London’s Calling, Not Dreamin’

We’ve just finished our second London’s Calling Community conference.  We’ve been asked a few times why the name London’s Calling and why didn’t we opt to go with the Dreamin’ name like the majority of the other conferences.

There is a simple answer to that, we’re not dreamin’.  If you’ve been to England, you’ll know it’s cold, damp and cloudy, especially in February.  This means that our conference has a bit of an edge.. You can thank the Vitamin D deficiency for that.

One of the things we try to do with this event is to infuse it with British culture.  Being in the interesting position of being an American living in London, I understand my own as well as theirs.  Where Americans would embrace the concept of Dreamin’.. The Brits might give you the side eye.  A little too optimistic for their taste.  So as part of our objective for London’s Calling, the event has to be reflective of the intersectionality of Salesforce and British culture.  One would say it’s no easy feat, but we make sure there are elements of both in everything that we do. We give you Ohana served up with a side of sarcasm.

Let’s start with the name, London’s Calling was the name that was tossed out whilst we were sitting and drinking gobs of champagne and my arm was being twisted into joining Francis & Simon on this adventure.  It was to be a placeholder name until we found something more clever.  Guess what folks, THAT never happened. We decided to stick with the name and got a theme song in the mix!  The next thing we did was tshirts.  If you’ve seen the design of our tshirts, you’ll see they cross whimsy and steampunk.  We know other community events are doing tshirts, so we’re not the first to do this, we just hope ours show our personalities.

The next part that we hope people notice is that we try not to take ourselves too seriously.  Yes, we want this to be a great event that people will come back to year after year but we know we’re not event planners and are doing this in addition to our day jobs, night jobs, school and a host of other things happening in our lives.  We’re not polished and we’re hoping that adds to our charm.  What we do take VERY seriously is our content.  We spent hours pouring over 150+ submissions for only a handful of sessions.  This meant that only 22% of submissions were accepted, which is good and bad and it’s hard to turn away fabulous content, but we have many user groups in London.  Definitely present your content there if you were not selected.

Other things we don’t do are confetti, dancing and karaoke*.  I think this may be a holdover from the fact that the UK hasn’t won Eurovision since 1998. Some are still sore about this and it’s better to just leave it alone.

At the end of the day what we want people to take away from our event is that we’re a ragtag but enthusiastic group of people that want to put on an event for the community that they’ll enjoy and want to keep attending year after year or until we run out of ideas.  We want it to reflect the culture here which we know is a bit different from event to event.  We’re hoping when you attend ours, you’ll see what we’re about.

Now that we’ve finished our second one, we’re hoping the vision is a little more clear.

*This is a constantly evolving list of things we don’t do but may do in the future.. Depends on our mood that year and how much its rained.

5 Reasons Why You Should Join a User Group in 2017 (if you didn’t listen to me in 2016)!

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Not the catchiest of titles for a blog post, I know.  But as we’re careening towards to 2017 and not a moment too soon, I thought I would remind people why Salesforce User Groups are something you shouldn’t put off joining.  Last year, I wrote a post with 5 reasons why you should join a user group, but I’ve decided to refresh it based on the events of 2016.. in case you’re wondering this post will not talk about any of the negative events of 2016, so put your pitchforks away!

5. With thrice yearly releases, we know we have to stay current on our Salesforce skills, but the opportunity to learn new things doesn’t stop there.  With the platform and industries constantly evolving and changing, it behooves even the most seasoned of Salesforce experts to keep current.  By attending user groups that deal with different industries and products, it’s easier to expand your knowledge base.  This year, I’ve added to my understanding of nonprofit and public sector based on the content and discussions at these types of user group events.  It’s definitely worth stepping outside of your comfort zone!

4. We all know and love Salesforce, but how much do we know about some of the offerings available on the Appexchange to extend the functionality of Salesforce?  The ability to engage with product companies and learn more about different offerings is another benefit of user group meetings.  Oftentimes, these product companies will sponsor user group meetings and it’s an easy way to get more information and have informal chats about their offerings.  I will admit that my knowledge of many of the apps available was lacking, but over the last year, I have had the ability to engage with some partners such as Apttus, Taskfeed and Xactly to learn more about how their products and services can help my clients when planning out their Salesforce projects.  Added bonus is that you’re usually not being sold to and can ask open and honest questions.

3. With so much new stuff coming at us in terms of the release cycles for Salesforce and all of the new Lightning functionality, sometimes we have to go to the experts for advice and guidance.  Many user groups are able to do just that and bring the experts straight to you!  We’ve had some exciting roadmap discussions and fireside chats this year about a multitude of different areas as Salesforce continues to grow.  Salesforce Admins and Devs do a great job with webinars and highlighting experts in our community but being face to face and able to ask about your most challenging of use cases is really helpful!

2. There is such a diverse audience at user groups and I know I mentioned networking in the post last year, but I would be remiss if I didn’t also give examples of some of the incredible networking I’ve seen in action this year.  From one of our Women in Tech events in May, there was a topic around mentoring and out of that discussion, some of our WiT members ended up establishing informal mentorship relationships with some other members of the community.  Being able to get guidance and support from community members who have embarked on similar paths in their careers is invaluable.

1. It should not come as any surprise that Salesforce Ohana would be my final reason.  I don’t think there is anyone on earth that would disagree on 2016 being a challenging year for many many reasons.  I’ve seen members of our community come together to celebrate births of babies (we have added lots of little future community members this year), promotions, engagements, marriages and all kinds of happy events as well as some sad events this year.  We have dealt with loss in our community as well as illnesses, etc.  But what sets us apart from any other community is that we all want to share and connect with our fellow community members.  It’s truly an extension of my family and I feel so fortunate to have so many people all over the world, as well as my own city, if I need just a simple hello.  This community makes the world smaller and accessible by bringing people together, every day.  I cannot even begin to express my gratitude for everyone that has been there for me and everyone around me over the past year.

Wishing everyone a very Happy Holiday season!

BTW, I am not responsible if the last one made you shed a tear or two. 🙂

What Our Class Learned From Our Speaker Diversity Program*

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The dust has settled and it’s been a few weeks since the Speaker Diversity Program ended.  We’re so proud of our graduates and the talks they delivered on 25-August.  If you want to read a full run down on the event, I highly encourage you to read Keir’s blog post.  He did a great job of recapping the event. Also, not to be missed is Louise Lockie’s post on what she took away from the program.  Definitely read both of these posts if you have no idea of what I am talking about at this point.

I also wrote a post that summarized what I had learned by actually teaching the class with Keir. You can read more about that here, but this blog post is centered on what our graduates took away from the program.

So a brief overview of why we did this:

After World Tour London in May, when it was realized that it was the same people speaking at all of the events and that we needed to encourage more people in the community to get up on stage at events, the Speaker Diversity Program was born.  The mission of our program was fairly simple and straightforward:

 

This program aims to increase speaker diversity by providing a series of workshops around speaking, building presentations, interacting with an audience and preparing for an actual event through dry runs and practice sessions.

This seemed like a fairly easy task.  A hack team of community and Salesforce people came together and decided to create a schedule, content and teach these brave souls!  Keir Bowden and myself led the majority of the sessions.  We had some assistance from Kerry Townsend, Antonina Romanova and Pauline Dufour.  We’re grateful they were able to step in while Keir and I were busy eating pizza in Chicago.

After polling each of the individual students, this is the feedback they gave:

I learned how to package up a talk and create the journey. – Dave Humm

I learned to have minimal words on slides, not to talk to the slides, proper presentation techniques, ensure the audience is engaged. – Louise Lockie

I learned what not to do during a talk.  The behaviors of having a balance between too much and not enough content.  Keep contact with the audience and adjust your presentation style.  Don’t look at the screen too often as it seems like you’re reading the slides and aren’t prepared. – Antonina Romanova

I learned there different presentation styles to learn from.  Our instructors both had different styles. – Courtney Prior

I learned how to structure a presentation and slow down when I am speaking. – Tracy Keeling

It was important to face a new challenge and learn something along the way. – Rad Radkova

And lastly..

I learned nothing.  I am here to judge, not contribute. – Keir Bowden 

Although I think Keir was wrong.  He was very much there to contribute as he was the Paula Abdul to my Simon Cowell style of giving feedback.  Who knew Keir could be so positive?

All participants were also given Get Feedback links to provide additional detail around how we can make these sessions better.  We’re going to refine the program and run another 6 week session after Dreamforce.

If this sounds even remotely interesting, you’re brave enough to spend 6 weeks learning how to be a better speaker and are not adverse to homework, you can register your interest here. We’re even planning on doing something special with our graduates in the next few months.  Can’t let the cat out of the bag just yet, but you’ll have to sign up to learn more!

*Yes, I know I am using the American spelling of the word.. Deal with it.

Why Salesforce Admins & Devs are like Peanut Butter & Jelly

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I’ve spent the majority of my Salesforce career firmly in Admin territory.  I’ve always liked it that way, it’s a world I understand.  The ability to transform business processes and challenges into solutions coupled with reporting are some things that I enjoy.  I also like solving problems, so it works for me.  Sounds nerdy, but there you have it.

However, in 2012 my world changed a bit.  I left my job on the client side, where I had worked up to leading a Center of Excellence to dip a toe into Salesforce consulting.  It wasn’t as tough of a transition because I went from working at an insurance company straight into an insurance project. Easy Peasy.  Fast forward two years and I had left Connecticut (if you’re not from the US, it’s between Boston & NYC) was living in London and being coerced into attending my very first Dev Meetup.  That was February 2014 and I’ve never looked back.

As you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking.. why would someone who said they are firmly planted in the admin territory get so much value out of a developer group?  Well, great question!  Going to a developer user group felt like I just added the other half of the puzzle pieces onto what I already knew.  Learning about the dev world was the jelly to my existing peanut butter sandwich.  (If you know me, you’ll know that I have an intense love of peanut butter, jam optional!)

What this all means is that I learned to expand my thinking and learn a myriad of new ways to solve problems.  I may not be able to write code well, but I have come away with a whole new appreciation for the technical challenges that devs face with writing code, integrations and being able to debug why something doesn’t work.  On top of this, I’ve extended out my network to meet so many more interesting people.  Those dev people are pretty brilliant, I’ve even become friends with a few!

All of this doesn’t mean that I’ve left the admin side and hung up my solution architect hat, but it does mean that I’ve learned about topics and concepts that I would never have been exposed to if I hadn’t stepped outside of my comfort zone.  When I get a great idea, oftentimes I will grab one of my favorite devs or architects who will brainstorm with me to make my great idea, amazing.

My favorite part of being in the London Dev User Group is that it’s welcoming to all.  Yes, many times it’s a bunch of guys talking about code and dining on Domino’s and Perroni but nobody has ever made me feel like I didn’t belong for not truly being dev.  They are inclusive of everyone which one of the reasons that our Women in Tech user group partners with them often.  Thanks especially to Keir Bowden, Anup Jadhav, Richard Clark and Francis Pindar for being some of our biggest allies.  You guys helped me get this group off of the ground in the early days and we have nothing but love for the devs!  Also important to mention our rockstar support from Salesforce, couldn’t do it without all of you!  You guys make this community open, inclusive and most of all, a lot of fun.

If you, dear reader, are scared to join a dev group cause you’re an admin.. don’t be.  They’re not as scary as they look!  Join and attend a meeting as soon as possible.  If you don’t like it, you can yell at me in the comments or on twitter. 🙂

 

The 5 Things I Learned from Teaching Others about Public Speaking…

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I had the opportunity to teach a six week public speaking class at Salesforce Tower and as our students are preparing for graduation on 25-August, I thought I would take a moment to reflect on a few things.  For instance, how we got here and what I’ve learned. I thought I would share what I learned  before we publish another post on what the students learned.

So the person that hates public speaking, helped to teach a class to encourage people into speaking at Salesforce events.. Yeah, about that.  I am not sure whose idea it was at first, but there was an email from Keir and then a hyper-kid-on-a-lot-of-sugar-email from Will.  Which then turned into an opportunity for me to make a project plan (love those) and the rest was history.  Well history in as much as we got together, had some objectives, I got to use my project plan and we divvied up content / speaking among ourselves with assists from Antonina, Pauline & Kerry. We were running like a well oiled rusty machine!

But enough about the behind the scenes stuff, if you’ve stuck with me this long, you clearly are insane or REALLY want to know what I’ve learned.

  1. Body Language is Important.  I know a lot of the feedback that I give other people are things that I struggle with myself.  Flinging my hands about all over? Yup, do that all of the time.  I tell myself not to, but it still happens.  I’m Italian.. it’s natural.
  2. Keep it Simple.  The KiSS principle really does apply.  As we worked with students to refine their presentations and hone in on one or two key things per slide, I realized how many times I had been guilty of jamming a ton of text on to a slide cause I REALLY NEEDED IT TO BE THERE.  Actually, I didn’t but it tends to be a crutch if you haven’t prepared enough for your talk.
  3. How to be a better prepared speaker and presenter.  I have been giving tips of what to do and what not to do from experience and other resources, but actually all of us can definitely learn a thing or two about what to do better.  Some of these include conducting dry runs, having a prerecorded demo (IT’S NOT CHEATING*) and having screenshots available in case you aren’t able to deliver a live demo.  Can’t wait to try these out at Dreamforce!
  4. Bring a bit of yourself to your presentation.  I have a tendency to keep personal stories out of my presentations but the ones where I have interwoven anecdotes (good and bad) with best practices have been the talks that have been the most successful for me.  Don’t be afraid to let others learn from your mistakes or successes.  It’s easier to relate to you and others may have had similar experiences.
  5. Lastly, I really enjoyed teaching this class.  I was able to see people who may have struggled to find a niche or a reason to tell their story, but they worked at it to find a message and pull it together.  Just watching the progression and hoping even one tiny thing I might have said inspired that, was incredible.  (I’m pretty sure it was probably something that Keir said that inspired it!)

As our students prepare to deliver lightning style talks on Thursday night at a joint London Dev & Women in Tech meeting, we can hope they learned something, remember the tips from class and continue getting up on stage.  The aim of this program was to diversify the speakers at our User Groups, World Tours and even Dreamforce.  We spent a session talking about barriers to speaking and hopefully everyone will come out of this energized and ready to go, because everyone has a good Salesforce story or two to tell!

Thanks to everyone that attended class.  We appreciate your enthusiasm and willingness to be a part of this program.  We’re hoping your feedback will make it an even better experience the second time around!

*Pre-recording your demos so you can avoid the anxiety of whether or not the wifi will work, Salesforce won’t be slow or you just plain forgot what you were doing is good prep and NOT CHEATING.  Some of us are not adrenaline junkies!

 

You Want to Speak at a Salesforce Event? We Want to Help!

public-speakingI hate public speaking.  I absolutely detest it.  I know these are strong words to describe something that I do quite often, but a myriad of things run through my mind every time I am about to stand up and speak.  The running monologue in my head goes something like, what if you trip and fall on your face (physically and metaphorically)?  What if you lose your voice in the middle of your talk? To be fair, I’ve already experienced this during my last minute panel appearance at London’s Calling where I squeaked my way through answering questions by Erica Kuhl.  Regardless of the amount of times I do this, I still get a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach and want to run far away and hide..  But yet.. I continue to do it.  Why?

My reason for doing this is my desire to share my experiences and give back to the community that has given me so much over the years.  That is what propels me on stage and to do just that.  When I put together a talk for a User Group, World Tour or Dreamforce, I am sharing a piece of me and my experiences.  My goal is that even a small bit of knowledge that I can impart can help someone else.  That is why I put myself through this crazy rollercoaster ride of emotions.

So now that I’ve shared why I do this, does this motivate you to want to speak at events?  If your answer is yes, keep reading!  (If it’s no, keep reading anyway!)

As one of the co organisers of our local Salesforce Women in Tech User Group, I get a lot of comments when asking others if they would like to speak that run the gamut of, I have nothing to say all the way to, I couldn’t possibly stand in front of people and speak.  I have challenged them and asked why they thought they couldn’t speak and how they could overcome these hurdles.  To all of the people that said they didn’t think this was something they could do, we have come up with the perfect solution!  

The London WiT User Group and Salesforce will be providing a 6 week course to be able to do just that… deliver a talk at a User Group.  At the end of the 6 weeks, attendees will learn tips and tricks on building and delivering a talk, practice their new skills and then at the end, speak at the London Dev User Group!  

The 6 one hour sessions will be held at Salesforce Tower in London and cover the following topics:

  1. Getting Started with Public Speaking
  2. Delivering a Talk
  3. Choose a Topic
  4. Building Your Talk
  5. Dry Runs / Feedback Session
  6. Present at the Dev User Group

The sessions will be taught by Keir Bowden, Pauline Dufour, Antonina Romanova and myself.  They may even include a “graduation” present at the end!! This should definitely sway you now!

If this sounds like something you would like to do and can commit to the 6 sessions starting on 12-July, please sign up here.

Blazing the Trail from Solo Admin to CoE

Thank you to everyone that attended my talk in the Admin Theatre on 19-May at Salesforce World Tour London.  As promised, I am uploading my slides, along with some links to other relevant items that were mentioned during my talk.

Firstly, the slides: Blazing the trail from Solo admin to CoE

A previous blog post that explains a lot of the content from my talk: Blog post

The resourcing slide from Salesforce: Resources

And an overview on Premier Success: Overview

5 Reasons to Navigate the Salesforce Advantage Trail

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When I started working with Salesforce back in two thousand and mumble mumble (2004 – yikes!), I knew I liked what I was seeing and after sitting in on a demo, I was immediately hooked.  I thought it looked super cool and I wasn’t even that mad at my boss for dumping it on me!

The AE took us through the benefits and why Salesforce was a game changer, but like anything else, how much of what the AE was saying was real and how much was spin?  At that time you relied on what your AE and Sales Engineer were saying to get funding for licensing and implementation costs.  They were instrumental in giving you that first sip of Kool Aid to get you to buy, but what about after the purchase?  It’s now up to you to be able to clearly articulate why Salesforce is a game changer and the benefits for your different user groups.  In the old days, I leaned heavily on my AE, Sales Engineer and CSM to give me some of the literature to help me make my case, but now we have something new and BETTER.. TRAILHEAD!

Yes, Trailhead is excellent for learning Salesforce and how to actually use the tool, but how does it help me before purchasing licenses, you ask.  Simple.. keep reading!

The Navigate the Salesforce Advantage Trail is great because you can start using it beforehand to learn those important pieces about Salesforce to help you make knowledgeable purchasing decisions or build a killer business case to get funding for licensing costs.

So why should you complete the Navigating the Salesforce Advantage Trail? Here are my top reasons!

5. Getting to Know Salesforce. How many other companies have such detailed information in a fun and interactive learning environment?  This module lets you learn about the components of the Customer Success Platform.  Even after this first module you can be speaking about Salesforce in a knowledgable manner.  You’ll look like a star in no time!

4. Four Core Differentiators. Salesforce isn’t just a software company, it’s a culture.  Just attend a Salesforce community event and you learn how quickly how much of a culture it really is.  Salesforce combines it’s four core components that propel everything they do;  they consist of Customer Success, Innovation, Leadership and Giving Back.  Salesforce doesn’t just talk the talk, they also walk the talk on giving back with their 1-1-1 model. Want to learn more? It’s in the Introducing our Four Core Differentiators module!

3. Cloud Benefits. Going through this module helps you learn how to use cloud technology to your benefit and figure out what works best for you and your business needs.  The Succeeding with a Complete CRM and Propelling Your Business in the Cloud modules will give a good understanding to help you wow your management!

2. Salesforce Technology Basics. Understanding how Salesforce’s technology works in the cloud and in an multi tenant environment.  This module will help with understanding the basics of how it all works together to give you the power of Salesforce across all of your devices.  Plus, it’s a good jump start if you decide to become Admin certified!

1. Salesforce Ecosystem. One of the most powerful things about Salesforce isn’t Trailhead (although it’s pretty awesome) or it’s power, it’s the Community behind it.  I may be biased, but I have never seen such a powerful and awesome community.  Whenever I have a question, need help or just a friendly face at Dreamforce, the Salesforce Community is always there.

I have just given you (dear reader) 5 really important reasons why you want to complete this Trailhead Trail, but I will give you a bonus one.

YOU GET BADGES!

*mic drop*

The 5 Essentials You’ll Need for London’s Calling

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5. Comfortable shoes. The area between rooms, expo, space bar and the entrance isn’t large, but after many times of walking up and down the stairs after the fabulous keynotes and sessions, your feet may get tired.  Plus you may want to bust a move or two during the after party!

4. Comfortable clothing. You’ll be moving from room to room, up and down the stairs and presumably, busting that move that we talked about in reason #5.  You might as well be comfortable doing it.  If comfortable for you is fancy dress, as say..  the Hulk, who are we to judge?

3. Technology! As if we really had to tell you to bring tablets and phones.  But just in case, here is a reminder.  You’ll of course want to live tweet how much fun you’re having to those that weren’t lucky enough to get a ticket!

2. Chargers!  We’ll have the outlets, you bring the chargers or extra batteries for all of that technology you’re bringing.  I heard a rumor that there is gonna be some cool swag.  You’ll definitely want to tweet about that!

1. Enthusiasm! Hopefully you’ll be excited that it’s a Friday and you’re not at work.  In addition to that, you’ll be learning cool stuff, meeting new people and getting cool swag.  Also, you’ll get our amazing Keynotes from Peter Coffee and Erica Kuhl and if that wasn’t enough, the after party!  This is where we want to see those cool moves!

If this sounds all too good to be true and you don’t have a ticket for the hottest event in town, don’t fret.  Tickets are still available here.

5 Reasons Why You Should Join a Salesforce User Group in 2016

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It’s January, a shiny new year, a new page on the calendar and a great time to try new things, besides that pricey gym membership and those foul tasting protein shakes as you try to keep to your new years resolutions.

While you’re trying a new workout regime, add joining a Salesforce User Group to your list of resolutions in 2016.  Here are 5 reasons why!

5. User Group meetings will typically highlight new features and review portions of release notes.  This is essential to keep on top of changing features in Salesforce as releases happen three times a year.  Many of these features will be shown and provide some guided hands on opportunities.

Bonus: This helps with passing your maintenance exams if you’re certified!

4. Opportunities to network with other users, Salesforce employees, ISVs and consultancies.  The upside here is that you’re likely going to use products or seek services from companies where you’ve been able to interact with their employees and learn more about them without a sales pitch. In addition, this could also lead to increased exposure to job opportunities

3. User group meetings are run by volunteers that work with Salesforce as opposed to working for Salesforce.  User group leaders tend to have a similar perspective to attendees and are able to understand and plan for topics that are of interest to user group members.  Also, user group leaders tend to be unbiased and will give an accurate and honest review of features.

2.  The user community is growing quickly with user groups all over the world and for specific segments.  You can attend a dev, admin, non profit, business, industry focused and women in tech user group.  It’s really easy to find a user group near you.  Click here to find a group near you.  Some groups meet virtually if you can’t find a local group.

Bonus: By networking and knowledge sharing in the broader community, you’ll have a ready made batch of friends when you attend Dreamforce!

1. You won’t find a better group of people that are willing to help at a moment’s notice with any question or issue.  Most User groups are run by Salesforce Community leaders and/or MVPs that are very knowledgable about all things Salesforce and responsive to requests to specific topics.

Bonus: Meetings also involve free food and sometimes drinks as well.  If the greatest group of people ever doesn’t do it for you, the free food definitely will!

So there you have it, 5 VERY GOOD REASONS to join a user community today.  If all else fails, let’s go back to the bonus for reason #1. FREE FOOD!