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. 🙂

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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!

 

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!