An early Amsterdam User Group meeting from 2017

Last year, I wrote in the guide to setting up your own Salesforce Saturday: “Running a [group] is great, but if you’re unavailable due to a cold or other equally traumatic life event (e.g. kids birthday party), then you don’t want everyone else’s fun to stop… “

The guide references various reasons for not being able to run a group.

But I rather missed a point. This piece, orginally published on YeurLeadin, explains that there are many positive reasons for stepping down from running a group, whether that actually be a Community Group (as in my case), Salesforce Saturday, or something else.

Since I’m now in this positive position, waving goodbye to being a co-leader at the Amsterdam User Group after 3.5 years, I wanted to share my reasons, to correct that earlier omission… and also to celebrate the DutchSFCommunity of course!

Spoiler alert. That paragraph did go on to say: 

“the biggest sense of achievement comes when it is self-sustaining and can run without you(!)”

That part is 100% spot on.

Late 2016

I visited the nascent Dutch Salesforce Community and spotted a kind, welcoming, informal Salesforce User Group, led by Giorgio Vinci. It was about a dozen people surrounding a large TV.

At the time there were two other groups, the Netherlands Nonprofit Group and the Amsterdam Developer Group.

January 2017

With Giorgio’s approval we migrated to the official Amsterdam User Group (“AUG”) as an initial team of three plus one: Sergey Erlikh, Giorgio Vinci, myself and a young(er) chap called Andre van Kampen who literally got involved because he was standing by us when the three of us were discussing logistics.

…and on to January 2020 (our last in-person meeting for the year)

July 2020

Since then, the community has exploded, and I feel grateful to have been there so early on and helped on that journey.

All the original groups meet more frequently, with more people in attendance. In fact, there’s now at least 17 active groups in the Netherlands, covering just about all areas of the country as well as many other independent Ohana initiatives such as DecodeSFCertifications and RefugeeForce. There’s even a day long international conference, YeurDreamin (returning January 2021), initiated by that aforementioned Andre van Kampen.

Am I still having fun?

Every AUG meeting brings me something new and exciting, whether it’s trying new formats, saying hello and getting to know new people, or working in the background with Salesforce to try out innovative marketing ideas. At our most recent meeting, I led my very first panel discussion, proving the learning never stops!

But I’ve always stressed we’re there for our community members, not for ourselves, so I had an unexpected epiphany just after our July meeting, that it seemed the appropriate moment to step down. I hadn’t even been consciously thinking about it prior to that, but suddenly it just felt exactly the right time, and the right thing to do.

Thankfully unexpected life events have not got in the way, so here are some good possible reasons for stepping down as a CGL:

  • Your group has achieved what you set out to do. A user group running regular, high quality sessions, and creating a safe space for people to learn and practice soft skills and technical skills.
  • Your fellow co-leaders don’t need you anymore (i.e. it’s sustainable). By quitting, this allows someone else to progress and learn the ropes, and I can learn something else instead. At AUG, after a year of our current team (Andre van Kampen, Justyna Krajewska, Tanja Janjic and myself), we joke that any two of us now have the skills to put together a meeting – although it’s three for ease, and four for fun, to balance the workload. This doesn’t mean meetings are perfect. Reality usually intervenes!
  • Different personalities can suit different stages of group development. I’m at your best when a shakeup is required or there’s a gap that needs to be filled.
  • Most importantly, this allows your fellow co-leaders to continue to thrive and stamp their user group with more of their own style; there’s many ways to do things, and without change you get stagnation.

But, being honest, all of these being true weren’t enough of a reason for me to quit. AUG had occasionally reached those moments in the past too, under different combinations of leaders, but there are some other truths I’ve come to realise:

  • I can be a pain in the backside due to being a perfectionist. That’s not to say that I’m perfect, but that I strive for perfection. It’s only fair to do that to others for so long. The BBC had an excellent article on this, by coincidence, the day after I explained to my colleagues my intention to quit.
  • It’s also the right time in terms of various other projects that I’ve been doing. I’ve been working with Salesforce’s Community Team on their Advisory Board over the last year to help improve mutual understanding about how things work in practice, and to discuss increasing opportunities for Community Groups to engage with the Salesforce mothership. My term ended earlier this month and I’m really looking forward to some of the improvements that I know are in the pipeline.
  • On a personal note, I hope to be starting a job with more responsibility shortly (I’m still going through interview rounds before anyone gets too excited), so this may be the right opportunity for me to develop in that area; my professional skills have always taken a back-step to my community work. I have absolutely no complaints about that, but now might be the right time to redress this balance.
  • By leaving the leadership team, after a bit of karaoke fun, I create a space. I don’t recall where I read it, possibly Karen Mangia’s Success with Less, but sometimes you need to create a space to allow new ideas to develop – this applies both to AUG, as well as me on a personal level.

Before you ask (as if you were an invigilator), yes I have documented what I’ve learned. Check out YeurLeadin for more info 😊

This photo is of the YeurDreamin 2019 and, in particular, the volunteering team. The conference was built on the back of the Dutch and wider Benelux community. 350 people coming together, to learn for the day and connect with one another, with Kathryn Chlosta (an AUG co-leader at the time) as project manager. Not bad!

Epilogue: So is this the last you will see of me?

Don’t be silly! 

  • I haven’t had any time to participate in Salesforce’s Product Champion programs or Salesforce’s mentoring scheme; maybe there will be something suitable there.
  • For the time being I’m still available to lend advice to anyone thinking of starting their own Community Group, although in time the relevance of my insights will fade.
  • There’s also the crazy projects my fellow Ohana friends come up with from time to time.
  • Or… who knows?

And I look forward to attending AUG as a member and participant. What could be better than that?

p.s. It’s cruel, but I’m not going to list all my thank yous. I can’t do it. To risk leaving someone out? Every interaction, especially every interaction where people haven’t minded that I’ve forgotten their names despite the fact that we’ve 3+ times previously, have all contributed hugely to my journey and my excited bounciness!

Two exceptions: the Dutch community as a whole, who have taken me in and leave me speechless with wonder, every time, with their generosity and support to one another. The other exception is my original Admin User Group leaders (Chris Edwards, Francis Pindar, Matt Morris and Mike Gill), when I lived in London, who understood there was a void and created a safe and welcoming space for geeky people to meet, have fun and learn from each other. I know that they, in turn, would thank their mentors. For what it’s worth, I continue to pay it forward with pleasure. #Ohana you rock!