Windy Nicholson’s love of technology dates back to her eleventh-grade programming class, a course she enrolled in at the request of a guidance counselor who noticed her potential. “I not only enjoyed it but also had a knack for it,” Nicholson recalls. “It felt very much like puzzle-solving, which was something I had always enjoyed. Programming seemed to come very naturally to me. I soon realized this was what I wanted to do as a career.”
Today, Nicholson is Salesforce’s vice president of technology and product mergers and acquisitions (M&A) integration, a role she describes as “an incredible opportunity to bring all aspects of product and technology of newly acquired companies into the Salesforce family.” She cites her teams of subject matter experts in due diligence and tech integration as fundamental in driving the M&A process, which can range between nine and twenty-four months.
Nicholson obtained a computer science degree from South Carolina State University (SCSU), and she credits the school with instilling in her an understanding of key tech concepts as well as with leading her to challenges that became transformative opportunities.
SCSU’s career counseling office helped her land her first job at an 8(a) firm—but it didn’t necessarily begin well. “After my first week on the job, I was sure they would send me home,” Nicholson admits. “The coding language the team was developing in was foreign to me. Luckily, I had an amazing team leader who not only mentored me but also taught me the database programming language. I quickly realized the company hadn’t hired us because they thought we already knew how to code—they hired us because we had the potential and understood the concepts of software development.”
The Salesforce VP remains grateful to SCSU for the opportunity and is devoted to supporting future generations of minority SCSU students. “Representation matters, and I hope to show that we can all be anything we crave with dedication, hard work, and focus,” she says.
Nicholson’s dedication to fostering diverse communities within tech has led her to programs and board memberships for organizations such as Black Girls Do Bike, YearUp, and Pajama Reading, as well as Google’s #IAmRemarkable initiative. She also supported a scholarship for high school students in her rural hometown.
Black Girls Do Bike supports the physical and emotional well-being of women of color who are united by a love for biking. With YearUp, Nicholson has done multiple speaking sessions on careers in tech, time management, and goal setting. “With Salesforce’s sponsorship, I continue to connect locally and am now mentoring a young man who is focusing on project management as a Salesforce YearUp intern,” she says.
Nicholson is keenly conscious of how much she has learned from these programs, and from being exposed to such a diverse range of people. “The reminder of how remarkable they are inspires and teaches me that there are still things I don’t know,” she says. “It allows me to get a glimpse of walking alongside them, and it makes me a better person and a better leader to champion for diversity.”
The VP’s passion for helping others was formed early on. “My mother always gave back to the community when I was growing up, so I know I get that volunteering ‘gene’ from her,” she says. Nicholson also understands firsthand what it’s like to grow up with disadvantages: she put herself through college, and was a working single mother when she began her career.
Nicholson has been a member of Women in Technology (WIT) for seventeen years, which has allowed her to connect with fellow single mothers in the tech sector—and see the tech industry changing from the inside. Over the years, she has seen many talented but disadvantaged women receive significant support (and realize substantial career growth).
“I get emotional every time I think about it or see [a woman’s success video],” she says. “This was not something that existed when I was in that phase of my journey.” Through WIT, Nicholson herself has become part of the force creating these opportunities.