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.