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Behind the Labs: Jewish Campus Connections by Vanessa Chalem

We live in an always-on, constantly connected world. Between smartphones, smart speakers, and a growing number of social media platforms, it can prove daunting to make and maintain meaningful connections. Vanessa Chalem wanted to help ease this burden for leaders in a community she is incredibly dedicated to and lives every day.


Currently a technical evangelist (TE) on the AppExchange team, Vanessa began her journey in Salesforce Business Technology. Throughout her three years at Salesforce, Vanessa has been passionate about the ability to use technology to drive good — and it’s this belief that motivated her to create and launch a Salesforce Labs app


Vanessa Chalem, Technical Evangelist, poses with Astro.


The Jewish Campus Connections app is built for Jewish leaders on college campuses, enabling them to stay connected with students, alumni, and donors. Customized to fit the needs of tracking Jewish information—like affiliations and Hebrew birthdays—as well as university relations, Vanessa’s app also has the flexibility to further extend the functionality to fit their needs. 


We spent some time talking with Vanessa about the challenges and learnings along the way of building a Labs app.


Who was the inspiration behind your Salesforce Labs solutions?

Vanessa Chalem: My own passion for Judaism and community is what ignited the start of pro bono engagements with Chabad rabbis, and ultimately, lead to this Labs app. I wanted to help Chabad rabbis on college campuses across the U.S., while building out their Salesforce orgs with Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) to further fit their needs. As more and more rabbis were interested, I figured, why not publish this solution on AppExchange and make it available to the larger Jewish community? 


VC: When I joined the ISV team earlier in 2019, this idea became a reality as I went through the process of publishing an app, including passing security review. It was the best hands-on experience to understand the process that our partners go through. 



What do you think is one of the best or key features of your app?

VC: One of the best features is the ability to track spiritual milestones with students and automate follow-up reminders based on their engagements. 



What key learnings did you take away from creating Jewish Campus Connections?

VC: I learned how the partner process works by using the publishing console and submitting for security review. Also, I gained a better understanding of the limitations of what is and what isn’t packageable. 



What was the most challenging part of building this app?

VC: The biggest challenge was taking ideas from all of the different Jewish pro bono projects and consolidating.  The goal was to determine the top priorities to meet the needs of a broader Jewish leader on a college campus.


Is this code open source?

VC: Yes! Check it out on Github.


What’s next?

VC: I plan to take my Jewish Campus Connections app to the next level. I want to explore integrating the app with a Hebrew calendar so birthdays can be translated to Hebrew dates during a callout. I hope to get constructive feedback as Jewish leaders on college campuses use the app to see where I can continue to grow, improve, and further implement new features. 


What advice do you have for admins looking to build solutions in their Salesforce orgs?

VC: Go for it! There are so many neat use cases that can be solved with the Salesforce platform, and the more you dive in and get hands-on, the more you'll learn and be able to bring your ideas to life. 


Okay, last question: what do you do outside of work?

VC: I'm very involved with my local Young Professionals Jewish community—I love running programs and meeting new people. Also, I play guitar at the local elderly home. I love to workout, spend time with friends and family, and in the winter, hit the slopes.


Get Vanessa’s solution, Jewish Campus Connections, on AppExchange and find more Salesforce Labs solutions on AppExchange today. 


Behind the Labs is a blog series where we shine the spotlight on Salesforce employees that have built free solutions available on AppExchange. 

Holly Rushton is a Senior Manager, Content Marketing for AppExchange at Salesforce.