The Day Michelle Obama and I Spoke at Dreamforce

Did that pull you in? Well we did speak on the same day, just to sort of different sized crowds.

But this story starts back in the summer when I told myself that I’d try to get a speaking slot at Dreamforce, and if it didn’t happen, I wouldn’t go. I’d just graduated from the Speaker Academy program with Jodi Wagner and Keir Bowden, where I learned to actually enjoy public speaking. Armed with my new skills, I submitted a talk to Dreamforce about the professional organiser and author Marie Kondo and how I used her tidying concepts to clean up Salesforce. It was titled “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up Your Salesforce Org,” based on Kondo’s book title.

When my talk got accepted, I was shocked and excited. I was going to have to do this thing now! I started by writing a script of what I wanted to say in a Word doc, and then I created slides with mostly images to support my words. My colleague Aaron helped me with the slide design. Then I was ready to practice! I rehearsed with my speaker notes and tried to memorise what I was supposed to say. It was awkward and my partner started to get sort of tired of me talking to myself all the time.

The turning point in my talk development came when I decided to present to the Admin Theatre office hours hosted by Gillian Bruce.  I was super nervous and I used two computers, one to share my screen on the webinar and the other to look at my presenter notes so I could read what I had to say. Gillian gave me the feedback that it would be good for me to get off script. I also got a suggestion from Monica Sandberg to break up one of my slides into multiple slides so I could remember what I needed to say and keep the audience engaged. Bala Rajagopal and Katy Rudd were also super encouraging! The webinar pushed me to stop using my speaker notes and to actually memorise what I had to say.

My colleague Rikke Hovgaard and I presented our talks to get feedback from our makepositive team during lunch. Doing the talk in front of people I really respected was hard, but also a good way to get over my nerves.

The week before Dreamforce, I was staying with my family in San Francisco and practiced my talk constantly. I did what Mike Gerholdt suggested and practiced my talk five times in a row with no notes, which helped me feel confident about the entire 17 minute talk. At one point, I was practicing so much that my dad told me to go in another room because he was sick of it. My mom also feel asleep on the sofa while I was presenting to her, which definitely rattled me, but it was excellent practice.

The morning of the talk, I woke up super anxious. I went to my friend Jessica’s session and Rikke’s session. Seeing two of my peers do a fantastic job speaking made me a little less worried. I also saw Michelle Obama speak that same day and she obviously also did a great job.

By the time it was time for my talk, I was ready. Rikke and the sound dude helped me clip on my mic, and I went up onto Admin Theatre stage. I saw lots of familiar faces in the audience, and lots of people that I didn’t know. The audience was making good eye contact, which was encouraging. I walked around on the stage and talked and gestured. It was weird because I’d practiced so many times but very few times to a real audience. I started to see the point of doing the talk. It wasn’t the monologue I’d been practicing for weeks, it was a dialogue with my peers. People asked really thoughtful questions. After the talk, a woman came up to me and told me I had really inspired her. That meant a lot to me.

For the rest of Dreamforce, I was sort of on a speaker’s high and wanted to do it another talk. Mick Wheeler said this, and I totally agree. I can see this whole speaking thing getting sort of addictive.

Check out a video of most of my talk here.




London Salesforce World Tour 2017

I often feel sort of overwhelmed at big events, so I was looking forward to World Tour, but wasn’t totally sure what to expect. makepositive, the company where I work as a consultant, had a booth setup with a Lego robot called Sidbot. I knew it would be a whirlwind day full of my customers and colleagues. I also knew I’d end up learning something about new features, hear my friends speak, and come away with some cool swag.

About a week before World Tour, I got an email from Matt Morris introducing me to Mike Gerholdt and saying that Mike had a special opportunity for me. I was signed up to volunteer in the Admin Meadow, so I figured it was something else they wanted me to do there. Then Mike emailed to say I was actually going to be getting an #AwesomeAdmin Trailblazer award during the pre-keynote.  I was super honoured and excited. I was going to get an award from Mike, someone I really admire in the Salesforce community.

The day of World Tour, I left for the ExCel Centre super early, arrived at 8am and got to spend some time in the big keynote room while it was really empty. There Mike and I met Stacey Torman, who was going to be interviewing me on stage. We practiced a couple of times and pretty soon people started entering the room. I saw my makepositive colleagues in pink shirts walk in and take their seats.

When it was time for me to go up on stage, I got a cue from the stage manager, and I went up on stage. I think a year ago, I would have been absolutely terrified to be on stage in front of thousands of people and speak. Taking the Speaker Academy course with teachers Jodi Wagner and Keir Bowden gave me a lot of confidence. I was nervous, but I knew what I was going to say and just decided I might as well try my best.

I didn’t trip and I sounded articulate. All good things, right? I also got an amazing golden hoodie and began #LifeWithGoldie. In short, it was a great day and a huge honour to be recognised for working on Trailhead and being part of the London community.


Certified Community Cloud Consultant Exam

I recently took the Community Cloud Consultant Exam and was lucky to pass, so I thought I’d share my study process. Hopefully it will help some other folks to pass the exam.

I had experience implementing communities for two different clients, one with the Napili template and one with Visualforce + Tabs.

Here’s what I did to study:

  1. I read the entire Getting Started with Communities implementation guide. I printed it out so I could annotate it too. I created a test Napili community and a test Visualforce + Tabs community to use to do the steps rather than just read about them in a hypothetical way.
  2. I skimmed the Using Templates to Build Communities implementation guide. It goes into a lot of detail about the different components you can use in a community template and how to build different types of pages.
  3. I took this sample exam on Salesforce Ben’s site. I thought it was a good representation of the types of questions on the real exam.
  4. I did these two Trailhead modules: Community Cloud Basics and Community Rollout Strategy.
  5. Read the study guide to make sure I knew all of the topics that would be covered. If there was a topic I didn’t find in the implementation guides, I read a bit more help documentation about it.

Does anyone have other tips for studying?




Speaking about Creating a Custom Setting to Disable Validation Rules

I spoke at the London Admin User Group a couple weeks ago on this topic and it went well! Yay! But how did I get from feeling like I could have done better speaking to actually doing better?

  1. I added in a new challenge for myself. I had already done my presentation to my Speaker Academy class and at the London Developer User Group so I was little bored of it. I added in a demo of actually setting up the setting to keep myself entertained. When I do a demo, I write out all the steps, even the extremely obvious ones. You never know what you might forget when you’re doing the demo.
  2. I practiced a lot. I recorded myself speaking on a voice memo on my iPhone and then I listened to myself speak. Sometimes public speaking practice can make you feel a little self-involved.
  3. I made myself feel excited instead of scared. I went for a run before the talk to calm my nerves.

When I arrived at the user group, some of the leaders told me the PA system wasn’t working, so I would have to be loud. Instead of letting this freak me out, I decided I would capitalise on being a loud American.

During the talk, I made eye contact, waited for people to laugh at my jokes, and managed to do the demo with my back to the audience and without everyone being able to see. People asked a lot of questions and seemed to find value in the content I presented. That was a great feeling!

I learned that not every time you speak will be perfect, but that the more you get out there and speak, the easier it gets. When I feel impostor syndrome kicking in, I try to remember that when I don’t speak, no one gets to hear my ideas. We all need believe in our ideas, even we feel that they aren’t perfect, original, or interesting. I went into this talk thinking most people knew all about my topic, and it turns out they didn’t. You never know who you might inspire or help.


Photo by Dave Humm

Here’s the directions for Creating a Custom Setting to Disable Validation Rules:

  • Find Custom Settings in the Setup Menu
  • Click “New”
    • Label: Disable Validation
    • Object Name: DisableValidation
    • Setting Type: Hierarchy
    • Visibility: Protected
    • Description: “This setting allows admins or devs to turn off validation rules for specific users or profiles.”
  • Click “Save”
  • Under Custom Fields, click “New”
    • Data Type: Checkbox
    • Field Label: Active Users
    • Field Name: Active_Users
    • Click “Next” and “Save”
  • Click “Manage”
    • Click “New”
    • Add in all profiles with active users unticked
  • Find the Validation Rule and repeat for all validation rules.
    • Click “Edit”
    • Add in the line: “$Setup.DisableValidation__c.Active_Users__c = FALSE” to the correct place in the validation rule. Make sure you’ve edited the formula so it’s still working!
    • Click “Check Syntax”
    • Save

When you are done, you can add in users or profiles that need validation rules disabled by making Active Users = True (ticked).

London’s Calling was better than Dreamforce

Okay, I know you’re saying, are you just sucking up to the organisers or what? As much as we all like them, I’m not, really. Here, I’ll explain it!

First, I’ll say that I’m from San Francisco. I grew up in Noe Valley and spent most of my adult life living in Glen Park. I love San Francisco, but it doesn’t excite me. Also, both times I went to Dreamforce, I was living in San Francisco, so I didn’t travel there from somewhere else. I went home at the end of the night to my own bed.

I liked that Dreamforce exposed me to lots of new ideas and I heard some amazing big name speakers, but I found it pretty overwhelming. I didn’t know how to spend my time wisely, and I didn’t know very many people other than my boss. I am also not a fan of huge crowds.

I signed up for London’s Calling because I was taking the Speaker Academy course with one of the organisers, Jodi Wagner. She was not shy to plug it at every opportunity, so I signed up as soon as the tickets went on sale. I had no idea what to expect, but turned up on 10th Feb nonetheless.

What I liked about London’s Calling:

  1. Maybe it’s a consequence of being part of the community here, but I knew people. It made a difference to be at an event where I knew half of the speakers and a lot of the attendees.
  2. All of the sessions were high quality and didn’t give me fear of missing out on something better. I felt that I was in the right place. I came away with concrete ideas for my career and future Salesforce implementations. I went to sessions with Louise Lockie, Amanda Beard-Neilson, Agustina Garcia Peralta, Ines Garcia, Angela Mahoney, Karen Mangia, Peter Coffee, Belinda Parmer OBE, Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, and Jodi Wagner. Because of the size of the event, more people were able to ask questions and maybe because it was a community event, everyone seemed less concerned with being on brand.
  3. The lunch was really good. I am always swayed by food.
  4. Both keynotes didn’t strike me as something I’d heard before. Peter Coffee gave me a lot of hope for my career with Salesforce as a non-developer. Belinda Parmer OBE and Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE both spoke really eloquently about women in tech and creating organisational culture that truly supports people. Their conversation with Jodi was very frank, and I found that refreshing.
  5. The size of the space meant you could get to sessions very easily, and it never felt too crowded or overwhelming.
  6. The mood of the event was upbeat and low-stress. I liked this. People were there to learn, enjoy the day, and meet people. Everyone was friendly and didn’t seem in a rush, which is kind of the opposite of London. 🙂
  7. While there were sponsors there who wanted to tell you about their products, it didn’t feel too sales-y. I was able to walk through the sponsor area and not feel like people were trying to grab me to pitch. This actually made me more willing to learn more about all of their services. Win-win, right?
  8. There was a photo booth. A photo booth makes everything better.
  9. I’d never seen a demo jam, and I really liked seeing the extremely short demos of products. It was a feat of time management and succinctness.
  10. I had a bad headache most of the day and I didn’t leave because it was such a cool event. All of the details came together to create an event that was really attendee-focused. I loved this.

I will definitely be back next year! Thanks to the organisers and the London community  for being so excellent.



Salesforce Interview Questions

A friend of mine who is new to the Salesforce ecosystem asked me if I had any examples of interview questions for Salesforce roles.  I did a huge brain dump and thought it might be helpful to other folks.

Here’s some interview questions I’ve been asked:

  • What projects have you worked on and what role did you play on the project team? This is one of the most common questions. Be prepared to have a few impressive projects and be able to explain the entire project lifecycle, as well as the technology you used to build it.
  • Sometimes I’ve been asked to do a test in a developer org. The one I did involved Data Loader, creating formula fields, adding automation, and permissions.
  • How do you gather requirements from stakeholders? Do you use certain processes? How are you able to work with people and listen to their frustrations and needs?
  • How do you solve various user questions? I’ve been asked how would a respond to a password reset question. Sometimes this question will involve a requirement that hasn’t been totally fleshed out by the requestor. You should be able to demonstrate that you are able to push back and ask why when you’re asked to build something.
  • How did the project management process work at places you’ve worked? In most of my jobs, I’ve used JIRA and Confluence, so be prepared to discuss how you organise your time and work.
  •  What is your strongest cloud? For me, this one is Service Cloud because I’ve used it the most and I find it the most interesting.
  •  What is the cloud you know the least about? It’s okay not to know everything about Salesforce. Honestly no one I’ve met does.
  •  What are your long-term goals for your career in Salesforce? 
  •  Have you done user training? You might discuss any help documentation, training slides, presentations you’ve done.
  •  Have you worked with developers? Even if you aren’t a developer, are you able to understand what is possible with code in Salesforce?
  •  How do you deal with conflict? This is a standard interview question, but  it’s a good one to know how to answer.
  • Do you use Trailhead? If you’re not, get started. It’s fun and pretty soon you’ll be addicted to badges.
  • Do you know much about Lightning? Not that many people I’ve met have implemented it, but do the Admin Lightning Challenge and the Trailheads on Lightning. It’s going to be on the rise and it’s in your best interest to know what it can do. Also, Lightning dashboards are very pretty and will make you happy.



Credit: Robert Leighton, The New Yorker


Speaking to a Room of Mostly Strangers

Last week I presented my five minute talk about creating a custom setting to disable validation rules to the London Salesforce Developer User Group. It was the graduation from Speaker Academy, which was taught by co-founders Jodi Wagner and Keir Bowden.

To prepare, I watched the video Keir took of us presenting to the class. I sounded confident and entertained the audience. I practiced presenting alone and once to a friend. I re-read my slides and notes.

When I arrived at the user group, I wasn’t super nervous. I knew some people and found my speaker academy classmates. When I got up to present, I was definitely nervous. My brain got unfocused. Presenting to a room of mostly people I didn’t know was much harder than presenting to the class, who I’d gotten to know over the course of 6 weeks.

One of the first things Jodi taught us was that we shouldn’t act nervous while presenting. It really does make it harder for the audience to enjoy what you have to say. Keir mentioned that the last class seemed to be much more comfortable presenting to the class versus a large group of strangers. Logically it makes sense, right?

I spoke quickly, I didn’t pause for dramatic effect,  I stumbled over my words, and I didn’t make eye contact enough. It was definitely not my best.

Since I want to keep speaking, it’s  important to move forward and focus on what I learned:

  1. People didn’t do anything horrible to me for not being perfect. There were no rotten tomatoes thrown and no one booed me. Jodi gave me some good feedback and encouraged me to keep presenting. I got offers to speak at other user groups.
  2. Relax! It’s much harder to do in practice, but next time I’m definitely going to have more fun presenting. I like talking to people, so I’m going to try to remember that speaking is very similar to meeting new people at an event.
  3. Practice! I did practice some, but I think practicing more would have made me more confident.
  4. Make recordings of myself presenting. I did this for another presentation and it helped me learn my “speech.” I used Voice Memos on my iPhone and I listened to myself while walking or commuting. It wasn’t as fun as listening to a podcast or music, but it taught me about my speech patterns and what to fix in my talk.
  5. Talk about soft skills. I really liked Alejandra’s talk about her transition from developer to consultant.

I’ll keep everyone updated on my speaking journey. Until next time!

Creative Writing Major to Salesforce Admin

I studied Creative Writing at university, so I didn’t really expect to have a career in tech. I may not be writing poetry like I did as an undergrad, but having a solid set of writing skills helps me quite often as a Salesforce admin. Clear written communication is crucial for a successful Salesforce project team.

Here’s some places I find my writing background to come in handy:

  1. Descriptions. Ever worked in an org where you wonder why someone created that workflow rule, field, validation rule? I certainly have. Explaining what something does and why it was created can help future generations of admins and devs understand what you did and why.
  2. Help Text. You have a great way to clearly guide your users through their processes, so use it!
  3. Requirements.  Are you sharing why you’re doing a project and what stakeholders expect? Writing clear requirements puts everyone on the same page and ensures that your project stays on course.
  4. User Documentation. Now this one is my favourite. You can’t be with your users all the time, as much as they might love you. The next best thing is to hear your voice explaining how to do something. It will also help users and technical staff to understand the intended process for what you’ve built. For user documentation, I use a friendly and positive tone, similar to the way Trailhead is written.
  5. Technical Documentation. Explain what you’ve built and how. Do this both for your own piece of mind and for your teammates. I tend to over-explain since you may not know who your future audience will be.

Poetry reading at Oberlin College 

How I Learned to Enjoy Public Speaking

Even though I’m a pretty friendly person, I’ve never been a fan of presenting in front of groups, unless I’m able to read from something I’ve written beforehand. Once when I was in high school, I was too nervous to give my history presentation so my teacher let me not do it. I’m not sure that was the right move on her part, but I was relieved at the time.

I decided to take Jodi Wagner and Keir Bowden’s Diversity Speaker Academy course so I could try to enjoy public speaking more.

We covered a lot of topics in the course of the class, starting with our teachers presenting about speaking, and ending with our actual talks. Here’s what I learned:

  • Everyone feels some sort of imposter syndrome and it’s up to you to convince yourself that your own story is worth telling. As our teachers put it, “If you don’t speak, you’re robbing the world of your insights.”
  • People love a good failure story. I did my talk about a big mistake I made while creating a custom setting and people enjoyed hearing about my suffering.
  • Keep a list of talk ideas and then build multiple talks. You never know when you might be asked to speak.
  • If you are having a hard time writing an abstract, you maybe won’t be able to do an entire talk about that subject. Trust yourself.
  • Think of your slides as a story that you’re leading your audience through. Use your slides to support what you’re actually saying. Your audience can read, so give them something that isn’t on the slides. And if you’re boring yourself, you’re probably boring the audience. I found this with several slides I did of screenshots of Salesforce configuration.
  • Spend time finding good images for your slides. I learned that there’s a lot of horrible business stock photos, but strive to find better ones!
  • Practice your talk and plan out all of your hilarious asides. Time yourself to make sure you’re within your time limit, if one exists.
  • Make eye contact with the audience, not your slides.

I was surprised that I had fun in the course. Learning speaking skills in a supportive and low-pressure environment was just what I needed to gain confidence. I really like talking to people, so I think I learned that presenting is doing just that. Jodi and Keir were humble and funny. They also gave me great feedback each time I presented to the class. I hope that they go on to start a speaker academy empire.


The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up Your Salesforce Org

If you haven’t heard of Marie Kondo, she’s a wildly famous professional organiser and author. Her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising, has been published in 30 countries and teaches you how to get rid of things and organise the things you do keep. She even says in the book that she won’t be offended if you get rid of your book. I read her book, and although some of her suggestions struck me as ridiculous (like who has time to take all their shampoo and soap out of the shower after every use?), I really believe in simplicity and only having things around that bring you joy.

How does Marie Kondo relate to your Salesforce org?  In the same way that she tells you to get rid of things that don’t spark joy, you should remove things from your Salesforce org that are no longer needed. Having a home that only has functional and beautiful things in it is the same as having a Salesforce org that only has relevant workflow rules, reports, fields, etc. As admins and developers, it’s essential that we not only build new functionality; we also need to take stock of what’s already there and purge as needed.

I’ve recently been cleaning up my org and it’s really refreshing. Here’s a what I’ve done that I’ve found to be helpful for my org:

  1. Delete deactivated workflow rules that are definitely not going to need to be reactivated. Go through each workflow rule and ensure that it still has a currently business use. Maybe it’s an email alert to users that aren’t even at the company? Maybe it relates to a legacy process? Ask your stakeholders for more information if you aren’t sure, and communicate any changes they need to be aware of.
  2. Delete field updates and email alerts that are not connected to any workflow rule, approval process, or entitlement process.
  3. Delete apps that aren’t being using. Consolidate apps that have similar tabs. Communicate any changes to your users!
  4. Go through Installed Packages, and uninstall ones that are no longer being used.
  5. Delete record types that have no records associated with them or are legacy record types.
  6. Organise report types using a standard naming convention. Update the report type layouts to default to the most-used fields and remove unnecessary fields from the report type altogether.
  7. Run a report (report type: Reports) of when reports were last run. For reports that haven’t been run for over a year, delete them. You can always recreate them if someone needs something again.
  8. Consolidate profiles and use permission sets where needed to grant additional access. I used this tool to compare profiles and it helped me consolidate 35 custom profiles to 15.
  9. Organise report folders, email folders, dashboard folders. Consolidate and make sure the names and descriptions are clear.
  10. Delete page layouts that aren’t assigned to any profiles or record types. Consolidate page layouts where you can.
  11. Delete fields that have no data or have never been used. If necessary, transfer data to a newer, more relevant field.

I promise doing even one of these tidying tasks is really satisfying. Happy cleaning!


Image Source: Fast Company