NextWork · Amber Joseph

Charting an unanticipated course, Amber turned a surprising opportunity into NextWork, a game-changing platform aimed at democratizing access to vocational education worldwide.

May 26, 2023
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Table of contents

  • Founder - Amber Joseph
  • Location - Wellington, New Zealand
  • Started in 2021
  • Bootstrapped
  • 6 figures annually
  • 5 employees

So Amber, what's your backstory?

I started studying Software Engineering for the first time at University. I've always been a creator and had planned to pursue a career as an artist all through High School; every parent's dream to hear. A chance and fiery argument with my younger brother about not being "suited to coding" saw me enrol in a Computer Science class in my final year of High School, purely out of stubbornness. I realised very quickly that programming was a far better tool for creating stuff than paint, so I promptly changed my career plans overnight and headed off to a world of maths and logic classes, eventually graduating with first-degree honours (so there little brother).

It was during my Software Engineering degree that I first got introduced to the world of Salesforce - my very first Cloud Computing platform. Our assignment was to create a solution for a real-world client (gasp!), and our client just so happened to use Salesforce. None of my University lecturers knew what Salesforce was so I was forced to venture into the world of Meetup groups and networking (dum dum daaaaa!). To my absolute shock, I found that Salesforce was indeed a rather large product. And that there was a real need for Salesforce Developers. In fact, in my very first Meetup, I was offered a job on the spot. I happily let myself get sucked into the Salesforce eco-system and spent my final year's thesis creating an app for the Salesforce App Exchange that was an absolute disaster.

During this final year, I got a little website going to track my progress; On this website, I would post blogs about what I was learning, new concepts, and mini-projects I was doing. My obsessive Salesforce focus paid off, and at the end of the year, I landed a job at the mothership itself. I was an extremely chuffed and socially celebrated Salesforce Grad. Until I wasn't.

About a month before I was due to start, I got a shocking message through my little website. Shocking because it was the first message I'd ever received. It said (paraphrasing), "We need to train 300 salespeople in Salesforce pronto. Can you do this, and what's your rate?". My rate? You mean, I can write down any number in this email and....and people might pay me for it? Mind. Blown.

I called up Salesforce and asked if I could start a little later (the contract was only for 3 months), but they gave me the hard answer; start now or apply again next year. The choice was made, the bandaid was ripped, and I started my career as a solo Salesforce Trainer.

From there, I expanded my contracting career to involve corporate Salesforce Training and Certification Training and eventually made the switch to a B2C certification course offering. From there, we expanded to teach AWS and Azure and are on a mission to make all vocational education universally accessible. We're building the world's largest vocational education platform.

What is NextWork?

NextWork exists to make learning a new vocational skill and starting a new career easy. We're here to upgrade education globally and make seriously qualified vocations universally accessible.

How did you come up with the idea?

We originally started as Salesforce Training, which worked fantastically until Salesforce tapped us on the shoulder for copyright, and we realised that we wanted to teach more than just Salesforce. We're here to make every vocational skill easily accessible.

How did you launch the business?

My very first course came from a post I did on LinkedIn, where I announced that I was running a free "How to get Certified in Salesforce" webinar. 800 signed up, 300 people turned up, and I announced I was running a paid course at the end of that call. Two weeks later, I had my first 16 paying customers.

How have you grown the business?

LinkedIn and referrals are the biggest sources of growth. We also find that partnering with educational platforms and organisations around job switching and universities also has a great reach for new students.

Any big failures and learnings?

There's no one "biggest learning" for us - every day, listening and talking to students on the course helps us refine our product and tweak it to perfection. I think these smaller, more regular check-ins with reality help us fix little mistakes daily and build a great product.

Your go to digital tools?

We're a Google shop, so we use Google products for almost everything. With Salesforce being one of core course topics, we would be pretty hypocritical not to use that internally as well. Slack is where our community and discussions all happen.

Any inspiring founder books you recommend?

I've always loved 'The Magic of Thinking Big' by David J. Schwartz. I'm a sucker for classics and tend to be pretty wary of new-hyped business books.

Any podcasts or websites you love?

I listen to old Jim Rohn lectures (2 - 4hrs) at least once a month and the occasional Tim Ferris podcast episode on my commutes.

What do you love & hate about being a founder?

I love everything about being a founder. If I didn't, I wouldn't be doing it. My favourite part is the sense of self-satisfaction; this is what I'm meant to be doing with my time on this planet.

Any mental health tips?

It can be hard to take time for a "big holiday" or break as a founder, so I like to schedule mini-breaks during my day where I don't think about the business and don't look at my phone. For me, this is my gym time and the hour before bed.

Any quotes you live by?

I love Jim Rohn's quote:

"You may not be able to do all you find, but you must find out all you can do."

It's pretty much my life's motto at this point.

What does it mean to be a founder?

Being a founder means taking responsibility for the change that you want to see in the world. It's not waiting for someone else to change it but going out and doing it yourself.

Any advice for other founders?

There's never just one path or one way to build a business. Before you make any big decision, spend some time just writing out all the different options. I always surprise myself with the alternative paths I come up with, even if I don't take them.

Your links + socials

Amber's personal LinkedIn account
NextWork's YouTube Channel

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