your career path. I’ve worked in promotional marketing, construction sales, telecom expense management, search QA, mobile games marketing and community management, corporate partner/reseller enablement, and content management before I got to my current position as a proposal manager, where I’ve been for five years. I had to be flexible due to rough economic conditions and trying to survive in an area with a high cost of living, and I didn’t have the luxury to be picky. Much of my career has been built as a contractor as opposed to a full-time employee, so don’t be afraid of contractor opportunities as well.
At the same time, balance that with what is and is not acceptable to you for your own mental health, personal growth, and self-respect. The relationship I had with my manager at my first-time job ultimately drove me to quit that job after six months. It was a terrible move for my bank account at the time, but looking back, I don’t regret quitting that job for an instant. This is a prime example of the adage that people don’t leave organizations, they leave managers.
What is one thing that has been surprising to you?
I was genuinely surprised at how well my writing skills have translated into a career in tech. I’m not a coder, but I can conceptualize and explain complicated technical concepts to both technical and non-technical audiences. Some of the strangest rules I learned about stronger fiction writing apply to the writing I do today (e.g. avoiding “to be” verbs, the appropriate times for active and passive voice, #OxfordCommaForever, etc.).