Some of the Best Trails Aren’t Technical

I’ve been pretty addicted to Trailhead since Salesforce World Tour in London this year. I love that earning badges is a concrete way to feel accomplished and celebrate learning. I’m all for technical learning and challenges that require you to login to a developer org and do hands-on changes, but there’s also something to be said for the trails that are about soft skills, management, and self-awareness. There’s something very human about these trails. Admins and developers need non-technical skills too!

Here’s some of the trails that I highly recommend:

  1. Reach Your Audience with Rad Content I absolutely loved the Writing Style module. I studied creative writing at my university, so I’m always really aware of writing styles, especially in help documentation. One of the first things I noticed about Trailhead was its unique and conversational writing style. This trail takes you inside the brains of the writers behind Trailhead and shares the Salesforce Docs Team’s voice and tone guidelines.  It’s an absolute joy for a word nerd like me. The second module is on Public Speaking Skills, which was equally helpful. Even the most experienced public speakers could benefit from the detailed tips offered.
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Your tone should be different based on what you’re writing

2. Cultivate Equality at Work I’m really pleased that this Trail exists because it highlights unconscious bias, which Trailhead describes here:

Most of us probably believe we are not prejudiced. We probably believe ourselves to be ethical and unbiased, too. In the workplace, we probably believe we’re good decision makers, capable of objectively deciding about a job candidate or employee’s performance, and reaching a rational and fair conclusion about any particular business problem or situation. Yet it’s clear from more than two decades of research that we have an inflated perception of ourselves with regard to bias.

Why do you suppose that is? Well, let’s explore this a bit to understand why we are making countless decisions without realizing it.

11 million pieces. That’s the amount of information our brains are faced with at any given moment, according to Timothy Wilson, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and author of the book Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious. Rather shocking, isn’t it? You might find it even more surprising that the brain can only process about 40 of those bits of information. So what does our brain do? It creates shortcuts and uses past knowledge to make assumptions. This is what researchers call “unconscious bias.”

Why is it important to promote diversity and inclusion? It’s more than just the right thing to do, it affects the bottom line.

It’s probably no surprise to you that business leaders around the world are recognising that having a more diverse work environment that promotes equality is a means of driving continued growth. Research published by McKinsey and Company in 2015 clearly highlights the dividends of diversity. Companies that are more gender diverse are 15% more likely to outperform others; those which are ethnically diverse are 35% more likely to outperform others.

One of the things that struck me the most about inclusion strategies was the way that people communicate. I’m an American living in the UK and even though I speak English, there’s lots of colloquialisms that I miss. In my own communication I try my best to not use sports metaphors, acronyms, or phrases that might not make sense to people from different cultures and backgrounds. Baseball metaphors are sort of lost in the UK anyway. When explaining Salesforce features to people, I use simple and conversational language and try not to over-complicate technical concepts.

I love this chart that gives suggestions for implementing an action plan for diversity and inclusion:

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3. Manage the Salesforce Way This is one of the longer trails, with 10 modules. The key takeaways for me were how to communicate, give feedback, and  treat your colleagues with respect. These are skills that you can carry to any job, regardless of whether or not you manage people. This trail teaches soft skills that are so important for leaders who want to influence, support, and retain their teams.

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Things I wish someone had told me when I first became a Salesforce admin

I’ve been working on Salesforce configuration projects for a few years now, so in tech time, that’s forever right?

I thought I’d share some of the wisdom I’ve picked up over time:

  1. Just because someone is seemingly more technical or more experienced doesn’t mean they will be able to answer your question. A lot of Salesforce questions are based on product knowledge and if they haven’t worked with that product, then your guess is as good as theirs. Google is your friend. Use that and get answers from blogs, Stack Exchange, the Success Community.
  2. Ask for help from the Success Community. I’ve never been left hanging. Even if someone didn’t know the exact thing I was looking for, they replied, which always made me feel supported.
  3. Get requirements!  Ask why someone needs something. You don’t have to agree to everything that’s asked if it’s not logical for the business or for Salesforce. Write down requirements so that future generations of people at your company understand what you’ve built.
  4. Keep it simple. I can’t stress this one enough! If someone asks for a new feature, implement it in a way that will make sense to people who need to upkeep the system.
  5. Document everything! It’s really fun to just build things, but explain why they’ve been built and make sure people have help docs that help them use it. I often write a document with all my config changes, a technical document, and then a user-facing document.
  6. Get involved in the community. Sometimes being one of the only “Saleforce people” at your company can feel isolating. Get involved in user groups if they’re near you, go to local events or Dreamforce, follow Salesforce-related people on Twitter.
  7. Keep learning! One great thing about Salesforce is there is always more to learn. This can sometimes feel overwhelming, but it’s also exciting. Since things are always changing, you won’t get bored. Learn about a new product! I just learned more about entitlements and that was actually pretty fun.
  8. Trailhead didn’t exist when I started using Salesforce, but I didn’t get into it when it was first launched and I regret it. Use Trailhead all the time. The writing is brilliant and it’s super fun to do interactive challenges. It’s helpful to go through a trail before implementing a related feature.
  9. Take a step back sometimes and look at what you’ve accomplished. It’s easy to get bogged down in the details when you’re working on specific projects, but take the time to celebrate your accomplishments. #treatyoself
  10. It’s okay to say you don’t know something. Users and stakeholders will ask things that you may need to research or get help on. It’s 100% okay to say you need to get more info any you’ll get back to them.

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Two-Factor Authentication is Magical

I did the Trailhead about two-factor authentication and was pretty impressed by it. Soon after, I got a request to actually implement it. The timing was unreal. As educational and fun as Trailhead is, actually implementing something often makes you go a bit deeper into the subject.

Definition of two-factor authentication from Trailhead:

What are the two factors?

  • Something users know, like their password
  • Something users have, such as a mobile device with an authenticator app installed

That second factor of authentication provides an extra layer of security for your org.

As an admin, you can require it every time your users log in. Or you can require it only in some circumstances, such as when users log in from an unrecognised device or try to access a high-risk application. After users successfully verify their identity with both authentication factors, they can access Salesforce and start working.

My requirement was to require users logging in outside the company IP ranges to use two-factor authentication in order to login. This was to provide extra security outside of the office.

While I was researching how to achieve this I found a lot of great resources:

I discovered that I needed to create a specific login flow for people logging in outside the company-approved IP ranges.

I’d never created a login flow and wasn’t quite sure where to start. Before I did too much exploration into creating one from scratch, I found an unmanaged package that includes sample login flows. One of the pre-built flows it included matched my requirement exactly.

In the setup search menu, search for “Login Flows” and then once you find it, click “New.” Find the pre-built flow called “Conditional_Two_Factor.” Specify which user license and profile and that’s it. Super straightforward, right?

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After that I had the users install the Salesforce Autheticator app on their phones and created a help doc for them. I’ll share the help doc in a future post.

2FA Something you know and something you have

Source: Trailhead

Keep Users Engaged with a Salesforce Champions Programme

I’m the champion of the champions at my current job, and it’s a pretty great gig. I setup the Salesforce Champions Programme with a few goals in mind:

  1. To ensure champions actively help resolve issues.
  2. To increase overall user satisfaction.
  3. To have the champions help train users with a “train the trainer” approach.

Those sounds pretty cool, but how did I actually achieve them?

I select champions based on feedback from their manager and if they seem interested in how Salesforce works. If they’ve been asking lots of questions and giving our team feedback, they’ll be a good fit for the programme. They also typically aren’t managers.

I setup a private Chatter group for the Champions to get updates from me about new features and functionality. I also post in the group if there’s an issue affecting a number of users, to make sure they’re the first to know. Champions use the group to ask questions or suggest training topics.

We have monthly meetings where I share new live and upcoming features, they ask questions and give feedback, and I lead a training based on a topic they’ve chosen. Some of the topics we’ve covered are list views, email templates, mass emailing leads and contacts, reports and dashboards, Chatter, and Content. Recently the champions have been super into Trailhead and we work on a module together on laptops. Some of them have gotten really into it and hit the trails at home after work.

The meetings are a time for me to share my Salesforce enthusiasm with the champions and get them excited. A big part of this is responding to all their feedback and incorporating their suggestions into our ways of working. Recently one of the champions said that she doesn’t always have time to look at Chatter, but that she would like it more if it were more like an instant messenger. I got her setup on Chatter Desktop and now she’s chattering like a pro and we’re going to roll out Chatter Desktop to all users.

Things I’ve learned:

  1. Once a champions, not always a champion. People’s roles change and they might no longer have time to be part of the programme. Check in with champions and let them move on if they’re ready. There’s always new folks who will want to replace them.
  2. Empower the champions and give them the opportunity to shine. One of our champions got really into creating reports and dashboards for his team. I’ve made sure to highlight his achievements to his team and managers and thank him for taking the initiative to go beyond his job role.
  3. Respond to every bit of feedback in a timely way. Make their lives easier in any way you can.
  4. Treat the champions as department delegates. Make sure they’re communicating information to their teams and that you’re hearing everything they tell you.
  5. Communicate and then communicate some more. Make sure they know about any changes in Salesforce well before they happen.
  6. Have the champions help you with testing new features. They’ll learn about the development process and you’ll get their awesome feedback. This will help them when they train their own teams.

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Why You Should get Involved with Salesforce User Groups

Since I’m not at Dreamforce this year, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on going to a couple of London user groups this month. User groups are organised by customers in your local area and people interact both online and in person. I got involved with user groups after going to the Salesforce World Tour this year. I loved meeting other Salesforce professionals in person and I wanted to continue to build community.

Here’s the London User Groups:

Each group has a different focus and some of them require you to ask permission to join the group, but you’ll be added, don’t worry. I’ve been to meetups hosted by the Admin User Group, Women in Tech, and Salesforce Developers.

What you can gain from going to user groups:

  1. You will meet cool people. Yeah, this might seem obvious, but in a big city like London you don’t often meet total strangers that share common interests. People at both events I went to were eager to welcome new people.
  2. You will learn about new Salesforce features and learn about different ways of implementing Salesforce.
  3. You will watch engaging demos.
  4. You will learn about AppExchange apps you haven’t heard of.
  5. You will get free food and drinks.
  6. You will get to take user group selfies.
  7. You will  network and find out about new jobs in the Salesforce ecosystem.
  8. You will meet Salesforce MVPs who may inspire you to get more involved with user groups or speaking at events.
  9. You will find out about other cool events and programmes. Here’s a Diversity Speaking Programme I’m going to try to go to and an event hosted by Computer Weekly to celebrate the Top 50 Most Influential Women in IT that I went to in June.
  10. You will have fun! It’s good to get outside your normal routine and do something different on a week night.

Image from Trailhead