Seizing the Opportunity: A Trailblazing Day (part 1)… the prologue!

Written by Paul Ginsberg

31st May 2019

This is one part a diary entry, another part a letter to my friends; I’m publishing to a wider audience because I want to share with you the art (or perhaps science) of the possible. It’s a lengthy piece, but I wanted to convey my particular emotions; I’m sure others have handled this same sequence of events differently. And it is a matter of regret that it is not practical to shout out the names of all the people that I met and connected with.

This ended up being a series of 4 posts for what was allegedly a single day. Not like Salesforce to undersell itself! If you want to skip this prologue, which is about my reaction to receiving the invite, do feel free. Read my 2nd diary entry for my arrival in Indianapolis and what actually happened.

Also, for the uninitiated, there are three Salesforce-specific terms I will end up using:

  • Golden Hoodie” and “MVP”; if you know what those terms mean, great; if you don’t, for the purposes of this article all you need to know is that these are selected individuals that Salesforce has bestowed with special recognition and gratitude. That said, there’s many thousands of other special, amazing individuals and Salesforce are lucky enough to have the challenge of working out how to celebrate them all.
  • Salesforce has a very special word to describe the fact that, as a business, it regards its employees, partners and end-users as one big family: the Hawiian word “Ohana”. I’m external to Salesforce, and work for a consultancy. I’m proud to be part of that Ohana.

Setting the Scene

How do you go from Amsterdam to Indianapolis? Via a narrow gauge railway in Bulgaria, obviously! (with compliments to Borislav Borislov, our wonderful Sofia Developer User Group host, and his friends)

Thursday, 2nd May (T-13)

I log into my email and notice that my Spam folder has a count of “1” by it. Nothing unusual. It happens a few times a week. I log in and check, although I’ve been telling myself off recently as it’s usually a waste of time.

‘Trailblazer Day Indianapolis’ the title of the email says. ”Ok”, I think, “I wonder which group I signed up to by accident – or perhaps it really is dodgy spam”. I am an inquisitive type of person (i.e. nosey), so I take a look.

Hmm. Oh, it’s been sent to my Salesforce community group leader email address. That’s odd, I don’t actually give that out to anyone. At this point I’m amused and mildly annoyed. Perhaps I’ve been spammed and someone at Salesforce has clearly mangled a mass email.

I’m also curious and wonder what the people in Indianapolis are up to; it’s always good to compare, contrast and see if there’s any best practice I can beg, borrow or steal.

So I read.

“You’ve inspired us through your own incredible story and your commitment to leading the way for others to follow. Trailblazers like you inspire millions to prepare for the jobs of the future. To celebrate you and your accomplishments – we’re excited to invite you to join an exclusive group of Trailblazers for Trailblazer Day.”

I don’t really process it as it’s not the sort of email I regularly get, so I read it again. How did I end up on an email distribution list from Salesforce itself about an Indianapolis event?

Oh, hang on, it mentions “we’d like to cover your flights and hotel”. This might actually be serious. What’s the worst that can happen – e.g. I’ll book and get an apologetic email that there’s been a misunderstanding? – Oooh, that link works! Well, maybe this is for me after all.

Oooh. There’s a full booking form, and it mentions that international travellers can opt for three nights of paid accommodation. It really is an expenses-paid trip! There’s a plural on travellers! I wonder who else has the email? And what if it’s ended up in their spam folder too?

Friday, 3rd May (T-12)

Ok, so my brain splits into two parallel tracks at this point: first is that I have a mad mad week already booked. I live in Amsterdam and I’m travelling, just prior to the dates in this invite, to a user group in Bulgaria to give a presentation – something I do very rarely, but is always a fun way of making a memorable holiday and getting to know the locals better. Oh, and after that long weekend in Bulgaria, I’m visiting London the following weekend to celebrate my 40th with friends and family who are based there.

Practicalities. Off to Technically it’s possible. It involves 12 hours of flying, a four hour stop over, and arriving at a very wrong time for my body clock, but, yes, it is possible without significant breaking diary commitments to anyone. My pre-booked Dutch lesson is the only significant casualty as I had planned a quiet week to rest between the busy weekends(!) So I sanity check the itinerary with my husband and he recommends I do it. Even if I’m exhausted the whole time, at least I would have been there and not turned down this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. There’s no guarantee of an invite another time. To be honest, it still hasn’t sunk in and I don’t quite believe it.

Track two: the email swears me to confidentially, and asks me not to say anything on social media. But I think I can read between the lines (others would disagree and suggest I create my own lines). I start asking a couple of likely targets, friends, that I know in the Ohana: have they received anything? I’m collaborating on some work to help improve the Community (the Community Advisory Board), is it any colleagues there? Well, I checked with two and got a “no”. In frustration, I consulted with a friend in New Zealand (Anna Loughnan MVP). Thankfully, she has more brains than me (I like this in friends!). She figured out from the wording that it could be Golden Hoodies so, with my permission, she asked a friend in Australia and I simultaneously asked a friend in London. Anna scored. Her friend, an Australian Golden Hoodie, also discovered the email in her Spam folder! And then a second one. Neither would have known anything about it if it hadn’t been for Anna’s crossword puzzle abilities.

At this point I texted Jurn. “Check your email folders for emails from Salesforce”, I type. “Check all your email folders and all your accounts”. Impatient, I phoned Jurn all of two minutes after texting Jurn.

“Did you receive any emails from Salesforce,” I ask. “Oh, I mean, about an event” I add, as it’s likely that Jurn also receives, like most of us, many emails a day from Salesforce.

“Oh, I think I got something from Salesforce” he says. “What? What did it say” I ask. “Oh, now let me remember”. After an equally amusing and frustrating few minutes (for me!), Jurn discovered the email in his Promotions folder. So not Spam, but not something he would have spotted in time.

I was so excited. Not only would I be going to Indianapolis but I would proudly be in my fellow Golden Hoodie’s company. At this point I allowed myself to believe it was real, because friends I value had also been invited; there was some coherence.

I hope from reading this, you get some sense of my wonder and excitement. But who else would be going? What would we do?

p.s. That “bound to secrecy thing”, well I wasn’t alone. Out of the 65 attending, we had managed to set up a Slack channel with 52 of us before the official attendee list was released. Sorry, Salesforce! I think it comes with the territory – being inquisitive and wanting to share that love of knowledge with others. But nothing on Twitter, we must get plus points for that?!


Eli’s sense of direction is clearly lacking. Here we part ways. For some reason my husband thinks that a direct flight back to Amsterdam is the best way to get home from Bulgaria. I, on the other hand, reckon that a flight to Paris is logistically better.

And for the geeky: Of course I flagged to the Communities Team about the risk that the email had gone to spam; given the short timings, I don’t know if they were able to take action or not, and latterly I found out that not everyone’s email had gone to spam or promotions. Weird. And 65 could drop most things and attend, out of 100 Trailblazers who were invited; not bad considering the personal and practical commitments we all have elsewhere.

Right. Want to find out what actually happened? Well, read on to Part 2!

p.s. Credit and thanks for the photo at the top of this blog goes to Ohad who applied a little magic for two Trailblazers that didn’t quite make the original picture, despite being at the Indy 500 racetrack.

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