I write this one-off diary as I suspect you and I are both on a Salesforce journey. I’ve highlighted some of the insights that I’ve gained over the single week in San Francisco, and deliberately tried to leave it open, so that if you didn’t join in with the fun this year, you can imagine how you might be enjoying yourself at Dreamforce next year instead.
Why did I go?
Truth is, I wasn’t expecting to go this year. I had been strongly recommending Dreamforce to other people and feel that its great learning experience, but I went last year, and it’s been a busy year (I had changed job and bought a flat), so I was expecting some time off. Then my husband said he was going and that meant my accommodation was paid for. It’s still not cheap, it’s a “considered purchase” to use the shopping channel phrase, but my subconscious must have known that it was the right thing to do.
The first night
We landed on Friday, with Dreamforce proper not scheduled to start until Tuesday. My husband and I went to synagogue. It’s a personal thing, but I’m always glad to visit communities around the world, to enjoy and also compare notes. Partying and other distractions were also available however.
The second day
After a museum and shopping, we hunted down my old fellow Brits and had a great meal together. This meant catching up with friends, gossiping, and already meeting new people with their own inspiring stores. e.g. the waitress who got fed up, walked out of her job, and then was introduced to a charity that helped her learn Salesforce… she ended up being the CRM manager at a major UK newspaper. Ok, let’s give a shout out to Christina! And a few other people; it was a table of 6, then 8, and finally 10.
While I was visiting friends and then having a quiet night in, others were already off on a wine tour to get into the mood! (it could only be Amanda from the London Admin User Group leading the charge, of course)
So, on a Trailblazer Community Group page, I had heard of a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. I got there in time for the 9.30am start with around 30 other people. My body clock still believed it to be mid-afternoon, which helped me achieve that ungodly hour. The walk also provided me with an excellent opportunity to give my fellow local user group leaders our recently printed “Benelux” business cards. Unfortunately they remained forgotten at the bottom of my bag!
Here I got to meet people that I had been chatting to online over the last year. I can’t shout out them all, but many weren’t what I was expecting. I thought I would meet big bold personalities, but it turns out that the Salesforce ecosystem somehow lets the best ones thrive, even if they aren’t as loud as I am. Eric Dreshfield is a truly shining example of this.
After hanging around long enough post-walk to be invited to join in for a random lunch, I then headed went back to my hotel to de-compress – my pool of “social energy” already having been depleted having met many new people and compared experiences.
Recharged, in the evening I met up with others that were still flying in and spent $23 on buying just two drinks for new acquaintances in the Hotel Marriot bar. On the plus side, those folk then bought me dinner. Hurrah!
The first day proper started off with a breakfast event at 7am in the morning for User/Community Group Leaders. Eeek! But, whilst avoiding the bacon and cheese filled croissants, I started the swag collecting early. Some for me, and some for my friends. Being honest, I didn’t learn too much, but it was just fun being with like-minded individuals and when certain awards were being handed out, being able to clap in agreement and appreciation of the rightful recipients, and realise that many others held the same values I had. Also, it provided a moment of reflection, to realise how far we had all come since the last Dreamforce.
Next I went to the Admin Keynote where Alimali Stephen was handed a Golden Hoodie. I don’t know him, but I’ve now met a few Golden Hoodies (full disclosure: I’m also a recipient) and I haven’t met any that aren’t deserving. Golden Hoodies only get handed out at World Tours and Dreamforce. Alimali is from Africa, so Salesforce flew him all the way over to ensure that he wouldn’t miss out. That’s inclusivity.
We’ll fast forward to Marc Benioff’s keynote. Key standout items that I still recall:
• Marc started off the keynote explaining that he had had a mini roadshow trialling the keynote on a number of occasions; I’d heard this privately, but for Marc Benioff to admit this, well, that’s a sign of humility and leadership: stating that he wanted to find the right messages that will resonate with people and that he doesn’t necessarily know what will be of interest to everyone first time round.
• It felt far less salesy than I expected. Has the tone changed? Is market penetration so extensive now, that it’s about helping people realise the incredible things that they can do with their existing tool, rather than focusing on selling to new customers? Personally, I like it more, but Salesforce is known for… well… selling. If this means customers end up using their product better, I think this bodes well for the long term and is the sign of a confident company.
• Voice recognition. I don’t really get Siri and Alexa, but AI to connect voice recognition with the right objects in Salesforce. Well, that’s going to be a game changer in many industries and I look forward to it, and am excited by it! Anything which makes Salesforce easier for end users. And it’s going to be free (well, no additional charge) in all of the platforms. But, later on I realise, when’s the release date?
• Lastly, the use of “inclusive capitalism”. I don’t know if you noticed, but politicians aren’t quite delivering the goods these days, and communism was a fine theory (to me!) that it turned out had implementation problems, so commercial companies doing the right thing? I’m up for that!
In the evening I ended up at the widely advertised North Party for Benelux and the Nordics. Much to my surprise the Nordics had a far higher presence than Benelux. What’s going on folks? I hung around by the door, attacking anyone that moved with YeurDreamin stickers, reminding them of our community-led event that kicks off on 14th June 2019 in Amsterdam, with a full day’s worth of learning and networking (advertorial: it’s purposely designed for a long weekend, so look it up!). Doing this also had the advantage that I didn’t have to go deep inside the venue; it was too noisy for me after a long day.
Hats off to the Amplify crowd. I went last year after discovering this on SalesforceBen’s list of Dreamforce parties (other listings also available; there was even an app this year!). This group of volunteers remind me of community activists. They support women and others getting into Salesforce, overcoming challenging personal circumstances. Much more on their website and they’re keen to spread this around the world. All it takes is one local Trailblazer to kick things off… (and they’ll offer much support, of course!).
Last year I heard Jessica Murphy‘s inspiring story, and I wasn’t convinced that I would enjoy it as much this year. Could I be moved as much a second time around? So then I heard from Jayce who had transitioned from being a woman to a man. I learned about bringing your authentic self into the workplace, celebrating who you are and bringing all your experiences with you, not lopping some off as you step over the threshold. He was inspiring. And being honest, I can already sense the change in myself. This is why during this article I’ve mentioned my husband and my religion. I’m a rounded individual, not just someone that works in an office 9-5, but someone that can get tired, and doesn’t necessarily party; I bring all my experiences with me when I make suggestions as a consultant, to client problems. Salesforce believe this too, which is why they have founded and put resources into LatinoForce, FaithForce, OutForce and a host of others.
So that was the breakfast.
And there I think my batteries started to run out. We were only on Day 2, but so many experiences!
I didn’t stop though. Why not recharge in the Trailhead Zone? It’s important to have fun, and this means that the Amsterdam User Group will be the beneficiaries of a whole suitcase worth of swag that I won during the day, whilst standing around chatting to people.
I had meant to go to the Philanthropy Keynote, but spent so long chatting to someone over lunch that I looked at my watch and realised that I wasn’t going to be able to get there in time. These chance encounters are important – these are the conversations that help me process everything that I’ve seen and heard, and make up the mental action plans on what I want to do next, and how to ensure clients and my employer (and hopefully my local community) will benefit from all that I’ve learned.
Oh, and then in the evening I went to a small party with Janet Jackson. I sat with my Dutch non-profit friends, plus a random new friend/acquaintance I had bumped into earlier at some point (hello Oleh!), and we were glad to have got there early enough to find seats for the entire evening. Oleh escaped at some point to hang out with the younger-at-heart ones enjoying Metallica about 200m away at a pop-up stadium nearby.
We’ll skip Ray Dalio’s talk about radical transparency. Not that it wasn’t good, just that you should buy the book and that this article is already far too long (but we’re near the end). To be honest I hadn’t heard of him beforehand, but I thought that “if it’s good enough for him to be invited to Dreamforce, then it will be worth going to”. I wasn’t disappointed.
I spent most of the daytime manning the Community Trailblazer Booth, talking to people about the regular community-led meetings, online answer forums and whole day events that are available at ridiculously cheap prices. But one thing started to coalesce. Throughout Dreamforce, even at the parties, I’d enjoyed chatting to just about everyone. Salesforce Dreamforcers are a progressive crowd, happy to be challenged and to try to do what’s right for the community, not just themselves. They put time into sharing knowledge. The thought process isn’t that we are stealing from each other, but that together we are helping shape a larger pie. Is this because of the Saleforce core values of trust, equality, innovation and customer success? I’m starting to think so.
Of course I have to add: check out your local Community Group if you want a little bit more of this; there’s even Dreamforce Global Gatherings where your local Community Group will be bringing some of this spirit home to you.
And the Friday?
So the event closes. We’re kicked out of the Trailhead Zone and hang around with people listening to the live DJ (in Moscone West, the main conference venue), while some attendees, volunteers and support staff are dancing in the atrium. Suddenly a cheer goes up. Only later do I realise it’s because of someone doing a cartwheel. This is 20m away from me and I didn’t really notice. It’s not because I’m that unaware (although I frequently have my moments); it’s because there’s so much going on at Dreamforce, and such a nice crowd, that everyone is having their own taste of magic! (look up David Liu for another significant example!)
p.s. Must see, stand out session: True to the Core. This will be available online soon.
Not enough? I’m now fairly active on Twitter too.