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COBE Success Story

Certificate of Business Excellence: a Virtual Experience that Exceeds Expectations

headshot of Erin Durfee

COBE Alum Erin Durfee

Erin Durfee had only one program left in order to complete her Certificate of Business Excellence (COBE) when Covid-19 pushed the University of California Berkeley into shut down.

“When the shelter in place went into effect, I was really disappointed about how I was going to finish my COBE. I had so valued the in-person experience,” Erin says. “Yet when I enrolled in my final program, a virtual High-Impact Leadership, I was quickly surprised with how great the online experience was. It changed my perception of online courses and actually created more connectedness. Since we were already using technology to connect, it was easier to bridge that into other ways to stay connected. The course was top notch.”

In her current role at Salesforce as Director of Customer Success, Erin manages a portfolio of Salesforce customers, leads a team of internal success managers, and partners with the organization’s Sales division to support Customer Success strategies for their teams.  

Erin heard about Berkeley Executive Education from a colleague when she was new to Salesforce. Instantly, Erin’s interest was piqued — she got excited thinking about upping her professional game, plus she figured signing up could be a great way to get to know her new peer and to share something outside of work together. And besides, Erin is no stranger to UC Berkeley and was looking forward to getting back on campus. She and her colleague enrolled in the Communications Excellence program together. 

Native to the Bay Area, and a third-generation Cal grad, Erin was discerning when she started the Communications Excellence program, “Having been a Cal grad, I had really high expectations — and I was eager to learn from Haas faculty because I knew first-hand of their reputation,” Erin says. “The faculty did not disappoint!” 

Entering into the Communications Excellence program, Erin said she had felt shy when it came to presenting to groups of people, especially when it comes to public speaking. “Presenting and public speaking is something I really wanted to be good at. The program helped me learn how to be a better speaker and to communicate more clearly — it helped me fill a gap in my skills, which has been really valuable. Not long after taking the course, I had the opportunity to be a speaker at Dreamforce (Salesforce’s largest annual conference) and the skills I learned gave me the confidence and tools to succeed.”

Erin then enrolled in the Negotiation & Influence program, gaining skills she uses on a daily basis. “Negotiating and influencing comes into play every day in the work I do. My role is to partner with my customers’ business and IT organizations to get the most business value from their investment,” Erin says. 

She also helps her customers prioritize projects and adopt new technology. “The ‘why’ is all about negotiation and influence,” Erin says. “Personally, this program helped me up-level how I think about conflict, and learn how to manage the needs and expectations of others while bringing people together to share in one common goal.”

Next, Erin enrolled in the Financial Data Analysis for Leaders program, “I’ve been in business a long time, but wasn’t sure how to look at an organization’s earnings and understand what it really means” A majority of the companies Erin works with are publicly traded companies, and many of the insights to build strategy are derived from looking at a company’s earnings statements and listening to investor calls.  

“The program helped me learn to analyze financial statements, and speak the language needed to have quality conversations — conversations with executives where I ask pertinent, curious and well-articulated questions. Ultimately the knowledge I gained from this program has helped me do my job better.”

According to Erin, no matter what the product is, managing it is critical. “When I think of my current job as a Success Manager, even I am a product where innovation needs to come into play. And no matter where my career goes — maybe my future involves starting my own company — the framework I learned in the Product Management program will come into play.”

Covid-19 Shutters Uc Berkeley Campus

Erin had planned to take her final COBE course in May 2020, but it was cancelled due to COVID. Later in the fall, new online courses became available and Erin wrapped up her COBE journey with a virtual version of the High-Impact Leadership program. “Doing this program virtually ended up being extremely valuable for me. I learned new skills on building connectedness through Zoom calls, which has been really helpful given our new reality.”   

High-Impact Leadership also helped Erin become a more effective and compassionate leader. “I want to lead others to be happy, productive, empowered and successful in their jobs. As their leader, I owe it to them to be the best I can be.”  She learned about the three A’s: acknowledge, appreciation, and apologies. “Since the class, I am more grateful and I give feedback and kudos when others take action or do things that are helpful.”

Making Connections

Since the conclusion of the High-Impact Leadership program, Erin says the connections she made stay active with daily conversations on WhatsApp. “It’s a great forum to stay in touch. People post to the group every day,” she says. “There were people from around the world who took the High-Impact Leadership program, so it’s been really valuable to get perspectives from others around the globe on a regular basis – plus the networking opportunities are endless,” Erin says.

Chatter Group Within Salesforce: Sharing the Benefits of the ExecEd

Erin’s positive COBE experience inspired her to evangelize her experience with others at Salesforce, so she was quick to establish an internal Chatter group. The group gives context to those who have gone through the Exec Ed program, and offers insights to those who might be interested in enrolling for the first time. It has grown organically over time.

“I’ve always been passionate about building communities and fostering connections within Salesforce. I have established other Chatter groups in the past, so I figured I would create a group focused on the value of UC Executive Education,” Erin says. Members of the Chatter group share strategies and techniques they learned through their program experience, and stories on how they put tools and skill into practice. “I want others to know that anyone looking to level up their game could find great benefit from Executive Education.”  

Kudos to the Faculty

Erin says she benefited from the engaging content and the thoughtful communication styles that each faculty member brought to the classroom. “Across the board, I was very inspired by the level of experience of the faculty, and how they kept us all engaged, especially the strategies they presented and the compelling speakers they brought to the classes,” Erin says. “It’s not easy keeping an audience engaged, and whether it was an in-person or online course, the faculty did an amazing job.”

COBE = Confidence

Erin says she is a more confident leader because of her COBE journey. “I’m becoming the leader I want to be,” Erin says. “I am certainly not there yet, but I feel that I am ready for the next step in my career.  I have more confidence now to pursue new challenges – I am ready for new growth and new opportunities thanks to my COBE experience.”