What Makes a Salesforce MVP?

DISCLAIMER: I am perhaps unqualified to speak about such a topic seeing as how I am not an MVP. Therefore, please do not take my words as any sort of official statement as to what “qualities” (for a lack of better term at the moment) one must possess in order to obtain said title.

With that out of the way: Last night I was “twitter lurking” (twurking?!? nah) and ran across a conversation regarding a company that was publicizing the number of Salesforce MVPs on staff for a given RFP. Some lively debate ensued (to which I remained a silent spectator) but it got me thinking, “What traits do I expect to see in an MVP?” I don’t think there is any one group of answers to such a question, but perhaps there are some commonalities. I’m going to try and stick to the items specifically called out in this particular discussion from last night.

  1. Knowledge of the platform: This is a given, but “how much knowledge?” Should this person be an expert in all aspects of the platform? Should they be “consultants?” Given the size of the platform and all one can do with it, I think this is a very, very tall ask. Are there some that can do/know it all? Possibly, but probably not. I mean its a HUGE platform and new stuff is coming out all the time. So in this case — knowledge of the platform sure, but in the absence of some of that knowledge of the details, knowledge of where to go to find the answers, and how to apply them to the task at hand can be more important. It helps to be as well rounded as possible but I don’t expect someone to have all the answers simply because they’re an MVP.
  2. Similar to the afore mentioned “knowledge” lets talk Certification: Should an MVP be certified? I think it certainly can’t hurt at all, and I think most people would expect an MVP to be certified. That being said — I can see situations where they may not be. Maybe they were at one time but their life got busy with children, family, hobbies and didn’t keep up their certification. That being said, the Salesforce community — and perhaps the Microsoft world, (maybe Novell — I’m aging myself here) are the only arena’s in which I’ve ever seen such emphasis on being certified. It absolutely helps your career to be able to say I am a certified X. However, I taught myself how to program in Java in the year 2000. I didn’t understand a damn thing at the time but was able to study for and pass the Sun Certified Java Programmer certification. Had any seasoned Java developer actually gazed upon my code at that time however — they’d have been in shock. I think it was at least a year afterward before I finally fully understood what a constructor was for, or what “this” meant, or what “static” really was. So certification helps no doubt, but how much weight does it actually hold? It at least shows initiative and dedication and I suppose that is something. However, I don’t see that as a requirement when the next three items are considered.
  3. Presence: An MVP should be present. Maybe not necessarily answering all the questions on Stack Exchange or in the Success communities, (I mean who can keep up with @SteveMoForce anyway?) but an active part of the community. Encouraging others, advocating for the platform, and sharing their experiences. The program’s own requirements point out that this can be a Twitter presence,  or Success Communities, blogging, etc. I assume its best to have a mix of all of those environments. First and foremost though — an MVP is present, friendly and approachable. (Queue the segue music…)
  4. Personality: This feels kind of strange for me to mention but I believe personality is probably much more important than many people think. Someone can be the best developer in the world, or the best admin — but if they aren’t friendly and approachable then I think it’d be very hard to fulfill that MVP role. Speaking as an outsider to the MVP world, I feel like those MVPs that I’ve met personally are absolutely friendly and approachable. I think we in the community get somewhat “star struck” if you will and may find it hard to introduce ourselves at first, but when you do you will find that they are very approachable people that are easy to interact with, and are relatable. That’s not to say they’re all extroverted and have all the time in the world to chat with everyone, and maybe some are just quiet, but they’re indeed friendly.
  5. Passion: Above all lies passion. An MVP has a passion for the platform, or the company itself, or a passion for the community. A passion to be knowledgable, to be present and approachable, and to help the others in this amazing community. When you interact with someone it should be pretty obvious from the start whether or not they have a passion for what they are talking about. They exude excitement for whatever it is they are doing. In some cases, they may not be the most knowledgable but they drive forward with energy to learn more and to bring others along with them on the journey. Their energy gets others around them excited too, passion rubs off on  people, its catchy. When people in the community start motivating each other, just look what happens (looking at you @Bill_Greenhaw!)

Is being an MVP more important than being certified? That’s a personal, perhaps company culture issue. Does being an MVP automatically make you a great consultant/employee? I don’t think so, no more than being a great consultant/employee will make you an MVP. I do however think that those traits all work together in harmony. So if there’s anyone in the community that has inspired, encouraged, or assisted you in some way, please take the time to nominate them.

So what do think? What makes an MVP an MVP?



It’s the Community, Stupid!

Last year, I didn’t get it. I attended my very first Dreamforce in San Francisco, CA. I had just recently started a new job working with a former coworker of mine and was thrust into this world of fanatics. I sat there and listened to a very moving keynote, and watched the launch of a new mobile platform for interacting with Salesforce. I attended hands-on training sessions, attended numerous technical talks, and drank free beer. I still didn’t get it. All of this tech was all well and good, but it wasn’t doing anything that “only they could do” so to speak. I didn’t seem to understand the energy that everyone else around me was feeling. I’d been to many a tech conference in the past, and didn’t see people as ecstatic to be there as the 100+ thousand folks that were in attendance last year.

Dreamforce 2014 however is another story. This year I found myself thrust into this new world of people. I had the privilege of hanging out with another developer that for all intents and purposes is identical to me. We have the same insecurities when it comes to our capabilities on the platform and in our professional careers. We both have the same social anxieties, quirks, etc. This person is/was just like me. It seemed that this year we both vowed to come out of our shells and boy did we ever. We talked with strangers, actively sought out conversation (though I believe she was much better at it than I was), we helped each other become part of the community.

During a rather long walk back from the Gala we were discussing past experiences and at one point she just said “I LOVE SALESFORCE” — she practically danced when she said it, and was carrying the biggest smile I’d ever seen on her face. (She’s normally very quiet and reserved). At that point, it hit me: “It’s the community, stupid!”

It’s not the platform, the points, the clicks, the tech — those are all awesome, but its the people. Hearing stories of how this platform, this environment led them to jobs and experiences that have changed their lives is what makes this a great community to be proud of. Watching this normally shy and quiet person practically dance down the street was a much needed blast of fresh air for me, and the timing was perfect.

I’ve been slinging code since the late 90’s. I had passion for it back then. I had passion through most of the last decade but began to burn out in fear of becoming the 65 year-old cranky programmer that the new kids lock in the closet when customers come around. I burned out. Working 10 years mainly answering to marketing firms with very unrealistic expectations of real world I.T. hurdles nearly killed me…I mean that. My career at that time was putting me into very dark places at work but even more so in my personal life and I needed a change. (I know that sounds dramatic but its so very true).

Salesforce was a way for me to sort of change things up and “slow my roll” and its been a great experience. More often than not, I’m working with departments that understand business process, and how development actually works, that things don’t always go according to plan, that what seems like “magic” actually takes time and effort. I can’t say that I’ve found “new passion” for code — I’m always going to be a coder, but I feel my passion is shifting towards helping people. If that help is in the form of creating Apex, Visualforce, Lightning Components, answering questions, replacing a dryer vent, or re-assuring them that they friggin’ ROCK, it doesn’t matter. THEY matter…the people. This awesome place that is the Salesforce community.

I owe a very large part of my Dreamforce experience this year to that community and to people like: Erica Kuhl (@ericakuhl) for putting me out on her stage at the Communities keynote to sing my song, Bill Greenhaw (@Bill_Greenhaw) a Salesforce MVP that thinks that I’m “the stuff” (he didn’t use that word but that could have been the beer…ssshhh), Sarah Deutsch (@sarahforce) who gives the worlds greatest hugs, Michael Farrington (@michaelforce) for asking me “What’s next” and forcing me to think about the future. Brian Kwong (@kwongerrific), Mark Ross (@markross__c), Chris Duarte (@TheChrisDuarte) for pulling me into their circle, it was truly awesome. There are numerous others I could mention (@ericdresh, @andyboettcher) but this is beginning to sound like some weird Oscars speech, so allow me to lump in the other MVPs that I met, you all know who you are.

There are a few more people I’d like to shout out to but I don’t know their names. These were your everyday, non-MVP salesforce users/admins/dev like myself. I was standing in line to grab some books in the devzone when I struck up a conversation with fellow attendees. Before I knew it, they were asking ME questions about the platform and I was more than excited to help with what I knew and point to places for more information for what I didn’t. I was even thanked — maybe it was politeness, but maybe I indeed helped and it felt pretty damned cool. At other conferences, I always felt like I was the one playing catchup and therefore never spoke — to anyone — ever.

Lastly…I owe the overwhelming majority of this “lightbulb experience” to my good friend and developer twin: Jenny Bennett (@jennyjbennett). Without her stepping up her social game, I’d have likely spent another year as a under-confident wallflower. Watching her hit cloud 9 after passing part one of her Advanced Developer exam and seeing her have to fight to hide her overwhelming joy was an incredible and enlightening experience. Hearing her declare her love for the platform in the middle of downtown San Francisco put me over the edge. Even after she left on Thursday — (ditched me more like it) — it was because of her — and nudging from my colleague Kelly Leslie (@kellyleslie44) — that I was inspired and felt bold enough to attend the Cigar Bar party on my own. That is something I’d have never done last year, or any year before that, or at any other conference. I’m pretty sure I won’t have any problems next year getting out there and that’s all because of this year’s Dreamforce experience & the incredible community of people surrounding it. What you all — we all — have going on here is the most astoundingly supportive and friendly community in the industry. It’s not the platform, its the people…I get that now.


Request For Help

Me: Hello — My name is Ryan and I’m an introvert.

Others: “Hi, Ryan”

The first step is admitting it right? With Dreamforce 2014 just a few short days away I can already feel my anti-social self coming to the forefront. I’m generally very quiet unless we’ve shared the same social circle for some time. Last year for instance, I sat with my colleague (@KellyLeslie44) at the networking event for 15 minutes while I worked up enough nerve to approach two complete strangers and ask someone about the Google Glasses they were wearing. These sorts of situations always make me as nervous as I was when I was a sophomore band geek in high school asking a senior to homecoming (she said yes — as friends of course).

This year I feel I saw a number of improvements in my “social confidence” if you will. I released a song (I promise to shut up about it after this) to the Salesforce community that was met with a warm reception, and even appeared in a video for a different song with a rather prominent MVP figure in the Admin community. But that’s easy — that’s virtual. In the virtual world, its easy for a socially challenged person like me to come out of their shell. In person — and I don’t know why — its much more difficult for me.

So at Dreamforce ’14 I’m asking for your help. If you see me staring at my damn phone, or otherwise being an anti-social wallflower, publicly call me on it by sending me a tweet so the world knows that I’m not holding up my end of the bargain. A simple “Hey @lifewithryan — put down the damn phone and talk to someone” would suffice. Don’t let me get away with being anti-social. I’m not saying invite me into your conversations or anything like that (that would just be weird) but hold my a$$ accountable. Of course by inviting you to tweet it, I’m naturally still hiding behind the virtual curtain but this way, in case you’re like me, you don’t have to approach me and strike up a conversation if you’re not ready for such things (baby steps man, baby steps).

Of course, I’m going to make a conscious effort in being more social so this isn’t on you — its on me, I’m just asking for perhaps a little nudge if someone sees me avoiding interaction. If you are at all like me, let me know and I’ll do the same for you. Hope to see you at Dreamforce.