Road Trip

Photo Credit: Jennifer SpannerIf you use Salesforce and haven’t joined the Salesforce Success Community or been to a user group before, you should. In a nutshell, it’s a support network for the community, by the community. The community is more than just a simple forum with questions and answers. It’s absolutely a fantastic resource for your Salesforce education, but it goes way beyond that.

This community cares and genuinely looks after each other. Don’t believe me? Read Cheryl Feldman’s first user group experience. Listen to  Sarah Deutsch on the power of Community podcast on the ButtonClick Admin™. Or check out the magical journey of our resident Wizard, Brian Kwong who will point you to yet more inspiration.

I also owe my thanks to many many people in the community. That’s a key word – community. The majority of my self-education came from the community. – Brian Kwong, aka Salesforce Wizard

No matter your role, level or location, if you work with Salesforce the community is available. The Success Community is the epicenter in the cloud. This is where you will find Answers your questions, a platform for your Ideas or a place for Collaboration. It’s also the home for most User Groups (for Developer Groups head here).

This week  I had the pleasure taking road trip to Wilmington, NC to present at the local user group with my friend and fellow community member Phillip Southern, author of the blog philthecloud.com. We had a great conversation with those in attendance about the Salesforce Community at large and the MVP Program which is an subset of the community. We were invited to speak to the community about the community…AWESOME! We had a great group who were interactive and eager learn more about the benefits of participating in the community.

As we wrapped our session, an unexpected and thoughtful question was asked by the crowd, had we as presenters saw value in the conversation even though it was a requirement of the program? The answer to the first part of the question is we definitely enjoyed our time and easily saw the value. Any chance we have to encourage others to participate in the community is welcome. The fact that we had more of a conversation than a straight up push presentation where we did all the talking was all I needed to know the topic resonated. As for the second part of the question, it is actually not a requirement of the program. It’s an honor to collaborate with others in the community at events like this. For those who are remote employees like Phil and myself, it’s an opportunity to meet new people, learn and share. We do it because we love the community, both online and in person.

Community – without it, I wouldn’t be who I am today, and to all of you in my Community, thanks for everything you do. It is greatly appreciated! – Eric Dreshfield

The following is a excerpt taken from the online community. It sums up the best of the community:

Image from public page on Salesforce Answers

At a minimum, the community is a resource you can learn from, free of charge. At it’s best, the community is will improve your life as much personally as it does professionally.

Ready to join the fun? Go to https://success.salesforce.com/ to learn more and start your own road trip!

 

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Community Love

Thank you community. That is the best way I could start this post. A little over three years ago, I had my first introduction to Salesforce as a user. Since that time, my experience with it and my involvement with the community has increase exponentially. Just over three months ago I was named to MVP program and co-founded a developer user group with a friend I made through this community. Now I have just finished my third highly enjoyable week at my #dreamjob with Acumen Solutions. All this is was possible because this amazing community exists and the friends I have made.

What I’m trying to say is, just be yourself, embrace the awesomeness that is all everywhere in this great community. Join your local user group or start one if one isn’t nearby. Plug in and get to know the community! You’ll be glad you did. I am extremely grateful and happy today to be a part of such an amazing community. Many people in this community have been a part of my journey, have helped shape who I am today and will continue to do so for years to come. THANK YOU!

Community MVP

Where do I begin? Before I get to the exciting news announced yesterday, let’s rewind about a month when someone I have a ton of respect for first approached me about becoming an MVP. I was immediately humbled that one of my peers wanted to nominate me. Especially, since this individual was an MVP already. That alone was an honor.

What is an MVP you ask?  For my friends and family who have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s acknowledgment from my peers in my professional community who are Salesforce.com users and advocates that I am someone who is active and supportive of members in the community.  Here’s the official (and more detailed) Salesforce MVP definition.

Fast forward to April 10, 2013 when I woke up a little early to get my day started off on the right foot. Literally, I went for a run to kickstart my day. I tend to feel more energetic throughout the day which helps me avoid “hitting the wall” later on. Perhaps, those two cups of coffee might have added an unnecessary boost, but none of these things compare to the rush of energy I got when I received an email at 10:20am EST. This is when an email with the subject “Welcome to the Salesforce MVP Program!” flashed on my screen.

Holy expletive, Batman! is the first thought I had. My excitement could not, would not be contained. Immediately, I dialed the person who first nominated me. A couple of quick calls later, I was still stuck on the first paragraph, “Congratulations!” Words can’t explain how excited I am to be included in the latest crop of MVP’s. This program wouldn’t exist without the community, to whom I am grateful for the opportunity interact with, share with and learn from. Doesn’t matter if you’re a newbie or grizzled veteran in the Salesforce ecosystem, do not underestimate the power of the community!

Get involved like I did and now I’m an MVP because of it. I started a new Force.com Developer Group in my area to compliment the general user group. I’m happy to say that our first formal event will be hosting a joint Hackathon on April 27th during the upcoming (global) Mobile Developer Week with the larger user groups from Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte. Get on the Answers boards to help and learn from each other. There’s always something to discuss on Twitter where I get much of news from, especially the latest and greatest from this community. These are just a few examples of how I got involved and it’s these type of activities that contributed to being named an MVP. Sharing is Caring! For my own part, I will put my best foot forward (the same way I started my early morning run) to make the community as proud as I feel right now. Absolutely humbled, but proud nonetheless! It’s still sinking in as I write these words. It is my privilege to say thank you, I won’t let you down!!

Salesforce Certification – Where do I start?

So you use Salesforce and you want to “cert up” aka get certified, but where do you start? For starters, it doesn’t hurt to bookmark the Salesforce Certification page. Once there you will notice there are four tracks to follow.

Since the purpose of this post is to help those starting their journey towards certification, I will focus on the first two options only. The Administrator and Developer tracks are both starting points while the last two are for advanced users. Certifying as an Administrator requires you to understand the idealistic way to leverage the the core functionality of this powerful CRM application. The ADM 201 exam is the gateway and prerequisite to obtaining additional certifications that fall under the Implementation Experts track that specialize in two different areas, Sales & Service Clouds respectively (see Implementation Experts for more details). There are many community resources out there to help you study in addition to official offerings. Here are a few of them to help you prepare for ADM201

In my opinion, the Developers exam is more practical. If you’re a hands-on type of learner, then take advantage of the practice resources available to you. In the bullets below, are two main Developer workbooks that I used to prepare for the Developer exam. I was wisely told prior to starting down this path that if you “know the book, know the exam”. I started with Fundamentals and quickly followed that up with the skinnier Workbook. I strongly recommend you create an account on Developer Force and practice using these guides:

Here are a few community-based resources for DEV401

Choosing the best track for you will come down to your role and responsibilities. Another consideration is your learning style. For me, I learn best through hands-on experience. If this you and/or you don’t have much practical experience with Salesforce, then the Developer track is the way to go. As I mentioned above, there are two practice guides you can follow in your developer org. I felt great before, during and after passing developer exam because I completed both developer workbooks. If you need additional incentive, Salesforce has some swag for you just for building a simple app (details supplied at registration). A happy coincidence is that you get hands-on experience that is also relevant to Administrator track. Something that I benefited from as I recently added the Admin certification to my collection. Win-win situation! Here are more Salesforce resources to help you prepare for and maintain your skills:

Good luck with whichever certification you choose to tackle first!  Let me know in the comments if I missed a helpful resource the community would benefit from.

Top 2 Reasons to be excited about Dreamforce: Dream Team in the Cloud

Dream Team…Assemble in the Cloud!

It’s finally come and gone! After months and weeks of buildup, including my own running buildup to the event, Dreamforce was wonderous week! This is an exciting time! I got to hang with almost twenty of my colleagues as a team. No small feat considering we’re coming from all over North America, spanning multiple time zones. We came together to learn, share and socialize with over 70,000 85,000 people who have similar ambitions…to get better. This is the biggest cloud computing event in the industry. At no other time in the previous or coming 365 days will we have best of the best in the same room like this. This was an opportunity to engage with like-minded people to share our challenges and successes with one another, to learn from each other. The reason I have combined my top two reasons together is because they are unmistakably linked together. We all live and breathe in the cloud and wouldn’t be the team we are without it. I am lucky because of the advances in technology allow me to access not only data, but people from around the globe. Thanks to the cloud, I can telecommute to work, build and maintain relationships with my team as well as serve my clients from any place that has power and an internet connection. Communication is crucial to team success and cloud computing makes this all possible. It’s great to be able to connect through technology, but nothing can replace the benefits of sharing an experience together. My first Dreamforce was even more amazing with my team than it would have been without them. As great as it is to connect over great distances, you can’t replace a handshake with an email. I have met a handful of my team in person and it will be great to reconnect with familiar faces and equally exciting to meet the others in person for the first time. I love the fact that I got to spend this week with the best in the business, including my team!

The power of the cloud is not to be understated, especially when you consider that over 750 education sessions are dedicated to enhancing my cloud prowess, including multiple #HOT (hands-on training) sessions. Add in the sneak peeks of next generation apps and you have yourself one amazing looking week! It went by in a flash. Probably because I was so busy stuffing as much as I could into my agenda. I loved every minute of my first adventure at the almost flawless event. I learned a ton. I met a lot of cool people (some new, some only previously familiar thanks to Twitter). The Red Hot Chili Peppers lit up city hall and I got a quick treat at my favorite West Coast burger joint In-N-Out! To sum it up, my first Dreamforce was AMAZING and I cannot wait for the next one! I’m crossing off the days on my calendar until #DF13. In the meantime I will apply everything I learned at #DF12 to better myself. If I’m fortunate enough, next year I would love to help others make the most of their Dreamforce experience.

Reasons 3 & 4 to be excited about Dreamforce: Radian6 & being Social

Sharing is Caring

It’s almost time to kickoff Dreamforce. In my last post, I talked about how much I am looking forward to spending a week in San Francisco. So much of that excitement focused on all things social, which has permeated almost every area of our lives. Personally and professionally, social is just normal part of my everyday life. Earlier this  year Brian Solis shared an intriguing post on the impact social has had ‘business as usual’.

No matter what it’s called in the future, social enterprise is here to stay. It’s the journey, not the destination. So much has changed in the last year since Salesforce coined the phrase as we know it today. As the start of Dreamforce approaches, the more I hear about the Marketing Cloud, which now includes Radian6 and Buddy Media, I can’t wait to hear what’s next as this cloud continues to evolve. I want to hear more success stories like Burberry and HP and the exciting things they are doing to improve the way they do business. I need to hear about other organizations like NBC who leverage tools like Chatter to encourage cool-laboration and improve its business practices.

Sharing is caring, but that is not limited to sharing content. It’s also about sharing your ear. Being social is two-way street that must have balance between listening and speaking. Otherwise, it isn’t a conversation. I am fortunate to have access to best of breed tools like Radian6’s engagement platform that allows me the ability to first and foremost, listen. There are a great many things I can do with this tool including listening, measuring and engaging. However, keep in mind that the tool itself is not the silver bullet. In order for tools like Radian6 to be effective, you must plan accordingly. For additional resources on starting or refining your social strategy, check out these resources:

My strategy at Dreamforce is to listen and learn as much as I can. There over 300 social-focused sessions. That’s over 25% of the available sessions! Clearly, social has rapidly infiltrated so much of what we do, it’s just expected. Which is to say, it’s just how we do business now. If you still have room in your agenda, check out this top 10 list of social media for marketing session at #DF12.

No matter where you are in your journey, you will find it much easier to engage if you have something to add to the conversation. I know that I need to plan and listen before engaging. There’s an old saying, “think before you speak”. With that in mind, I have adopted “listen before you engage”. The days of pure broadcast marketing à la the popular TV show “Mad Men” are gone. Today, it is vital that businesses hear what people are saying to or about them and engage each person as an individual. Of course, it will help if you understand something about them before “solving the problem” you think they have. That’s where listening first, understanding second, and speaking third will come in handy. If they feel valued, then they will reciprocate.

At the end of the day, we’re all in the same boat. Businesses are operated by people and people make decisions based on the information they have at the time. In the last decade, information has become widely available faster than ever before. The best relationships are have one common trait…communication. When the conversation is valued on both sides, it tends to last longer, as does the relationship.

Just a few hours to go. I’m ready to engage! Are you?

Reason #5 to be excited about Dreamforce: Location

Location, location, location

By this time next week, Dreamforce will be in full swing! People from around the world will begin descending upon San Francisco as early as Friday night in anticipation of a great week #GTKTC, a.k.a. getting to know the community! While there will be plenty to do during the conference Tuesday through Friday, there is also an amazing city to be explored when there is some downtime. San Francisco is an amazing city that you will leave wanting to stay. Here are a few helpful sites to help you maximize your time:

  • Dreamforce FAQ page has all the official details
  • DF Guide to parties, places and activities in and around Dreamforce created by AppExchange Partner arrowpointe
  • Trip Advisor has tips for travelers written by travelers. Community strikes again, yay!
  • San Francisco Travel provides visitors with range of information about the area
  • 511.org has all your transportation information for the Bay Area
  • UBER makes an app that lets you book a taxi instantly to get around (available on iPhone and Android)

With so many options it’s easy to get lost in amazement by all there is to see and do. If you’re into sports like me, then you’re in luck. The division leading Giants are playing baseball at home all week as they try to clinch a playoff berth. They host the Colorado Rockies Monday-Thursday, then the San Diego Padres Friday-Sunday. Tickets are as low as $5.95. I plan to catch a game before heading back East. For football fans who come in early, you could catch the 49ers take on the Detroit Lions Sunday night (9/16). Unfortunately, I won’t get in early enough for this early season match-up between two teams with title hopes. Either way, it’s an exciting time for sports fans in the city. Here are some other popular ideas for things to do when you’re not enjoying Dreamforce:

While you’re out and about, will you check in on Foursquare? There’s one already up for Dreamforce and rumor has it the Community Lounge will have their own available before the end of the week! If you just want to know how to find the lounge, here is the address for the Marriott Marquis.

If you missed out on registration for the fourth annual Dreamforce 2012 Tweetup, you can add your name to the wait list. Otherwise, check out the parties listed (and broken down by day!!!) on DF Guide for alternatives.

Of course, there will be plenty of action going on in Dreamforce Plaza and I’m not just talking about the Red Hot Chili Peppers, which I am personally very excited to see for the first time live. For a list of all local bands and activities on the Plaza, login to the Dreamforce App and check out the schedule.

Phew! All this talk about the all there is to see and do at Dreamforce and in San Francisco in general leads me to the topic of my next post…social. Blog you soon!