My First Dreamforce: A Salesforce Admin’s Perspective

I was lucky to be sent to Dreamforce: it boosted my career, my connections and my competencies. Although I work at a rural agricultural corporation, I’m pleased with the firm technical leadership my company is demonstrating by choosing Salesforce. Marc Benioff says, “It’s not what you do – it’s all in the execution”, and our Salesforce Success Manager has done a wonderful job at being the face of Salesforce to us.

Business Goals: As a new Salesforce Administrator, my professional goals for Dreamforce were these:

– Be a better Admin: Solve problems with less code

– Meet peers for support / mentorship

– Optimize deployments

Packing Tips: I succeeded in packing lightly for 7 days in San Francisco. Trying outfits on ahead of time helped me envision myself with confidence as an introvert in a massive crowd. Most valuable items: black flats and ear plugs.

Dreamforce Prep: The Dreamforce Trail is excellent for prioritization. With over 2,700 overlapping sessions, it just wasn’t possible to satisfy all my interests.

Flying Solo: I tried to persuade others to attend because I thought it would be a great team booster, and I didn’t want to be with 170k strangers for 4 days. It didn’t work. For anyone. I posted to Dreamforce For Admins to find a buddy, which was moderately effective and put me in the mindset of meeting people. At the last minute, I learned a colleague from our implementation partner (PwC) would be attending, which turned out to be an unexpected blessing.

My Dreamforce Agenda

My best sessions and experiences are below:

– Certifications: There was an open Study Hall and Certification Exams throughout the conference, but I chose to write my Platform App Builder exam beforehand. I totally wanted the 50% exam discount. The street banners welcomed me as I raced to register, wanting to spend all available moments studying. 10 hours was all I’d been able squeeze in. Regrettably, my exam flopped. Walking out of the exam hall, I bought some Mac & Cheese at the Hilton Café and texted my colleague the news. He texted back surprise but said to forget about it and get ready to learn all I could in the next 4 days. That helped. I overheard a couple of guys nearby, “I’d feel more like partying if I’d passed.” I felt less alone and gained new courage to move forward. Humility refresher.

– Keynotes: Inspirational talks on each day’s theme. On Monday morning, I listened to Future-Proofing Your Industry In Partnership with the World Economic Forum, which provided my big AHA! Characteristics needed now are not following the rules, but rather: Adaptability, Boldness, Curiosity, Collaboration, Determination.

– Circles of Success: Small clinics with Salesforce experts in which peers share experiences. From what I saw, Circles of Success targeted partners, small businesses, and the C-level. On Tuesday, my well-connected PwC colleague thoughtfully introduced me to another Canadian Salesforce Admin, and as Mel and I swapped stories over lunch, she explained that she found the Circles of Success to be the most useful part of the conference.

– Code Consultations: Fantastic 1-1 sessions of 30 minutes with an expert (not just about code!). I spoke with an Agile expert about some challenges I was experiencing as the ScrumMaster of a newly-formed team. These sessions seemed under-utilized for the value they provided.

– Breakouts: 40 min talks explaining the why / how of specific solutions. One of the best technical Breakouts I attended was on Process Builder, Flow, and Lightning Bolt. @PhilWeinmester focused on advanced admin capabilities and had 10 free copies of Practical Salesforce.com Development Without Code. I made a beeline for his booth afterwards and was rewarded with his book!

– Campfires: 40 min technical sessions, g. How to enhance Lightning Pages with Custom Page Templates. I walked away having seen how to build the item in question. More technical than Breakouts.

– Dreamtalks: Broader inspiration than Keynotes. I attended Never Quit, reminiscent of Churchill’s Never Give In. This cast new light on my minor work problems and increased my determination to endure.

– Hands On Training: (2.5 hrs, Trailhead pre-reqs, laptop required). My colleague attended the Salesforce DX session and found it extremely helpful.

– Product Keynotes: Showcases where a particular Salesforce Cloud is going, along with latest feature demos. Couldn’t miss the Salesforce Admin Keynote. Big takeaway: get more in tune with the online community. Being an Admin doesn’t have the same aura as being a Developer (though there can be overlap), but it is a critical. Thank you Parker Harris for your encouraging words!

– Theater: 20 min tactical sessions. Super helpful because they revealed a “day in the life” for Salesforce Admins in other companies. Topics included Change Management, Business User Training, Business Analysis, Internal Consultant, and Help Desk.

Serendipitous Moments: There were many opportunities to meet people. I attended 2 networking events and thoroughly enjoyed swapping work stories and building bridges.

Did I meet my Business Goals?

– Be a better Admin: Learned about Process Builder, Lightning Components, and Visual Workflow. Check.

– Meet industry peers: Met Mel, a bunch of other Canadians using Salesforce, including some who are interested in kickstarting some local user groups. Also learned about Salesforce MVP Office Hours. Check.

– Optimize deployments: Learned about Salesforce DX, as well as UI-based tools for deploying like GearSet, AutoRABIT, and sfApex. Check.

What will I be doing for Dreamforce 2018?

  • Review these Dreamforce-specific prep / packing tips and meet Salesforce Admins
  • Spend more time in Moscone West. This is where most of the practical Salesforce Admin / Developer sessions are held. That being said, I came away with more respect for Trailhead and will definitely be Seizing The Trail.
  • Get more swag? When I told my 15-year-old sister they ran out of Trailblazer hoodies by the last day, she wondered how I didn’t prioritize better: “If there’s free clothes, you get them.” 🙂

Are you a Salesforce Admin looking to connect? Was this your 1st Dreamforce too? If you’ve never been, did I encourage you to attend in 2018?

P.S. My 1st Dreamforce wouldn’t have been complete without something touristy, so with a new friend from Argentina, we biked the 30 km loop of the Golden Gate bridge and then dropped in on Ghirardelli.

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