I was first introduced to Salesforce in 2003, the same year they held their inaugural Dreamforce conference. At the time, I was the Executive Assistant to the President and CEO at a company undergoing a major reorganization in all aspects of the business, so I was privy to the many evaluation processes that went on as they hashed out which technologies to leverage.
When the time came to choose a customer relationship management system (CRM), there were two contenders: Saleslogix and Salesforce. Our CEO had a relationship with Saleslogix from a previous position and wanted to lean on their experience. Salesforce was a fledgling company at the time with no proven track record. In the end, Saleslogix was implemented. (Fun Fact: Saleslogix was created in 1998; the Salesforce CRM platform was launched in February 2000.)
Enter: The World of Salesforce
Two years later, I switched employers and entered the world of Salesforce. This time I was with an established global organization that was doing well, but looking for ways to do better. With their many disparate systems, a logical evolution in their business was to adopt a CRM and provide a central data management system. I was hired as their Salesforce administrator just as they had finished migrating their data into Salesforce and were looking to begin user training.
I was impressed with the intuitive Salesforce UI and how quickly I was able to manage processes in the back-end. The data, however, was a disaster; barely complete records, duplicates galore, and despite a thorough training, no one was certain how to leverage the tool to their benefit. I had so many questions spanning multiple topics and didn’t know where I could possibly find all my answers. Queue, Dreamforce.
Enter: The World of Dreamforce
My first Dreamforce was 2005, the same year they announced the AppExchange – or as Forbes put it, the “iTunes of business software.” I was in seek and find mode. I needed to learn how to manage data in Salesforce, empower and engage my user base, be a proactive Salesforce administrator, and learn data best practices. I was there to gather answers and when I arrived, I knew I was in the right place.
The Customer Success Expo (Cloud Expo, at the time) provided a vast selection of vendors that specialized in data quality and management, each in their own way or for their own niche. The breakout sessions taught best practices and where to find valuable resources once I was back in the office on my own. I left the conference as a different Salesforce administrator. I was energized, educated, and had a whole new perspective. I knew I could turn this thing around. I could make Salesforce useful for my organization. What I couldn’t foresee was how many times I would return to that conference to not only learn, but teach.
Over the next 12 years I attended Dreamforce nine times as a customer going to the keynotes and breakout sessions, devouring as much information I could handle. But, I had changed jobs to work for a Salesforce partner, so I got to step into the other side of the booth and see the conference from a different viewpoint. I was now in the position to showcase what a partner could bring to Salesforce data management. As people visited the booth or engaged in banter across the event, I could suggest best practices. I had lived these things and seen them work.
This shift in view helped me learn more about the data needs and hurdles faced by Salesforce users and encouraged me to dive deep in to what data management was all about. I was still seeking solutions, but they were solutions I could provide to support my customers and organization. Every interaction at the booth was honing my skills as a Customer Success Manager, learning the balance of customer hand-holding and making them a resourceful, self-help driven user (that wasn’t waiting on me to feed them answers). I didn’t see it at the time, but each year I attended Dreamforce, I grew dramatically as a professional. I was more involved in Salesforce’s culture and product than I ever expected – and I was enjoying it.
Coming Full Circle
This last year – lucky number 13 – I went as Validity’s Product Adoption Manager, and I was on the docket to present at Dreamforce ’18. I would have two sessions, one 20-minute presentation in the Trailhead Admin Theatre and one 40-minute breakout session, also in Moscone West. The excitement and pressure to deliver high-quality material that educates other users was in full force. This was my chance to contribute to the Salesforce Community on a larger scale and really showcase the knowledge behind our products. I needed to get this right.
I drew from my experiences as both someone in the seat looking to be educated, as well as someone behind the booth looking to share key knowledge in a short amount of time. I looked back on all the presentations I had sat through and it was clear: to be effective, the presentation material needed to break down a complex process in a concise, engaging, pragmatic, and somewhat entertaining manner.
I think I delivered these things to my audience (but we all think our own jokes are funny). What I know is, I couldn’t have done any of this had my journey been different. I needed to see Dreamforce from each of these perspectives to do the presentations – to do my audience – justice.