Dreamforce: My Second Attempt

The dust has settled and the jet-lag has finally passed following my second attempt 'at' Dreamforce.

Last year I was certain the conference was so overwhelming, exhausting, and impossible to conquer solely because I was a newbie. This year, though still a novice, I thought I knew enough to tame the beast. I did not.

The realisation hit me as soon as agenda builder went live, I remembered that I could not be in more than one place at one time. Clashes appeared left, right, and centre. The Admin Keynote and the Women and Equality Keynote were at the same time, hair was pulled, fists were shaken.

The HoTs were the first to go, at 2.5 hours long, they wiped out practically half a day at a time and though useful, demanded too many of my precious DF hours.

Just like last year I found it impossible to keep to keep to my agenda, there was just way too much going on.

So, what diverted me? Here are my top 3 distractions:

Number 1 - SPK on my Dreamforce Badge
At just my 2nd Dreamforce I was a 1st and 2nd time Dreamforce Speaker! Yes, I was one of the lucky 7% whose admin track submissions were successful. Both sessions (one breakout, one theater) were scheduled for Thursday and so were ever on my mind for the first part of the conference. I had been battling a cold for the most part of the week before Dreamforce and I was worried what the 11 hour flight, a lack of sleep, lots of talking, air-con, and a few parties, might do to my already weak voice by Thursday. My nerves weren't too bad but I have to admit to taking a massive gulp and muttering a naughty word under my breath when I first saw the size of this year's Admin Theater.

I caught as many of the Admin Theater sessions as possible (who can blame me, there was such great content) and so was familiar with the set up by the time it was my turn.

Both sessions went extremely well. Any nerves I felt as I took to the stage were overcome as I soon as I started talking, and the reception I received afterwards by both audiences reminded me why I submitted my talks in the first place.

I answered questions on stage and by the side of the stage for 30 minutes after my 20 minute theater session on training users. The response I encountered dismissed any thoughts of impostor syndrome (for now) and re-enforced my desire to speak at Salesforce events. I DO have something to contribute, I helped other members of the community and that knowledge is worth 100 times the butterflies I felt when approaching the stage. I will talk about my experience as a first time Dreamforce speaker more in another post but for now, here are a few of the tweets I saw when I came off stage.

Number 2 - Awesome Admin Greatness
The Admin Meadow was HUGE, much bigger than last year with SO much going on.
I am a massive fan of all that the Awesome Admin team do (thanks again to Kris, Mike, Gillian, Holly, Rebecca, Juliette et al) and I am one of the first to volunteer to support the admin community. This year I signed up to be a Ranger for the Awesome Admin Keynote, I staffed the Training and On-boarding Users booth for 2 hours on Tuesday and the Welcome Desk on Wednesday.

Staffing the Welcome Desk with Amanda and Misty (and two Salesforce employees)
I channelled my (very) inner (deep down) extrovert and got involved in the parades, sang the Awesome Admin theme tune at full volume (at times wearing a ranger hat no less). I sang the same song time and time again as the crowds gathered to watch Astro, Sassy and JP break dance!

Ready to gee up the crowds
Number 3 - 2016 brought more Ohana!
I became a User Group Leader in 2016 (co-leading the London Women in Tech UG) and because of this I was invited to some additional sessions such as the User Group Leader State of the Union, the Women in Tech Leaders breakfast at Salesforce HQ, the Awesome People Party for MVPs and UGLs, and the Marc Benioff Friday afternoon Q and A. I loved receiving each one of these invites and the events themselves were awesome but they certainly helped to jam-pack my schedule.
Erica, Holly, Alex and Sofia really did a great job of making us feel that our efforts in the community are appreciated and events like these were a great opportunity to network with peers from all over the world, as well as have some fun, and pick up some cool swag.

Just a few of us UGLs and MVPs from the UK at the Awesome People Party
So was it all distractions I hear you (and my manager) ask. Well no, of course not, I did manage to cram some learning into my trip.

Here are my Key DF16 Takeaways:

Women and Equality Summit
Once again Salesforce dedicated a whole track to women and equality as part of their overall focus on, and promotion of, equal opportunities for all.
I didn't manage to attend as many of these sessions as I would like but I will be consuming them online as soon as I can. As a WiT leader, seeing Women in Technology and Women in Leadership as two prominent themes at a conference the size of Dreamforce, is so incredibly heartening and rewarding.
To me, for Salesforce to allocate so many sessions to the personal development of the attendees, completely separate from their technology and platform, speaks volumes for the ethos of the company. It also serves to remind me that I should myself dedicate equal effort to developing and investing in my personal development, my soft skills, and not just my technical expertise.

I can now see a road to Lightning.
I have to confess that though I could appreciate the many benefits of the new UI, particularly to the sales teams at my company, it wasn't until this Dreamforce that I could see it as anything other than the distant future for my org. Come Spring 17 I think Lightning could be a real option to us, and that it a big step forward for me. Don't get me wrong, development aside, it will still be a massive change management piece and I still don't relish having to retrain all of my users but the I can now see myself on the road.

With technology such as AI (Einstein) and IoT (Thunder) front and centre at Dreamforce 16, I was reminded that good quality data is more important than ever.
Analysis of the data we are capturing in our Salesforce org, and with what coverage, should really be one of our main priorities moving forward and I have returned with this as a renewed conviction. Furthermore, instilling and reiterating the fact that data drives our business and that all client facing staff should be incentivised to capture complete and good quality data is very much on my short-term roadmap.

In conclusion, perhaps it is just a matter of pessimism but I can't help but feel that I have again barely scraped the surface of what Dreamforce can offer. Possibly I just need to realise that there is no taming Dreamforce, that it will always win and we just have to enjoy the jostle!
Salesforce can't both provide the wealth of content that they do, to cater for 171,000 delegates, and keep it on a scale which means that one sole attendee can see and do everything on offer!

But, I certainly had fun trying.
Admin Meadow fun with Freya Crawshaw and Simon Driscoll


Popular posts from this blog

Tips to Tackling Salesforce Certifications

It's fun (and essential) to play in the sandbox

Preparing for Community Events